Up until a few years ago, I was certain that my desire to explore the medium's history and unearth its most precious treasures was product of a stimulus whose development had begun no sooner than the year 2000, which was around the time I'd suddenly become infused with a newly born adventurous spirit. "That had to be when the seeds of evolution were planted," I thought. Really, there was no evidence, as far as I could tell, that the pre-2000 version of me was at all interested in delving into video-game history or unearthing anything beyond the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2, which was a special case.
But now that I've had time to more thoroughly examine my history and in particular reflect upon how things were during my late-teenage years, I've come to see the truth--that the seeds were actually planted a few years earlier, during a period of discovery that I failed to recognize as such because, I guess, its focus was limited to systems with which I was already familiar.
It's obvious to me, now, that the period in question holds much greater relevance. It wasn't about some kid merely finding novelty in past creations, no. It represented something more. And when viewed from an informed perspective, it can rightly be recontextualized as a precursor to my current mission.
So it's become clear that the igniting sparks were being emitted as far back as 1997, when despite my embracing of new technology I'd begun to re-exhibit a fondness for the consoles that my friends and I had since left behind. And it was all thanks to the rental scene.
Mainly, whenever my parents would head off to the Blockbuster Video store on 86th Street, looking for a nice movie to rent on a mundane Saturday afternoon, it was common that I'd tag along and browse the game aisle in search of undiscovered NES games, which--strangely, I thought--were now showing up in greater numbers. I mean, the NES had been off the market for almost two years at that point, so it seemed logical to think that store owners would be feeling more inclined to begin phasing out NES games rather than bolster their available selections. But, for whatever reason, they were choosing to do the latter. And that was fine by me, really; I was happy to get the chance to play newly discovered NES games, which I saw as highly viable in light of (a) the N64's increasingly sparse release-schedule and (b) the presence of our new big-screen TV, which unlike the outgoing 70s-brand model had full AV-cable support! And let me tell you, man: 8-bit games felt all new again when played at three-times the resolution!
It was during this period that I discovered a bunch of NES games--many of them late-era releases like Mighty Final Fight, Wario's Woods and the Mario edutainment titles (Mario is Missing! and Mario's Time Machine). Before then, I'd never read or heard about any of them. I couldn't even recall their appearing in Nintendo Power, whose provided coverage, if it existed, had to be so minuscule that I didn't even notice it.
Then one day, as I was browsing that aisle, I came across the most surprising NES release ever: Disney's DuckTales 2. And as my eyes came in contact with the game's box cover, a single thought popped into my head: "What the hell?! Since when is there a DuckTales 2?!"
It was a feeling akin to the one I detailed in my Adventure Island IV piece--the feeling that consumes you when you're flipping through the cable channels one night and suddenly discover that one of your all-time favorite movies had a sequel to which you were completely oblivious ("Grease 2?!").
It didn't make any sense. I mean, the original DuckTales was a beloved NES classic, so how was it that a sequel to a game of its distinction went completely unnoticed--even by Nintendo Power of all publications?
Truthfully, though, I was actually kinda glad that it had. The complete lack of information was what made DuckTales 2 such an exciting find--what provided it such a powerful air of mystery, which it retains to this day. I was never more excited to rent a video game.
So I took it home and spent a nice weekend with it. Thinkin' back, I remember it bringing me a lot of fun and cheer. Yet my memory of the experience is colored more by the sense of wonderment I felt as played it--the feeling that I'd, well, unearthed a precious treasure upon which few had ever laid eyes. That's how I continued to conceptualize DuckTales 2, with which I wouldn't again cross paths until a few years later, when I got my own computer and began immersing myself in the emulation scene.
I've been wanting to talk about DuckTales 2 ever since--tell everyone about what it means to me.
Now, I don't plan to go into great detail about how the game plays, since it's so iterative that you can probably guess as to what its gameplay entails. Don't take that to mean that DuckTales 2 a straight retread, no; rather, it's best likened to the latter three NES Mega Man titles, which repeat the formula but make incremental improvements while adding in some new stuff. In this piece, I intend to highlight these new additions and further explain why the game so strongly resonates with me.
