Monday, April 5, 2010

Retro Game Awareness: Donald Duck Quackshot

This last weekend, on Good Friday, having nothing to do in particular I decided to go on a quest for some retro games. I just acquired a Genesis and Master System off ebay for a great price, and since then I've been searching for some good games for the system.

Sadly my quest thus far has left me relatively empty. It seems like every good Genesis game has been rereleased a dozen times on any number of collections put out by Sega. I just can't justify paying $10 for Phantasy Star II when I know I can get all of them on one disc for my PS3. But this day, I finally managed to procure something that I hadn't seen since my childhood, and until Disney starts releasing some of their old fantastic sidescrollers (they will eventually. This is Disney after all), there is no other way currently to get some of their classics, other then retro game stores.

The game is Donald Duck's Quackshot. Now, I am something of a Donald Duck connoisseur. And admittedly I only bought this game because it had Donald Duck on the cover. I figured it would be a pretty standard sidescroller that didn't offer much in the way of replayability or level design. I was very very wrong.

Disney, as stated before, used to put out some amazing games for the NES. This was mostly due to their games being developed by Capcom. Ducktales, Chip and Dale, even Little Mermaid were all the creme de la creme of licenced video games. They also set a standard with licenced properties that no other company could ever hope to compete with (Sunsoft came close with Batman). Once the NES era was over, and Disney and Capcom stopped making games together I had always assumed that Disney licenced games turned to crap.

Donald Duck's Quackshot shot my adolescent thinking with a plunger and completely turned it upside down. Quackshot is a great game. At first it does seem to be a standard shooter, and a fairly simple one at that. Immediately I thought (and feared) the game was actually intended for little kids. This might seem a stupid thought, as I did in fact play the other Disney games, like Ducktales, as a little kid. But those games were challenging, and not dumbed down. In fact, playing those games today still provides a real challenge.

However, again I was wrong. There is nothing dumbed down about Quackshot. It starts off a little easy to get you used to the unfamiliar shooting mechanics. Donald is armed only with a plunger gun. Instead of shooting an enemy and having them "die" they only get stunned. In this stunned state Donald must run past them before they become unstunned. You also have a "popcorn" shooter that will release a spray of three pop corn kernels that will in fact get rid of the baddie once and for all, having them fall off screen, but ammo for that gun is limited and not worth wasting it.

Before long it becomes apparent that there is more to the game then meets the eye. Once you reach the end of the first level there is a character there to tell you that you need a special key or weapon to get past the wall, so Donald has to call his nephews and his plane to pick him up and take him to a different country to acquire the weapon or key. So what seemed like a very linear game, is anything but.

This is where I fell in love with the game. On top of being a huge Donald Duck fan, I am also a huge Metroid fan, and this game combines both. It isn't just about getting a key, but also gaining new weapons and abilities that makes Donald more of a badass. Also this is where the good level design comes into play, because like Metroid, there is some backtracking as you traverse back through the way you came. The first time I realized that I would have to go back through a level the other direction I expected to be annoyed by the process, but the levels are skillfully designed, so that going the opposite way through a level feels completely different then going through it in the other direction.

Other Donald Duck aficionado's will enjoy all the Donald Duck comics references. There are numerous cameo's from the Disney comics universe. The main bad guys are Pete's gang, which I would have preferred the Beagle Boys, but I think this was Disney's transition away from Ducktales. However, there are great subtle nods to the comics such as some of the bad guys being straight from the comics, and favorites like Gyro, Scrooge and Daisy all make appearances. Also when Donald gets really frustrated he has a berserker mode, embodied in Donald's "hopping mad" state.

I got this game for $3 used, and needless to say it was well worth the price of admission. If you didn't have a Genesis growing up and passed this one by, and you are a Donald Duck fan, this game is a no brainier to try and track down.

Also in the spirit of the article here is something I aquired over the weekend. Another combination of two of my favorite things. Donald Duck and Transformers.