Ducktales (NES)

Sometimes I think Ducktales Remastered should have been called Ducktales Finished.

Ducktales is hailed as a classic by the Internet, but I find it full of holes that Ducktales Remastered filled in (and don't give me that "It's for kids" excuse, I've made my stance on that argument clear in the past). It's not just that Ducktales is easy, the actual game is also all over the place. Like, you have to hunt around the Amazon for enough money to open the way to the final boss, and search the space ship for the Gizmoduck remote on the Moon, but there's little reason outside of score (and a couple health bonuses you barely need, I guess) to snoop around the other three. There's that painfully tacked on moment when you start the African Mines and are told to go to Transylvania for a key that can be found in about ten seconds, which is the only time this mechanic comes up. And then you get all the treasures and are told to go to Transylvania AGAIN, play through the level exactly as before, and get a lackluster final boss and chase with Glomgold. As well as making you fully search the levels for whatever you need to open the way to the final boss (medallions for the Amazon, pieces of a torn spell parchment in Transylvania, etc.), Ducktales Remastered has a completely new final level, and the chase with Glomgold and Magica required more than holding Up to climb a rope.

And there's a couple instances of mindnumbingly stupid level design. There's one part of the Moon level where an enemy will fly into a bottleneck as you're approaching it, and you either have to take a hit and run past it while you're invincible or wait for the fucker to slowly vibrate his way through, only for a clone to spawn and fly right back into the bottleneck. And most of the fight with Magica De Spell is sitting around waiting for her to decide to fly at an altitude where you can pogo jump her, and because she stays in the air for random amounts of time, she can suddenly drop on you just as it's time for you to pass under her.

And she's still by far the hardest boss in the game. While some of Ducktales Remastered's bosses were a bit on the long side (I remember the boss of the Amazon level feeling like it took forever to kill, not because it had a lot of hit points but because of how long the wall attacks it fires off whenever you hit it go on) I'll take "a bit drawn out" over "completely braindead". And I know Ducktales Remastered had access to far more powerful hardware than this game, but the NES is capable of bosses more involved than "move back and forth and occasionally jump"

I also have to give Ducktales Remastered credit that it tried to write a story connecting the game's elements together, that the treasures Scrooge collects are actually relics Magica De Spell needs as part of a ritual to revive Dracula Duck. It's a tenuous one, yes, but at least it's something to not make the game feel like Capcom throwing random episodes of the show at the wall and scraping off whatever stuck, and it's written so Glomgold doesn't come completely out of nowhere at the end.


Ducktales 2 (NES)

I first played this game years ago, back when it was still affordable (when did this start going for $150 for just the cart???), and going into this replay I remembered only two things about it: one level was on a pirate ship, and there was a set of secret items you were supposed to collect to apparently get the "real" ending and I didn't find a single one.

Initially Ducktales 2 feels like it has more to it than the original, as Scrooge has a few more moves like hanging onto hooks on the walls and dragging objects around with is cane, Gyro gives Scrooge items that allow him access to sealed off areas, and there's a couple (simple) puzzles thrown in. It's also nice that you can now make Scrooge pogo jump just by holding B, instead of having to hold Down as well. But the game is just too damn short and toothless to take advantage of any of its new tools, and I can't put my finger on why but the levels themselves don't stick in my mind as much as the first games'. The soundtrack is also vastly inferior; the only song I really noticed was the one for Scotland Castle and it wasn't the good kind of standing out, but the "made me sick to listen to" kind of standing out. And following from the first Ducktales game, the final level is a retread of an earlier one, only this time you actually take a different, though much shorter route through it. Then you fight a boring Duck Terminator boss and get a shit ending.

And this is just nitpicking, but why do Launchpad and Gyro call Scrooge "Uncle?"

As mentioned earlier, the levels contain hidden map pieces that reveal the location of a mysterious treasure. On this replay, I again failed to find any of the hidden pieces, obtaining only the one sold in the shop. I turned to GameFAQs this time, and it's, uh, not hard to see why I never found any on my own. Some are hidden behind walk-through walls, one of them has you jump down what looks like a death trap, and one of them involves a technique I didn't even know about, where you can whack blocks during a jump. Does completing the map net you the real final level, final boss, and ending?

Hahaha, no. Here's what happens instead: when you get the final piece, you're thrown out of the level you're currently in and a new level opens on the selection screen. This level is the most sloppily designed of them all and the boss is the same as Scotland Castle, except he has an additional attack that turns you into a frog. Once you clear it, you have to go back and replay the level you were thrown out of when you got the final piece, then get the same shitty final level, shitty final boss, and shitty ending with one sentence changed. Needless to say, I felt pretty damn cheated after that.


