Online gaming has opened the floodgates for trolling. Call of Duty is filled with 12-year-olds who will talk about the intimate relations they had with your mother, as they hammer the crouch key over your fallen character model. Games like World of Warcraft contain entire societies filled with people whose only joy in life is to make things less fun for other players.
All of these people are the spiritual descendants of the dog from Duck Hunt. In the days before the Internet, no other character inspired as much hatred as this nameless canine who loved to laugh at you. The horrific 8-bit laughter is burnt into the brains of many players of the original NES. It doesn't matter if you're Clint Eastwood or Roland Deschain, sooner or later you will miss a shot. When you do, that dog will be ready to laugh at you.
In recent years, Duck Hunt has seen a revival. The game has finally been released on the Wii U Virtual Console and the dog & duck have appeared in both Pixels and the latest Smash Bros. games. We are here today to try and block out the laughter and take a closer look at some of the most important characters from Nintendo's history. From the true oldest Nintendo character to the secret of one of gaming's oldest urban legends.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Duck Hunt!
Nintendo has the most iconic lineup of first party characters in video game history. This is why the Smash Bros. series is filled with recognizable characters, while PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale was made up of C-List scrubs (and PaRappa). Microsoft has yet to try and make a Smash Bros. style game. If they did, it would just be Master Chief and Marcus Phoenix battling it out on Final Destination (with the guy from Sunset Overdrive being a $10 DLC character).
There is a question about the identity of Nintendo's oldest character. According to Nintendo, it is Mr Game & Watch, the featureless sprite from the old Game & Watch line of handhelds. Those debuted in 1980. This makes Mr Game & Watch a year older than Mario, who debuted in the original Donkey Kong arcade game in 1981.
Before Nintendo moved into the video game market, they were a manufacturer of toys and playing cards. In 1976, they released an early version of the light gun concept as part of a physical toy. It was called Duck Hunt, and it featured a toy gun that was connected to an overhead projector. The projector would display images of flying ducks onto a wall and the gun would detect if you were aiming at the right spot. This means that the Ducks are the oldest Nintendo character, beating Mr Game & Watch by four years.
Adam Sandler made a couple of funny movies in the '90s. This has somehow given him carte-blanche to make awful movies for the rest of his career. This makes him both the American Simon Pegg and the man behind some of the worst reviewed films in modern times. The atrocities he has filmed and sold in theatres also have the side effect of proving that reviews don't matter. Jack and Jill has a 3% Rotten Tomatoes rating, but it made $100 million profit. Pixels has a 16% Rotten Tomatoes rating, but it made $150 million profit. If there was any justice in this world, then Adam Sandler would be chased out of show business by villagers with pitchforks and torches.
Pixels was able to acquire the rights to show some classic video game characters in the movie. Pac-Man appears as an antagonist in the film, as well as Donkey Kong, Q-Bert and the Space Invaders. The makers of the film seemed to believe that characters from 35-year-old video games would be perfect villains for a modern movie.
One of the famous characters to appear in the film was the Duck Hunt Dog. After Adam Sandler defeats the Centipede from Centipede, the dog appears and is given to an old lady in London.
The build up to the release of the most recent Smash Bros. games made great use of social media and YouTube. This allowed Nintendo to hype up the release trailers of most of the big characters. This continued on after the release of the game, with DLC characters showing up during the regular Nintendo Direct broadcasts.
Smash Bros. 3DS was released first, with the Wii U version coming out over a month later. Nintendo released a video titled "Super Smash Bros. for Wii U: 50-Fact Extravaganza" on October 23rd, 2014. This video showed trailers for Bowser Jr. and Mewtwo (who was still in the early stages of development). Duck Hunt Duo was not officially announced until the Nintendo Direct on the 5th of November, 2014.
What makes the lateness of this reveal so odd is the fact that the 3DS version of the game had been out for almost a month at this point, so Duck Hunt Duo's presence wasn't a secret anymore. One of the reasons might be due to the fact that a Wii U Virtual Console release of the original game was announced alongside them. The Wii U Duck Hunt would go on to have problems of its own...
The vast majority of Nintendo's first party library has seen a re-release on the Virtual Console. Nintendo finally created a digital store in 2006, which is now known as the Eshop. It was first accessible to the Wii and some of the later models of the DS. Nintendo eventually used the Eshop to start releasing retro titles as digital downloads. This has been a big money spinner for Nintendo and has even allowed games that were never released outside of Japan to finally see an official Western release (such as the original version of Super Mario Bros. 2 and Mother).
One notable absentee from these releases was Duck Hunt. The main reason for this has to do with the light gun. The changes in technology meant that the game would need significant alterations before it could be made playable on a modern console (and television, which we will talk about later).
