Bless me bagpipes! This game is pure gold!
Whenever a game gets remade, there's always a degree of improvement over the original to be expected, but equally important is the retention of the feel of what made the original game so memorable to begin with. DuckTales: Remastered does both in such a masterful way that you'd believe this was the game Capcom intended to make way back on the NES.
Words cannot describe the sheer attention to detail that has been put into this meticulous reimagining. Every 8-bit sprite has been lavishly redrawn to resemble the style from the show, and brought to life with that charmingly smooth and subtle animation that you'd expect from WayForward. The painted background art, courtesy of Disney veterans Mike Peraza and Rick Evans, is crafted into 3D platforms with layered background scrolling. It complements the 2D characters wonderfully and is never so distracting that you'd lose focus on enemies or items.
The music has been remixed with modern styles and instruments that match the various locales Scrooge visits throughout the game. Extra nostalgia points are awarded for the wonderful mash-up of the original 8-bit theme music that’s blended perfectly with the instrumentals from Mark Mueller's version from the cartoon.
Likely the most important addition to the mix is that the game now features a fleshed-out story that ties everything together, complete with fully voiced dialogue by the official Disney cast from the show. In the original NES version, Scrooge simply ventures to five seemingly arbitrary locations in search of treasure and relics, with no explanation as to why he wants these particular items. It was also possible to blunder your way into a boss room and clear the stage within minutes of starting a level. In the remake, however, each level now has an individual storyline with progressing goals that require you to explore every nook and cranny to fill a checklist of items before the boss area opens. Some parts of levels have been redesigned, expanded, or removed entirely in order to make things flow more naturally.
To better incorporate the new story, two entirely new levels have been added to the game; it's a vast improvement over the original, which made you visit the Transylvania level three separate times in order to finish the game. The story even goes so far as to explain some strange details that were fairly obscure in the original game. Why did Flintheart Glomgold suddenly team up with Magica De Spell in the final scenes of the game? Just what were the Beagle Boys doing in that cave beneath the moon's surface? And how could everyone breathe comfortably up there in the first place? It's all written into the experience now, and never feels forced or out of place.
What is perhaps the only downfall is that the levels frequently pause to give more story explanation as Scrooge comes across a roadblock or finds a key item required to progress. While the dialogue is true to character and very witty (you'd have to be heartless not to crack a smile at the delightful banter between Scrooge and Launchpad), it can also get quite lengthy. Fortunately you have the option to skip it, which comes in handy for repeated playthroughs. Sadly, I also came across some severe audio glitches during the final battle and even a Wii U crash during my time with the game. Rest assured WayFoward is well aware of these issues and is working on fixing them in an update patch even as I write this. In the meantime, a quick reboot of the game will solve any problems that come up.
Bugs aside, this is a game that raises the bar for HD remakes of classics. There is a huge gallery of bonus art and music to buy with your collected treasure. The controls and physics are as tight as ever—purists can even select “Hard Pogo” mode for retro “Down-Y” NES controls. There's an unlockable option to play the game with the original 8-bit music—even the new tunes have 8-bit renditions to match the classic themes. It's truer to the source material than even the original game was, and everything feels just right. Should you buy this game? If you liked the original NES version, yes. If you also liked the DuckTales cartoon, double yes. Young'uns who never experienced either of those certainly won't be able to appreciate this remake as much, but it's still a prime example of a solid, fun platformer with some decent challenge to be had.
I sincerely hope WayForward gets the opportunity to remaster DuckTales 2 in the near future.