Jun 14, 2013

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E3 Hands-On Preview: Ducktales Remastered

E3 Hands-On Preview: Ducktales Remastered

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In a little corner of Capcom’s booth, Scrooge McDuck took residence. A karaoke booth (so you could sing along to the theme song) and a bank of four demo units gave E3 patrons an opportunity to test outĀ Ducktales Remastered, the HD remake of the NES classic, still admired to this day for its gameplay and music.

For me, Ducktales the game has a lot of fond memories. I never owned it, but I rented it dozens of times, and it’s one of the games of my childhood I still remember fondly. The music itself is incredible, stretching the limits of the NES hardware to create a rich-sounding soundtrack that still gets play to this day (even if you’ve never played Ducktales, you’re probably familiar with its “Moon Theme”). As a result, getting my hands on this title was a must E3 experience.

The demo they had on hand allowed you to play a level of your choice: Amazon (level one) or Transylvania (a later level), and chose your difficulty. I had the opportunity to play the game twice, both times on PS3, so that I could experience all the demo had to offer.

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(Or check out the full original Amazon level here.)

The first thing I noticed was the game looks great–although I’ll admit I loved the look of the original NES title, and wish switching to the old graphics were an option–and very closely resembles its predecessor in all things, just smoother and shinier, with a lot more detail to each level. The second was that the music, though modernized (and another thing I wish you could restore to the original in the settings), are the same tunes you remember from the original title.

Third, is that the level design appears to be identical (with a few minor changes, see below) to the NES game. Enemies are generally in the same places, and I imagine the secrets are as well, though I obviously can’t confirm that 100%, though I did find several hidden passages that are also present in the 8-bit version. This means that fans who were worried Capcom might mess with the formula can set aside their fears. Apparently, WayForward, who is developing the title, decided (rightly) that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Next, the game now has cutscenes. Lots of cutscenes, prefacing each level and interspersed throughout, creating more of a story and creating incentive to fully explore the level. For example, in the Amazon level, you need to find eight coins to unlock the boss fight. In the Transylvania level, you need to rescue Huey, Dewie, and Louie each by fighting a miniboss. Additionally, these scenes are fully voiced, and Scrooge now talks as you progress through the levels. It’s cute, but it can get a little grating to hear him say the same things all the time. In case you’re wondering: yes, these cinematics can be skipped.

Like the original game, you can play on three difficulty levels, and these change the gameplay pretty significantly. On Easy, you can press start and access the full map at any time, even at the beginning of the level, which makes navigation simple (secret passages are not revealed on the map, however, until you find them, still leaving an element of exploration even on the easiest setting). Enemies are slower and less numerous, and only cost you half a heart of life when they hit you. You also get infinite retries (starting off at the beginning of the section where you died, rather than the start of a level). Additionally, health items are much easier to find than they are on the harsher difficulties.

Medium is true to its name. Key items are revealed on the map, but the actual rooms/paths aren’t displayed until you traverse them. Enemies hit a little harder, and you have limited retries.

On difficult, enemies are far more numerous, they move quicker, and hit hardest. For example, in the Amazon level, instead of one gorilla at the start, you’ll have to face down several. Healing items are rare, and you only have three retries–once you’ve used them up, it’s Game Over.

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The game controls well and sticks to the original’s gameplay: jump, pogo on your cane (which is your primary form of attack), and swing your cane like a golfclub to open chests on the ground or send round rocks flying to kill enemies or hit treasure chests and drop them to easy reach.

The Amazon level was pretty straight forward. You’ll find yourself pogoing through the jungle, caves, and even into the sky, avoiding obstacles like spiky vines, carnivorous plants, angry bees, and even an Indiana Jones-style boulder. In this version, you have to find eight coins scattered throughout the level. Once you do, you must climb up to a key area, where a short story scene will play. You’ll then traverse the skies (although you can just ride on the helicopter if you want an easy out) toward the boss.

The boss is similar to the NES original, though WayForward has thrown in a few more attacks. The stone head will try to squish you, and you must pogo him to attack. Like the original, when he pounds the ground it can take you off your feet, but that’s not your only concern. He’ll also manipulate the floor, causing the panels to move first toward the ground, then toward the far wall. You have to move or jump to avoid being crushed. Once you’ve hit him enough times, you’ll get treated to another story scene and finally get the scepter you were searching for.

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(Or check out the full original Transylvania levelĀ here.)

The Transylvania level is a little more complex. Like the Amazon level, you’ll preface it with a cutscene. This time, Scrooge’s nephews find themselves captured, and Scrooge has to find them. You’ll encounter each throughout the level, each time fighting an increasingly more difficult boss (ghosts, which can’t be killed, join the fray, making hitting the minibosses harder). Throughout the castle, you’ll battle skeletons (which can come back to life if you’re not careful), mummies, the aforementioned ghosts, spiders, and more. Once you’ve rescued Huey, Dewie, and Louie, you can use the spell to unlock the mirror that will take you to the part of the castle leading to the boss. She has several attacks, including a circle of mirrors (you have to hit the one with her in it) and a laser beam you need to dodge. Once you’ve hit her enough, you’ll see another story scene, she’ll transform and fly away, leaving you with the treasure you came for.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the game. My niggles are few, and it’s so great to be able to have the opportunity to play this favorite again. I wish it were available on Vita, but I’ll settle for being able to play it on console or PC.

Ducktales Remastered will be available later this summer as a digital download for PS3, 360, Wii U, and Steam. Look for our review once the game releases, and keep checking Vivid Gamer for more E3 coverage and previews.