Developer(s) – Capcom
Publisher(s) – Capcom & Disney Interactive Studios
Designer – Yoshinori Takenaka
Producer – Takuro Fujiwara
Released back in 1989, and having many key personnel from the team behind Mega Man, including the franchise’s creator Keiji Inafune taking charge of character design, Duck Tales went on to become a critical and commercial success on the back of the immensely popular Disney cartoon series. It’s regarded by many as one of the best, and indeed most challenging, Game Boy games ever developed, and I found that whilst it is challenging, it was developed in such a way that didn’t make it inaccessible to me, unlike Mega Man, and I ended up spending a lot of time on this game when I was a kid as a result.
Graphics – 8/10
Though the NES version had a massive assortment of colourful environments, despite the console’s limited colour palette, what the original Game Boy lacked in colour variety and technological advancement developers had to make up for in conceptual design; Duck Tales is a classic example of this. Set in a variety of 5 different locations, including The Himalayas, The Amazon River and even the Moon, it in turn allowed for a wide assortment of enemy designs and different types of scenery to accompany each stage. The soundtrack is also arguably one of the best 8-BIT music arrangements in gaming, which tracks for the Amazon and The Moon standing out to a majority of players.
Gameplay – 8/10
Like Mega Man, Duck Tales is also a non-linear 2D platformer, with players being given the facility to complete the game in any order they desire. There are also unlockable areas within each of the five different levels, giving players cause to revisit levels multiple times, adding to the game’s longevity. It was also one of the first video games to include multiple endings, since there is a good ending and a bad ending to unlock dependent on how much money the player accumulates.
Controls – 10/10
Though the 2D platforming game formula had been well and truly mastered at this time, Duck Tales introduced one in particular mechanic that made thing pretty interesting; the pogo stick jump. Scrooge can use his cane like a pogo stick to attack enemies as well as traverse dangerous platforms in order to reach otherwise impassable or secret areas hidden throughout the game. It would have been particularly difficult for developers to introduce new ideas into a formula that had arguable been definitively perfected by Nintendo with the advent of Super Mario Bros, but Capcom managed to keep it fresh with their plethora of Mega Man game as well as Duck Tales.
Lifespan – 6/10
Clocking in at around an hour and a half, it lasts around the average of what a game was expected to last at that time. Less experienced players will spend some more time on it, since it can take a while to master the control mechanics to effectively get past each individual challenge the game throws at them, but there had been a select few games on the NES that lasted a great deal longer than this, and so the game wasn’t able to stand out in this respect at least.
Storyline – 5.5/10
The game also marginally stands out in terms of story. It simply revolves around the same concept of the cartoon series, in which Scrooge McDuck, along with his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, and his friend Launchpad McQuack are on an adventure to increase Scrooge’s fame ahead of his closest rival, Flintheart Glomgold. It’s only slightly more unique than most video game plots at that time, since it doesn’t revolve around a white knight having to save the damsel in distress, but although most people didn’t play games for the story at this time, there is indeed a lack of it in this title.
Originality – 7/10
As I alluded to, it was extremely difficult to make a winning 2D side scrolling game in the time when Nintendo had pioneered the industry standards with the original Super Mario Bros, but Capcom managed to accomplish that with Duck Tales by introducing the additional control mechanics, as well as a non-linear progression along with hidden secret areas. It was one of many licensed Disney games that Capcom went on to develop that sticks out in the minds of gamers everywhere, and helped to establish them as powerhouses within the industry.
In all, Duck Tales is indeed one of the best platformers on the Game Boy, as well as the NES, and a gaming experience that still very much holds up to this day. Though it conformed to many of the story limitations synonymous with gaming at the time, it excelled in the aspect that truly matters; the gameplay.