So stuff yourself into this helicopter and join me for a quick trip around Scrooge McDuck and friends' enchanting 8-bit world!
Interestingly, the splash screen transitions into an intro sequence wherein we get a sneak peak of the stage-selection map and a synopsis of the game's plot via a dialogue exchange between Huey and Scrooge. The observable map is a key addition, I've always thought. While I wouldn't call its inclusion a major differentiator, it does provide the game an appreciable sense of scope in comparison to the original, whose entire world was condensed down to but a few lines of text on a giant computer screen. Never discount the impact of the small details.
The title-screen theme isn't a one-to-one recreation of the original DuckTales', no, but it might as well have been. It's obvious that the composer was content to simply swap in some new instruments and call it a day. I'd term this approach "lazy," but that feel like an empty charge. After all, what else could they have done--replace it with something else? Forget that; there's only one tune that truly says "8-bit DuckTales"!
So you don't even need to own a manual to have some idea of what's driving this adventure. The story is that Huey, Dewey and Louie--Scrooge's nephews--found a curious scrap of paper in McDuck Manor's basement, and it turned out to be a section of a map. Scribbled on the map were the words "The Secret Treasure of McDuck." They figure that the map belonged to their great-great-grandfather Uncle Fergus (Scrooge's father), who for unknown reasons tore it up and hid the pieces all over the world. Upon hearing this, Scrooge immediately springs into action and declares that it's time to go on a worldwide treasure hunt.
In actuality, acquiring Fergus' treasure is a secondary goal and not critical to your success. Really, you can happily ignore the entire map-finding quest, since there are no negative consequences for doing so; the game is eminently conquerable without your having to put in any extra effort. But I'd argue that it's worth seeking out the map pieces--prolonging an enjoyable game that will otherwise be over all too soon.
Rather, it's essential that we visit five separate locations and relieve their wicked guardians of their prized treasures, just as we did in the original DuckTales. Stage-selection is once again carried out Mega Man style, which affords us the option to conquer the game's initial five stages in any order we so please. And we make these selections via the afore-seen map, which depicts a fictionalized, vibrantly colored version of the real world.
I have to say: There's something wondrous about the way maps in old games portray the real world--how their charming renderings inspire us to imagine what it would be like if our world held similar mystery. That's how I felt growing up. That they were able to do this so effectively meant a lot to me when I was a kid whose conception of the world was a product of pure imagination.
This map also provides access to the nephews' shop, which you can visit after completing any stage or after escaping from a stage via Launchpad's helicopter. Here we can buy a number of useful items--all of them uniquely functioning. Since you now lose any accrued wealth after losing a life, you might want to buy a safe, which allows you to retain your wealth no matter how many times you die during a given stage. If you're not confident in your ability to finish the game with the set amount of stock, you can buy insurance in the form of a continue globe, which grants you a single continue. And you can purchase health-replenishing cakes; they automatically transfer into Scrooge's three-slot inventory, which you can access during play.
Otherwise, if you've been zealous in your gem-collecting, you can score any of three high-value items: two meter-expanding health upgrades (both of which were hidden items in the original game) and a piece of the map. They cost $750,000 and $1,000,000, respectively. Also, as they share the same slot, these items rotate into stock, so you'll have to grab all of three of them during separate visits. Though, I'll never understand why the ducklings force their uncle to pay for items that are readily accessible. It's either that (a) the ducklings are duplicitous money-grubbers or (b) Scrooge is really that gullible. I mean, the items are right there, man; it's not like you're settling with a shipper from Mongolia who will take them off the table if you don't pay up.
And you might as well invest in these items, since money has no other use. So go crazy. Throw caution to the wind. Hell--you should just hurry up and give all of your money to Huey and the crew, those greedy bastards.
Before I move on to the stages, themselves, I should also mention that Capcom has implemented a new cane-based mechanic: Scrooge can now push or pull certain objects by latching his cane onto them. In the case of rivet-lined canisters, which are newly appearing, he can drag them in either direction and use them as makeshift platforms. There are all sorts of objects with which he interact in unique ways.
