Hall of Fame Inductee
Original Release: 1984 (Arcade)
Developed by: Nintendo
Published by: Nintendo
Duck Hunt may be one of the anomalies of the Madness Brewing Hall of Fame. It was not a game intended to break the mold of what a video game should be what Super Mario Bros. did. It was never meant to become incredibly addictive to suck away your precious time like Tetris. Nintendo had a very mechanical purpose of the game: to show off what the NES could do graphically and give the system a decent light-gun game for people to play with. However, their decision to include the game with the NES at launch made it so that most people who ever touched a NES played eventually played the game. Everyone, for the most part, thoroughly enjoyed Duck Hunt. So much so that twenty-five years later, most of us still are quite fond of the game. Call it nostalgia if you want but Duck Hunt was, and still is, a fun game to play.
There isn’t much to say about Duck Hunt’s development. There’s no romantic story behind its creation unlike many of the other legendary Nintendo titles out there. There isn’t much of a story at all and not much of detailed history about exists. The idea was to create a game to show off the light gun peripheral for the NES console. However, it’s not like Nintendo didn’t have any gun games to show off at the system’s launch. Both Hogan’s Alley and Wild Gunman were both part of the launch line-up. In fact, it’s debatable whether or not Duck Hunt’s inclusion as a pack-in title with the sale of the system ultimately hurt the sales of other Zapper games. Although the depth of Duck Hunt, Hogan’s Alley, and Wild Gunman is not all that large, people seldom talk about Hogan’s Alley or Wild Gunman. Even with the launch of the Nintendo Wii, people were speculating (and there were even rumours) of a Duck Hunt sequel.
There are three game modes with Duck Hunt. All three modes require the player to shoot targets. There are ten targets per round. On screen there’s an indicator to show how many targets the player must hit to move on to the next round. The first two modes involve ducks. Mode A involves one duck on screen at a time while the Mode B has two at a time. Mode C leaves out the ducks for clay discs (in case you find shooting animated ducks too sinister). In each mode, you’re only allowed to fire three rounds per turn so you need you can’t be wasting any bullets in Modes B and C (because if you miss twice, you’ll guarantee that at least one of your targets will go free before the turn ends). While the game is predominately one player, a second player can get involved in the action. Using the regular NES controller, the second player can control the ducks. The aim is to get as high a score as possible since the game has no end. However, as the game progresses, the ducks are faster and are on screen for a shorter amount of time. As well, it eventually gets to a point where you can’t miss a single duck or it’s game over.
Duck Hunt was originally released for the arcades (titled Vs. Duck Hunt) although it was nowhere the hit there as it was in people’s homes on the NES. While the games are nearly identical (almost down to the graphics), there were a few differences. While some would consider the fact that you could play two players against each other competing for points (instead of the second player only controlling the ducks) the most important difference, others would argue that the biggest difference between the two versions is that you can shoot the dog. In each version of the game, the player has a companion dog. The dog begins each level by running into the thick weeds barking to scare the ducks out. Once a player shoots a duck, the dog pokes his head out holding the dead animal signalling his approval. However, if you miss the duck and it manages to escape, the dog will emerge laughing at the player. This has led to some frustrated players as the game eventually gets quite heated during the higher levels only to have the dog laugh at you when you’re a few points shy of a high score and stuck to start all over. In the NES version, you can shoot all you want but the dog will just continue to laugh and laugh. However, in Vs. Duck Hunt, the dog can be shot. You don’t kill the dog though and you actually get a stern retort from the dog but some might take solace in the fact that you can wipe the smile off the laughing dog’s face. There was so much demand to wanting to fire bullets at the hapless canine that when Nintendo released Bill Barker’s Trick Shooting in 1990, they brought the dog from Duck Hunt in for a cameo appearance with player’s having the ability to shoot it.
However, Duck Hunt was realized as a NES game and while it may have reached the arcades prior to the release of the console version, it was always intended to be the pack-in title for the NES. That’s why this article is dedicated more to the NES version rather than the arcade version. Usually, an induction article examines the first version of the game rather than the ports but, in this case, the NES version is the version we’re examining because it is considered far more important and noteworthy in video game history than the arcade version.
Even with people enjoying Duck Hunt immensely, there wasn’t much support for the NES zapper beyond the original launch. Few companies actually developed games for the device. The same goes for Nintendo as, except for the three launch titles compatible with the device, they only made three more games for it. In fact, after the launch trio in 1985, Nintendo only published one more zapper game within the first four years (Gumshoe) of the NES’s life-cycle. Overall, there were only fourteen licensed titles for the Zapper. Most people only played Duck Hunt.
There had been whispers of developing a sequel for Duck Hunt for the various systems over the years but not much came from it. Some thought that with the launch of the Super Scope device for the Super Nintendo that Duck Hunt was a sure bet for release on the system. However, Super Scope sales were so horrible that there even less titles developed for it than the Zapper (twelve compared to fourteen). There was also talk of Duck Hunt coming to the Wii. The ESRB has had a rating for Duck Hunt as a Virtual Console release for a few years now but there have yet to be any NES Zapper titles made available for the service. There was also a video that had been released of a supposed Hudson-developed sequel for the Wii. However, it turned out it was a fake. It still was real enough to some people to give hope to a bunch of people after holding out a few decades for a sequel.
Duck Hunt wasn’t the best game for the NES nor was it the best light gun game. However, it’s probably the most played light gun game ever. We may hate the laughing dog and there may not be any real hook to the game but it still has a simple charm that makes it a lot of fun to play years after it was made obsolete by newer technology.