Yesterday saw the release of Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix in Japan. And as I plunged into the graphically remastered Disney/Square-Enix crossover, I couldn't help but think about the one thing the franchise needs more than anything else: more Scrooge McDuck.
The richest duck in the world is no stranger to the Kingdom Hearts series. His first appearance was back in Kingdom Hearts II as a minor side character where he is attempting to set up an ice cream shop and recreate the lost "sea-salt" ice cream flavor—and reap the monetary benefits, of course.
In the prequel game, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, he had an expanded role where he unlocks one of the subsequent worlds for the player characters. He also threatens a giant monster with his cane.
While unvoiced in his first appearance, he was voiced by Scrooge's longtime voice actor Alan Young in BBS—which pretty much makes Birth by Sleep the best game in the series by default.
Best of all is his backstory in the Kingdom Hearts multiverse. Not content with simply being the richest Duck in one world, Scrooge sets out to travel to the Disney worlds, set up a transit system between those worlds, and to create a multiworld business empire. His story is DuckTales meets Sliders. Now that is a Kingdom Hearts game I would play: Scrooge McDuck, going from Disney world to Disney world, gaining mythical treasures and beating villains with his clever mind and hard wooden cane. After all, it worked pretty well on the global scale.
But what is it about an elderly cartoon duck that so tickles my nostalgic yearnings and those of so many like me. To explain my strong feelings toward Scrooge McDuck, we must look toward the mythical time known only as "the 80s."
Growing up, DuckTales was easily my favorite show. My parents recorded every episode off of TV and I watched the cassettes ad infinitum. It starred Scrooge, his nephews Huey, Dewy, and Louie, and an ever-expanding cast of allies and villains. As a child, it was fun and adventurous. It taught me about teamwork and the value of brains over brawn. Culturally, it introduced me to everything from Shakespeare and the Odyssey to classic monster movies and James Bond—though I didn't know that at the time.
But as an adult, Scrooge is an even more profound character, especially as seen in the award-winning graphic novel The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. He is a character who, despite starting out pure and honest, is beaten down by the world around him. Little by little his innocence turns to cynicism—something anyone over the age of 25 is no doubt familiar with. Yet, through brains, perseverance, and pure willpower he eventually surpasses his countless failures and achieves his goal to be the richest duck in the world. But sadly, all this comes at the cost of losing everything he had when he started toward that goal—including his family.
So Scrooge becomes an anger-filled recluse and finds joy only in tormenting the world that made him what he is. Yet, after a mean-spirited joke—involving Donald, the nephews, a cabin, and a bear costume—that went horribly wrong, Scrooge finds himself with something he was sure he had lost: a family. And along with them comes the return of passion in his life.
Once again he finds himself invigorated and passionate about making money, seeking treasure, and going on adventures. Only now, in the twilight years of his life, they are all the more sweet because, unlike in his youth, he has someone to share the adventures with.
The parable of Scrooge McDuck is a tale filled with morals: It's never too late to change the bad things about yourself. You're never too old to do what you love. It's okay to be passionate about things—be that the acquisition of wealth or a love of games—as long as you temper your passions with connections to the real world. And perhaps most profound: life is an adventure that's best shared.
The older I get, the more these maxims ring true.
So when I see Scrooge pop up in Kingdom Hearts, I don't see a cartoon duck from my childhood. I see a role model that I hope to emulate as I continue to grow older. Because honestly, I know if I spend my twilight years having even the most mundane of adventures with those dearest to me, I will have truly "won" this game we call life.
(Bonus points will be awarded if these adventures involve my flying around the world and beating enemies with my cane.)