Additionally, as they did in the Game Boy port of DuckTales, the developers have made a hugely desired refinement: You can enter pogo mode by simply pressing B while airborne, where before you had simultaneously press down plus B. It's truly a much more reliable means of initiating the maneuver, and it leaves less of an opportunity for misread input (like the controller incorrectly interpreting a diagonally-downward press of the d-pad as left or right, which completely nullifies the action).
Also, DuckTales 2 features an upgrade system. If in certain stages you're able to locate Gyro, he'll reward you by retrofitting Scrooge's cane with one of three power-boosting adapters. I'll talk more about these as we obtain them.
Now, if you want to collect all of the map pieces in the most quick and convenient fashion, you're going to want to take the optimal route. This mode of travel entails visiting stages in a very specific order--procuring from one stage the upgrade whose use is required in the next. I'm going to be guiding you along this route.
So let's get to it!
First we're heading off to Niagara falls in search of the Crystal Flower.
It's probably not a coincidence that Niagara Falls, from a level-design perspective, is pretty much an analog for DuckTales' Amazon, which likewise holds the distinction of being a "recommended starting stage." However, Niagara is a lot prettier than its jungly counterpart. Its environments are more vibrant and animated, and its backgrounds are populated with the type of rich, interesting imagery that was otherwise absent from the jungle stage. Really, the same can be said for DuckTales 2 on the whole; it's a much more visually attractive game than the original DuckTales, which exhibited a restrained, often-washed-out color tone and featured many backgrounds that were composed entirely of single colors. What a difference a few years can make.
Call it a product of experience and an ever-deepening understanding of the NES hardware. Capcom became master of the NES. Such is evident in the company's late-era NES games, all of which showcase the type of visual depth and technical complexity that wouldn't have been attainable on even 1990-level NES hardware. DuckTales 2 is a great-looking 8-bit game is what I'm sayin'.
Also, the stage's theme is delightfully uplifting. Its depth and reverberance are such that each buoyant strain is able to penetrate your soul and fill you with vigor. The piece is powered by a wonderfully remindful energy; listening to it really takes me back--reminds me of good times and great summers spent with friends.
Sadly, its level design isn't as interesting as the Amazon's. Niagara's, in comparison, is a disappointing linearity. It always feels as though there's only one path forward. For that matter, all of the stages in DuckTales 2 feel overly structured and thus limited in scope. It's true that the map-quest element creates some in the way of explorability, but it's mostly illusory; really all you're doing is making quick detours. There's a real lack of that labyrinthine interconnectedness that was so essential to DuckTales' level design, even when it was available in limited doses. Instead it seems that we're always gravitating straight toward the boss.
But there's still plenty to find. Niagara Falls, for instance, is home to two items of interest. The first is a map piece whose obtention requires smacking open a large, embedded treasure chest using Scrooge's jumping golf shot (press up against a wall until Scrooge enters his stance and then jump and swing). I remember thinking that this was such a cool new ability; in fact, I was always sure to cite it as one of the series' best innovations. Then a few years later--in, say, 2010--I discovered by accident that this same jump-swiping mechanic had been implemented into the original DuckTales. "Since when?!" was all I could wonder.
And no--I don't feel like an idiot for having overlooked this fact. Really, why would I have known about it? I mean, I can't think of a single instance where DuckTales' level design requires that you jump and strike an object. So don't shake your head at me, pal. Blame Capcom for not putting the mechanic to any use!
We'll receive the other desired item from Gyro, who has found himself trapped in a landslide. After we "rescue" him (or "talk to him and then just kinda leave him there," as it were), he'll reward us by retrofitting our cane with the Iron Adapter, which allows us to break reinforced blocks with pogo jumps. This ability will prove essential in a future destination whose map chest is sealed off by blocks of that variety.
Also, Niagara introduces a new mechanic: propulsion. You'll put it to use after knocking a foldout raft into a pool of water. Once you've boarded a now-buoyant raft, you can propel it forward by striking the adjacent wall, against which it's firmly pressed, with your cane. Some of the game's more-involved platforming sequences are fueled by this mechanic; such challenges entail working around obstructions by alternating between propelled rafts and platforms that are placed overhead. Coincidentally, it's by way of raft that we rescue Gyro.
