maanantai 26. elokuuta 2013

REVIEW - DuckTales Remastered | PS3 | 2013

GENRE(S): Platform
RELEASED: August 13, 2013
AVAILABLE ON: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U
DEVELOPER(S): WayForward Technologies

The first proper review of year four is not of an RPG, but of a highly anticipated remake of one of the greatest 8-bit platformers in history, and also a game that was among the first to be reviewed by me. Launched in the U.S. as early as 1989 and the rest of the world through 1990, Disney's DuckTales for the Nintendo Entertainment System changed the face of the commonly ill-fated licensed game. Based on Disney's most popular primetime cartoon of all time, DuckTales looked awesome, it sounded awesome, it had innovative gameplay partly inspired by Capcom's NES flagship series Mega Man, and the best part of it all is that it hasn't lost one cent of its value. Alongside Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda and Castlevania, DuckTales is a game you expect to find in just about any NES gamer's shelf. Unfortunately and ironically enough, it's not found in mine - none of those games, in fact, not yet. Which makes DuckTales Remastered all the more important of a purchase to me. WayForward and Capcom did a good service here. The only question that remains is: how's the remake and how does it stand up to the original classic?

Bless me bagpipes

Alan Young : Scrooge McDuck
Terence McGovern : Launchpad McQuack
Russi Taylor : Huey / Dewey / Louie / Webby
Brian George : Flintheart Glomgold
June Foray : Magica De Spell
Chris Edgerly : Gyro Gearloose
Eric Bauza : Fenton Crackshell / Gizmoduck
Wendee Lee : Mrs. Beakley
Chuck McCann : Duckworth / Bouncer Beagle / Burger Beagle
Frank Welker : Bubba Duck : Big Time Beagle / Baggy Beagle

Scrooge thwarts yet another money bin raid by the Beagle Boys, to find that they were specifically after a worthless painting. A close examination of the painting reveals the global coordinates of five of the most fabled treasures in the world - hidden on the Amazon, Transylvania, a diamond mine in Africa owned by Scrooge, the Himalayas, and finally, the moon. Scrooge, along with his closest companions, eagerly embarks on a galaxy-wide treasure hunt; as expected, some of his worst enemies are also very interested in the five treasures.

When I was a kid, it felt like everyone except me had a copy of DuckTales. DuckTales was one of my favourite TV shows at that time, I loved the game, but since everyone had it, my mom saw no sense in buying the game, 'cause I had such easy access to it. Well, at least I had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, which was based on my absolute favourite show at that time - I think my mom's brain would've imploded out of sheer noise if she didn't buy that one for me. I borrowed DuckTales from my friends countless times. One of them quit borrowing games to me 'cause I tended to keep them for ages, and one of them quit because I made the mistake of borrowing one of his games forward to a kid I didn't even know, and who ended up breaking it. (I asked for my friend's permission to pass the game forward, by the way. He somehow failed to remember it when the cartridge ended up in tiny pieces.) A couple of years later, DuckTales was put up for rental at a recently opened video store, along with 30+ NES games, including the recently released DuckTales 2. I'll tell you, all the money spent on rentals of those two games, plus a few other choice cuts from the NES library, would've been quite enough to buy me my own copy of DuckTales... or about a dozen of them. Hindsight's a bitch.

Some of the best-crafted enemies of their time.
When I picked up a link for a yet-untitled gaming video labelled "exciting news", and discovered that Disney was once again in cahoots with Capcom, and that the two had employed WayForward Technologies for some mystery project, I was thinking something along the lines of another mega-commercial all-star Disney game like the upcoming Disney Infinity. But, when the trailer for a game called DuckTales Remastered popped up instead, I fell to the floor into a pool of my own drool (rhyyyyyyyyme!) and twitched like I was having a heart attack for several minutes before I somehow managed to get back on the seat, actually WATCH the trailer and reflect on the actual sense in a DuckTales remake. Sure, it's a total remake of a game _we_ all loved as kids. But, it's also a game based on a cartoon that was cancelled 23 years ago. Sure, the kids of today know most of these characters and perhaps they're watching some random re-runs on the Disney Channel, but they don't necessarily understand the actual legacy of this ensemble show, and how it was like to take a treasure-hunting trip in Duckburg every Saturday or Sunday morning, how it surpassed _everything_ else in terms of importance. They don't know who Gizmoduck is - to us, he was one of the coolest action heroes on TV. Most importantly, the original DuckTales video game is still one of the best platformers there is, and it's every bit as enjoyable as it ever was - why remake this game, and not some game that could actually benefit from a facelift? ...Do we actually care about any of these things? No. It's DuckTales, and it's back with a vengeance. Literally.

