Monday, September 22, 2014

POST-"DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE" PERSPECTIVES: "DuckTales Remastered" and "Scrooge's Loot"

DuckTales Remastered: The Cutscenes Movie now -- comments later!  (By which I mean, it would be a good idea for you to watch the video game's cutscenes before tackling my observations, since the latter will make more sense then.)


Evidently, some of the gamer magazine reviewers were not too pleased with the inclusion of "so much" interstitial material in this release.  For them, the play's the thing.  Those of us whose loyalty is to the animated series, rather than the mechanical imperatives of joystick manipulation, know better.

The running backstory here lasts 76 minutes, two minutes longer than the running time of DuckTales: The Movie.  It's only natural, therefore, to consider Scrooge and company's search for five long-lost treasures, and their ongoing entanglements with the Beagle Boys, Flintheart Glomgold, Magica de Spell, and several additional (and, in some cases, surprisingly familiar) foes, as being a "second movie" of sorts.  What is more unexpected is that the material hangs together well enough to actually merit a comparison to a theatrical feature.  This is to the game designers' credit.

The sequential nature of the treasure quests makes for a rather rigid narrative structure, at least throughout the majority of the game.  After a thwarted Beagle Boy raid on Scrooge's Money Bin reveals the existence of a map detailing the locations of the treasures, we're locked into a series of individual forays, separated by returns to the Money Bin, consultations with Scrooge's supercomputer (which is located under Scrooge's desk in this version, as opposed to simply "being there," as it was in the original Capcom game), and decisions as to the next treasure to find.  During each individual treasure hunt, Scrooge must literally put together a number of subpieces -- scraps of paper, golden coins, sections of the Gizmosuit, etc. -- before discovering the headlined bauble.  Once all the treasures are in place, the "allied" Flinty and Magica (a first -- and, as one might expect, a "marriage" that will prove to be very short-lived) intervene, and the Ducks' struggles against them constitute the remainder of the gameplay.  In the end, Scrooge winds up empty-mitted, but he doesn't mind, since he and his friends and family have gotten to enjoy "the adventure of a lifetime."

Scrooge's Nephews are captives on no less than three occasions during the game.  No surprise there, given that Scrooge's rescues are part of the gameplay, but I find the scenario somewhat ironic.  After all, many of Carl Barks' earliest DONALD DUCK adventures featured HD&L saving their Uncle Donald from one peril or another.  I could have asked for a bit more variety in the conditions of the boys' incarceration, however.  Each time they're jugged, HD&L are put in cages similar to the one they inhabited in "The Land of Trala La."  The only difference is that, the third time around, the boys are all in the same cage.

While the Beagles are first seen running en Rota-like masse towards the Bin, the only individual Beagles to get any game time are those old standbys: Big Time, Burger, Bouncer, and Baggy.  They're not searching for riches, but rather, an old painting that holds a "secret code" giving directions to the various treasures.  First on the "finding line": the Sceptre of the Incan King, deep in the Amazon jungle.  (Yes, this does make geographical sense... barely.)

While it does include both of the show's major second-season additions, many of the attitudes evinced by the characters are very much in the tradition of the first season.  The string of insults that Scrooge addresses to Launchpad will surprise no one who has seen "Scrooge's Pet," among other episodes.  Unfortunately, LP doesn't get any chances, here or anywhere else, to truly prove his mettle, serving instead as a means of (frequently bumpy) transportation from place to place.  The local natives who cede the Sceptre to Scrooge (and giggle behind Scrooge's back that the "treasure" is actually King Manco Capquack's old back-scratcher) look like miniature versions of the somewhat more, er, "traditionally depicted" locals of "Jungle Duck."  Their chief is extremely well-spoken, which should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone living in 2014.

Duckworth has little to do here other than chauffeur Scrooge to the Money Bin, stand around, and make dryly ironic comments.  Mrs. Beakley's plate is a bit fuller... literally.  At various times during gameplay, Mrs. B. appears OUT OF NOWHERE to provide Scrooge with sustenance (and, I presume, extra game points).  To me, this is additional evidence that the devoted nanny and housekeeper possesses immense innate talents, of which DT fans had the poor fortune to see only a few.