At the end of the Duck Hunt Duo reveal trailer for Smash Bros, Nintendo also announced a port of Duck Hunt for the Wii U. This version of the game allowed a Wiimote to act as a substitute for the light gun. There was one big problem, though. The Wii U version added a target reticle, making the game way too easy. It could be switched off in the menu, but would still appear every time you fired the gun.
After the great video game crash of 1983, there were many people who believed that the home console "craze" was over. In 1985, Nintendo wanted to release the original Nintendo Entertainment System in America. It might seem like a crazy idea now, but they tried to downplay the fact that it was a video game console. Instead, they tried to present it as something far more advanced, that could interact with other toys in your home. This was why the early NES consoles were bundled with a R.O.B toy. R.O.B was quickly abandoned, but the console soon became a big hit.
The most common pack-in game that came with the NES was a cartridge that carried both Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. Later versions of the cartridge contained World Track Meet as a third game. The NES sold over 65 million units over the course of its lifespan. As sales of the pack-in games contribute to the sale of the game overall, this makes Duck Hunt the highest selling light gun game of all time.
The Smash Bros. series tends to keep the complete roster a secret until the game is released. This allows Nintendo to slowly release information and build up as much hype as possible. It is during the run up to a new Smash Bros. that we tend to see a lot of fake leaks. These usually come in the form of photoshopped images of new characters into screenshots of the game.
One of the most famous leaks happened in August of 2014, two months before the release of Smash Bros. for 3DS. Numerous screenshots of the game were leaked onto 4chan, that depicted characters that had yet to be announced. These screenshots revealed the existence of Bowser Jr., Dark Pit, Shulk, and the Duck Hunt Duo. It was later revealed that this leak came from someone within the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), with the information coming from a copy of the game that was awaiting certification.
At the time of the leak, no one believed it. Special attention was given to the fact that the Shulk and Little Mac render were almost identical. A week later, Shulk was revealed through an official trailer. This gave credence to the leaks, though many still didn't believe it.
The most unbelievable part of the leak was considered to be Duck Hunt's inclusion in the game. The fans thought he was too obscure a character to make a comeback. His presence in the game was confirmed when copies of Smash Bros. 3DS were sold a week early in Japan.
In order to ensure that a character has as many options open to them as possible, Nintendo will allow Smash Bros. fighters to use moves from multiple titles within the same series. Princess Zelda appears to be the same character from her Twilight Princess iteration, but she can summon Phantoms from Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass. This is unavoidable with some characters and it usually allows for some extra references to older games.
Duck Hunt Duo is one of a few characters who uses moves from games other than his own. These are sometimes referred to as "Legacy" characters by the fans. Pac-Man can summon items from other arcade games by holding down B. The Villager from Animal Crossing uses a recovery move that is based upon Balloon Fight on the NES.
In Duck Hunt Duo's case, he uses moves from other classic light gun games on the NES. His down+B summons one of the cowboys from Wild Gunman, who will draw their guns and fire as if they are in the old west (and can act as a shield). Duck Hut Duo's regular special attack summons an explosive can from the game Hogan's Alley.
Both the Virtual Console and the Nintendo Classic Mini have made it very easy to play old games on a modern television. Nintendo has done an excellent job of making their games run at the same performance as they did on their native system. They go the extra mile when it comes to accurately reproducing their classic titles on modern consoles.
If you actually still own all of the old games and consoles, then you may not be willing to pay more money to play them. In that case, you better make sure you have a CRT TV to play them on, as your old Super Nintendo won't have an input for an HD cable.
Using an old TV is vitally important when it comes to light gun games. Due to how the sensor in the gun detects light, it will only work on a CRT (cathode ray tube) television. A light gun won't respond when pointed at an HD television. This is why the Wii U version of Duck Hunt was such a godsend, even if it did make the game too easy.
If you were amazingly good at an arcade game, then chances are you would eventually encounter something known as a "Kill Screen". These occurred in games that had levels which seemed to repeat endlessly (like Pac-Man or Donkey Kong). Eventually, the game will reach a number that it cannot process and it will start to glitch out. The game will become unplayable and you will not be able to continue. The game essentially kills you in a manner that you cannot defend against, hence, the name Kill Screen.
Kill screens have been known to appear in console games as well. Duck Hunt is one of the most notorious examples of a Kill Screen on the NES. All of the rounds in the game from levels 1 to 99 work perfectly. When you finish round 99, the game will default back to zero. This is when things get weird...
Level 0 of Duck Hunt will have the ducks flying in bizarre patterns across the screen. Sometimes, they move so fast that you can only catch a brief glimpse of them. The dog will laugh without prompting. He will even laugh on a loop as if the game has been possessed by a ghost, like in some terrible creepypasta.
Duck Hunt is not an easy game. It is one of the earliest examples of a "Nintendo Hard" game. This is why the Virtual Console release is so offensive to fans who struggled with the original. It was possible to cheat the light gun in the original Duck Hunt, by aiming it straight at a lamp or light bulb. This fooled the sensor into thinking you were scoring hits.
