Review by Retro

"At least none of the ducks were Daffy, Donald, or Scrooge"

The first game I ever owned for the NES was the 8-bit cartridge that had two of the most memorable games for the system on it, Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. One of the two games revolutionized and possibly even saved the video game industry, while the other was pretty much a lowly tag along. The latter is Duck Hunt, the first game to ever utilize the most popular NES accessory, the light gun.

Duck Hunt is a 1-2 player game that gives you the opportunity to go hunting without dressing up in camouflage or even using a duck call. Why do that when you can go hunting with a gun on your television screen in the comfort of your own home, right?

At the start of a game your hunting dog is seen sniffing around on the dirt. He then barks as he jumps into the deep grass headfirst. All of a sudden a duck or two (you can choose from the menu whether to have 1 or 2) flies out into the clear blue skies to put their feathery hides at risk. This is when you and your unloaded electronic gun come into place. The ducks will fly around in differing speeds and directions on the screen for a matter of seconds before fluttering away out of sight forever. You have three shots in which to try and nab as many ducks as you can.

Shoot a duck and its eyes will get big and it'll spin in circles as it falls down to the ground. It will be even more helpless than a Thanksgiving turkey holding up a sign that reads, ''Eat Chicken''. This is because it's dead! If you fail to shoot all of the ducks with your precious three bullets, the remaining quacks will fly straight up and out of the screen. Depending on the outcome of each set of ducks, your pet dog will do one of two things. He'll either grab and hold up the dead bird(s) with pride, or he'll stand up and laugh at you in your face.

A total of ten quackers will make an appearance in every round. The game starts out slow and easy, but it gets difficult at a fast rate. For instance, the ducks are pretty slow in the early rounds, and you only have to shoot about half of them to pass to the next round. Eventually, however, you'll have to shoot almost all of them, if not all of them to get any further, and they'll begin to fly around like speeding bullets. The giggling dog is funny for awhile (he'll always be classic!), but when the going gets tough and you find out you need more shooting practice, you may sometimes feel like going on a dog hunt instead of a duck hunt (you can't shoot the dog, of course :-Þ).

Most of the ducks have a green head and black feathers. They're the most common breed, and also the slowest. For a nice twist, a few ducks are of different colors. These fly around much faster and they're worth more points.

If you get tired of eating pressed duck or duck stew, you can choose to go skeet shooting instead. In this option, two circular clay objects are thrown at the same time. They start out pretty close to you and they quickly glide away from you as they approach the far background of the screen. The skeets are big when they're first thrown, but as they get further and further away from you, they become real small and difficult to shoot. The rules are the same. You once again have three bullets for each pair of targets, and you must shoot a certain number of them to successfully pass to the next round. The skeet shooting is almost as fun as the duck hunting, and it's definitely more challenging.

Duck Hunt gets the job done not only in its fun factor, but also in the graphics and sound departments. The duck hunting scene is only composed of dirt on the ground, tall grass, a short bush, and what looks to be an ugly, balding oak tree. While clearly not much on variety, those objects look decent enough for their time, and they're colorful. The same goes for the ducks, the hound dog, and the clay objects. None of them are animated real well, but they look nice and they get the job done. That's about all you can ask for from one of the earliest NES games. On the other hand, the background graphics for the clay shooting game is quite impressive. It consists of a wide open green pasture with a few trees and a lush mountain that the partly cloudy skies overlook.

There's not much music in the game at all, and not even a whole lot of sounds (you may wonder why it's not an Atari 2600 game). The ones that are present aren't bad. From the constant quacking of the ducks, to the sound of your gun unleashing a shot, to the humming sound of the skeets, to the chuckling laughs of your classic mutt, the sounds won't knock your socks off, but they won't knock your ears off by being too bad either.

What you think of the controls will depend mostly on how far away you shoot from the television screen. When I was young (about 7 or younger), I would always put the gun right up on the TV and shoot (literally). I thought, ''Man, this game is the easiest one I've ever played! I wish I could shoot my Red Ryder bb gun this well!''. However, when my parents or brothers became my audience, they told me I wasn't supposed to do that. Soon enough, I figured out that Duck Hunt isn't so easy when you shoot from several feet away, and that's a good thing because it made the game a lot more fun. I then started to play the game even more often, especially the two-player variations, even though I always lost.

While I wouldn't call Duck Hunt one of my favorite games of all time, I do consider it to be a classic for the NES. It pales in comparison to the other game on the cartridge, Super Mario Bros., but I still catch myself going back and playing it pretty damn often. It's a very good game to sit down and play with a friend or even by yourself when you get tired of falling down cloggy pipes or battling against fire breathing dragons just to find out your princess is in another castle. If you're one of the few NES owners that doesn't already own the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cartridge, then of course you need to get it already! Duck Hunt is worth getting if it's on a cartridge of its own as well.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/11/01, Updated 11/24/02


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