So for some reason, I recently pulled out my old Nintendo and realized how dumb nearly all of the games I had are. Granted most of these games were made in 1989 or thereabouts, so I really shouldn’t judge them by today’s standards. I can however judge them by the standards of the other games that were out at the time. This is the first of a multipart series, reviewing the various NES games that I have in my collection, which is only about 10 or so.
First up: Ducktales. Ducktales was made in 1989 apparently, even though I always assumed that the cartoon wasn’t made until at least 1991 (I was way wrong). The game, like the TV show, focuses on the adventures of Scrooge McDuck, however that’s pretty much the only thing that the two have in common. Much like the widely-hated Super Mario Bros. 2, Ducktales takes a famous character and puts him in a totally ridiculous situation, more ridiculous than the original, and totally unrelated to it.
In the case of this story, you play as Scrooge, traveling all over the world (Transylvania, The African Mines, The Himalayas [Prototypes called it "Snow Mountain"], and The Amazon) as well as to the Moon (don’t question it!) in search of “lost” treasures stolen by various giant slugs wearing crowns, snowmonsters, tiki gods, or rats on the Moon. Of course the reason there’s a rat on the moon is because Scrooge is searching for a piece of green cheese (“Of Longevity”) which supposedly is worth millions of dollars. Never mind the fact that all the bad guys are wearing space suits; Scrooge is perfectly fine in spats and a top hat. Anyway, there aren’t any references to any of the locales from the show, and the only appearances by characters (Other than the Transylvania boss [Magica Dispell], and the main boss at the end of the game [after you beat the preliminary end boss, Dracula Duck]. Of course, it would make more sense to have Dracula Duck be the Transylvania level boss, and the tv-show villain be the preliminary boss, especially since the other level bosses have nothing to do with the show… but whatever) are a few brief cameos from Launchpad, who exists to take Scrooge back to the main menu halfway through each level, if you choose; the kids every once in a while; and Gizzmoduck, who shows up to blow a hole in the Moon so Scrooge can get into an underground lair that has no opening and is filled with Beagle Boys. How he got to the moon, we’ll never know.
The most ludicrous thing about game is the incredibly complicated and inane way that Scrooge fights off bad guys. They took the basic “jumping on them” idea from Mario, and found a way to complicate it. Scrooge uses his cane to “Pogo Jump” on top of them and then they fall off the screen. Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple as pushing the A button. You do need to push the A button, but while in midair, you must also push the B button as well as the down arrow on the directional keypad. Pretty much any combination of pushing those buttons at once will start you pogo jumping, but you need to continue to hold the A button for it to work, or you have to push them all over again. You can just hold the A button and continuously pogo jump, except in the Himalaya level, which is basically all snow and ice. When Scrooge tries to pogo in the snow, he gets stuck.
The levels are all very well mapped out, maze-like, with all kinds of secrets and challenging bad guys (of course, the only ones from the TV show are a few Beagle Boys, here and there). It’s hard enough to figure out where you’re supposed to go in these levels (in fact the Transylvania level actually has a wall that you have to walk through to get to the end of it), that making it past the bad guys seems easy. Once you have your bearings though, it’s fairly easy to beat, at least on the easy setting.
The animation is very good for when it was made, much better than the Darkwing Duck that the same company made a few years later, and the music is fairly catchy, but nowhere on the scale of Mario.
Despite the fact that the game has little to do with the show, and could very easily just have used original characters, the game is fun to play, and once beaten there’s much to explore. Making it not incredibly difficult, unless played on the difficult setting, and allowing the player to pick which level they want to play allows the player to learn the levels quicker than if they constantly had to start from the beginning every time they wanted to play level 8 or whatever. Ducktales gets four stars because of this, and the fact that it’s the only Nintendo game I could ever beat without using Game Genie.