Before 2013, the idea of Capcom bringing back DuckTales was a pipe dream. With newer, more modern takes on the formula, the gaming world had seemingly moved forward. That was until one random morning when Capcom had announced that a full-blown modernization of its 1989 classic was in the works. It was not only a rare example (especially for the time) of a good licensed title, based on the classic animated series, but it still stands today as one of the best licensed games ever made. Today, Shacknews celebrates its 10th anniversary and reflects on what's worked so well, particularly from the lens of 2023, where remasters and remakes are coming left and right.
Capcom came out of the gate strong with its initial DuckTales Remastered reveal. The first trailer opened with an ominous orchestral sting accompanied by quotes from various gaming luminaries expressing why the original 1989 hit was so influential. The trailer then flashed the WayForward logo, broke into the classic DuckTales theme song, and showed off an all-new art style that reflected the old-school Disney Afternoon cartoon. Even with the new visuals, the NES gameplay formula with lead character Scrooge McDuck's pogo stick, golf swing, bounce mechanics, and hidden treasures all looked to be intact.
"It should almost go without saying that the game is being recreated in High-Def, but of far greater importance, the DuckTales gang has been brought back to life with absolutely luscious hand-drawn animation so as to better reflect the high-caliber animation Disney’s known for," read the original 2013 announcement. "Every frame of movement from the original is represented, redefined and expanded upon. Oh yes, even side characters like Launchpad McQuack and Huey, Dewey, and Louie have graduated from static cameos to fully fleshed-out appearances."
When DuckTales Remastered released on August 13, 2013, Capcom and WayForward delivered everything they promised. Players could bounce around as Scrooge in a more vibrant version of the original game. However, the publisher wasn't handling this project alone. In fact, much of the heavy lifting was done by the team at WayForward. WayForward had proved that it had what it takes to take on an animated side-scroller after its work on the Shantae series, plus it had proven that it could capably work with old-school franchises after its work on 2007's Contra 4. However, WayForward did more than just translate the original NES title. This team went the extra mile.
The first hint that this wasn't a direct 1-for-1 translation came at the very beginning. WayForward had previously indicated, somewhat bafflingly at the time, that it wanted to answer various questions raised by the NES title. "Why was there a giant rat on the moon?" was an example. At the time, few paid it any mind. It was an NES game in 1989. Nobody ever thought about "why," outlandish concepts were just accepted. Of course Scrooge was fighting a giant rat on the moon. Don't ask how it got there, just hit it! However, this line of questioning from the developer was more meant to hint that some new stuff was on the way.
This "why" paved the way for entirely new stages, like the introductory romp through Scrooge's Money Bin and the never-before-seen final level on Mount Vesuvius. These new stages were carefully crafted and fit in with the original stages beautifully. They fit in so well that, at the time, I had wondered if this was WayForward's way of auditioning for a chance at a new DuckTales title. These stages felt like a reward for players eager to experience Scrooge's adventure again and gave the original game's ending sequence a newfound epic atmosphere.
In addition, the "why" also led to the addition of cutscenes, and this is where the celebration gets a little bittersweet and solemn. A lot of time had passed since 1989, so sadly, some of the original DuckTales voice actors had passed away before DuckTales Remastered was ever a blip on the radar. Joan Gerber (Mrs. Beakley), Hamilton Camp (Fenton Crackshell/Gizmo Duck), and Hal Smith (Gyro Gearloose) were among the actors who had passed on well before Capcom and WayForward's remaster.
DuckTales Remastered would also serve as the final performance for Alan Young, the classic comedy actor and long-time voice actor for Scrooge McDuck. He threw himself back into the role seamlessly and introduced a new generation of fans to the steadfast, thrill-seeking treasure hunter who sought to remain the richest duck in the world. This was the icing on the cake for the NES generation, which grew up on Capcom's 8-bit adventure and Alan Young's depiction of Scrooge.
Of course, what's a story about the NES DuckTales without discussion of the music? This was arguably the aspect of Remastered that fans were most concerned about going in, because it felt impossible to improve on perfection. The themes for the Moon, Himalayas, and Transylvania, to name a few examples, were iconic and remained some of the greatest tracks ever made. Jake "Virt" Kaufman proved to be up to the challenge, taking his experiences with WayForward and his own mixes, and giving his own spin to these beloved tracks.
Through the use of symphonic and orchestral sounds, Kaufman astonishingly improved on the original classics. Even the boss theme, which was a repetitive loop in the original NES title, became an exciting, foreboding anthem. The Moon, a musical trick so iconic that Disney eventually made it canon, became an appropriately out-of-this-world adventure melody. Funnily enough, Kaufman is his own worst critic when it comes to the Moon theme.
"I almost crashed over [the Moon theme] because I'm a fan, too, and I get angry when people don't do things right," Kaufman said in a 2022 interview with GoSeeTalk. "I'm like... am I the baddie? Am I going to be that guy who ruined a thing that everyone loves? And so every day that I had that assignment, I was thinking, 'Oh God, there's no way I can make this good. Somebody on the internet has done it better, probably eight or nine someones, and there's no way I can do this. People have done this song to death, so in the end, I just said, 'I'm going to make it as 'me' as possible while making it fit in with the rest of the soundtrack. It shouldn't stand out in any way other than being the one that everyone knows. It should sound the same as the rest of them, and then I'm doing a good job. If it's not terrible and it sounds like it fits in, I think people will like it.'"
Ten years later, video games are increasingly filled with remakes and remasters. This year alone, the gaming world has reacquainted itself with Resident Evil 4, Dead Space, System Shock, Metroid Prime, Advance Wars 1 and 2, and Quake 2. A remake for Super Mario RPG is coming later this year. Remakes and remasters weren't always surefire hits in 2013. Gaming was coming off mixed bags like 2008's Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and outright disappointments like 2009's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled.
There was cautious optimism, but DuckTales Remastered delivered everything fans could have hoped for. It's also a game that Capcom knows is still worth fighting for. After briefly being delisted due to shifting rights issues, Capcom negotiated to restore the game's digital listings, and it remains available on Steam and console storefronts to this day, standing as a monument to how timeless this Disney classic was. Just as the 2017 DuckTales reboot proved to be a beautiful homage to the Disney Afternoon original, 2013's DuckTales Remastered from WayForward brings out the best from Capcom's 1989 classic and shows how remakes and remasters should be done.
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, 10 years later, DuckTales Remastered remains an example of nostalgia done right
good article, thx ozzie
Ten years?? 😱