What most fans did not realise at the time, was that there was an even harder opponent in Duck Hunt than either the ducks or clay pigeons. If you had a second controller plugged into the NES and there was only one duck on the screen, then another player could control the duck. This was the Dark Souls of its day. Duck Hunt pioneered PvP combat, as you tried to shoot the duck controlled by your wily friend as it looped around the screen.
Duck Hunt is one of the few Nintendo franchises to never have a sequel. While the characters have cameoed in other games & media, Nintendo has never been moved to create a new game in the series. The most obvious time to do it would have been when the Wii was the hottest gaming console in the world. The Wiimote was tailor made for arcade style shooting games. For whatever reason, Nintendo let the chance slip by. We will likely never see another full Duck Hunt game again. The only thing that might change this is the positive reaction to the Duck Hunt Duo's appearance in Smash Bros.
One game on the Wii did have some references to Duck Hunt. Wii Play was a spiritual sequel to Wii Sports. It featured lots of new minigames that used motion controls. One of the games in Wii Play was a target practice mode. This featured a level that looked very similar to the stage from Duck Hunt. You even got to shoot clay pigeons as one of the targets.
The Duck Hunt Dog is a highly recognisable character. This is odd, as he only appeared in two games (Duck Hunt and Vs! Duck Hunt). Despite this, he was chosen for the movie Pixels over numerous other Nintendo characters. He also appeared in the latest Smash Bros. games and was chosen over characters like Simon Belmont, Bomberman, Dixie Kong, or Waluigi. All of whom have starred in more games than him.
One of the few cameo appearances the Duck Hunt Dog made was in a game called Barker Bill's Trick Shooting. This was another NES light gun game that was based around a circus. The dog appears in the intro and even does his trademark laugh. He will show up in some of the levels and fulfil the same role that he performs in Duck Hunt. If you miss, he will laugh at you.
Unlike the original Duck Hunt, Barker Bill's Trick Shooting allows you to shoot the dog in the face!
Australia can take anything and make it terrifying. The spiders there won't just scare you in the shower, they will kill you and use your abdomen as a holiday home. The Magpie is the stuff of whimsy and rhymes in Great Britain. The Australian Magpie is known for swooping down and attacking humans.
This increased terror has spread to the world of video game commercials. When an advertisement was being made for the NES in Australia, it was decided that the children should be scared into buying the system. Nothing entices children quite like the dead-eyed stare of a 3D NES sprite.
In the commercial, a horrifying graphic of a white collar office worker challenges the viewer to try and beat the Nintendo Entertainment System. We are told in turn that "You cannot beat us!". This line is spoken by terrifying 3D interpretations of Bowser, Lakitu, Smick (from Gyromite) and the Duck Hunt Dog. The dog speaks the line as if he is an evil spirit who has been contacted through an Ouija Board.
During the early days of Nintendo, the company weren't shy about using their characters to shill products. Mario and Link sold cereal and lunchboxes on the same shelf as the TMNT. They even starred in their own shoddy (but fondly remembered) cartoons. Since then, Nintendo has become more protective of their properties. This might have something to do with the Super Mario Bros. movie being absolutely terrible and Nintendo wanting to avoid birthing a similar abomination into the world, that carries the face of one of their characters.
Duck Hunt was not covered by this protection, as it featured prominently in a commercial for Eagle Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips. The original Odd Couple (Tony Randall and Jack Klugman) cross over with Duck Hunt in an event that matches the significance of when Spider-Man appeared in Civil War. Jack Klugman loves playing Duck Hunt with one hand while shovelling chips into his mouth with the other. He gets so pissed off by being interrupted by Tony Randall that he banishes him to the realm of Duck Hunt with the aid of his Zapper. The commercial ends with Randall trapped within Duck Hunt... presumably for all eternity.
The one thing that all players of the original Duck Hunt tried to do was shoot the dog. As soon as he started laughing at your failure, the player would inevitably start firing the NES Zapper right at him. This actually became the inspiration for his Smash attack in Smash Bros, as the dog tries to dodge the bullets shot at him by the player. It was one of gaming's oldest urban legends that you could somehow shut the dog up... with a bullet.
While shooting the dog is impossible in the original NES version of Duck Hunt, it is possible in the arcade version of the game!
In 1984, Nintendo released a set of arcade games based upon their NES home console titles. One of these games was an arcade port of Duck Hunt, that was called Vs. Duck Hunt. One of the additions to Vs. Duck Hunt was a bonus round where you had to shoot as many ducks as possible within the time limit. During this round, the dog will start jumping out of the grass, giving you the opportunity to shoot him. He will appear at the end of the round on a pair of crutches, with his leg in a cast and his face all blackened up. The dog will then chastise you for shooting him. It's hard to feel guilty about this after he has just laughed at all of your failures. It stings even more when experienced in the arcades, as you had to pay for the privilege.