25 Years of NES part 14: Duck Tales
Most veteran gamers know that liscenced video games are often well… crap. Unfortunately, this has largely been the case since the days of the Atari. While the NES does not buck this trend entirely it does boast a sizable library of quality liscenced games. A big chunk of those games are Capcom’s Disney games: Rescue Rangers, Talespin, the Little Mermaid, Darkwing Duck and best of all Duck Tales. As any right minded person in their mid-twenties knows, Duck Tales is awesome. (show of hands: who knows the theme song by heart?) With DuckTales Capcom took their highly successful Mega Man formula, replaced the Blue Bomber with Scrooge McDuck and ended up with a classic.
Capcom’s first few Disney games did not defy the norm of crappy licensed games. Mickey’s Mousecapade is a broken mess that secretly not a Capcom game at all, it was made by Hudson. Adventures in the Magical Kingdom is a crappy mini-game collection that probably killed many kid’s interest in visiting the theme park. But after that the quality increased dramatically. Talespin is not great, but it is a solid if unremarkable shooter. The Little Mermaid is a competently made adventure, though it is mind-numbingly easy. Darkwing Duck is pretty great, if frustratingly difficult. The Rescue Rangers games are both very good to great. They play a lot like SMB 2 and feature co-op play; they were only left behind in favor of Duck Tales because I am more familiar with that game. Duck Tales and possibly its as yet unplayed by me sequel, is the best of Capcom’s Disney games and the best licensed game on the NES.
Graphically the is similar to Mega Man. The Scrooge sprite is relatively small, leaving lots of room for actually playing. The graphics strike that perfect balance of clear recognizable sprites without constraining the game due do the NES limitations. The music is outstanding. The Moon theme in particular is great. Capcom did as good any any one with music on the NES and Duck Tales is one of their best.
The game casts the palyer as the equally rich and greedy “Uncle” Scrooge McDuck. Being the greedy bastard that he ism Scrooge sets off around the world searching for valuable treasure; fortune anf glory and such. He is aided by trusty pilot Launchpad McQuack, young ducklings Huey, Dewey, Louie and Wendy, and the cybernetic Gizmoduck. Again it plays similarly to Mega Man, in that the player can choose the order they play the levels. The levels are less straightforward than Mega Man’s are. They branch and loop, being less a gauntlet to pass to reach the boss and more a scavenger hunt. It encourages the player to look in all the nooks and crannies to find all the treasure they can. While most of the game apes Mega Man, the difference in level structure, along with it’s great license appeal, gives it enough of its own feel to set it apart. The big gameplay hook is Scrooge’s weapon: his cane.
The cane is used in all parts of the game. He can swing it to hit enemies, or objects. He can knock small blocks around the stage to help with exploring by giving him something else to jump off of. He can also use it like a pogo stick for extra jumping power, as well as hitting many enemies on the head. For such a simple tool, the game has numerous ways of making use of it.
Somehow Capcom took most of what was good about Duck Tales and combined it with one of the best NES games and made another classic. It has set a standard that few if any licensed games have managed to reach.