Phase two finds Scrooge, HD&L, and Webby in Transylvania, at the haunted castle of Count Drake Von Vladstone, aka Count Dracula Duck.  (Cue grumbling from Britishers in the audience.)  The McGuffin in play here is the Coin of the Lost Realm.  Both Scrooge and HD&L are in familiar form during this trek, with hard-headed Scrooge pooh-poohing the existence of "vampires, banshees" and similar ephemera (evidently, he's forgotten all about the events of "Ducky Horror Picture Show") and HD&L dissing Webby as "a big chicken."  Karma comes to call when the boys subsequently fall into a trap, and it's up to Scrooge to save their tail feathers.  The Beagle Boys, disguised as ghosts, wander around the castle and cause mischief for a while, but Magica is the (entirely appropriate) main foe here.

All of the surviving voice actors from the TV series perform more than honorably in their return engagements.  Alan Young sounds a bit subdued, as one would expect of a 94-year-old, but his Scrooge is right on point.  Ditto the HD&L and Webby of the 70-year-old Russi TaylorChuck McCann, Terry McGovern, and Frank Welker are themselves, nuff said.  As for June Foray... well, if her accent for Magica has slipped just a bit, then that is certainly understandable for someone who will turn 97 this fall.  The signature cackle and attitude remain pretty much intact.

Magica's appearance in the mirror is the occasion for what is, remarkably, Webby's first-ever comment about Magica, at least in an animated format:

Well, it IS in character.  Right, Joe?

The next two treasure treks add to our comforting sense of familiarity by directly retracing the steps of DuckTales -- and Barks -- adventures past.  First, Scrooge and HD&L visit Scrooge's African diamond diggings in search of the Giant Diamond of the Inner Earth, only to discover a panicked workers' stampede that seems -- and sounds -- mighty familiar:

Following Scrooge's mine-car descent to the depths, the Terri-Fermians make their reappearance.  They're pretty much identical to the multicolored clone-guys seen in "Earth Quack," though their King (once again, voiced by Welker) is a little more distinctively characterized this time around, and they refer to the diamonds that are interfering with their "Great Games" as "garbage rocks."  After defeating the King in a roll-and-crash-off, Scrooge has little trouble acquiring the Giant Diamond as part of a deal to take out the rest of the "garbage."

There's a bit of a continuity error in the setup to this sequence.  Before departing for Africa, Scrooge instructs the boys to "find Gyro," presumably to take him along for the ride.  The subsequent helicopter ride, however, includes Scrooge, Launchpad, and HD&L, but not Gyro.  Instead, Gyro is already in Africa when the Ducks arrive on the scene. 

The post-Africa Money Bin confab also features my favorite line in the "movie" (starting at time mark 35:05 in the video).  The line itself isn't exceptionally witty, but Russi Taylor's reading of it is.  She lays on the sarcasm with a trowel, as if she were channeling a line from the slightly more cynical Nephews of Barks' later period.  Or, perhaps Russi has spent so much time working on The Simpsons by now that she finds it easier to sound snarky, no matter what character she is voicing.  You be the judge.

Treasure number four turns out to be nothing less than The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan.  And the Ducks need to find it in Shadow Pass, no less.  The setup isn't quite the same as it was in the TV episode.  In a gambit reminiscent of Scrooge's reverse psychology in "The Golden Goose, Part 2," HD&L are left at home this time, while Webby is charged with "looking after them."  But Webby isn't to be put off so easily this time.  Instead, in the time-honored (if not wholly time-justified) tradition, she tags along.

Scrooge finds himself saddled with an additional passenger when he discovers Bubba Duck frozen in a block of ice inside a cave.  How Bubba got there (and why Scrooge was unaware of his disappearance and subsequent location) is more than I can tell, though unpleasant images of "one-way Himalayan rides" come to mind.  After being freed, Bubba subsequently has little more to do than run in cycles in the background, jumping up and down and pounding his club at random moments.  I don't know about you, but I find that to be extremely funny, especially considering Bubba's ultimate fate in the series.