And that's about it for Niagara's unique additions. The rest is what you'd expect from an Amazon equivalent: You have your cavernous depths. Spike-lined tunnels whose traversal demands some crafty pogoing. Hopping across a series of unsteady platforms while being assaulted by a constant stream of flying enemies (dodo birds, in this case). And even a very similar collapsing bridge.
And our ascension to the falls' peak culminates with a tense battle against the Firequacker. DuckTales 2's boss fights in general are tougher than the original's, I find, yet it remains that bosses are still bound by fairly simple patterns. For the Firequacker, it's (a) swoop two times in a row, (b) descend diagonally downward to the room's opposite side, (c) throw a single fireball toward Scrooge's current location, and (d) repeat. Once you've figured out his pattern, defeating the Firequacker becomes a matter of finding the openings--taking into account that this swooping menace takes up a lot of space and has a particularly large hitbox--and correctly timing your pogo-jumps.
Extinguish his flame and the Crystal Flower will be yours.
Now our sights turn to the North Atlantic. The reason: Launchpad informs us that a cargo ship has gone missing within the Bermuda Triangle. He surmises that its disappearance is the result of pirate activity. If we can locate and board the ship, we can get our hands on the Mermaid's Teardrop, a famed jewel.
I really like how this stage communicates its atmosphere: The action begins on the ship's deck, which is under the constant deluge of torrential rainfall. We can see that this storm is product of blanketing dark clouds whose sole identifying features are the eerie purple curve-marks that highlight and give form to their contemptuous undersides. At the same time, the music--with its deep base, slow tempo, and haunting strains--is lending the ship's every structure and environment an entrancingly mysterious vibe. We're talking about the kind of tune that would feel perfectly at home in a game like Shadowgate or Uninvited. Yet here it is working a similar kind of magic in a cutesy platformer.
And these aural and visuals qualities work together to create a great setting. It's my kind of place.
The ship presents two of the more interesting uses of the object-pulling mechanic. First, Scrooge can gain entrance to the hull's interior by blasting away its access-denying barricade using the nearby cannon, whose ringed trigger when yanked will release an obstruction-clearing cannonball. Later on, he can use his cane to manipulate levers and thereby operate associated conveyors, using which he can maneuver currently inaccessible treasures--those wedged and stuffed into narrow spaces--into open space. I only wish that these types of mechanisms had been used as the foundation for slightly-more-intricate puzzles, like those encountered in the subsequent Game Boy version. Here, disappointingly, solving problems is merely a matter of tugging on objects and waiting a few seconds.
This time, we won't need to launch a rescue effort to rescue Gyro, who can be seen hangin' out on the ship's forecastle deck, in plain sight. So untroubled by his current predicament (you know--being lost in the Bermuda Triangle, to which he had no real reason to travel) is Gyro that he'll happily take the time to outfit our cane with the Hammer Adapter, whose tempering modification is such that Scrooge can now use a golf swing to clear away those aforementioned reinforced bricks. And that's all we need here. We'll send someone to fetch Gyro later on, I guess.
Ultimately we'll have spiraled around to the captain's cabin, where the pirates' leader is residing. Our boss is the hook-armed Pirate Capt'n, whose pattern entails walking from one side of the screen to the other and occasionally jumping up and hooking onto the surrounding tie-down rings. We're expected to maneuver about and find suitable attack angles using the same tie-down rings, but, really, they just seem to get in the way and cause all kinds of headaches. Scrooge hooks onto them automatically, which creates the potential for scenarios wherein you'll unintentionally latch onto one of these rings when instead your plan was to attack the Capt'n using an uninterrupted leap. The result is often repeated collisions with the Capt'n, who takes up a lot of space as he lunges about.
There's no question that this was a deliberate design decision. Fortunately, you can easily circumvent the issue by remaining grounded and attacking the Cap'n with short-hop pogos whenever he travels near the screen's edges, whose vertical spaces are bereft of rings; too, a successful strike will propel you high enough into the air that the Cap'n will have left the vicinity by the time you've landed, eliminating the possibility of contact damage. "No stress, no mess," as they say.
