The original Ducktales game by Capcom for the NES is considered one of the best-licensed games of all time. And with good reason, it looks a lot like the show, captures the spirit of the license pretty well, and is s decently challenging platformer even if it’s a bit on the short side (if you’re good you can beat it in under two hours) but that wasn’t unusual for games of the time.
However, like many retro games based on a licensed property, the game stayed locked to its initial platform for decades. If you wanted to play it, you had to have a working cartridge and a functional NES/retro equivalent (or use slightly more nefarious means). Sometimes not the easiest thing to obtain or maintain. Like many of its cherished IP brethren, most figured that would just be the case forever and ever.
But lo and behold, in the year 2013 (that’s right, coming up on the 10-year anniversary in August), the game got a surprising renewed lease on life, not with just a quick and dirty port, but a full-on remaster! Ducktales Remastered featured vastly improved animations that really looked like the classic cartoon, revamped levels, improved controls, extra content, and a story with voice-acting featuring most of the voice cast from the show. It was quite the nostalgia hit and generally well-loved at the time though it had some fair criticisms I’ll get to in a bit. And hey, if this was how we were going to be able to play such a classic and beloved platformer on modern consoles, it’s certainly not a bad way to do it.
But to many people’s surprise, just several years later in 2017, we got the Disney Afternoon Collection. Not just one game but six, all presented as their original versions but with a few modern tweaks here and there. And this was fortunate because, at the time, Ducktales Remastered had actually been delisted so there was no way to buy it. That was remedied in 2020 with it being available again in 2020.
So now in the year 2023, with both Ducktales and Ducktales Remastered easily available, how does the remaster stack up against the original (or at least the Disney Afternoon Collection version)? Is it truly an improvement or did they just add some flashy graphics and voice-acting and the more streamlined original is the way to go?
The original Ducktales NES game has more advantages than you might think, namely that it being a little more streamlined works in its favor. Sure, you don’t get the nicer animated sprites, but honestly that initial nostalgia of hearing the original voice actors in Ducktales Remastered wears off fairly quickly, and then it quite frankly gets annoying. Neither version of this game needs a lot of dialogue and what’s there in Remastered isn’t that great, and it’s unskippable so it just drags the whole experience down when you just want to explore, find treasure and pogo jump on enemies with your cane.
In the Disney Afternoon Collection, you also have a feature that’s become common with ports of classic games, instant rewind, this makes it pretty easy to just fix mistakes or get out of tough spots and give it another go, Ducktales Remastered does not have this ability, though it’s very generous with checkpoints and lives aren’t limited so you can just keep trying without too much hassle.
But that doesn’t mean Ducktales Remastered is just a graphical upgrade. You can swim in the money bin! I think it generally controls a lot better, has a really handy map function so you don’t get lost in a level or miss anything, and doesn’t suffer from the rather serious slowdown the version of Ducktales in the Disney Afternoon Collection. This is definitely a case where both versions have distinct advantages and it’s not as clear cut in either direction.
Ultimately I don’t think you can really go wrong with either OG Ducktales or Ducktales Remastered. But if I absolutely had to pick one, I think I would go with Remastered. The story and dialogue parts may drag it down, but the improved sprites, map function, and slightly better controls win out for me in the end.
And that’s it for today’s post, I should certainly have something up by next weekend sometime so see ya real soon!