Hercules (G)

I'm going to set aside this movie's bastardization of Greek mythology (I can overlook "Hercules" being the dude's Roman name even though all the other gods use their Greek names because everybody gets that wrong, but Heracles' mother wasn't Hera but a human woman Zeus turned into a cow, and in fact Hera hated his guts. Also, Hades was not a malicious god, Narcissus wasn't even a god, just an asshole that got turned into a flower, and Theseus won his fight against the Minotaur) and judge it on its own merits. And by Jove, does it hardly have any.

So, I guess after Pocahontas soured people on Disney movies, the studio was desperate to get its audience back and Hercules was them throwing shit at the wall in hopes something stuck. The resulting film is a clusterfuck of hero story cliches and confused set pieces. At first the plays out like Superman: The Disney Film, with Herc being taken down to Earth and raised by a farming couple, but his powers leave him feeling like he belongs somewhere else. Then after Hercules does his first heroic deed and everyone loves him, we get Nike sneakers, sports drinks, and action figures. At least Aladdin had the Genie to support its anachronisms, both with his magic to conjure them and him not just being voiced by, but essentially being Robin Williams. Here's it's just.... huh? After that they shelve the modern day crap and focus on Herc and Meg, and the film becomes you waiting for the "Wah, I trusted you" "No, it's not what it looks like" "OMG, you really did love me" moment. I also need to complain about how Hercules' strength varies depending on what the scenario needs. Sometimes he's flinging giant stone pillars around like they're nothing, and at other times he's struggling to hold back a large but not gigantic snake monster. It leads to action scenes that lack tension because you don't know how strong they're going to arbitrarily make Herc.

I know Disney movies are more interested in being A/V porn than well-written stories, but it doesn't even do that well. Mulan was fairly grounded in reality (its weak grasp on horse physics notwithstanding), but it still had moments that sent chills down my spine like Mulan stealing her father's gear and riding off, the annhialated army, or the avalanche. Hercules managed to make the fight with the hydra, a monster that only got more dangerous the more it was struck, feel underwhelming. And the character designs are kind of funky, with Zeus in particular being really uncanny at times. Originally I thought they were trying to mimic the style of Grecian urn paintings, then I learned they were designed by Gerald Scarfe, the guy who did Pink Floyd's The Wall? Which is a hell of a choice for a Disney film; why not get Ralph Bakshi to do a movie based on the Gilgamesh epic while you're at it? And the songs are torturous to listen to and forgotten once they're over. This isn't A/V porn, it's just A/V chaos.

The only thing the movie really has going for it is James Woods as the snarky, fast-talking Hades, but the rest of the cast is so bland there's nobody for him to synergize with. I really do love that Hades had better chemistry with a character from a completely different franchise than anybody in his own movie.

Which reminds me. In Kingdom Hearts II, Hades broke Auron by tearing out part of his soul and sealing it inside a small statue crafted in his likeness, which served to both render Auron submissive by separating his will, memories, and empathy from his fighting spirit, self-hatred, and need for redemption, and give Hades a means to further exert his own will on Auron through the statue. After watching this movie, I'm left wondering... where did this part of Hades' lore come from? Because he never uses effigies to control people in this movie. The closest is when he sends monsters at Hercules by shoving game pieces around a board, but going from that to "mind-controlling soul-prison dolls" feels like a stretch. Is it from the TV series? The first Kingdom Hearts? I want to say it was something they came up with for KH2, but when Sora mentioned the statue to Hercules, Herc said it "sounded familiar." And what's more, even I thought it looked familiar, like there was a scene here where Hades reminded Megara that he owned her while clenching his statue of her.


Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare w/ RiffTrax Audio

Wow, finally something not Disney related!

Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare (or The Edge of Hell, as it's called in the actual film) is about a band that rents an abandoned farm to get some isolation while they work on their next hit song, but then it turns out the farm is haunted by bad puppets demons that pick off the members in between gratuitous sex scenes. So, it's something like a cross between This is Spinal Tap and Friday the 13th.

Eventually you get the feeling that this is just 90 minutes of Jon Mikl Thor, the head singer and writer of the movie, jerking off because he's the only one who notices people vanishing, and is the last one alive at the end of the film. At which point the movie turns into what is quite possibly the stupidest thing I have ever seen in a RiffTrax. And given this is fucking RiffTrax, that is saying something.