Finish off the Cap'n and earn yourself the Mermaid's Teardrop.
Our next destination is Scotland. Specifically, our sights are set on an ancient castle that is to be ruled by an evil sorcerer who serves as guardian for a secret treasure: the Lamp of Eternity.
The ancient castle is basically our Transylvania analog. We'll encounter ghostly enemies, knights (the variety that unexpectedly emerge from the background, theirs at first a seemingly innocuous state), and frogs (which I guess fit into the stage's magic and spell-casting theme). Also, the place is loaded with illusory walls, beyond which many a secret lie (like the map piece). You've seen all of this before.
To be fair, the stage is at least tonally distinct, thanks entirely to a musical theme that has its own ambition. Whereas Transylvania's theme was high-energy and aggressively haunting, Scotland's is more meticulous and eerily subdued; it does well to imbue the surrounding space with a mysterious vibe that has a way of filling you with the sense that unseen forces are lurking about everywhere. That it's able to produce such an atmosphere is the prime reason why Scotland is one of my favorite stages.
Though, during the years that DuckTales 2 and I were separated, there was one particular thing I remembered about this stage--one thing above all: the tie-down rings onto which Scrooge latches his cane. Certainly I noticed them in Niagara, yes, but it was my viewing them in this particular setting that made me think that I'd seen these same rings (or, at least, entirely similarly rings) somewhere else--in some other game. It was then I realized that they were just about identical to the decoratory hooks in Knight Man's stage in Mega Man 6! It was such a cool aesthetic link, I thought. And it made sense: The two games did come out within a year of each other, after all.
Now, I understand that I come off as an enabler when I celebrate the practice of recycling assets, but I can't help it; I just love it when companies create these kinds of spiritual connections.
I felt the same way the first time I reached the tail-end of the Himalayas stage and set eyes on that orange moving platform, which when bore a strong resemblance to the destructible walls from Mega Man 2! Well, if it was turned 90 degrees, of course.
Why I obsess over such things, I don't know. I guess that's just who I am!
By the way: Please send someone to destroy me.
I should mention that this new latching mechanic has a second application. It's otherwise an activator of weight-based mechanisms. If, say, a platform has a handle on its underside, Scrooge can hang from it and force the platform to lower. Likewise, if one side of a pulley is weighted down and positioned to be an obstruction, you can raise it into the air by hanging from its uncoupled ring.
We'll have to negotiate our way past a few of the latter to reach the boss room, which is domain to the sorcerer. Frankly, he's the game's most easily defeated boss. His is a simple one-step pattern: Both the sorcerer and his illusory clone will appear on either side of you; three seconds later, the true sorcerer will reveal himself and use his staff to summon forth either of two attacks: a ground-trailing tornado or a fierce lighting bolt. All you have to do, really, is wait until the sorcerer takes solid form and then immediately pogo your way directly towards his head; this airborne motion will allow you to both score a hit and easily evade the incoming summon. You can't miss, baby!
Once you've dispatched the sorcerer with five noggin'-denting pogo jumps, the Lamp of Eternity will be yours.
Our next target is MU (Mauritius), an island nation located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. According to Launchpad, its folklore speaks of a sanctuary that exists deep within the waters offshore. Apparently it's home to a mysterious stone plate that's said to be imbued with magical powers.
Think of MU as yet another Amazon variant (right down to the pillars and ceremonial totems), but this time with a pervasive sunken-city vibe.
Gyro is loitering about somewhere near the stage's starting point, though his location is hidden. Finding him will require a little work: A couple of screens in, you'll see a big chest wedged into the ceiling; you'll have to clear it away by propelling one of the nearby rocks into it. The chest was concealing a vine, up which you can travel to access a secret area and meet with Gyro; he'll reward our sleuthful effort by furnishing Scrooge's cane with the Power Adapter, which affords it the firmness necessary to pull objects that were previously too heavy to move--an object like, say, the stony column located immediately to the right. Just don't forget to pull it back through the opening so you can use it as a platform to reach the area's treasure-rich upper level.
