Review: Duck Hunt (NES)

Duck Hunt: For a lot of people, this first person shooter.simulated shooter would be the first time they have ever used the Nintendo light gun – an alternative controller to the standard controller. We review this classic simulated shooter game and see if it still holds up to the test of time.

Duck Hunt was released in 1985. The game was also released with the original Super Mario Bros game. So, many gamers were introduced to this game via the 2-in-1 combo cartridge. This is also a game that requires use of the Nintendo light gun much like Hogan’s Alley which was released in the same year.

There are three modes in this game: Game A, Game B, and Game C.

Game A is the single duck mode in Duck Hunt. You start with the famous dog sniffing the ground before jumping into the tall grass. From there, you try and shoot the duck that flies up out of the grass. If you successfully shoot the duck, it will fall down into the grass to be retrieved by the dog. How many points you get for each duck depends on the color. The black ducks are generally easiest to shoot, but are worth the least number of points. Blue ducks require more effort to shoot, but offer more points. The dark pink ducks are the hardest to hit, but reward you with the most points if you do manage to shoot it down. Each duck flies around the screen for a limited amount of time before flying away, so you have to take your shot somewhat quickly. Also, you are allowed three shots per duck, so if you miss three times, the duck will automatically fly away. In total, there are ten ducks per round as depicted by the bar located on the middle bottom of the screen. Each hit makes the duck turn red. Each miss will be indicated by the duck remaining white. The white duck that’s flashing is the current duck you are attempting to shoot. The thin blue lines stop after a certain duck underneath. If you miss fewer than the number suggested (the game will move all the misses to the left to better show you how many you let fly away), then you can move on to the next round. Otherwise, it’ll be game over. For each progressive round, the ducks will fly around faster and spend less time on the screen. Also, the number of allowed misses will decrease each round. Eventually, you’ll get to rounds where you have to have a perfect score in order to advance. If you manage to shoot every single duck in a round, you’ll get a nice sizable bonus in points as a reward.

Game B is the two ducks mode. This mode is pretty much the first mode, only you’ll have to fire at 2 ducks flying around at the same time. You still have the same number of shots per batch, so you’ll only be permitted one miss per batch. The good part about this mode is the fact that the ducks fly around much more slowly. Also, it takes less time to go through each round because you still only have to shoot down 10 ducks before moving on.

Game C is the clay shooting mode. This is a little different in that you are now shooting at clay disks instead of ducks. Like game B, you’ll be firing at two targets at a time. The bad part about this mode is the fact that the clay targets are not only smaller, but gradually get smaller as they fly off into the distance. The good part about this is the movement of the discs are much more predictable (a simply arc and they gradually move more slowly as they reach further off into the distance). Generally, I found this mode to be the easiest of the three because of the more predictable movement of the discs. Besides that, the rules are the same as the first two modes: ten targets per round, bonus points for a perfect score, and you’re only allowed a certain number of misses per round before the game is over (again, after a while, you’ll be playing in rounds where you are only allowed a perfect score to advance).

For some, this game is famous because of the dog that ridicules you every time you miss all of the on screen targets. It doesn’t matter the difficulty. Eventually, you will be made fun of by the dog. If you lose a round, the dog will just continually make fun of you until you are booted back onto the main screen. I didn’t find the dog to be that annoying, personally. I suppose if you’ve been playing this game for hours upon hours on end, then you’ll find yourself wanting to shoot the dog, but I thought the dog added personality to the game more than anything else. Besides, just play the clay shooting game if you really hate the dog that much. The dog isn’t there in that mode.

I found that the difficulty curve varied substantially between the different modes. It was steepest in Game B and shallowest in the clay shooting round. In fact, I found myself starting to get bored with the clay shooting mode after a while and threw the game so I could do something else. Meanwhile, with 2 ducks mode, I found myself quickly reaching levels where I had a hard time shooting the ducks. So, if you want an easy going time, try clay shooting. If you want a solid challenge, then definitely 2 ducks mode would be right for you. It doesn’t hurt to try all three modes, but just don’t expect the difficulty to be consistent between each mode. One criticism I would have for this game is that the background stays the same. If you start with one background, you’ll end your run with the same background. I think an improvement would be to gradually make differences between rounds. If it can’t be by changing the colors to simulate sun position, then maybe moving the clouds would be a better idea.

Graphically, what this game does have is pretty good. I’ve played my share of games that were produced in later years – namely Atari 7800 games – that this game can easily rival. Again, one criticism I have is the repetitive nature of it. The only other thing I can think of is the fact that the ducks are always black when the dog retrieves it. If you shoot down a blue duck, the dog will pick it up and it’ll magically be black again. Not sure if it’s a hardware limitation there.

The audio is a mixed bag in this game. On the one hand, the sound effects were really well done (likely sampled sounds). Even the sounds flying off into the distance was nicely done. On the other hand, the music was simply a small set of jingles. They were good jingles, but short lived. Once you’re into the game, all signs of music ends until you find yourself between rounds. It’s good that the music wasn’t involved while yo were trying to shoot at targets, but I think more could have been done otherwise (for instance, the menu music is way too short).

Overall, I think this game can be enjoyed for brief periods of time. If you occasionally fire this game up and play a few rounds, shelve it for a month or two, dig it out again for replaying, then I’d say you’ll get a lot of entertainment value out of it. A pretty good game all around.


Furthest points in game:
1 Duck: Level 11
2 Ducks: Level 8
Clay Shooting: Level 37

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 72%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: