Friday, 26 August 2016

Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers (NES)

Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers NES title screen
Developer:Capcom|Release Date:1991 (90 in Japan and NA)|Systems:NES

This week on Super Adventures, I'm celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Super Nintendo by playing a NES game!

Nah, not really. The SNES didn't come out where I live until 1992 so I've got nothing to celebrate yet. A NES game showing up on Super Adventures is kind of an event in itself though, because for whatever reason I haven't played one since way back in April. Of last year.

In the West this came out a few months after Super Mario Bros. 3 and a few months before the Super Nintendo, so I expect the developers likely knew what they were doing by this point (especially as it's made by Capcom!) But it's one of those games that's managed to slip by me entirely, so I've no idea what it's like or even what people think of it.

In fact I'm fairly sure I've never seen an episode of the Chip 'n Dale cartoon either, though if you showed me a picture of the characters I'd recognise it instantly. I'll even be able tell you which of them's Chip and which is Dale in a minute as the game starts off by asking me who I want to play as.



The game has a bit of an intro cutscene to it, though it's more like an intro painting as the characters are frozen in their frame. It turns out that their cute little neighbour Mandy has lost her kitten so the Rescue Rangers are on the case!

Am I the only one getting a Dragon Warrior vibe from this? I keep expecting my battle commands to appear.

I think I can take them. Wow, I just noticed that the games both have leaning exclamation marks. That's got to be the least interesting observation I've ever made!

Somehow I doubt that Chip 'n Dale is going to be an animal rescue RPG though, mostly because every single cartoon tie-in from this era was a platformer. Seriously, let's look through the last ten from my site and see if a pattern emerges:

Inspector Gadget - Platformer
Gargoyles - Platformer
G.I. Joe - Platformer
Hurricanes - Platformer
Biker Mice from Mars - Racing
James Bond Jr. - Platformer/Shoot 'em Up
The Adventures of Batman & Robin - Platformer
The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare - I don't even know.
Tom & Jerry - Platformer
Cheese Cat-astrophe starring Speedy Gonzales - Platformer

Okay that wasn't as absolute as I expected, but this was definitely considered to be the genre that worked for them.

And it's a platformer. We're not starting off in a forest level though, so that's good. Plus now I know that Chip's the one in the fedora and the Dale's the one who wants to be Magnum, P.I.

I'm not exactly sure how big Chip 'n Dale are (I don't even know what they are), so I can't tell whether this is a huge apple or if those are tiny crates. All I know is I can't pick it up and carry it over my head, Super Mario Bros. 2-style, and that makes me sad.

Ah, I just have to grab them from the side! Both apples and crates are deadly against robot dogs, but the giant apples weigh Chip down so he starts sweating and he can't jump as high. Poor little... mouse? gopher? I was going to say squirrel but he doesn't have the tail for it. Oh right he's a chipmunk, duh!

This is a fairly late NES game so I'm surprised that I can't scroll the screen backwards. I'm also a bit confused about these flower tiles I'm collecting, as they don't seem to do anything. I don't have any kind of counter on screen, just a 'C' for 'Chip' and three hearts.

Oops, I wasn't paying attention and thought I still had my enemy-murdering fly power up active.

This level's actually got a bit of height to it, but the game only scrolls one way at a time. So I've always got a low ceiling to deal with until I reach the part that takes me upwards instead.

Wow okay, that enemy just jumped off screen and disappeared out of existence entirely. Works for me.

This is really reminding me of the rooftop part of the first level of Blues Brothers, except here I don't have to choose between crates and umbrellas, and I'm actually making decent progress on my first attempt. It might look chaotic, but it's far less of a pain in the ass.

It's a little harder to lift crates than it has to be though, as I have to be pushing against them to grab on. I can't just stand near them and press the button.

And now I'm suddenly getting a Mega Man vibe. I really hope there isn't a robot boss waiting for me inside this fortress.

Nope, just test tubes, pencils and an impossible jump.

Ah, these white boxes don't get thrown across the screen when I let go, they just drop in front of me so that I can stack them up. I need to remember that next time I go to launch one at an enemy.

I'm no expert at comparing things to other things, but there seems to be something screwy with the scale in this game. When you can't fit test tubes, plant pots or a pencil in your bin, then either they're way too big, or it's way too small.

This is a genuine complaint about something that having a negative influence on my immersion! (Not really.)

Uh, well okay then.

I guess I'll just go through that hole.

Oh crap, I don't like this, I DON'T LIKE THIS!