MU contains another one of those instances that endured in my memory: its environment-altering block puzzle. Inevitably we'll happen upon a strange monument whose outstanding feature is an arrangement of colored sun symbols. This pillared construction--specifically its block pattern--not so subtly hints at the solution to a block-pulling puzzle found in a similarly structured room on the other end of the cavern. Following its instruction, we sink the blocks into the corresponding apertures and activate a mechanism that causes the island to raise up a couple of meters (an event we witness from the map screen, to which we briefly return). This causes the obstructive water to drain from the stage's lowest level, which hides a collection of high-value treasures and another map piece.
Annoyingly, the map is buried behind three screens' worth of rocks and bricks; procuring it requires that you endure a long, tedious sequence in which you must spend two minutes meticulously cutting our way through the debris--both coming and going. This is by far the worst part of the game. "Just why?" is all you'll ask.
However, I fondly recall how I felt about the initiating sequence and that little isolated puzzle room. I cant easily explain why, exactly, it sticks with me. I mean, it's not like the puzzle is uniquely challenging or memorable in any way. And the room, itself, contains none in the way of distinct imagery. That I remembered it so clearly had more to do with the way the sun was refracting through the den's windows that day--how its light was bathing the corner of the TV in the most reminiscent of ways. It was like a defining moment of the discovery phase--for how the resulting visual was able to effectively marry my feelings of nostalgia and my excitement over having unearthed a game that spoke of a rapidly expanding world that was likely hiding many similar treasures (helping to drive this sentiment was my recent introduction to the then-mind-blowing Internet world via my brother's new Windows-based computer).
But enough about that. Let's talk about the stage's boss--Robo Duck.
Here we have what many consider to be the most difficult and most frustrating boss in either game. What makes the battle obnoxious is its mode of progression: Unlike other bosses, Robo Duck's weak point isn't readily assailable, and finding the opportunity to render it such can sometimes require great patience. Basically, he'll park himself on either side of the screen and continue executing two separate attacks: firing one of his arms straight ahead as if it were a rocket and stomping on the ground hard enough to cause debris to fall from the ceiling. What you're hoping to see is the latter attack, which leaves remnants in the form of three bricks; you can then propel the closest brick into Robo Duck, the resulting impact causing him to collapse into a heap and reveal his vulnerable antenna.
However, there exists the potential that he'll repeatedly execute the former attack, and if this happens, you can find yourself stuck there, having to wait several minutes. Also, there are times when he'll unceasingly stomp on the ground and cause debris to fall over such a wide range and at such a fast rate that you'll have neither the time nor the space to set up and execute your brick-propulsion; even if you're lucky enough to get a shot off, it's still likely that you're still going to take a hit. If you get flustered and try to force the action--fight through the storm of bricks--chance are that your entire health meter will be drained in a flash.
All you can do is hope that he cooperates, like every boss should. And try to time it so that you can sneak in two hits during each cycle--save yourself a minute or two.
Pogo that antenna five times to vanquish Robo Duck and secure the stone plate.
Our final stop is Egypt, where we're tasked with figuring out the secret of a pyramid that protects the treasure of the Nile. Our efforts are fueled by an ancient tale that speaks of King Khufu's Knife, upon which no one has ever laid eyes.
And hey, look--we're in Pharaoh Man's stage! Well, not exactly, though Egypt does shamelessly recycle its quicksand hazard plus the mechanics that govern it. There are Mega Man connections abound, I tell you! I would even say that there are times when DuckTales 2 feels like a Mega Man game. I guess that makes sense; the two series do run on the same engine, after all. There was bound to be some measure of congruity.
Though, whereas in Pharaoh Man's stage we wanted to resist the sand's pull, here, in the stage's opening segment, it's in our best interest to let ourselves remain somewhat immersed so that we can avoid the pesky mosquitoes that are erratically flying about overhead. Contrarily you'll want to find ways to completely avoid dipping into these pools whenever snakes are patrolling over their surfaces; the sand's adhesion is such that it's near-impossible to effectively dive out from it with any sense of momentum, which you'll need if you desire to reach the height necessary to pogo onto sand-dwellers without taking damage.
