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Gamer Tuesday

November 8, 2011

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights: Donald Duck

Developed by: Kemco

System: Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System

Licensing in the video game world can be kind of tricky. Sometimes, the owner of the license will give the developer enough freedom to create a game based on it. But in other occasions, the owner will be very strict and supervise the creation of the game so it meets expectations. In the worst case scenario, the game developer loses the rights to the license, forcing them to re-think the original game concept. Such is the case with today's game: Donald Duck.

Developed by Kemco and released for the Nintendo Family Computer in Japan, Donald Duck is a mini-game collection title based on various Olympic/Field Day events. Playing as Donald and competing with Daisy Duck, players take on events such as the sack race, a pizza stacking game, and a wall jumping competition. Huey, Louie, and Dewey also join in the fun as helpers during the events.

Donald Duck is a very simple game: perhaps a little too simple. With no real storyline besides the 'Donald goes to Italy and plays on different sporting events' concept and a limited amount of mini-games, it comes as no surprise that the game has remained so obscure for so many years. I didn't even hear of the game until I was looking up info on classic Disney games.

But it turns out that I HAD played the game before, just under a different title and franchise. This is where the tricky concepts of licensing come into play. Kemco was hoping to bring Donald Duck to North America as a Nintendo Entertainment System title. Apparently, in the process of renewing the game's license, Kemco lost the rights to Donald Duck.

Another explanation as to why the game was changed during the localization is that at the time, Capcom had the exclusive rights to the Disney name, and they were in the process of releasing many Disney games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. So in order to release the game here, they had two options: either re-invent the game as a new franchise, or acquire a new license to headline the game. Kemco chose the latter.

Instead of playing as Disney's Donald Duck and friends, North American players saw the Peanuts gang grace the cover of the game. Donald Duck was now known as Snoopy's Silly Sports Spectacular. Donald was replaced with Snoopy, Daisy was now Snoopy's brother, and Woodstock was the friendly helping hand. The mini-games and the overall game's concept remained the same as in the original Japanese release. It just had a change in franchise.


As you can see, a game's journey of localization and licensing is one filled with many hurdles to overcome. Kemco's Donald Duck started out as a bonafide Disney game, but many circumstances prevented it from being seen by the entire world as a Disney game. Now, it is a game many remember for being a quirky Peanuts/Snoopy effort.


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