When we're talking about a little facelift, we mean something else. The level design looks exactly the same at first, but some modifications to the layouts have been made to match the developers' original vision - for example, the map of the Amazon is no longer a "cube" shaped like several hard Z's piled up; instead it's a wide, straightforward area, with the Sceptre's resting place clearly separated from the rest of the level to make it feel more like the exhausting hunt for a mythical treasure it's supposed to be. Speaking of the Amazon, there are also some easter eggs - finding which sometimes yields Trophies - referring to some of the stupidities of the original game. Remember that statue that asked you to pay up $300,000 so that you could get to the next screen, even though you could (perhaps unintentionally from the developers' end) continue for free just as well with minimal effort? Keep an eye out for it, the joke's on him this time around. There's no forced switching between levels and you don't need money during gameplay, and those are things I'm really grateful for. The levels themselves might look like some dedicated retro gamer's LittleBigPlanet project - the terrain is very blocky and full of clear seams, which also makes the discovery of secret rooms absolutely effortless. In return for this con, we get gorgeous character animation, magnificent effects, and huge bosses. I mean HUGE, and I don't think "reimagining" is quite big enough of a word to describe their look or their general behaviour. There's practically one single immediately recognizable boss, all the others will surprise the crap out of you... and they all actually have individual motives for their interference. More about how this game explains (some of) the weirdest things, later.

I've been here before.
Since it features a couple of levels that were not in the original game - one of them actually replaces one in the original, and believe it or not, it's a good thing! - there are a couple of new songs on the soundtrack, written by Disney first-timer but all-around veteran Jake Kaufman, a huge fan of the original DuckTales. His appreciation for the original game shows in the precise, heartfelt, yet fresh remixes of the theme songs of old, and the extra arrangements of the Transylvania theme and Moon theme, which play in the final proper boss fight and end credits, respectively. Also during the end credits, players are treated to a cover version of the original DuckTales theme, performed by Disney's in-house talent. A polished version of the theme tune of the original game plays in the title screen. All-around excellent, catchy stuff, hardly mustered by the sands of time at all.

DuckTales Remastered has got to hold some sort of record for the oldest, but none the less supertalented voiceover cast. All the surviving members of the very original DuckTales cast reprise their roles from the cartoon, and even those who've passed have been replaced by incredible talent almost indistinguishable from their predecessors. When I heard that most of the cast would be returning, I thought Alan Young (Scrooge) was going to be the oldest voiceover actor in video game history at the age of 93 - well, I had no idea June Foray (Magica) was still alive and kicking, much less still in the business, and she's friggin' 95! Of course, now that I'm reading about her on IMDb, I can see she's done a lot of voiceover work in the last ten years for both Disney and Warner, for both TV and video games. Here's a tip of my invisible hat to this incredible lady of steel! Not to take anything away from Mr. Young, of course - that old duck's still definitely got it, as Scrooge keeps proclaiming. This new version of the game's taken a lot of crap for its "pointless" story, which constantly interrupts the game - while that might ring true to some extent, it's a pleasure to listen to these professionals go to work.

The story has indeed changed a bit, so all its weird occurrences could be explained a bit better without the developers having to stoop to make changes to them instead. For example, the orange ball-shaped creature you have to fight in the center of the Earth under the African Mines is actually the king of a tribe of underground creatures who are causing Scrooge's employees to flee the mines with the haunting noises they unintentionally make while having their "underground olympics". You might know this storyline and this "king" from before, if you ever watched the show. The giant rat on the Moon is actually a lab rat who takes a bite out of the green cheese you're after and as a result, turns into a hulking monster with enhanced speed. Not to spoil the bosses' backgrounds any further, I'll just spill out that the level taken out is the second trip to Transylvania at the end of the game, which has been replaced with Magica De Spell's home volcano of Vesuvius - at which I think the original flight sequence with both Magica and Glomgold was supposed to take place, it was just never explained. Personally, I dig the story and how surprisingly faithful the game remains to the original in spirit. It's something else I'm deeply bothered by, here, and it's how unreasonable the game is from time to time - the NES game had nothing on how unfair the game can be, especially on the Hard and Extreme difficulty levels.

