In the ’90s, licensed Capcom videogames were king. They brought well regarded Disney concepts into the sphere of interactive entertainment and exemplified the sort of craft emblematic to the brand. Once pioneers of the adaptation, their best work within the current generation is found in recycling and returning to these formative ideas. For the DuckTales remaster, Capcom have employed the divisive but broadly competent WayForward, who’ve since become the go-to team for licensed adaptations.
What’s new is an art style, a remastered soundtrack, and voiced cutscenes. The makeup of the original DuckTales remains true and in place, with Remastered layering new value over the old design. There’s a slight conflict of purpose between the new art and the archaic mechanical build. It doesn’t suggest the precision of the 8-bit identity and occasionally doesn’t convert well for the challenge it demands. It’s a new coat of paint but an attractive enough one that animates well and more closely evokes the television show.
DuckTales Remastered’s full of fantastic noises. From the retro bouncing sound of Scrooge’s cane to audio cues for ascending up rope, the sound effects are on-point. The remastered score revitalizes the almost iconic NES sounds and gives them new dimensionality. Newly voiced dialogue sets up the scenarios of classic levels. Where it was once enough to have a theme and a base challenge of overcoming platforming, modern games require a context and DuckTales bridges together these parts with interruptive cutscenes. While it’s welcome to hear the show’s cast come together for what’s likely to be the final time, it doesn’t necessarily add to the experience and having to pause out to skip cutscenes becomes a nuisance early on and especially during repeat play.
There’s a fair amount of challenge that’ll come as a sore reminder of how precise and demanding games used to be. Multiple difficulty options alleviate any concerns and the occasionally clumsy, frustrating nature of the remake. Several times boss patterns failed to load in and forced a restart, prompting me to replay a couple levels in their entirety. Match this with the unforgiving design and it’s a recipe for occasional anger. Where the ideal is that failure in a platformer is always on the player, too often it’s on the mismatched design flaws. There’s also a sense of archaic patterns and that some mechanics might have benefited from a progression. Most patterns remain simple: an enemy flies horizontal or vertical and Scrooge bounces on their head with a cane. Some boss battles mix up the original formula but it would have been welcome to find more creative deviations from the formula in the regular level sections.
There’s a bittersweet appeal in revisiting DuckTales. It’s a reminder of how simple things used to be and of how the good old ideas can still hold up with time. The new value in place is of mixed quality, with sharp audio design and a spotty aesthetic makeover that’s sure to divide nostalgic players. It’s a short trip back to a better time for Capcom’s output and while it doesn’t do anything to move old DuckTales forward, there’s enough good in the original design that it levels out. DuckTales Remastered is a remake fully satisfied with its source material. This keeps it true but also limits the potential to just being as good, without making any argument for why it’s the definitive version. Maybe it’s worth checking out for the average ’90s Gamer and a new generation but the original remains the primary experience.