Remember back when Disney used to produce great animated shows, before they started crapping out all those tweens and poor excuses for entertainment? Back in the late 80′s to the mid-90′s, a ton of Disney shows came out, most of which were pretty good, and DuckTales was one of the best of the bunch. Well, it turns out that during that period of time, Capcom also made a bunch of great games based on Disney properties, including this one!
Right off the bat, after starting a new game, you’re hit with a Mega Man-like “land select” map, where Louie, Huey and Louie (?) assist their Uncle Scrooge with picking a location to go to. Naturally, the only way they’ll help will be getting caught by villains and giving obvious clues; that’s alright though, since Scrooge will later get his revenge by dumping the mine cart they’ll be sitting in down a pitfall.
Immediately, DuckTales should catch your attention with its colorful look. By 1989, Capcom had figured out how to get the best out of the NES, including putting many colors on screen at the same time. As you’ve probably guessed by now, this game stars billionaire penny pincher Scrooge McDuck, self-proclaimed “richest duck in the world”, as he embarks on a grand adventure around the world. By “around the world”, I mean precisely 5 locations on a nonsensical map.
Also, by “grand adventure”, I mean invading several cultures, beating the crap out of their people and robbing them of their sacred treasures. Truly, Scrooge McDuck is an example to live by! Seriously, that’s what the game is all about! Players move through a stage, finding tons of jewels along the way and eventually facing a boss, who drops a priceless treasure upon getting their ass handed to them (or bad cheese, on the Moon).
Each level features lots of exploration, tons of hidden collectibles, tricky hazards and secret passages. That’s a great recipe for awesome platforming, and DuckTales definitely delivers! In some ways, it’s pretty similar to Mega Man, which makes sense since Capcom was hitting a stride with that series at the time, but the actual game mechanics are what distinguishes this game from others. Scrooge doesn’t have an arm cannon or a sword and he can’t hurt baddies just by jumping on them… At least, not normally.
The rich duck’s only weapon is his versatile cane, which you’ll be relying on for just about everything throughout the game. While you can’t directly fight with it, it can be used to hit blocks and rocks among other things, sending them flying and knocking out any enemies they hit as well as potentially revealing hidden items. Just as important, if not more so, is the ability to use the cane as a pogo-stick; doing so allows the player to reach higher places, hurt enemies, break open objects and bounce across dangerous terrain unharmed.
Actually, pretty much the entirety of the game revolves around using the pogo-stick– I mean cane –to get to otherwise unreachable areas. Some places require you to find hidden items in order to get further into a stage and a couple of them are particularly maze-like. While this makes for interesting and fairly long levels, the limited amount of them also unfortunately means that the game is pretty short.
For the most part, DuckTales is a standard platformer, albeit a pretty good one, with an interesting twist. It was so well received that it later spawned an excellent sequel featuring the exact same gameplay in new lands, teaching audiences that destroying only 5 civilizations isn’t nearly enough!