|Ah, yes...For so many people, ""Duck Hunt"" was their first glimpse into the world of what the Zapper Gun could do. Packaged on the same game pak along with Super Mario Brothers (and later, with World Class Track Meet as well), it had probably more exposure than any other light gun game ever. And its lasting appeal for so many nostalgics assures it a place in the NES hall of fame for all time.
The game is deceivingly simple-- you have only three shots to shoot down up to two ducks that fly across the screen. Things get tricker as you advance levels, as your duck quota increases, and so does the speed of the ducks. A second game mode is a little more serious, giving you clay pigeons to blast from the sky instead of mallards. My only question is--why can't you shoot that dog after he's been laughing at you over and over again, and nothing would please you more?
The thing that impresses me most about Duck Hunt is that even on the later levels the game doesn't slow down or flicker at all. On level 32, with ducks flitting about at just over light speed, there was no trouble seeing them clearly. Of course, the graphics are rather simple and two groups of sprites couldn't be too hard to send across the screen, but still this game was one of the first ever, and it had no display problems to complain of. When you actually connect with a duck, it displays this funny frame of a duck blasted in mid-flight, feathers flying and everything. And of course there's the cartoony quality that reassures you that it's all a game...and that everything will be okay even if you shot your snidely-chuckling dog right between the eyes.
Though spare, Duck Hunt has all the working sound it needs to get the job done. The dog sounds remarkably like a dog, the ducks quack just like ducks, and the gun sounds...well, sounds sorta like a gun. The round-beginning music is a charming little addition, playing as that little brown dog with the spiteful sense of humour sniffs his way across the screen. And that makes me think...there's that weird sound of the dog laughing. Has anyone actually heard a dog laughing? I haven't, so I'll take Nintendo's word and their affirmation maintaining that's what a dog sounds like when it laughs--at your pitiful, failed attempts at bagging a few ducks for tonight's dinner.
Pure and elegant game design at some of its best, right here. It doesn't get much simpler than this, folks. As long as you have your Zapper Gun plugged into the right spot, you'll have no problem catching on to the idea of the game. Shoot anything that moves...except that your dog is bullet-proof.
The challenge level increases proportionately, and has the quality that makes you come back even after a grueling session to beat your old high score. For those of you craving a little more versimilitude in your games, the second game mode--Clay Pigeon Shooting--had enough real-world ambiance to convince even your Dad that video games can serve as a viable form of entertainment.
This game is too good on so many levels to ever forget. Even though I scored it lower in some categories, this game deserves its props as an all-time classic NES game. I remember the first time I saw this one--in the arcade, on one of those mini-machines, with a little plastic holster on the side. I put in my first quarter, and it was love at first quack. And when that dog finally got the best of me too many times, laughing at me the umpteenth time, I finally would scowl, let out a wry ""Aaagh!"" and inefectually click the Zapper in his face over and over and over again...Sometimes losing a few of the next round's bullets in the process, which was actually my fault but it made me hate that dog even more. He made me do it, you know. Then I would close one eye to draw a bead, sweat crisscrossing my forehead, and hit a duck with that last bullet I had. The dog would emerge from the grass, dead duck in hand, and his beaming, buddha-like smile seemed to make everything right with the world again. My killer instict to blast that canine was staved off...Until the next time he laughed at me. Sometimes, that's the way love is. I hated that dog, and I loved that dog, and soon I realized that it wasn't about shooting and bagging ducks at all, it was about a young student, learning the ways of the world from his four-legged sensei.
To this day, I'll never forget that dog. I never named him, but I'll never forget him.
Those of you who made it through this nostalgia-clogged treatise on the wonders of Duck Hunt will be happy to learn that it's one of the most plentiful games around. You owe it to yourself to find this classic. You'll be much wiser in the ways of the world for it. Plus, it's like fifty cents at a used game store near you, so skip the extra cheese on your pizza and get it already.
It's often the most beneficial gifts, hidden in plain sight, that elude us if we search too hard, with a closed mind. That's one of the many valuable lessons I'd learned from my countless sessions of Duck Hunt.