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Duck Hunt Review Rewind

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On 01/05/2015 at 02:50 PM by Jamie Alston

A game that involves some serious fowl play.

A good choice if you don’t mind the short-lived gameplay elements.

Duck Hunt is an interesting relic of times past and one that I have conflicting feelings about.  While it was my earliest NES memory and no doubt fun from what I can remember, it also hasn't aged quite as well as I would have hoped.  But sometimes, that's just how it goes with the games we played as children.  I suppose the biggest letdown is realizing that the game simply isn't as stimulating to me as it once was, mostly due to its limited nature.  At its core, you're just shooting the same objects round after round until you fail to reach the required quota.  Be that as it may, Duck Hunt's importance in Nintendo's history cannot be overlooked.

Duck Hunt features 3 game modes-- Game A (1 Duck), Game B (2 Ducks), and Game C (Clay Shooting).  You choose your game mode by pointing the Zapper away from the screen and pulling the trigger.  Once you settle on the game you want to play, point the Zapper at the screen, pull the trigger, and you're all set to go.  In Games A and B, your trusty dog companion kicks off each round by sniffing out the fowl hidden behind the grass.  Once their position is discovered, he leaps into the grass, forcing the winged creatures out of hiding.  And that's where your marksman skills come into play.  Should you miss your targets, not only will you be the shame of hunters everywhere, but your own dog will laugh at you too.  Unfortunately, animal cruelty laws prevent you from neutering the little punk with your Zapper.  Sorry, guys.  A friend can also join in and use the control pad to move the ducks around to increase the unpredictability of the ducks' movements.


As you progress through each round, the ducks will fly in increasingly difficult patterns, requiring an increasingly steady shot.  This was where I really started enjoying the game.  In the more difficult rounds, you'll also notice that the ducks can potentially escape or "fly away" much faster than before.  So while you need to place a careful shot in order to hit them, you also can't take forever contemplating if you should take the shot or wait a bit.  It gives the game nice sense urgency, while leaving your success or failure strictly in your hands.

The Game C portion of Duck Hunt is quite different than the other game modes.  This is Clay Shooting (also known as trapshooting), where you shoot clay pigeons instead of ducks.  Just like the real sport, you're on a shooting range where two clay discs are launched in the air and you’ll need to shoot them before they disappear from your line of sight.  I always loved watching them burst into small pieces-- it reminded me of fireworks.  Clay Shooting tends to be more challenging than the duck games because your targets are smaller and the clay discs are shot at different intervals and directions.  I actually prefer the Clay Shooting game over the other duck game modes.  I find it to be more fun and challenging.


No matter which game mode you choose, each round allows you to try your aim at ten ducks or clay pigeons per round, represented by similar shaped icons on the lower half of the screen.  You will also notice a set of small blue bars below the icons that the instruction manual refers to as the "pass line".  It indicates how many hits are required in order to pass on to the next round.  Every few rounds the quota requirement will go up, demanding that you make fewer misses or else it'll be game over.

The game modes feature bright colors and well drawn scenery.  In the duck games you can clearly see that you are hunting in a grassy plain, while the Clay Shooting mode has a nice forest setting with mountains in the background.  Unfortunately, the scenery never changes when progressing to different rounds.  Other NES Zapper games like Wild Gunman and Hogan's Alley at least featured different backgrounds every few rounds.  Since your targets never change in Duck Hunt, it does get a little mundane after seeing at the same one area in each round


Music takes a back seat as there's not much to be heard outside of the title screen, beginning a game, moving to the next round, and eventually losing the game.  It's not a deal-breaker though because in real life, it is good to have silence--especially when trying to do your best at trapshooting.  The sound effects aren't all that varied, but they do stand out more than the music since you'll constantly be hearing ducks quack and flap their wings and your gun firing those invisible digital bullets at your prey.

Duck Hunt’s elements aren't bad in themselves, but its long term appeal doesn't hold up as strongly as I would have liked.  Since there's not really much going on except firing at the same targets in front of a background that never changes, it won't likely hold the average gamer's attention for as long as it used to years ago, but it’s still enjoyable in short bursts.

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Cary Woodham

01/05/2015 at 08:07 PM

I'm surprised how many people don't know that you can plug in a second controller and move the ducks.

I always liked the clay shooting better, too.

Have you seen the Duck Hunt dog in Smash?  He's pretty cool, and so is the stage.

You can also get Duck Hunt on Virtual Console now.  Not sure how that works.

Have you ever played Namco's Point Blank games?  Those are my favorite light gun titles.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/05/2015 at 08:29 PM

Yeah, I didn't know about controlling the ducks with the second controller back in the day either.  Always fun discovering stuff like that.

Yeah, I saw that Nintendo Direct a few months ago that showcased the DH dog.  I was floored when I saw that.  Very inpressive. I'm not sure if he's on Smash Bros. Wii U right from the start or if he's DLC...can't remember and I'm too lazy to boot up the game at the moment.

Actually, the release Duck Hunt on the Virtual Console is the reason why I posted this review when I did.  Figured it would go along nice with it.  In the VC verison, there's a target on the screen that moves with the Wii Remote so you can see where you're aiming before you fire.  You can also turn off the cursor for a more authentic experience if you want though.

Dude, I was all about that GunCon back when I had a PS and PS2.  I had all 3 Point Blank games, Time Crisis, Time Crisis 2, and Time Crisis: Project Titan.  But yeah, I looooved me some Point Black goodness!  Unfortunately, I no longer have a PS2, and the that verison of the GunCon is useless on the PS3 since you can't plug it in.  I don't think the GunCon 3 works with any of the PSOne or PS2 games.

