Life is like a hurricane here in Duckberg. Fortunately, Scrooge McDuck is as agile as any platforming hero! There’s nothing like a Capcom game that uses a Disney licensee. Licensed games typically catch a lot of flak for being rushed and poorly crafted experiences that are only on shelves to sell the movie or television program they are based on. While this was even the case for the 1980s, companies such as Konami and Capcom would avert the cliche and make the games thrive just as much in quality. Of course, the famous example of the NES era is DuckTales, the game based on the Disney cartoon series based on the comics.
All the player needed to know is that Scrooge is after legendary treasures, and to get them he or she must play through a series of levels and clobber the bosses that await at the end of each one! It’s expected for games at the time to follow the footsteps of Mario and be platformers, but DuckTales provides its own unique spin in which Scrooge can bounce on his cane and stomp enemies with it. More importantly is the fact that there are multiple pathways to take in each level, and that they can be selected in any order the player decides. Many have made the connections between this and the Mega Man series, and I can’t say I’d be able to be the exception! This is a Capcom game, after all! Chances are the Mega Man engine was used to create the game.
But unlike the Blue Bomber’s escapades, DuckTales plays more loosely. Mega Man himself can’t jump as high or freely as Scrooge. Bopping enemies with the cane among other things also implies that DuckTales is bound to be approached a lot differently than a Mega Man game. However, what they have in common is how fun they are! The level designs in DuckTales are superb, and have plenty of challenges and obstacles awaiting at several different paths. Each level has its own distinct visuals and beyond-catchy music, and the themes can even extend as far as unique behaviors and interactions. The levels simply wouldn’t feel the same as each other.
As fun as DuckTales is, though, there is one aspect that time hasn’t necessarily been kind to: The game length. I personally don’t care about it, but I can imagine some may raise an eyebrow towards the fact that the game can be beaten well under an hour. Experienced players could go through it much faster than any Mega Man title. However, dedicated fans are willing to note that the multiple paths, and multiple endings, add to the overall replay value. Regardless of how one sees that, DuckTales has often been regarded as one of the greatest titles on NES. There’s also a Game Boy version, but it seems to have had far less acknowledgment than its NES counterpart.
Fundamentally, it’s the same as the NES version. The differences mainly reside in the general level layouts and controls. The levels share the same themes as they had in the console game, but the layouts have been redesigned significantly to suit the Game Boy’s more compact screen. This also means that Scrooge’s movement is more tightened. He jumps more like Mega Man and moves a lot slower. What I like is that only the B button is needed to activate his cane, whereas in the NES version it’s a combination of Down+B.
I’m not sure the Game Boy version does capture the magic of the NES game, though. It certainly is faithful, but it also feels restricted. The levels are smaller and have less room for navigation. I think as a result of this, Capcom actually made the game a lot easier; I can beat this game anytime on the hardest difficulty setting, yet I still struggle to play beyond Easy mode in the NES version. Everything else seems to check out fine enough. The graphics are sharp and identical to the console game, and the music is faithfully replicated (albeit certain sound effects can very briefly interrupt a melody). It just seems more like a novelty in these recent times especially now that the 2013 remake by Wayforward, DuckTales Remastered, is playable on mobile devices. I’ll probably go into detail on this one at another time.