The Duck Hunt universe (ダックハント, Duck Hunt) refers to the Smash Bros. collection of characters and properties that hail from Nintendo's classic NES game Duck Hunt, released in 1984. After minor representation in previous instalments, Duck Hunt received its first major representation with the introduction of a character trio of the same name in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. In Smash Bros., several other games based around the NES Zapper, including as Wild Gunman and Hogan's Alley, are also considered to be a part of the Duck Hunt universe.
In Nintendo's product timeline, the years prior to the development and release of the first Game & Watch titles in 1980 included a focus on electronic shooting simulations in which customers would fire mock rifles at targets projected against backdrops by overhead projectors, and whether the images were registered as struck were determined by a mechanism based on reflections. Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi had invested billions of yen in a project dubbed the "Laser Clay Shooting System", with Gunpei Yokoi and Genyo Takeda among the assistants to the development process, and had it set up in deserted bowling alleys throughout Japan. Though this product was on track for success, an oil crisis in 1973 resulted in the cancellation of nearly all of the system's orders in anticipation of a nationwide economic recession. Nintendo enacted a campaign to begin paying off five billion yen in debt - an effort which lasted over seven years - during which Yamauchi proceeded to develop a cheaper version of the light gun shooting simulation concept that was presented in the form of electro-mechanical arcade machines, the "Mini Laser Clay System", as well as enact a separate project to bring shooting simulations into homes, the "Nintendo Beam Gun Series". Among the titles in this latter series was a product titled Duck Hunt, released in 1976, in which the projected targets being shot down were depicted as flying ducks.
Eight years later, after Nintendo had established itself in Japan as the dominant leader in the home video game console market in the wake of the 1983 North American video game recession, Nintendo introduced an electronic light gun peripheral for the Famicom, which operated by detecting whether it was pointed at a bright spot onscreen that only appeared momentarily each time the trigger was pulled. The first Famicom title to support this device, Wild Gunman, was an NES remake of one of Yokoi's Mini Laser Clay System products, and likewise, Duck Hunt also received an adaptation as a Famicom title with support for the light gun. When the Famicom was launched in North America in 1985 as the Nintendo Entertainment System, the accompanying equivalent to the light gun, the NES Zapper, and its three supported launch titles - Duck Hunt, Wild Gunman, and Hogan's Alley - were, as much as the R.O.B. unit launched simultaneously, an ingredient in Nintendo's ploy to sell the NES to wary western markets as more of a "multi-functioned toy" with compatible peripherals than a typical cartridge-based console. To some extent, Duck Hunt helped the NES revolutionize the world video game market by virtue of being a memorable showpiece for the system and the capabilities of the overall video games concept, despite critics noting that it quickly became repetitive to play. Duck Hunt was subsequently included with Super Mario Bros. in a compilation cartridge that was a pack-in with an NES console in a configuration called the Action Set; this cartridge is a very easily-available collector's item in the United States.
In the NES edition of Duck Hunt, the player must point the connected NES Zapper at a total of ten ducks that fly haphazardly onscreen above a grassy meadow and pull the trigger to shoot them for points. In different Game A and Game B modes, the ducks appear either one at a time or in pairs, respectively, with a second player being able to control the movement of the duck in the Game A mode with a normal controller; in either mode, the player only has a total of three shots to down each set of ducks. Shooting all ten ducks in a given "round" gives a large point bonus, and proceeding to the next round increases the speed of the ducks and the minimum number of ducks required to be shot in order to proceed to the round beyond that. There is technically no limit to the number of rounds that can be progressed through, though after round 99, the game will glitch and eventually end on its own. The cartridge also includes an unrelated "Game C" mode that simulates the sport of clay pigeon shooting. In a 1984 arcade edition titled VS. Duck Hunt (part of the Nintendo VS. System of coin-operated platforms in the late 1980s), two players holding two separate light guns competed for the number of ducks/clay pigeons successfully shot, with each player losing a life for each target that they fail to hit; the game ended once a player lost all of their lives.
The NES version and its VS. arcade counterpart feature a character depicted as a cartoon-style hunting dog that enthusiastically jumps into the tall grass at the start of a given round, wherein it proceeds to panic the resident ducks into flying out into the open for the player to shoot. As a method of keeping score, the dog will pop out of the grass to hold up each duck that is successfully shot down, but more infamously, whenever the player fails to shoot a single duck, the dog will emerge out of the grass giggling at the player with a digitized laughing sound effect. The "Laughing Dog" has since endeared itself both as a video game icon and as a meme, both for the intended, unabashed annoyance element and the idea that a dog would be confident enough to laugh smugly at a likely-frustrated human with a loaded rifle. Many have been entertained by the urban legend of "shooting the Duck Hunt Dog", which was, in fact, possible in the Vs. edition, where in a bonus segment that took place after every two rounds, the dog occasionally jumped out of the grass as the player shot at the ducks flying out. Shooting the dog in this circumstance immediately ended the bonus stage. The dog made a similarly vulnerable cameo appearance in the NES Zapper game Barker Bill's Trick Shooting. Twenty-four years later, the dog reemerged as a surprise playable character in the fighting game Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, as a similarly "retro" Nintendo character choice as the Ice Climbers.
List of games in the Duck Hunt series
- Duck Hunt (1984, NES)
The ducks appear as a random trophy.
The duck appears as a random sticker.
Duck Hunt receives larger representation with a single new playable character and a stage in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.
- Duck Hunt: The dog, the off-screen hunter, and one of the ducks from the NES game Duck Hunt appear as a single unlockable character. The dog's main role is to provide the team's mobility, but engages opponents directly with some attacks, such as their jabs, grabs and throws, and neutral aerial. The dog also initiates three of their special attacks. The duck provides most of Duck Hunt's actual attacks and their recovery, Duck Jump. Lastly, the hunter assists with their smash attacks and two of their specials. Duck Hunt's Standard Special Move is Trick Shot, where the dog kicks out a can from Hogan's Alley that explodes if an opponent touches it. Duck Hunt's Side Special Move, Clay Shooting, has the dog throwing a clay disk, which then the off-screen gunman can shoot. For Duck Hunt's Down Special Move, Wild Gunman, an 8-bit gunmen from Wild Gunman gets summoned to fire a single shot. Duck Hunt's Final Smash has the trio capturing their opponents in a flock of 8-bit ducks and placing them in the middle of a shoot-out between a gang from Wild Gunman and the Hogan's Alley crew in a cinematic similar to Captain Falcon's Final Smash.
- Duck Hunt: A stage based off of the original game Duck Hunt for the NES featured in both versions of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U (albeit being added to Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS via update 1.1.1). It is available in 8-Player Smash.
- Duck Hunt Medley: A medley which remixes the title jingle, round start jingle, good shot jingle, and the round clear jingle. In addition, sound effects from the game such as gunshots, quacks, and the dog's infamous laugh can be heard in their original forms at certain points of the song. It plays on the Duck Hunt stage.
- Victory! Duck Hunt Series: A remix of the beginning tune heard when starting a level in Duck Hunt.
Wii U Version
- NES Zapper Posse
- Clay Pigeon