Glomgold also makes his first appearance of the game during the trip to Shadow Pass, hurling insults and bombs at Scrooge and company.  His biggest moments are still to come, though.

In Shadow Pass, Scrooge discovers the (female) Yeti himself, though he needs some assistance from Webby in order to communicate effectively with it.  In a nice callback to the series, Webby claims to have gotten her ability to deal with monster-speak from the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook.  (And she doesn't even need to consult it in order to tell what the monster is growling -- most impressive.)  The "thorn" plaguing the Yeti turns out to be the Lost Crown itself.  A bit simpler than DT's original telling of the tale, but perfectly acceptable.  Launchpad manages to get in a variation of a much-beloved line from the TV episode when he claims, "Usually, it's me the girls go ga-ga for."

Incidentally, you know that Launchpad is having a rough day (or, a rough series of treasure hunts) when even Webby feels free to make with a wisecrack after Scrooge temporarily leaves her in Launchpad's care.

The fifth and final treasure takes us the farthest afield: the Green Cheese of Longevity (is that referring to Duck longevity, or to the age of the cheese?) is located on the Moon.  This time, Scrooge's traveling companions are Gyro and Fenton (with Gizmosuit in tow, in a natty new briefcase this time).  The new voice actor for Fenton makes the character sound a little "goonier" than seems proper to me.  Hamilton Camp's Fenton was enthusiastic and somewhat naive, but he wasn't "goony."  Scrooge's insults to Fenton seem a bit more justified here than they did in the series, which I don't think was the idea.   

At least this Fenton seems a bit more on the ball when it comes to protecting his secret identity.  He is well aware that Gyro might get suspicious when he disappears and Gizmoduck reappears.  Scrooge blows it off by making a derogatory reference to Gyro's deductive reasoning skills, but the fact remains that Fenton was aware of the issue.  (Of course, there is always the distinct possibility that Gyro learned the truth about Fenton when he rebuilt the Gizmosuit after the original suit was destroyed in "Attack of the Metal Mites."  Given how thoroughly the series had mucked up the issue of Fenton's secret ID by the end, perhaps we should simply pretend that this whole sequence doesn't exist.)

Scrooge bests Glomgold, the Beagle Boys, and a giant rat (yes, really) for the Green Cheese and returns to Earth... only to find that Flinty and the Beagles have HD&L and the other treasures in their possession.  Flinty has barely finished chortling over securing the treasures and thereby becoming the richest Duck in the world (exactly how he would do that is never made clear; perhaps he was planning on auctioning them off, or something?) when Magica blows in and assumes ownership.  Intending to use the treasures to revive Count Dracula Duck and "rule the world" (a parlay of similar opacity to Glomgold's), Magica takes HD&L as hostages, demanding the Old Number #1 Dime in exchange.  (It's always good to have a backup plan, especially when it should be the main plan.)  Flinty and Scrooge decide on a "Robot Robbers" redo and agree to cooperate in order to get HD&L and the treasures back.  If this isn't confusing enough already, just wait.

Scrooge and Flinty brave a couple of snares inside Mount Vesuvius -- with Scrooge doing all of the heavy lifting, big surprise -- before the showdown in Magica's lair.  (Sorry, Greg, but there's no pentagram in evidence this time.)  There, Glomgold proves that he's been playing a double game all along by swiping Old #1.  Magica uses the treasures to summon Dracula Duck, whom Scrooge must then dispatch.  Dracula's demise turns out to be surprisingly creepy, with the undead monster writhing in apparent agony before drying up to ashes and blowing away.

Magica's lair subsequently begins to fall apart (huh??), and HD&L's cage breaks, freeing the lads (ditto??).  To finish the job, Scrooge must recover Old #1 from Flinty and Magica, who are tussling over it.  Glomgold won't give the dime up until Magica hands over the treasures... and, here, I really must object.  Magica used the treasures to summon Dracula, so, presumably, they don't exist any more, just as Old #1 would no longer exist if Magica were to melt it down to become part of a magical amulet.  Glomgold must therefore be either exceptionally naive or exceptionally stupid, neither of which I can truly buy.  To me, this is the most questionable moment of the entire narrative.  The fact that it comes at the climax is most unfortunate.

