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Backlog Challenge 2014 - DuckTales

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Like many people my age I grew up on The Disney Afternoon, a two-hour block featuring some of the finest animation to air on television at that point, and like so many of its viewers one of my favorite programs shown on the block was DuckTales. Its colorful, lighthearted but sincere presentation of a world full of magic and discovery struck a chord with the little would-be globetrotting adventurer in me, so mere word of a video game adaptation of it for the NES was enough to warrant a purchase - well, let's be honest, begging my parents for a purchase - from me.

Unfortunately, I was young enough at that point that I lacked both the patience and skill to see most any of my games through to the end, this one no exception, and after selling the game and its system to the local Funcoland (oh yeah, really feeling old now) for cash towards SNES and Genesis fare and nearly two decades passing without replaying it DuckTales had placed itself high on a pedestal in my mind, mighty and insurmountable. General reports of "punishing difficulty" and the like from reviews of last year's downloadable Remastered HD revival/facelift only cemented my previous sentiments in their time-worn places, but as I set about compiling a list of digital demons of days past to do battle with this month it was the one title that stood out foremost in my mind. Would the 8-bit beast live up to my lofty expectations?

...no, as it turns out. In reality, DuckTales is both incredibly shorter and - at least as far as NES titles go - considerably easier than I remembered. This is not at all to speak of the game's quality, however. Though on the simple side, stages are crafted with flow and logic at the forefront, encouraging nonlinear exploration in a way I can now identify as a distant inspirational ancestor of 2D Metroidvanias. Wondering which mineshaft will lead to the greater treasure or which snowbank or haunted mansion wall is a false one encourages trial and error across every pixel of every stage, ushering you forward to greedily wring every cent you can into your total score.

What's more, with a bit of age and experience it becomes blindingly clear that this is a Capcom game. Even with a suite of moves crafted for close combat, handling Scrooge bears a decidedly similar feeling to controlling a certain blue robot, gaits and jumps matching closely enough to confuse the two were one not organic and covered in feathers. And the cane pogo... oh, the cane pogo. I'd be tempted to call it broken if it wasn't so thoroughly satisfying to hear and see and do again after so long. It's like a warm blanket you use to pinpoint bludgeon enemies in the head with: it just makes you feel warm and safe, every midi sproing an assurance that all is right with the world. BRRM. BRRM. Ahhh...

All nostalgia aside, DuckTales stands the test of time in terms of quality, thoroughly exaggerated as any reports of its difficulty may be. Once I got a feel for things again it took surprisingly few attempts to complete the game on Normal difficulty, then again on Difficult once I realized the only differences between the two were the replacement of invincibility coins and full health restore items for single health drops. Two alternate endings await especially skilled players, one for collecting both hidden treasures and at least $10,000,000, another for the considerably more difficult task of ending with exactly $0. The deadline for the month fast approaching and a few experimental runs bearing no success, I decided to call my standing victory sufficient and move on.

CHALLENGE: cleared (Difficult difficulty, normal ending)

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