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The Untold Truth Of Duck Hunt

For kids growing up in the '80s and '90s, Nintendo was the pinnacle of entertainment. While other games were still in high demand, there was no question that Nintendo dominated the scene. And even though most people automatically associate Mario with the early years of Nintendo, there was an iconic character who came before him. Or, in a way, two characters. Even though they have no official names, The Duck and The Dog from Nintendo's Duck Hunt, are some of the oldest characters on the roster.


While Mario went on to have numerous sequels and re-imaginings over the years, The Duck and The Dog were sadly left behind in the shadows. Both characters made many cameos in other games, movies, and even commercials, but Duck Hunt never got the same attention and promotion that Mario did. With the emergence of a new virtual Duck Hunt game, and the inclusion of the sometimes frustrating duo in Super Smash Bros. 4, interest in Duck Hunt is higher than it's been in years. But there's still a lot that people don't know about the history of this classic game.

There's a horror VR game based on Duck Hunt

When most gamers think of Duck Hunt, they think of fond, if not slightly frustrating, memories associated with playing the game as a kid. Survival horror isn't necessarily the first thing to come to mind. But for a new generation of gamers, Duck Hunt may hold a scary place in their hearts. In 2017, Stress Level Zero released an indie horror VR game called Duck Season. Nodding to the classic Duck Hunt in not-so-subtle ways, Duck Season shows a darker side of this otherwise lighthearted game.


In Duck Season, gamers play as a young boy playing his favorite video game in the '80s. While the game isn't explicitly called Duck Hunt, there's no question what the game is supposed to represent. And while many gamers in the '80s wished they could shoot the pesky dog, who mocks you when you fail, this VR game lets you do just that. Unfortunately, there are dire consequences for shooting the dog. With seven different endings and an abundance of jumpscares and blood splatters, Duck Season does a perfect job of ruining Duck Hunt for old and new gamers alike.

The Dog and Duck enjoy making cameos

Even though The Duck and The Dog from Duck Hunt weren't in their own video game for nearly 30 years, that hasn't stopped them from making appearances in every other type of media. This infamous duo has appeared in everything from movies, to commercials, to other games they don't star in. And while it took far too long for a new Duck Hunt game to be released, your Duck Hunt needs could still be satisfied by their random cameos.


In the 2015 Adam Sandler movie Pixels, the Duck and Dog made a cameo as one of the prizes awarded to Earth from the aliens launching a gaming invasion. In Super Smash Bros. 4, the team was announced as being on the roster, though many gamers thought it was a hoax initially. The two have even appeared in a commercial for Eagle Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips. Even though it took them so long to get another main title game, the Duck and Dog made sure their presence was still known in pop culture.

Your old gun won't work with a new TV

With the inclusion of the Duck Hunt characters in Super Smash Bros. 4, many gamers had the sudden urge to dust off their old Nintendo Zapper Gun and play the original game. Unfortunately for most people, this nostalgia fest isn't possible with modern technology, which wasn't compatible with the original peripheral


In the original Duck Hunt, gamers were playing their games on CRT TVs. The technology used in the gun relied on an imperceptible delay that occurred when the trigger was pulled. The TV screen would then become completely white with black boxes representing where the ducks had been at the time the trigger was pulled. This allowed the gun, which was actually a receiver, to assess whether or not it was pointed at one of the black boxes at the right time. Unfortunately, with HDTVs, this delay no longer exists, which means the timing of this process no longer works for the Nintendo Zapper Gun. At least new technology in the gaming world today makes almost everything else better.

You can shoot The Dog

Anyone who played Duck Hunt growing up can tell you that the snickering Dog, who makes fun of you every time you miss a duck, is a childhood trauma that isn't likely to go away soon. The smug look was enough to make him public enemy number one in the gaming world of the '80s. Unfortunately for young gamers everywhere, there was no way to take out your revenge on the judgemental canine. That is, until VS Duck Hunt.


VS Duck Hunt was an arcade version of the popular shooting game. On one particular level of VS Duck Hunt, players had the ability to shoot The Dog, whose cynical jeers had haunted them for so long. Because this was a family friendly game, The Dog didn't die when you shot him. Instead, he would hobble out to the middle of the screen on crutches with a bandaged head and proceed to yell at you. The Dog very adamantly reminded the player that they were supposed to shoot the ducks and not him. It may have been a small gesture, but it was a satisfying inclusion for frustrated gamers everywhere.

Duck Hunt is one of the longest neglected Nintendo titles

The Duck and The Dog from Duck Hunt are some of the earliest characters in the Nintendo lineup. They've been around since the beginning and should have arguably been just as popular as Mario. Of course, The Duck and The Dog didn't end up getting tons of sequels the way everyone's favorite plumber did. In fact, The Duck and The Dog are some of the most neglected Nintendo characters, going almost thirty years with no major role.


Because of this long-standing exclusion from Nintendo's core lineup, it was a pleasant surprise when the two characters were announced as part of the Super Smash Bros. 4 lineup. The characters were something of a mystery to younger gamers, but bringing them into the eyes of the community again after such a long absence opened the door for new Duck Hunt games to be introduced. Even though their inclusion in modern gaming has been a long time coming, we can be happy that it happened at all.