Oh, and I have to credit Capcom for another much-appreciated refinement: You can now use the d-pad to advance text. Now I can speed through Launchpad's dialogue by hyperactively pressing directions instead of mashing A and B, doing which has often resulted in my accidentally saying "yes" to his offer to fly me back to the stage-select hub. Because I'm 12 years old.
If while taking this route you obtain the final map piece, the scene will immediately transition to the secret stage--the site of Fergus' hidden treasure. After completing that stage, you'll have to return here and retrace your steps to get back to where you were. Be advised, though, that if you defeat the boss before obtaining the map piece, you'll lose your chance to access the secret stage; the game will instead immediately transition to the endgame sequence. More on this in a bit.
The boss in question is the staff-wielding King Tut. His is a relatively simple pattern: He emerges from the quicksand, in one of three locations; hops out onto the platform directly in front of him; releases an electrical blast from his staff; and then sinks back into the quicksand. There's a limited amount of solid ground, so this battle is mostly about predictive positioning and timely pogo jumps. It's a potentially tricky battle, yes, but at this point in the game you should have enough of a health boost to tank your way through it.
If you're able to permanently sink Tut, King Khufu's Knife will be yours for the taking.
As previously mentioned: If we obtain the final map piece during the course of action, the scene will immediately shift to the secret stage, where Uncle Fergus' treasure is hiding. Huey confirms the location to be that very same castle in Scotland.
I'm not shocked that we're being forced to return here. Hell--it almost seems mandatory to have to revisit castle stages in DuckTales games. Though, in this instance, we're not retreading old ground; rather, we're traveling to the castle's basement, which represents an entirely new stage. It encompasses the castle's sewer and dungeon areas. Most interestingly, it's replete with uniquely communicated atmospheric touches. For one, it features a dissimilar color tone: a gloomy combination of dark green and yellow. Its ambiance is otherwise defined by its bizarrely discordant musical theme, whose strains are so inharmonious that the tune has a jarring quality to it; it works to make traversal feel more uneasy than it actually is. It's not a good tune, no, but it does produce the desired effect.
Really, it's the only stage in the game that can be said to be truly labyrinthine. It features multiple branching paths, all of which inevitably spill into one of two direct routes. You're free to plow ahead--follow the most obvious path and hurry to the boss--but you'll probably want to explore the basement and rack up some goodies, which it has in abundance. But keeping to a branching path is difficult because the basement is also filled with illusory walls and floors, most of which funnel you forward in a way that makes backtracking impossible. If you hope to thoroughly explore this place, you'll have to remain observant and put to use the intuition you've gained from your years of gaming (you know--predict where a sneaky level designer would be apt to place a fall-through floor).
Don't sweat it if you screw up; it's not imperative that you amass a ton of wealth. Save for in one very specific instance, your money-total doesn't effect the ending you receive. I'll talk more about this in a moment.
The basement recycles the previously encountered sorcerer, though it's not a complete copy-and-paste. This time, he relies exclusively a unique summon: a transformation orb. If it makes contact with Scrooge, the old duck will take damage and suffer further humiliation when he finds that he's been transformed into a frog, which renders him unable to inflict damage on the sorcerer. It's a temporary curse, yes, but you'll have to wait out a fairly long 8-second penalty time. Otherwise, it's basically the same battle as before, the previously detailed strategy working just as well here.
Dispatch the purple sorcerer a second time to finally reclaim the Secret Treasure of McDuck! And then head back over to Egypt to finish your business there.
Oh, but it ain't over yet.
Surprising no one (well, no NES-era Capcom fan, at least), Flintheart Glomgold suddenly emerges onto the scene and makes a play for out treasure collection. We learn that the old wretch has kidnapped Webbigail--the granddaughter of Ms. Beakley and another of those "helpful" supporting characters with whom every player is always trying to find new and interesting ways to avoid making contact--and is holding her captive on that ship in Bermuda; the deal is that he'll exchange Webby for the treasures.
So we return to the ship and head directly for its quarterdeck, which was previously inaccessible (we can't return to the ship's interior, which is now permanently sealed off). Of course, this exchange is partly a setup; the moment we hand him the treasures, he renegs on his end of the bargain and sics one of his minions on us. In truth, he is the minion: We learn that the "Glomgold" standing before us is actually a shape-shifting (or "liquid metal," if you understand the reference) robot called the "D-1000." Well, now you know for certain the time-period in which this game was released.