Hang on... he's not doing anything. I was expecting the arms to start spinning everywhere, but they're as static as they are harmless. Plus I only had to hit the guy like five times in the obvious weak point before he exploded. That's one of the most painless boss fights I've had in ages! I do like this!

And now I get a level clear minigame where I have to lift as many boxes as I can and swipe the treasure inside before the timer runs out. Sometimes they're flowers, sometimes they're stars, either way I'm not sure what I'm getting out of it. The game's doing a poor job at making me feel rewarded.

Oh no, now it’s turned into a damsel in distress plot! Gadget went ahead to cover all the stages in boxes and got grabbed, so instead of rescuing a kitten I'm saving my friend from Fat Cat's casino.

I've never seen the cartoon, but we're all rodents jumping around a (relatively) normal sized town so I guess calling the cops isn't an option. Then again this cat apparently owns a casino so who knows.

Chip 'n Dale Rescue Ranges NES world map
Whoa I had no idea that 'Rescue Rangers' took place in a miserable post-apocalyptic wasteland, with survivors holed up inside giant wooden fortresses each named with a single letter. Maybe I should've watched this series.

It seems that I've got a choice here between flying to B or taking the longer route through A and C. I'm not sure why I'd want to give myself a harder time, though I do appreciate the added reply value!

Actually screw it, I'm going to A. It just doesn't seem right starting on level B.


ZONE A.


Hah, they saved the forest zone for the second level, but then named it Zone A making it the first proper stage. Sometimes it makes me wonder if developers were given a guide from Nintendo mandating what locations to include and the order they should come in.

Chip 'n Dale has slick gameplay and responsive controls, though you wouldn't know it by watching me play. I realised I wasn't going to be able to land on the branch above the caterpillar, aimed to land on the box instead, and missed. Unfortunately once part of the level's gone off-screen it's gone for good, and any sprite that leaves the screen faces immediate and absolute non-existence no matter how many hit-points they may have. I'm just going to pretend the forest's flooding like in Rainbow Islands.

Man I’m an idiot.

There doesn't seem to be any mid-level checkpoints, but the levels aren't uncomfortably huge so it won't take me long to get back here

Damn, that's it? I'm already out of lives?

The good news is that I have continues, the bad news is that I started with just two of them and I've already thrown one away on Zone A.

And I'm well on my way to losing the next one.

I need to calm down, play more cautiously, and check all the crates along the way for hidden health restoring acorns. There's no time limit, no need to rush.


EVENTUALLY.


The next boss fight isn't all that different to the first one. I throw the ball at the target a few times while dodging the things falling down on me, easy. The trick is to not be under the thing when it lands.

Gadget's rigged up a radio to give me intel! Wow, I never realised until now that she's basically the mouse version of April O'Neil from the 'Turtles' cartoon in that jumpsuit.

Uh Gadget, why are you telling me how to get through Zone B now when I've clearly gone the other direction?


ZONE C.


Now I'm up against racket-wielding kangaroos with a pouch full of tennis balls! And all I have are these convenient stacks of crates.

The enemies I'm fightings in this have different routines, so rats (for instance) will hop back and forth and charge at me when I'm close, but kangaroos are utterly brainless. Once I get past them they won't even turn around to hit me. I can still hit them though, even though there's absolutely no point (and no points to be gained either). They're totally asking for it though, the marsupial bastards.

Oh, it turns out that I do have a counter for this stuff I'm collecting! It's just hidden on another screen. I was right about not having points though (unless that's what the P stands for and I'm doing that bad). I'm guessing my 51 flowers means I'm halfway to earning an extra life but I'm not sure. I hope I don't have to grab 100 stars, because that ain't ever going to happen.


ZONE D.


Some of the crates have pulled a Mario 3 by growing pogo springs and turning against me! Though who cares about them, when I've just learned that if I duck while holding a box, I hide inside and peek through the gap! Solid Snake ain't got nothing on me.

Anyway I bored of that now so I'm going to lob it at the evil box and keep moving.

Dang, missed again!

WAIT, it's scrolling backwards here! Why only here and nowhere else? Could I have done this on some of the other levels too and I just didn't notice until now?

The box re-materialises because the GIF looped, though if I'd walked a little further it would've reappeared off-screen. The game only cares about what is, not what was.

The game's been pretty straightforward with its level design, but every now and again it'll throw something like this at me, where I have to ride a switch down to get through a gap, then quickly throw a crate up at it to flip it back to off before I'm flattened by infinite balls.