The bosses have gained a few pounds each.
Now we ain't talking hard, 'cause hard is good. And it remains good as long as you're playing on Normal - the game is truly challenging even on Normal, but at times, even it goes to show what's to come if you're planning to replay the game on Hard. Here's a collective of the game's most treacherous ways. There's a quest in almost each level preceding a trip to the boss' location, like finding the parts of Gizmoduck's suit on the moon instead of just simply Gizmoduck himself; these quests pretty much force you to scout the whole area inside out, which takes a long, long time. You might lose some lives on this trip, and the only extra lives you get in the whole game of Normal are from Mrs. Beakley in her secret rooms, one in each level. Well, be unlucky enough to enter a boss room with just one life left, lose while you're still trying to figure the bastard's complex patterns out, and you're forced to do the whole level all over again. Well, that might've not been surprising, but I'll bet my ass that at least one of the bosses has one attack you simply cannot dodge. Sounds pretty unfair to me. That boss is possible enough to beat if you've got at least the five hearts you had in the original game, which is only possible on Normal, but if you only have three like on Hard (nope, no extras, they've been replaced with treasure!), you're pretty much doomed. I just can't beat him on Hard. Even if I could, I'm not in the mood to replay the whole long-ass level just to get my ass kicked again at a 99,9% certainty; the only faint glimmer of hope for you is that the boss doesn't use that one attack more than one or two times during the whole battle, and that you'll ace the rest. Well, at least extra lives come in quantities on Hard to offer some relief. The final climb in the game is a "bit" trickier than it was before, and it doesn't stop where it did in the original game - it gets much worse after that turning point. This turning point is totally unexpected, it will probably throw you off the ball for a second or two, and you've only got HALF a second to spare if you want to survive that final stage. And once it starts, no mistakes are allowed - it's irrelevant whether you can help a mistake or not. If you've only got one life left at that point, off you go to the beginning - you have to do the whole level all over again, including the boss fight that precedes the final climb of trial and error. I guess the point was to make the player feel good about him/herself after beating the final level and the boss for four or five times before finally having enough luck to survive the ending, but no, it doesn't feel good. Just exhaustingly boring. Oh, and the pogo jump is easier to manage than in the original game - you can have the original setting if you want (just not worth it) - but none the more trustworthy at times. Jumping between mine carts is unreasonably precise - the tiniest error in timing will send you to your doom. Whew, I think that's it; it might sound like I'm terrified of a little bit of challenge, but you can see for yourself that this game has certain spots that are far from a true challenge.

We now know how Scrooge and his allies
are able to breathe on the moon. That leaves just the Beagle Boys.
The Trophies are easy enough to manage - I got 15 out of 20 on my first run - but getting them all is made difficult by having to beat the game on both Hard and Extreme, and if not that, one certain "skill" Trophy that has you pogoing through the Amazon underground tunnel without touching the ground. Call me old-fashioned, but I found returning to the original game for a bit of duck blur much more exciting than starting a second run for Trophies in this game right after the credits, especially since the unlockables are not that exciting at all; there's just concept art, music tracks and useless stuff like that, if you were expecting something fancy like an emulation of the original game. So, do I think DuckTales Remastered stands up to the original? No, but it's good enough.

Good enough, and ultimately irresistible, I guess, but if I may be frank, too expensive. Yeah, sure, look for the original DuckTales on any auction site and the prices go from suspiciously cheap to stinking expensive - at least you know what you get from a digital download, and if it's a bit glitchy (which it is!), don't worry, a patch is surely coming soon to take care of your problems for you. Still, €14.95 will hardly garner in any new DuckTales fans; there are just us old timers who grit their teeth, buy the game and end up with the unanimous conclusion: the original game was better, and much more reasonable even though it was released at the most commonly unreasonable of times.

+ The first round's just filled with excitement for anyone who played the original
+ The nice overhauls to boss and level design
+ Classic music awesomely rearranged, great voice acting...

- ...Although they could've toned down on the interruptions, I concur
- The seams on the terrain and the movement of the camera reveal every "secret" a little too easily
- Turns from hard to utterly unreasonable quite often, especially on the harder difficulty levels
- The steep price
- The crummy unlockables and their high in-game price
- Few deadly glitches

< 7.8 >

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