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

01/05/2015 at 11:20 PM

Even though I loved the NES, its gun games always left me cold. I played a ton of Shooting Gallery on the SMS around the same time, though, and it was a lot more fun. Watching this video, I can see why... looks like a lot of variety, and how could you not try to earn a synthesized voice telling you that you did "PERFECT!"?


Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/05/2015 at 11:56 PM

No argument here pal.  I had Marksman Shooting & Trap Shooting and Safari Hunt too a while back when I had the Master System.  Man, those games definintely had a bit more variety and background interaction.  And that Light Phaser felt super accurate too.  Definitely was worthy competion for the Zapper and its games.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

01/06/2015 at 04:45 AM

that damn dog!!!!


this was a big part of my Christmas day Nintendo opening when I was like 8 or something (maybe younger).  It was a freaking revelation.  

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/06/2015 at 09:21 AM

Yeah, this was litterally the first NES game I played.  My brother got when I was 6. I think it was the NES Action Set.  Good times.


01/06/2015 at 09:31 AM

You had me at "fowl play", Jamie.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/06/2015 at 03:19 PM

I couldn't resist.  It just felt right.  Yesss! Mission accomplished.


01/10/2015 at 02:08 AM

Duck Hunt was the only game I could ever convince my dad to play. It didn't matter how awesome I thought Contra, Double Dragon, or Mega Man 3 was. He was really good at it too. I don't think it holds up that well either, but still think it's pretty fun in short bursts. I feel the same way about Skate or Die! I loved it back then, but now can only play it for like 5 minutes at a time. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/12/2015 at 11:03 AM

Yeah, when I sat down to play Duck Hunt for review, I was all ready to give it at least 4 stars...but that was the nostalgia talking.  Realistically, I knew that score wouldn't have been accurate to how the game plays today.  Even so, I'm stillglad I have it.  I love shooting ducks.

Matt McLennan Staff Alumnus

01/10/2015 at 05:13 PM

I am glad to see puns in article subtitles still persist!

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/12/2015 at 11:03 AM

If it fits, I'll use it!


01/12/2015 at 09:47 AM

It's been almost 30yrs!  Well... roughly, 28yrs ago I first played Duck Hunt.  My family and friends would play that game for hours.  It was a lot of fun trying to outdo each other.  Now-a-days, we wouldn't play it no way near as long, but back then, it was awesome. Cool

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/12/2015 at 11:05 AM

No kidding man.  Back then, Duck Hunt and light gun games on a home console was relatively new and exciting.  We'd play Duck HuntClay Shooting for at least an hour before moving on the something else.  I miss those days.


01/17/2015 at 01:41 PM

Yeah, I remember Duck Hunt. My NES-owning best friend back in 1987 (I never owned a NES myself) got the set that came with SMB and Duck Hunt. He also got Gyromite used but never had a R.O.B, so we took turns operating the pipes on controller 2.

Light gun games can be a lot of fun in small doses but they all get repetitive after awhile. Duck Hunt was no different. That dog pissed me off to no end, and almost everybody I knew who played it took a few frustrated shots at the dog with the Zapper.  Later, I learned that the arcade Vs. Duck Hunt actually did allow you to shoot your dog during a bonus game when the dog would be leaping into the air trying to flush out ducks. He'd hobble on screen with his face blackened like a Tom and Jerry cartoon, sporting a leg cast and a crutch, yelling at the player. I can imagine that Nintendo didn't want to court more controversy than video games in general were already getting by allowing you to shoot the dog in the NES version, even with the Looney Tunes/Tom and Jerry cartooniness.

My favorite light game of all time was Battle Clash, a Super NES Super Scope 6 game that pitted you against mechs. You'd use repeat fire to fend off enemy attacks and charged single shots to the enemy. It had a catchy soundtrack composed by a female composer named Yuka Tsujiyoko, who is the main composer for the Fire Emblem series. I hope Nintendo considers releasing that on Wii U VC. I also liked a couple of machine-gun light gun games made by Midway, Terminator 2 and Revolution-X Featuring Aerosmith.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/19/2015 at 12:58 AM

Ah, so you could shoot the dog-- just needed to be in the arcade to see it. Nice. Whatever Ninendo's reason for taking it out of the NES version, I find it interesting that you can shoot the dog in Barker Bill's Trick Shooting.


01/19/2015 at 12:18 PM

Here you go... enjoy!

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

01/18/2015 at 04:46 PM

We got the NES Action Set for Christmas in 1989, which included this and Super Mario Bros. on a combo cart. This game was okay, but it was definitely overshadowed by SMB1, which seemed like a much more advanced game, so I never played Duck Hunt much. I think it's pretty much worthwhile only as a nostalgia trip, anyone who didn't play it is better off playing other gun games if they want that sort of thing.

I never played the Super Scope games, but always thought they looked fun. I'd be much more interested in them appearing on the Virtual Console, since a Super Scope isn't cheap and doesn't work on modern TVs.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

01/19/2015 at 12:56 AM

Wow, we had the same Action Set at around the same time. My brother won money from his school for being the top honor student, so dad took us to Toys R Us and we got the NES with my brother's money (who's name happens to be Mario). It was sometime in 1989...probably spring or early summer.

Anyway, yeah...Super Mario Brothers definitely overshadowed Duck Hunt after the first day we hooked up the system. Though I gotta admit...I'm still a sucker for light gun games. No matter how repetitive they are. Of course, I haven't played them all, so could very well change one day.

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