Those metal balls are looking a bit flat, but those tubes they drop out of look relatively fantastic. If there's one thing these old game systems could manage its shiny metal pipes. Of course it helps when the pixel artists and programmers know what they're doing. Chip 'n Dale's not the absolute prettiest of all NES games, but it's clearly made by a team who've learned how to get the best out of the hardware.

This next boss fight is mixing things up by having me throw the ball at its weak point while dodging things falling on me. I mean they're falling in a different way than on the other fights, and he's got a different weak point!

You could say these boss fights are too easy, but I prefer to look at them as being equally difficult as the platforming bit that led up to them. And that works for me as I'd rather get them over with and get back to the bit I enjoy.

Plus I've fought three bosses on the first world already, which means I've come across more of them than I have 1ups.

Wow, Gadget really did do all these levels before me didn't she? It's just a shame she wasn't able to beat the Fat Cat boss. She could've radioed in that the lost kitty was a ruse and the game would've been over before Zone A.

Wait, she left me a boat in Zone E? But Zone E sucks! It just takes me to Zone F so I might as well go there directly and save myself some trouble.


ZONE F.


I don’t like Zone F.

There was no boss fight this time though, so I was able to fly right through to the final level.


ZONE G.


Look at that asshole rhino down there, charging into my precious crates and knocking them flying! Let's see how he likes harmless white... marshmallow things! Actually, better idea, let's drop this somewhere and see how he likes cartoon bombs instead.

Man this casino level is reminding me of something, with all this leaping across giant tables, dodging rhino men. Oh damn, I just figured it out... I'm back in Duke Nukem Forever!

Boss fight!

I don't think this is Fat Cat, but whoever he is he's literally throwing money at his problem to make it go away. The fight would be pretty easy though if it wasn't for those spikes in the floor. They're so tiny that I've no idea how I can possibly keep hitting them, but I do.

But I successfully rescued Gadget with two hit points remaining and now I'm using the rocket that she presumably built in captivity to chase Fat Cat into space!

But it just fell right back down to Earth again, dropping me onto the neighbouring kingdom of Hij. Well that was a disappointment.

There's no saves or passwords to let me keep my progress so far, but I'm still turning this off now.


CONCLUSION

Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers isn't just a NES game, it's the most NES game, the epitome of NES. I haven't played a game this NES since Super Mario Bros. 3, and that's not just because I went on a Mario spree last year and then stopped playing NES games right afterwards.

It's a slick, straightforward obstacle course with no messing around trying to collect 50 McDonalds' arches or find the way out, and it looks and feels and sounds exactly as it should do. It's so mercifully free of bullshit that it doesn't even have time limit! It can definitely be pain in the ass at times, but what I played of it was fun.

I'm less impressed though by how it uses limited continues to add a challenge and doesn't offer any difficulty options to let you start off with more of them (or less). I'm sure some people love limited continues, but it's my personal preference to not have to replay the entire first half of a game because I screwed up in the second, and it is very easy to throw lives away in this by making dumb mistakes. It's also been kind of easy in general though to be honest, at least compared to some of the NES games I've played. It's not a pushover by any means, but when even I'm breezing through boss fights I doubt it'll impress the hardcore.

Oh there's one thing I should mention: the game has simultaneous two-player co-op! Chip 'n Dale both on screen at once, picking up boxes, apples and each other in their fight against greedy casino owners. I haven't tried it myself but everything's better with co-op.

This seems likely to be one of the best NES games I've ever played, so if you like 8-bit platformers consider it recommended.



Next on Super Adventures: a week of space cats, ice Vikings, virtual robots, actual robots and vegetables as I celebrate Star Trek's 50th anniversary by playing games that have almost (but not quite) absolutely nothing to do with the series.

But first it's your turn to share your opinions about Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, express your thoughts about my site, or even guess what the next game's going to be. With the comment box below all these things are possible!

3 comments:

  1. This is one of my favorite NES games. Even better in co-op as it's even harder because the players can mess with each other. The sequel is even more enjoyable and even more technically impressive, BUT also very short and very easy. But both games are definitely worth playing. Very underrated. See also: Darkwing Duck

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  2. This is a great game from the 8 bit era.

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  3. I believe Dale's shirt is indeed a reference to Magnum, and Chip is supposed to be Indiana Jones.

    Did you know that Tom Selleck was the first choice for Indy, but he turned it down to appear in Magnum, pi instead? There's audition footage on one of the dvds and it's a glimpse into a strange alternate world in which Indy had a big bushy moustache.

    Selleck later played a future cop who specialises in tracking down malfunctioning robots, but it wasn't as good as Harrison Ford's attempt.

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