Duck Hunt started out in old bowling alleys

When most gamers think of Duck Hunt, they think of it as one of the earliest NES titles. But many people don't realize that Duck Hunt didn't start out on the NES at all. Back in 1973, Nintendo released the Laser Clay Shooting System. While it's similar to the Duck Hunt we all know and love today, this original game took up a lot more space than the compact NES. 


Nintendo bought out several abandoned bowling alleys in the '70s when the sport fell out of fashion. They then turned these bowling alleys into shooting galleries. With the Laser Clay Shooting System, images of clay pigeons were projected onto the wall and customers would use the light guns to shoot the targets. Reflective receptors would then register when gamers managed to land a shot. This original version of the game was called Beam Gun: Duck Hunt and effectively laid the groundwork for the console version.

The technology used in the Nintendo Zapper Gun was invented in the 1930s

Duck Hunt and the Nintendo Zapper Gun may seem like ancient technology in a world of rapidly evolving gadgets, but the science behind them goes even further back than the '70s. The Nintendo Zapper Gun actually uses technology that originated in the 1930s, when a jukebox creator decided to apply their science to another type of entertainment.


In 1936, the Seeburg Ray-O-Lite duck shooting game was born. Because of the introduction of an "electric eye light sensing vacuum tube" in the early 1930s, the Seeburg company decided to think outside the box and explore possible applications other than jukeboxes. With this, they were able to create a shooting game inlaid into a system that resembled a jukebox. The light sensing technology that the Nintendo Zapper Gun uses is the same technology these Seeburg Ray-O-Lite games used, though the tech was fine-tuned for Nintendo's projects. And while the 1930s don't exactly scream "pinnacle of gaming technology," it's impressive that Seeburg was able to create such an advanced gaming system with the limited resources available at the time.


You can't beat level 100

Young gamers in the '80s can attest to the fact that games in those days were often more difficult to beat. Because game developers didn't have the ability to make games with 40 hours of solid gameplay material, they had to instead create games that took several tries to finish. Because of this, Duck Hunt also included a failsafe way to ensure you never actually won the game.


After beating level 99 in Duck Hunt, gamers discovered that it was impossible for them to actually progress any further. Once you get into the 100th level, the ducks become erratic and unpredictable. The level itself almost seems to be glitching as ducks appear and disappear at random. This "glitch" prevents players from actually being able to beat level 100 which, of course, means that The Dog wins in the end no matter what you do.

Duck Hunt is a two-player game

When you think back to playing the original Duck Hunt as a kid, most nostalgic people remember it as a one-player game. After all, there was only one gun included with the system. But eagle-eyed players found that in the game manual, an option for a second player was included. In the modern era, the the two-player option was brought into the spotlight from an unlikely source. 


In September of 2018, actor and comedian Seth Rogen tweeted something that blew gamers' minds. He told the internet that their beloved Duck Hunt was actually a two-player game. The gun, of course, shot the ducks, but if you plugged in a standard controller, your friend could actually control the duck. This astonishing revelation came to Rogen when he sat on the controller as a child and the duck on the screen continually flew into the corner. Even if the revelation did come 30 years too late, it's still an interesting find.

The Japanese version of Duck Hunt had a realistic pistol

It's no secret that games released in the United States are often different than those released overseas. While most changes are small, others are more noticeable. The US version of Duck Hunt released in 1984 included a Zapper Gun that was bright orange, like most toy guns sold there.


The result of this cultural difference was a drastically different gun being included in the Japanese version of Duck Hunt. Instead of an obvious toy, gamers would use a replica of a handheld pistol to do their shooting. Additionally, the pistol itself looked relatively realistic. With this difference in mind, the Japanese version of the game is a fun collector's item for any game enthusiast.

Duck Hunt set the stage for the Wii

Nintendo has pioneered gaming technology in a number of ways. The Switch, for example, is a revolutionary piece of equipment. And even though the concept of motion capture sensors wasn't exactly new, the Wii still utilized that technology in a unique way that brought new possibilities to the gaming world.


Similarly, the technology behind Duck Hunt was not only revolutionary at the time, but it also paved the way for some of Nintendo's later successful projects. The Laser Clay Shooting System introduced the idea of gaming with accessories other than the standard console controller. It also showed the success it was possible to gain by thinking outside the box and getting people more involved in gaming. These things combined with the technology needed for the Zapper Gun made the Wii a natural step in Nintendo's progression.

The new virtual game is much easier than the original

Longtime fans of Duck Hunt were thrilled when it was announced that there would be a new virtual version of the game. But excitement soon turned into annoyance: where the original Duck Hunt relied on the player's ability to take aim at the ducks with absolutely zero help, the newest version automatically defaults to including crosshairs on the screen to show players where they're aiming. Because of this, the game is much easier and thus isn't a perfect replica of the original. 


Though the crosshairs can be removed in the options menu, the default setting has them appear on the screen. With this default in place, those who didn't play the original Duck Hunt will likely assume the game has always been this easy. Kids today! They'll never know the struggle.