Duck Tales – NES …(woo-ooh!)

Scrooge Moon Treasure

If I reach the ripe old age of 110, find myself immobile in a nursing home bed, unable to speak and peeing through a tube, and I’ve left a living will detailing that only one TV show play constantly in my room to let me reminisce about my youth in those last precious moments of existence, that one show would have to be…

…well, Rescue Rangers, to be honest. But if they could alternate between two programs, every other episode would be Duck Tales (then, I think, given the third option, I really enjoyed “Get Smart” around fourth grade or so).  Rescue Rangers and Duck Tales truly represented a time when Disney put forth an extreme effort into their afternoon programming.

Stop complaining, Scrooge. I come from Northern Michigan. This is a light dusting for us.

Stop complaining, Scrooge. I come from Northern Michigan. This is a light dusting for us.

Now I can see all you wagging your heads in front of your screens thinking, Jake, Jake, Jake…everyone remembers their childhood as more wonderful and praiseworthy than everyone else’s.  But like Phoenix Wright, I make no claims without evidence (lest my conduct reflect badly on my client).  Prior to the 2012 Presidential Election, everything I understood about economics–and retained after graduating high school–I learned from Duck Tales.  Scrooge McDuck taught his nephews some fairly complex lessons about investment and saving.  He showed, through example, why keeping three cubic acres of cash sitting in a monolithic building marked with a dollar sign might demand ridiculously excessive security and a lot of sleepless nights.  Look up an episode called “The Land of Tra La La,” and you’ll see a hypothetical scenario illustrating the effects of inflation.  Even today, when politicians suggest to me that I only need to find more difficult work if I want to increase my income, (goodbye teaching college, hello digging ditches!) I hear Uncle Scrooge’s mantra, “Work smarter, not harder,” and I remember his admission that he succeeded as a result of determination, thought, risk, and luck (remember his lucky number one dime, so coveted by Magica DeSpell?), making me wonder why we elect people easily outwitted by a cartoon duck.

Doesn't everyone watch Duck Tales on their wall while drinking martinis in a fedora?

Doesn’t everyone watch Duck Tales on their wall while drinking martinis in a fedora?

Anyway, if your kilts are cursed enough that you missed out on being under ten years old from 1987 to 1990, go out and find the show.  Find some kids to show it to, or just watch it by yourself.  If your birth year does fall in the eighties, maybe you won’t necessarily remember the TV show, but you probably remember the NES game.  Capcom, it appears, has remastered the game and released an expanded version for Steam, PS3, Xbox 360, and the WiiU! Quackeroonies!

Except I promised I’d play through my giant stack of games before I bought any more, so I’ll write about the 8-bit version instead.

While that probably sounded a bit disappointing, the original Duck Tales game blessed a few bagpipes of its own when first released in 1989.  Congress hadn’t yet passed the law requiring the quality of games adapted from movies or TV to be equal to or less than that produced by unpaid interns who stay up until four in the morning because they can’t go home until they finished their other work.  A lot of the game’s features not only stayed true to the tone and design of the cartoon, it also put the player in adventure situations like Scrooge might actually encounter. (You may laugh at the fact that I bring that up, but have you ever tried playing the NES Back to the Future adaptation?)

Yep...even the duck is a better golfer than me.

Yep…even the duck is a better golfer than me.

Scrooge McDuck, in a startling development of character that would make even the most hardcore fans shrug with astonishing indifference, wants to increase his fortune.  Rather than merge with other corporations, invest in stocks and savings, or buying up other businesses, firing all the employees, then liquidating all their assets right into his Money Bin, he feels that world travel would best suit his needs, as apparently we could find diamonds sprinkled everywhere from here to the moon if we just look hard enough.  In true Mega Man fashion, the player selects non-linearly from five stages, each which contain a treasure guarded by a boss and numerous diamonds found hiding in the stage or dropped by enemies.  Scrooge uses his cane–which doubles as a pogo stick and triples as a golf club–as his only defense.

This set up, I think, makes the game more about exploration than plowing through to the end.  Stages branch off, and each path contains diamonds, health upgrades, hidden treasures, key items, or extra lives.  Many items remain invisible until Scrooge crosses certain points in the area to reveal them.  So not only can we choose the order of levels, but we also can decide how long we want to spend in any one place.  And while the treasure value only serves as a score, which no one cared about after it ceased to mean “free game” or recognition by other upstanding arcade patrons, putting a dollar sign in front of it somehow makes it feel like a more worthy goal.

Hey guys....what'cha doing in there?

Hey guys….what’cha doing in there?

Other characters from the series appear to help you by offering advice, breaking through walls, or throwing baked goods at Scrooge, who gobbles them down like a diabetic with low blood-sugar.  Although the game keeps text to a minimum, they did try to retain certain speak mannerisms for most of the characters (although I don’t know if I can forgive Bubba’s lapse in not referring to the main character as ”Scooge”).

Despite being a platformer, I actually have a good time when playing this game. Something about bouncing around on a pogo-stick cane just mesmerizes me, and I can remember zoning out in third grade, imagining Scrooge hopping around the lines on the classroom walls.  My third grade teacher didn’t care for me much.  Of course, when I started subconsciously picking up economic theory in kindergarten, I set myself down a path where most of my teachers would accuse me of having an attitude problem. (Until I got to grad school. They liked me. I guess it evens out).

Moral of the story? Video games make you smarter. (No, really) So go play Duck Tales.

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