Let’s talk about Duck Hunt. Something I realized over the past week, as the Nintendo Direct Mini was coming up and eventually happened is that a remarkably large majority of people haven’t played these iconic games.
For a lot of people, Duck Hunt is nothing more than a smash character. Dog is simply an iconic quote unquote “annoying character,” but most people haven’t actually experienced being laughed at by the Dog. In this game they don’t reveal the Duck names.
It’s so iconic that other games, like Duck Season, are able to exist and make commentary simply by having a dog in the game while you shoot ducks. At this point, it’s seemingly undeniable that Duck Hunt is the most sold light gun game in the world.
It’s even likely to be one of the top selling shooters, period, simply because it was bundled with the NES, or Ness. That pronunciation is an argument for another time, but there’s really no argument about how prevalent and well-played Duck Hunt…used to be.
This game came out in 1984, 1985 in the US, and even if you take into account that the NES was being sold up until 1995, that’s still 25 years ago. That means there’s a very high chance that the people reading this article have never played Duck Hunt.
It’s a thing that exists, maybe you know it’s iconic, maybe you know it was a big deal, you’ve probably seen the light gun because–you know, Nintendo branded gun? Totally. But did you ever play it? Here’s how it works, and it’s really very simple actually.
Each round, there are 10 ducks to shoot, and you have to shoot between 6 and 10 to move to the next round. The ducks come out one or two at a time, and you have three shots to hit the duck.
You don’t have to be perfect but you can’t miss any ducks after round 20, so as of round 20 you actually do have to be perfect, but again you get 3 shots for 1 or 2 ducks. Now, the dog shows up if you fail to shoot the one or both ducks. So you shoot all three shots and miss, dog pops up and laughs at you for being terrible.
That’s the story behind how that smug dog became enemy number one. There are three game modes in this as well, with A being one duck, B being two ducks, and C being pigeons! Clay pigeons. Two pigeons are launched and you have to hit them as they fly away.
I guess to be realistic or something? Did they assume shooting ducks wasn’t good enough, they needed actual sport shooting too? You play through up to 99 rounds, and then when you hit round 100, you actually get Round 0–which is called the Kill Level and is impossible to beat, and eventually it all ends and the game disappears.
By the way, this is almost certainly the inspiration for Duck Season, just that moment right there where everything goes crazy. There was also another version called Vs. Duck Hunt it’s a Nintendo VS. game. And if you don’t know Duck Hunt, chances are you don’t know this either–The VS. series is an arcade series, so two person Donkey Kong, two person Mario, and relevant to this article, Two Person Duck Hunt.
Each person got three shots, there were three ducks, and you could shoot the dog. This no doubt generated many many quarters. Continuing the thread of things that don’t exist anymore, Quarters were physical money back when touching something that thousands of other people had touched didn’t generate an immediate need to sanitize.
I feel an urge to grab my mask just talking about it. Versus also changes it up slightly by taking away lives whenever you don’t kill a duck, so it’s right in there with standard arcade fare–games designed to just steal money from you as efficiently as possible.
That, of course, wouldn’t be perfected until Turtles in Time, which is just unbeatable if you don’t want to pay $50 per player. I played this with PK Sparxx all the way through one night, and I think it was about $80 worth of quarters–if we didn’t have the ability to just give ourselves more lives.
Talk about brutal. Duck Hunt started as Beam Gun: Duck Hunt, a laser gun game that was developed as a literal toy. You’d hook up this robotic loud-thing and it would move back and forth, showing a duck on the wall through the mirror.
Then, you’d shoot the duck on the wall, and the gun would relay it back to say if you were a good hunter or not. This concept was taken by Takehiro Izushi, who worked on Pokemon (Please check how to do pokemon go spoofing), Fire Emblem, Donkey Kong, Star Wars: Episode I, and Gunpei Yokoi who designed the Game Boy and produced Metroid and Kid Icarus.
But we’re not done yet, Hirokazu Tanakadid the music–he also did the Earthbound music, Tetris, Metroid, and a lot more—the sounds cape of Nintendo.
Finally, Hiroji Kiyotake was involved, and he did the art of the ducks and the dog. Essentially, Duck Hunt represents a super collaboration of the early minds of Nintendo, the people who would go on to create titles for the company for another 30 years up until the most recent generational change in 2015 when Satoru Iwata died.
What’s interesting about that is that when the game itself was actually released, the few few video game critics that even existed at the time were actually all toy critics, and those toy critics called Duck Hunt… “Utterly Mindless” “Gets old after a few rounds” “Repetitive” “Fun for a while” Namely, it didn’t get incredible reviews.
That being said, it barely got any reviews, and that’s a sign of the times. Stores weren’t interested in video games yet, because the Atari crash had just hit a few years before and they had plenty of$5 Clearance games cluttering up the aisles that they already couldn’t sell, so this99 dollars 99 cents console with a light gun game about shooting ducks simply didn’t garner enough interest from the toy stores to even earn a review.
It wasn’t until later, as Nintendo became the mega corporation that it is today with super fans who will debate and discuss every single announcement, that people started to look at Duck Hunt as one of the O.G’s, an original title that really was very solid.
Even today, if you find yourself in some hookah lounge sipping cokes on the couches, and your hipster friend turns on the NES for a lark because ‘Ha. Ha, can you believe there’s a Nintendo gun, amirite?’
Well, you can play with that Hipster friend and have legitimate fun, it’s a good game. It just manages to play well, and it’s memorable and even fun. Did you know that a second player could plugin a controller and control the duck on the screen?
That was certainly mind blowing to anyone who didn’t know until they saw their brother messing up their high score by moving the ducks around. That kind of experience is something that burnt itself into the brains of a lot of kids at the time, and it’s why Duck Hunt shows back up in Smash Brothers. It’s one of the big successes of Nintendo’s history. It’s such a large presence, it evens show sup in movies.