Nostalgia can be both a blessing and a curse. Some people criticize companies that use it as a crutch (*cough* Nintendo *cough*), while others appreciate the fond memories that pour forth while playing a game like, well, DuckTales Remastered. The actual craft of nostalgia often gets lost in the debate—simply repackaging a once-great product does not constitute a worthwhile use of nostalgia. DuckTales Remastered hovers in a gray area, with its combination of updated visuals, extensive voice acting, and dated game design. It clearly reminds us of the animated TV show's greatness, and yes, the theme song is still irresistibly catchy. (A WHOO-OO!) But at the same time, let's not forget that the original game was beloved back in the late '80s.
Anyone familiar with Scrooge McDuck knows his lofty status as "richest duck in the world." And just like humans, what do rich ducks want? More money! So Scrooge goes on a quest to find special treasures in an effort to accumulate more gold, but he also spends time getting his great-nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie out of trouble. It's the basic, loveable premise we all remember, but in an effort to turn DuckTales into some kind of narrative-focused experience, numerous cutscenes work their way into the game. Actually, “numerous” isn't quite the right word… "constant" feels more appropriate. Every time DuckTales Remastered starts to gain momentum, drawn-out cutscenes kill the mood.
At least the cutscenes are fully voiced, and the original voice actors reprise their roles from the television series. That includes the now 93-year-old (!!) Alan Young as Scrooge McDuck, who carries the bulk of the voice-acting duties. He may not be quite as energetic as he was 20+ years ago, and understandably so, but kudos to that guy for putting together a solid performance. The excellence in presentation carries over to the revamped visuals, which sport vibrant colors and high-definition fidelity. The animations are smooth, the environments look sharp, and the character design proves to be especially impressive. It's clear that developer WayForward carried through on the remastered part of the game.
The rest of DuckTales Remastered remains largely unchanged from the 1989 release, for better or worse. It's still a two-button game in which players use Scrooge's cane as a pogo stick to jump around environments and bop enemies on the head. But guess what… pogo sticks are pretty awesome. If I get a choice to jump on an enemy a la Mario or do the same thing with a pogo stick, I'll always pick the latter. The game also follows the non-linear approach of the original, in which players can choose any of the five levels at any given time. Want to explore the moon first even though it's probably intended to be the last area of the game? Go right ahead! I find this refreshing, and I actually went out of order while playing the game because I found one place to be especially devious.
Speaking of devious, DuckTales Remastered can be a difficult game at times. Perhaps I've become too fond of infinite tries in modern games, but I found it difficult to complete an entire level with only two or three lives. I certainly don't mind a challenge, but with a platformer like this, I do expect precise controls. Sadly, DuckTales Remastered fails in this area, especially in regard to Scrooge's cane/pogo stick. I often felt my inputs were not fully recognized in the game, which meant the loss of a heart or even death. Trust me when I say those hearts are precious. The control issues are especially problematic when one factors in the aforementioned difficulty; basically, I felt like I died a lot more than I deserved.
By the time I finished DuckTales Remastered, I felt like I had both a pleasant and hollow experience. I love me some Scrooge McDuck, and hopping around on a pogo stick is surprisingly fun. But I couldn't shake the feeling that I was playing a 24-year-old game with pretty visuals and voice acting. That may be enough for some fans, and perhaps the nostalgic flood of memories will carry more weight than the game's notable flaws for those people. As for me, I think watching some re-runs of the old television series will satisfy my DuckTales needs.