Scrooge short-circuits the villains' somewhat contrived quarrel by barging in and recovering the dime.  Following a 'copter rescue from a fiery fate, we get a flyoff scene suspiciously reminiscent of the ending of "Send in the Clones."  Given that "Clones" was Magica's first major starring role *annoyed side glance at "Magica's Magic Mirror"*, there's a pleasing symmetry in this.

Back in Duckburg, the proverbial "whole gang" grins with glee as Glomgold and the Beagle Boys are carted off in the paddy wagon.  (Seeing as how Flinty was last seen hanging onto Vulture Magica's tail feathers, while Magica had transformed the Beagles into pigs before taking her leave of Scrooge's office, there are some obvious continuity issues here.)  We iris out on a reprise of a familiar gag from "Scroogerello."  Scrooge's short-bordered generosity is even narrower than it appears to be; he takes HD&L to the ice-cream shop while ignoring everyone else, including Webby.  Somehow, I don't think that the "wee lassie" would take that dissement lying down.  Perhaps she will defy Scrooge and tag along again?  (Let's not even talk about Bubba's reaction.)

The creators of DuckTales Remastered have a lot to be proud of.  With the perspective of a quarter-century and the help of advanced technology, they were able to revamp a much-loved video classic while using the cutscenes to pay a more elaborate, and highly knowledgeable, tribute to the series that inspired it.  That mythical 101st episode of DuckTales?  Close enough, I deem.

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Oh, there's another DuckTales-related video game out there, you say?

Actually, this one is of comparatively little interest to DT fans.  Alan Young and Terry McGovern do appear as the voices of Scrooge and Launchpad, and Flintheart Glomgold, Magica de Spell, and Ma Beagle are the villains who have absconded with Scrooge's (ugh) loot, but the gameplay features a generic Duck-boy character.  (HD&L are off visiting Uncle Donald, in case you're wondering.)  It appears to be a pleasant diversion for gaming enthusiasts, nothing more, nothing less.

Some DUCKTALES comics reviews should be coming your way next.

12 comments:

Pan Miluś said...

I have my theory about Bubba : After last season ended, Scrooge was so fed up with Bubba's antics and sent him back home. Poor Bubba search for "Scooge" and during his jurney he reach Himalayas when he got frozen. Scrooge found him thousands years later and set him free. You just can't escape the Bubba fate. It's like a curse...

I actualy found him cute in the game BTW.

I think interaction betwen Magica and Glomgold was perfect (especialy since the character NEVER meet on the show)


As for the "Scrooge loot" game - It starts with Scrooge writing letter to HD&L... BUT WHY IS HE WRITING IN A BOOK? It dosen't make sence...

Comicbookrehab said...

I loved the idea of having an original Ducktales game available for a mobile phone or tablet, and I liked the idea of introducing new characters (because it vaguely implied that there COULD be a new season on the way ...?), but I did not enjoy the gameplay - specifically the crazy camera that veered wildly in every direction. Still, I liked seeing an app icon with Scrooge's face appear on my phone.

Anonymous said...

Whomever put the game together must have had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Ducktales. It's great to see references here and there to specific episodes - i.e. to "Send in the Clones" - Magica at one point says that she "Still gets too carried away."

Scrooge didn't really finish the adventure empty handed! He now has a priceless "garbage rock" mine in Africa. It is (Huey, Dewey and Louie's comments notwithstanding), at least, a more logical way to get diamonds than having elephants stamp on them (There's a reference to "Once Upon a Dime" - Scrooge McDuck references his "McPapa's" maxim to "work smarter, not harder")

Pan Miluś said...

Anonymous - Scrooge also has all the diamonds he found, as wel Ice cream and cake...

kenisu said...

"Evidently, some of the gamer magazine reviewers were not too pleased with the inclusion of "so much" interstitial material in this release."

