Back when the Wii was announced ten years ago (yes, really) one game that jumped off the lips of the long-term Nintendo fans (i.e. those old enough) when they saw the unique controller was that of ‘Duck Hunt’, the game that appeared early on the life of the NES featuring ducks that you had to shoot at, clay pigeons you had to shoot at, and a snickering dog that was second only to Muttley in laughing canines you detested as a child, which you really wanted to shoot at.
It seems weird then that it’s taken almost a decade and a new console for the light-gun classic to finally get a Virtual Console release, but here we are fresh into 2015 now with the ability to play the 1987 game on the WiiU. Nintendo have ported over the game mostly unchanged to the modern console albeit replacing the light-gun control with that of the Wiimote, the underside B button being the gun’s trigger (making it ideal to play if you have, like me, the piece of plastic from Link’s Crossbow Training to turn the remote into a gun) and the + button selecting a game. The difficulty is lowered by the crosshair now appearing on screen, but you can go back to how the game used to be and remove this for the majority of the time playing – it only appears when shooting – by pressing one of the buttons on the D-pad, which adds more challenge.
For those who have played Duck Hunt before (it was, with the original Super Mario Bros, the first video game I ever had) then the gameplay remains the same. The core game – available in one and two player flavours, with the multiplayer option having some more depth – sees a succession of ten ducks flying out one at a time to be shot at. Either you hit it and score points within three bullets or the time it takes to fly away, its murdered body then presented to you with glee by your dog, or you miss it or it flies away as you have taken your time, to be presented by the aforementioned dog laughing at you.
Each shot scores you points – the quicker you kill the bird the more points per hit you get – with a 10,000 point bonus for a clean sheet. Each round gets subsequently more difficult with faster birds coming out from the long grass at different angles, but thankfully the collision detection box around each bird is quite forgiving. That said, there’s still a fair bit of challenge for the casual player and you must, on each round, reach a certain quota of duck kills else it’s game over, but shoot-em-up players will find this game a doddle. Purists will be happy to note that the graphical error when the dog retrieves a duck is still present, showing a particular coloured duck no matter which colour you killed.
Accompanying this traditional duck fest is one player clay pigeon shooting, with a similar premise of a hit quota, 10,000 points for a perfect score, and three shots and you’re out, but this time with a theme more suited to the peace-makers among us, a solitary duck on each round replaced with two clay pigeons which get subsequently smaller as time goes on as they head into the distance.
Outside of these two styles, it’s pretty much a barebones package as the thirty year old game (it was released three years earlier, in 1984, in Japan) would suggest, the menus only other point of note being a generic high score from all the games.
Duck Hunt is a cheap and enjoyable time-waster but it’s truthfully one for the nostalgia fans like me. Modern gamers will baulk at its simplicity and visual presentation – there is a feeling that it’s a game some 21st century teenager could make in their bedroom in an afternoon (the backgrounds now have a very Paint-like feel to them) – and though there is some challenge still in the game, it’ll be no sweat for most contemporary players. The game was also done better, and in a more visually exciting way, in Nintendo’s 2006 mini-game compilation ‘Wii Play’, which is a more rewarding and re-playable experience thanks to what modern consoles can provide.
If you played the game – like me – as a child and want to finally relive those happy times once more long after your NES stopped working or the cartridge gave up the ghost, or just generally enjoy being laughed at by a pixelated dog when you fail to kill one of god’s creatures, then this will be £3.49 well spent. For younger players who aren’t eager to relive gaming history you’d be best picking up a copy of Wii Play and playing the shooting range mini-game as part of that, with other games thrown in as well for that cash, including the fun table tennis, fishing and charge, or as I know it – knitted cow racing. Or perhaps just enjoy the dog and duck characters as part of the recent Smash Bros home console game.
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