Really, the D-1000's shape-shifting potential is limited to his limbs, which drive his offense. Despite his holding the status of culminating end boss, the D-1000's is one of the more simplistic attack patterns: He'll extend an arm upward and pull himself up to the ceiling, from where he'll kick at you by extending his forward-facing leg diagonally downward, Dhalsim-style, twice in quick succession. Then he'll walk forward a bit until he's within, say, a three-block distance of Scrooge and repeat the sequence. That's all there is to it.
Still, this fight will surely fluster those who don't know how to approach it. It's designed to punish players who are overly aggressive and those who think that they can recklessly tank their way through it. Rather, it's best to hang back, near the screen's edges, and let the battle come to you--force the D-1000 to stomp his way over to your current position and sneak in a hit while he's in motion, whence he's slower to initiate his ceiling-grabbing animation. If instead you instead decide to stick close to him, it might appear that his defenses are impenetrable.
And that's it. Once the D-1000 is defeated, the game is over. There's no impromptu race with Glomgold or any other in the way of surprise sequences. The real Glomgold, in a last-ditch effort, attempts to sink the boat and ducks with it, but the action fails; Scrooge and Webby manage to escape in time.
Your efforts will be rewarded with one of three endings: In the "normal" ending, the treasures sink with the boat, leading to a sentimental moment wherein the usually-miserly Scrooge feels no desire to lament their loss because he realizes that family and friends are more important than money. But then Launchpad is able to recover the treasures with his helicopter's rescue rope, thus rendering all that previous talk pointless. It then cuts to the final money-accumulation screen.
The best ending, which you'll earn if you retrieve the Secret Treasure of McDuck, repeats the aforementioned scene and expands upon it with a final shot wherein Scrooge reveals that he had been hiding the big prize, Fergus' treasure, underneath his hat--intimating that it would not have been a total loss had all of the other treasures been lost forever.
Additionally, you can trigger a completely unique third ending by meeting a special condition: finishing the game without picking up a single gem. In the resulting scene, the defeated Scrooge and his crew watch on as a television broadcast announces that Flintheart Glomgold has found the Secret Treasure of McDuck and cemented himself as the world's greatest adventurer. Now agitated, Scrooge promises that the two haven't seen the last of each other.
What else can I say? DuckTales 2 is an overly familiar game, certainly, yet it holds a wonderfully unique appeal. It's both a great late-era NES game and a shining symbol for all of the fascinating releases that fell under the radar during the console's twilight years. You shouldn't miss it.
For me, DuckTales 2 holds special significance. It has made what I consider key contributions to my development as an enthusiast. If I can count the ways: It helped open my mind to the idea that there's no such thing as an "expiration date" for video-game hardware. It serves to remind me of the exciting period wherein I began to realize that the gaming world was far more expansive than I ever knew. And it's the first of a group that brought about the era of my "new nostalgia," a term I use to describe how I feel about all of those utterly alluring games I discovered during my college and early-Internet years; it joins together with Adventure Island IV, Rockman & Forte, Fire 'n Ice, and the MSX Eggerland games to form the foundation for this "new nostalgia," which I hold for the time when information was always readily available and the medium's history was still packed with mystery.
Really, I don't care to compare it to the original DuckTales in terms of quality (though, I do think that the original has superior music and level design). That's not what matters. What's important is how it makes me feel about games. That's what truly differentiates it.
People will say that DuckTales 2 is too easy or "kiddy," but so what if either is true? Neither is a detrimental quality. And even if you're the type who's scared away by such descriptors, you should know that DuckTales 2 is rife with other qualities that might appeal to you: It's fun to play. It boasts an alluring aesthetic. And it's loaded with 8-bit spirit. It's the kind of game that can brighten your day just by your being around it--just by your listening to it and absorbing it.
DuckTales 2, quite simply, is a delightful, feel-good video game upon which I can always count to deliver a half hour of entertainment and nostalgic feelings on a sunny weekend afternoon.
That's what it means to me.