Two weeks ago I published a scathing review of the atrocious baby game DuckTales. Today, we will look at DuckTales 2; the best game ever made. Our Disney Afternoon Collection tour makes its second stop!
Duck Tales 2 is one of the best sequels I have ever played. It expands upon the foundation set by its predecessor in nearly every regard without losing sight of what made the original work. It is able to win me over despite not being too hot on the first game, but still maintains the simple fun at the core of DuckTales.
First and foremost, the gameplay of the DuckTales series has really come into its own in DuckTales 2. While I found the original to be a bit simple for my taste, the sequel spices things up with some interesting gimmicks. Sinking sand, moving platforms, and pulleys go a long way toward making the moment-to-moment gameplay more interesting- doubly so when those mechanics are used in tandem with Scrooge’s pogo jump. Stages themselves are less static, which makes them more interesting to traverse and lend themselves to a greater sense of flow.
And players are further incentivized to experiment with the enhanced gameplay thanks to DuckTales 2’s improved use of collectables. Money itself is just as abundant as before, but it can now be used to purchase items between levels. Players can now spend their hard earned cash on extra lives, health upgrades, and other items. This simple change by itself makes the simple act of collecting the game’s numerous treasures more rewarding because they now have a practical use. While I would ignore treasures in the original title since I didn’t care which ending I earned, I found myself active exploring for more treasures in DuckTales 2.
On top of this, DuckTales 2 adds in even more to do, with special high value treasures, upgrades, and plot-critical page scraps all be hidden within the level. The pursuit of these special collectables usually involves clever use of the pogo mechanic, paying close attention to the level design, or solving a puzzle. The puzzles are well executed, adding variety without detracting from the pace of the game. And again, these prizes feel more enticing and rewarding than their counterparts in the first DuckTales.
But what’s so great about these features is that they’re entirely optional. They are available for completionists such as myself, but can easily be ignored if the player would rather blitz through the stages at a quicker pace. It gives more people more ways to enjoy the game, without restricting anybody. Their inclusion is a categorical positive.
Another improvement is the visuals. DuckTales 2 is a great looking game, plain and simple. The art style is appealing and remains consistent throughout, the enemies designs feel like a good fit for where they appear, and the stage themes themselves are more interesting. Among the stages are a Scottish castle, a trek through Niagra Falls, and a puzzle-filled pyramid. Aside from the stages being more interesting conceptually, they graphics live up to the concepts’ potential. Nice touches include the moving parts in the backgrounds of some levels, such as the dancing flames on torches, or the flowing waterfalls. Moreso than perhaps and game included in the Disney Afternoon Collection, Ducktales 2 looks like a playable cartoon.
On the whole, DuckTales 2 delivers in every way a sequel should. But aside from that, it is a great game in its own right. It taps into the full potential of its mechanics thanks to enhanced level design and improved use of collectables. This title absolutely deserves to be held in the same regard as other NES heavyweights, not just from Capcom- but on the platform, period. This is the best game on the Disney Afternoon Collection, and comes highly recommended to anyone who missed out on the game due to its late release and high resale price. It is a hidden gem that shines just as brightly as its more easily accessible contemporaries.
Now this I can get behind. This game really does improve on the original, in nearly every way. The idea that you have to buy safes is order to save your collected treasures in case you die was a bit hokey. But it's a small gripe compared to everything else the game improves upon.
The original still has the superior soundtrack IMO. Not that this one's bad, it's just not as catchy or memorable for me. Still, totally worth playing. Cool review, man!
The treasure map piece hunting in this game is a really great addition, and other old games like Darkwing Duck could have benefitted greatly from having something like that. Something optional that gives you a nice reward if you do bother with it.
I remember asking my parents for Duck Tales 2 for christmas despite the NES being on the way out, and I'm glad I did. Played it obsessively in between sled riding and gingerbread eating, and have tons of great memories of it. My copy is probably worth a little bit now as well, at least to the scandinavian collectors. Not that I'd ever give it up.
EDIT: About the music though: It may not have a tune as awesome (and in the end iconic) as the Moon theme, but Minae Fujii did write some kickass songs for the game. I like pretty much all of the songs, but the Bermuda theme, the final stage theme and the ending themes are especially great IMO.
Yeah, I don't want to come off saying that I don't like the music at all or that it's bad (it's not!). I just didn't care for it *as much* as the original's. The music is good, no doubt about it. The sound designers at Capcom really understood the NES/Famicom's sound chip inside and out by 1993, and I think they did a very good job.
I sometimes wonder which company had the better grasp of the NES' sound chip back in the day; Capcom? Or Konami? Both companies had games that were cranking out INCREDIBLE music and other SFX that were frankly pretty impressive. Especially considering the hardware they were working with.
@GameDadGrant No, I didn't mean to imply that you didn't like the music; I just wanted to clarify my own stance. I agree that the original has the better soundtrack.
I'd like to nominate Sunsoft for best third party sound design on the NES. The way they (Nobuyuki Hara, I think? May he rest in peace.) worked around the limitations by using the sample channel for bass lines and freeing up one channel for extra rich percussion and drum sounds is amazing. Plus, they had the ever awesome Naoki Kodaka writing tunes. Don't want to derail the thread, but goddamn, listen to this!
Blaster Master, Journey to Silius, Gremlins 2 and even Fester's Quest all sound great too.