Duck Hunt – Retrospective

History of Duck Hunt

If you’re a retro gamer, you’re no doubt familiar with the retro classic Duck Hunt. In the U.S, it was a launch title for the NES in 1985 and was based on an electronic toy called Beam Gun: Duck Hunt, released in 1976. Originally a Vs. Arcade game, Duck Hunt found its way into the homes and hearts of gamers everywhere thanks to its simple pick up and play premise, a hallmark of this era of videogames.

How to Play

Controlled entirely with the Nintendo Zapper, the objective of the game is to shoot one or two ducks as they appear on screen by aiming and pulling the trigger on the Zapper. Players have the choice of three game modes: Single Duck Mode, Two Duck Mode, and a Clay Pigeon Mode. The player has three shots to shoot down one or two ducks and receives points for each successful shot. After ten ducks, players could progress to the next round if they hit the minimum number of ducks required. If they failed, they were met with the game over screen. As the player got further throughout the game, it became more difficult by increasing target speed and the minimum number of successful hits required to continue.

The Zapper and How It Works

But what kind of technology allowed this to be possible? There were no extra peripherals required to make the NES Zapper function with a CRT TV. Many players are familiar with the Nintendo Wii Remote and how it works using an infrared sensor bar, but the Zapper requires no such thing. You simply plug it in to the console as you would any other controller and it knows where you’re aiming with startling accuracy! The technology is quite impressive and clever- When the player pulls the trigger on the gun, the entire screen goes black for 1/60th of a second (known as a “frame”). On the next frame, all potential targets (the ducks in this case) flash bright white while the screen remains dark. During this time, the zapper detects if any of the targets are within the zappers hit zone via a light diode in the barrel and then determines which one was hit based on how long the target flashed for and how long it took for the light to reach the diode in the Zapper. Next time you play Duck Hunt at Outer Limits, you may notice this flash which many people simply believed was a simulated muzzle flash! This technique also allowed Duck Hunt to be played near light bulbs and prevented players from cheating by pointing at a bright light. This is the same reason why the NES Zapper will only work with old CRT TVs and not common HDTV flatscreens you see today, as HDTVs have what is known as “input lag” which is the time difference between a signal input (pressing the trigger) and the result of that input displaying on the screen (the flash, and subsequent hit of the duck).

The Dog and Revenge…

But out of everything from Duck Hunt, how many of you remember this loveable(?) creature?

This is the affable/infuriating Duck Hunt Dog (or simply “Dog” in many official Duck Hunt media) and he is probably the most iconic figure in the Duck Hunt series. Dog accompanies the player in Game Mode A and B. He’ll either cheer for the player if they shoot the ducks successfully, or more infamously, he’ll laugh if the player fails to shoot a single a duck. Don’t you wish there was something you could do to wipe that smug look off his face?

Give the dog the taste of his own medicine in Duck Season! Newly introduced at Outer Limits Virtual Reality, Duck Season is the newest game from the developers at Stress Level Zero who have aimed to revive the timeless NES classic. But it comes with a twist. Who knows what that dog will do next if you do decide to exact your revenge on him…

Relive the glory of Duck Hunt in our Memory Lane or try Duck Season at Outer Limits today! Call or book online to reserve your time and ensure your game time! Outer Limits staff recommends at least one hour of play time to fully experience a complete playthrough of Duck Season.

This Retrospective was brought to your by our resident Video Game Historian and Ground Control team member Thomas Haydel.