In anticipation of the release of Capcom and WayForward’s DuckTales Remastered next week, oprainfall is bringing you reviews of three classic Disney titles. Back in the 90s, Disney entrusted Capcom with making games for many of their most popular franchises. The titles varied in quality from game to game; when they were bad, they pretty bad, but when they were good, oh boy but were they good.
First up, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers on the NES.
|Title||Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
|Release Date||June 1990|
Anyone who’s been alive at any point in the last 70 years probably knows about Chip and Dale, the two adorable chipmunks who first made their debut in Disney cartoons all the way back in the 1940s. Back in the 90s, Disney made a strong push to put out several different cartoons to appeal to the day’s youths, including DuckTales, Goof Troop, TailSpin and Darkwing Duck, to name just a few. Chip and Dale received this treatment, as well, with the series Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. The show followed the adventures of the two chipmunks, as well as the brainy inventor, Gadget, the cheese-obsessed Monterey Jack and the spunky fly, Zipper. Their mission was to help others in any way they could; rescuing other animals, saving children from peril, and battling their arch nemesis, Fat Cat.
The first of two games based off the show was released on the NES in 1990. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is an action-platformer in which the titular chipmunks must rescue Gadget, who has been captured by Fat Cat. The game features some solid platforming, as well as combat that is easy to pick up, but can challenge even veteran gamers from time to time.
At the beginning of the game, players can choose to play as either Chip or Dale. The differences between the two of them are purely cosmetic, so the choice comes down to personal preference. In the beginning, enemies are fairly forgiving, allowing players a little time to react before attacking.
Players fight by throwing the plentiful boxes, blocks, and apples scattered about each level. Each type of object acts differently when thrown. Standard boxes can be thrown horizontally or straight up, and bounce off screen after hitting an enemy. Gray blocks fall immediately in front of the player after being released, allowing them to be reused as necessary, and for the purpose of stacking to reach higher ground. Apples are heavier, making jumping more difficult, but will continue through enemies after being thrown. Players can also hide inside the boxes they’re carrying, defeating any enemy that comes into contact with them.
The game’s cast of enemies is borrowed mainly from the cartoon. Old fans of the show may recognize memorable enemies, such as mechanical dogs and mice, shape-shifting aliens and a giant multi-armed robot that serves as the game’s first boss.
The other Rescue Rangers make brief appearances throughout the game, though their involvement is minimal. Zipper can be found in crates in certain levels, and, once freed, will grant invulnerability for a short time while also attacking any enemies onscreen. Though Gadget is in the clutches of Fat Cat for most of the game, she still makes an appearance in-between levels to offer advice, such as solutions to puzzles and what enemies to expect ahead. Monterey Jack also makes a few brief appearances when players reveal cheese hidden in certain crates. When the cheese comes out, Monty will suddenly appear, and open the way to the next area.
It’s an interesting idea, but it ultimately falls flat. This door-opening mechanic is only utilized a few times during the game, and only in empty rooms that could have otherwise been cut altogether. I feel like the same mechanic could have been used to break through lines of enemies or push objects for puzzles. The way it is now, it feels like a missed opportunity.
Chip ‘n Dale’s stages feature many environments seen in several other games, including alleys, forests, sewers and stores. The difference between those games and Chip ‘n Dale is that they’re all played from the perspective of a chipmunk. Everything is oversized from the player’s point of view. In the first level, for instance, players start off in an alleyway, fighting past enemies, all of which seems fairly straightforward. Eventually, however, a climb up a pole has Chip and/or Dale walking on the power lines high above the stage, dodging exposed wires and flying enemies not seen down on the ground. In other levels, certain objects become threats that would go ignored by larger characters. Water spouts and pots of boiling water become dangerous traps for the chipmunks, and children’s playthings, like a jack-in-the-box in an otherwise harmless toy store, become hazardous foes. As such, Chip ‘n Dale helps players see some standard game environments in a different light, with obstacles and enemies that players might not consider threats under normal circumstances.
Chip ‘n Dale is fairly bare bones in its gameplay. The only collectables in the game are flower tokens and stars. These are necessary to obtain more lives. 100 flowers collected will cause a 1-up star to appear onscreen. Finding 20 stars automatically nets the player another life. These totals are cut in half during a multiplayer game. There is also very little to be had in terms of power ups. Aside from healing items, the only (rare) power up is a P-Bottle, which negates the jumping penalty when carrying apples. This isn’t necessarily a strike against the game, however. It stands as more of a test of players’ platforming abilities, without the security of your Fire Flowers, Screw Attacks or Smart Bombs. Even so, it helps that the game sports some incredibly tight and responsive controls. Chip and Dale move at a brisk pace, and there’s no sliding or windup when moving or jumping.
What could be seen as a strike against the game, however, is the disparity in difficulty between the single player and multiplayer modes in the game. In the two-player mode, the game is downright charming. Two players working together can get through the game quite easily. If one player runs out of health or falls down a pit, they will be revived on the spot a few seconds later. This is not so when going it alone. If the player is defeated when playing solo, they are sent back to the beginning of the area through which they are currently playing. This is especially frustrating in some of the game’s stages, which can be fairly large. It doesn’t matter how well you have progressed up to that point, one misstep or lucky hit from an enemy sends you barreling back to the beginning of the area, forcing you to work through it all again. Fortunately, the game is fairly forgiving in the early levels if players are alert and methodical in their advancement. This can allow them to amass a large supply of lives for the later stages, which can become frustrating or downright cheap near the very end.
The two-player mode isn’t all gumdrops and rainbows, however. Having two players means that twice as many projectiles will be flying around the screen. While players can’t deal damage to each other with their thrown objects, being hit by one will stun either chipmunk for a couple seconds. Naturally, this will leave the afflicted player open to attack from nearby enemies. Additionally, players will be able to pick up their co-op partner and carry them around. They can also be thrown around, though there is no tactical advantage to this, as throwing a partner does not defeat enemies, and only serves to damage the thrown character. Plus, if your partner is feeling particularly sadistic, he can easily throw you to your doom down a pit, leaving you virtually no means to stop him. As such, success in the multiplayer mode relies greatly on cooperation and communication.
The game’s map also seems to be unnecessary. With the exception of a few optional forks in the road, there is only one actual path to advance to the end of the game. Players seeking the quickest path to the end will be able to skip a handful of levels completely, and, aside from the possibility of accumulating more lives, there’s really no incentive to play through them, except maybe for completionists who want to experience the full game. However, even the most dedicated players will find themselves finishing this game in under two hours. Players will cross the finish line even sooner if they skip the unnecessary stages. The way the game plays out, they probably could have just cut the illusion of choice that the map gives, and had players go through each level in succession.
It may sound like there’s a lot going against Chip ‘n Dale, but these really are some very minor details. The game’s strength comes from its top-notch platforming, which I can’t praise enough. Plus, just about all of the music in the game is also a joy to listen to. Everything from the 8-bit rendition of the show’s theme song to the final stage (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=u0EnL4M1jjE) (which I think would be right at home in a Mega Man game) is a pleasure to hear, and sets the mood of each level well.
Despite a few flaws in design, I would recommend Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. At times, it can be a frustrating experience when played alone, but careful and skilled players will be able to complete the game without too much heartache. However, I feel the best way to play the game is with a friend. It eliminates one of the key arguments against the game, and is a great example of cooperative play seen in the early days of Nintendo.
Next up: Disney’s Aladdin