Super Smash Bros. for 3DS hits shelves today, which means today also marks the first time in over 30-years the Duck Hunt Dog has played a major role in a game. Duck Hunt may have been a simple game, but in the three decades since its release, it’s become a much-loved cultural touchstone, so what the heck, here are 10 things you might not know about Duck Hunt and its goddamn snickering mascot…
1) Duck Hunt was a remake of a toy Nintendo made before they even got into video games. Yes, one of the first Nintendo games a lot people ever played was a remake, and the thing it was based on wasn’t even a true video game.
Beam Gun: Duck Hunt was a toy Nintendo produced in 1976 before they got into the whole video game thing. The toy projected duck-shaped lights on the walls of a darkened room which you could then shoot with a zapper-like rifle. Here’s a video of the thing in action…
Kind of looks like it’d be more entertaining for cats than human beings, but apparently Beam Gun: Duck Hunt was successful enough that Nintendo decided to revive the idea in video game form eight years later.
2) The toy version of Duck Hunt was a home port of an arcade machine. The Duck Hunt hole goes even deeper. Beam Gun: Duck Hunt was a home conversion of a 1973 arcade experience called The Laser Clay Shooting System.
The Laser Clay Shooting System was a big, elaborate shooting range-like apparatus Nintendo set up in several unused bowling alleys. Basically, the ducks were projected on a large backdrop using an overhead projector and players shot at them with light guns. So, that random little duck shooting game that came packed with your NES was actually the product of over a decade of refinement and experimentation. Also, now you know why Duck Hunt had that kind of boring clay pigeon shooting mode.
3) Duck Hunt was the original NES pack-in game. Most folks think of Super Mario Bros. as the NES pack-in — Duck Hunt was just an extra little oddity Nintendo tagged onto Mario’s cartridge for some reason. Well, when Nintendo first launched the NES in 1985, it didn’t come with Mario. Instead it came with Duck Hunt and Gyromite (a forgettable game that worked with Nintendo’s goofy/loveable robot buddy R.O.B.) So, in other words, more NESes came with Duck Hunt than the iconic Mario.
Gyromite instead of Mario? As usual, the early adopter gets screwed.
4) The creator of the Duck Hunt Dog also created Samus and Wario. Yup, designer Hiroji Kiyotake created the Duck Hunt Dog, badass bounty hunter Samus Aran and the booger obsessed Wario. That’s some impressive range.
Samus and the Duck Hunt Dog have have the same father. DNA works in mysterious ways.
5) The Duck Hunt Dog rode the bench longer than any other Smash Bros. character. The Smash Bros. series has a history of unearthing old, neglected characters, but none had been out of the spotlight for as long as the Duck Hunt Dog. The Dog’s last major starring role was in Duck Hunt, which came out in 1985, which means The Dog spent nearly three decades in the wilderness before getting a spot on the Smash Bros. roster. None of the other characters come even close to having such a long gap in their resumes.
6) Smash Bros. isn’t the only non-Duck Hunt game the Dog has appeared in. The Dog’s last major role may have been Duck Hunt, but he’s made a few cameos in non-duck shooting games. The Dog made an appearance in Barker Bill’s Trick Shooting, a super obscure 1990 NES game based on an equally obscure cartoon show from the 1950s. Yeah, I’d never heard of it either. The Dog also showed his smug face in the DS version of Tetris.
7) Trying to shoot the ducks from too close is actually shooting yourself in the foot. Anybody who’s ever played Duck Hunt has, from time to time, tried to game the system by holding the Zapper a half-inch from the TV screen while shooting, but it turns out that particular “cheat” can actually make the game harder.
To understand why that is, you have to know how games like Duck Hunt work. The Zapper doesn’t actually shoot or project anything — the gun is actually a reciever, and it’s your TV that’s sending a message.
Captain N was lying to you.
Basically, when you pull the trigger, the TV turns black, then a white square where the duck was pops up over the black background. Inside the muzzle of the Zapper is a light sensor, and if the gun is pointed in the right direction, it will pick up the bright white square contrasted against the black background and count a hit. This all happens so fast it’s barely perceptible by the human eye.
So, if you have the gun right up against the screen, you pretty much have to have the muzzle directly over the duck for the shot to count. On the other hand, if you sit back as far as the Zapper’s cord will allow, the sensor’s view of the screen will be much wider, so you really only have to aim for the right general quandrant of the screen for the shot to count. So yes, that’s why your brother sitting on the couch and barely aiming always got a better score than you did sweating it out a foot away from a hot TV screen.
8) Japan’s version of the Zapper is friggin’ badass. Speaking of the Zapper, did you know the Japanese version was a crazy, realistic-looking Dirty Harry revolver?
Why is everything in Japan better?
Go ahead, make my day, ducks.
9) It’s impossible to go beyond Round 100, no matter how good you are. You know your elementary school friend who claimed he got to Round 1000 on Duck Hunt? Turns out he was lying. If you make it to Round 100, a glitch is triggered, crashing the game every time.
10) There’s a version of Duck Hunt where you can shoot the Dog. Shooting the Duck Hunt Dog is one of the all-time classic video game urban legends. Every kid knew of a special, elaborate way to do it or claimed they totally, 100% accidentally shot the Dog once. Unfortunately it’s been proven impossible in the NES version most of us played.
Ah, but there was another version of Duck Hunt. In the rarely seen arcade game Vs. Duck Hunt you could shoot the Dog during the game’s bonus round.
Unfortunately shooting the Dog immediately got you booted from the bonus round, but come on, putting one between that chuckling bastard’s eyes was more than worth missing out on a few extra points.
So there you have it — a few things you might not have known about the first FPS a lot of us ever played. Got any treasured Duck Hunt memories or facts of your own? Feel free to share ’em below!
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