PAX East: DuckTales Remastered: The sound of nostalgia
If PAX East 2013 is remembered for anything, it will undoubtedly be the contagion that swept the showroom floor. It wasn’t some handshake-induced strain that whipped through attendees and across the vast reaches of the internet. It was something far more potent: the long-dreamed resurrection of DuckTales and its infectious tune, spreading with airborne hums and whistles. By day’s end nowhere was safe, and among the eager mobs huddled around Capcom’s display booth hoping to catch a glimpse of their childhoods, it was ground zero.
When sounds of the infectious DuckTales Remastered theme song caught the ear of XBLAFans, we naturally investigated. We were intent on finding the culprit, daring to believe rumors of the nostalgic possibilities at the end of the line. What we found was Capcom Senior Product Marketing Manager Matt Dahlgren manning an arcade machine surrounded by toe-tapping onlookers and a flurry of questions.
“The whole game has been built from the ground up. They did start with the 8-bit version but everything’s been layered on top of it,” said Dahlgren, speaking of developer WayForward Technologies. “It has hand-drawn and animated sprites – the game looks like the cartoon.”
For the uninitiated, the “8-bit version” Dahlgren is referencing was one of the most beloved games to sprout from the NES era. DuckTales blended a familiar license with fantastic platforming design from the same talent behind the Mega Man franchise. It was simple at times, infuriating at others, but it was wreathed in charm and never ceased to hold one more hidden treasure in its many secret crevices.
Of course the landscape has changed since the chip-tune days of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Voice and song are now commonplace in the humblest of offerings and Capcom, together with WayForward, has taken steps to ensure DuckTales‘ foray into the 21st century is as authentic as possible. “They wanted to stay very true to the Disney franchise so we have original voice actors, some of them from the original cartoon series,” Dahlgren explains. “I know the actor that does Scrooge McDuck is in his nineties and he’s still rocking the Scrooge voice which is pretty awesome.”
The voice of Scrooge McDuck belongs to Alan Young, the 93-year-old veteran of sound and screen who made a name for himself starring in Mister Ed before lending his vocal talents to Uncle Scrooge in Disney’s multimedia empire. Young is joined by the surviving cast of the animated series, which first took to the airwaves in the late ‘80s before finding worldwide syndication over the next decade.[springboard type=”video” id=”695339″ player=”xbla001″ width=”640″ height=”400″ ]
“On top of that, there’s a remastered soundtrack. Basically, the melodies you remember from the 8-bit game will come to life in a new way,” says Dahlgren, articulating respect for the original. “There are some new areas in the game that didn’t have original melodies to build off. So [WayForward] actually went back and created 8-bit songs using the same limitations they had back in the NES before they remastered it. The whole soundtrack sounds very congruent.”
Outside the audible improvements, DuckTales Remastered marries Disney’s animated aesthetic with contemporary three-dimensional backdrops. “If you remember the backgrounds from the 8-bit games, it was just textures over and over again,” Dahlgren points out. “Now they’ve actually gone through the cartoon series and they took the backgrounds from episodes that were contextual and implemented them in-game.”
“Gameplay-wise it retains its authenticity of the 8-bit game but it does have some slight modifications,” Dahlgren says, emphasizing the intersection of spirit and suitability. “Certain things from back in the day were unfair – like jumping down pits to find treasure and dying repeatedly – now there are little clues and checkpoints and other things in there.”
“We have a new tutorial area that sets up the storyline. There are new cutscenes that help flesh out that storyline and we’ve also enhanced the ending sequence a little bit. But it uses the same exact physics from the 8-bit game,” Dahlgren assures us, “so it will feel exactly like the 8-bit game.”
Similar updates have been made outside gameplay. Where the original game had a sparse level selection menu, DuckTales Remastered features a revamped scheme to inject a little life into every element of the adventure. “Basically his hub has been refined,” Dahlgren illustrates, “Scrooge’s money bin is now playable. So the more money you collect you can go check it out at the money bin and dive in and take a swim.”
“Then there’s the museum to track achievements, leaderboards and progress. You can access all these things from that hub where you access all the different worlds,” he continues. “WayForward has done an amazing job, basically putting every detail they could into the title.”
As our impromptu interview wraps and we escape the assembly of grinning spectators, we can’t help but feel the next generation of DuckTales fans are in good hands. Targeting an Xbox Live Arcade release for 1200 MSP, DuckTales Remastered should be available this summer. By then, we might have even gotten that theme song out of our heads – but we doubt it. Woo-oo.