Yeeeeeah, I was not exactly happy with the review sites when the game first came out. They kept giving Remastered HUGELY unfair low scores. There was one review that stood out to me as truly egregious (not to mention telling), and that was Tom Mc Shea's piece over on GameSpot.

Considering what the recent #GamerGate scandal has revealed about gaming journalism, I wouldn't be surprised if WayForward turned out to have ethical STANDARDS, refusing to pay the journalists to give their game high marks, and the reviewers decided DT: Remastered was on the blacklist.

"For them, the play's the thing. Those of us whose loyalty is to the animated series, rather than the mechanical imperatives of joystick manipulation, know better."

WELL SAID. I remember feeling like, if I had to read another review where where somebody complained about the cutscenes (never MIND the incredible presence of, IIRC, ALL the surviving original voice actors), I was going to explode.

Back during the hype of this game's release last year, I really found myself desperately wishing people still watched the cartoon as much as they played the game... 'cause OH, the jealousy I felt (STILL feel) over the attention the game and its soundtrack always get, while the TV series always gets sorely ignored. Seriously, type "DuckTales music" into YouTube and the results are overwhelmingly video game-related. With the exception of this video on the first page, it's almost as if the Ron Jones score from the cartoon never even existed.

Chris Barat said...

Pan,

"I have my theory about Bubba: After last season ended, Scrooge was so fed up with Bubba's antics and sent him back home. Poor Bubba search for "Scooge" and during his jurney he reach Himalayas when he got frozen. Scrooge found him thousands years later and set him free. You just can't escape the Bubba fate. It's like a curse..."

That explanation is reasonably plausible! The only thing that seems uncertain is how Bubba got inside the cave at Shadow Pass. He had to have been traveling using the "Millennium Shortcut," which would mean above ground. If he'd fallen into a crevasse, then he would have to have gotten out of the time machine at some point, since the time machine was not frozen with him. It's hard to imagine Bubba doing that, given how he behaved during the first search in "Ali Bubba's Cave."

Chris


Chris Barat said...

Anon,

"It's great to see references here and there to specific episodes - i.e. to "Send in the Clones" - Magica at one point says that she "Still gets too carried away.""

Quite true.

"Scrooge didn't really finish the adventure empty handed! He now has a priceless "garbage rock" mine in Africa."

I was thinking of the aftermath of Scrooge's getting all the treasures, but you are correct.

Chris



Pan Miluś said...

"Magica used the treasures to summon Dracula, so, presumably, they don't exist any more, just as Old #1 would no longer exist if Magica were to melt it down to become part of a magical amulet. Glomgold must therefore be either exceptionally naive or exceptionally stupid, neither of which I can truly buy."


Notice that Glomgold left the scene when Magica summon Drakula. My guess is that Magica didn't told Glomgold what she's planing to do wit the treasures so he wasn't aware that they are gone forever.

Gregory Weagle said...

I think the problem with the cut scenes is that they went on for way too long (as much as it helped make sense of things, compact storytelling would have helped a lot more); and without their mouths actually moving, it felt contrived. However; the game play was fine; I had no problems with it.

As for the lack of a pentagram: The End Credits had an obscure version of it in Magica's lair. Of course if this game was released during the 1980's, Nintendo would have it edited out anyway; as they did with the crosses.

Chris Barat said...

Pan,

That's a plausible explanation, though I would think that the two villains would have had to plan out their scheme at SOME point. Maybe Magica left some details out.

Chris

Chris Barat said...

Greg,

The length of the cutscenes was precisely the issue that a lot of gamers seem to have had with DT REMASTERED. Looking at it from my own nutty viewpoint, however, I would have gotten bored with the GAMEPLAY.

Chris

Pan Miluś said...

I finally got the game and for most part it's very plesant... the only part I can past is the final part where you have to race Magica and Glomgold (it looks way more easy on the video but in the actuall game it's pretty complicated as you must be in the exact spot to jump and catch chain etc.) So I made this far and can pass it... but still a wonderwull game it is :D