Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Night Rentals: Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers

It was only natural that after the success of the Ducktales that Capcom and Disney would team up and release another game based on the then popular block of cartoons fondly remembered as "The Disney Afternoon."  The original block included Ducktales, Chip and Dales Rescue Rangers, Talespin, and an occasional showing of Gummi Bears (usually on Fridays, at least in my area.)  

When I rented this game as a kid, I never really got to do the two player mode.  By that time my older brother was either renting his own set of games or was involved in stuff in high school so didn't have time for it.  I think my mom may have played once or twice with me, but that's about it.  Usually I was flying solo when it came to my gaming.  Not that I'm resentful or too sad, it just meant that I would usually lean towards one player games because I'd be playing by myself.

Now, at ten years old, I wasn't exactly staying up all hours of the night playing games.  Even if it was Friday I would have to head to bed by 10 or 11 o'clock.  (I think I would sometimes get to push that to midnight or later if my grandparents Horne were there, but that's another story).  In any case, after playing Ducktales, I naturally had to rent Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers, and naturally since I only had it for the weekend, I had to get as much play time as possible from the game.  So how did that go?

Apples are cool, I guess.  Kinda miss Scrooge's can though...
Well...I beat the game by Saturday night.

You see, I was playing and figuring out play control on Friday, and obsessively collecting flowers and stars.  But by the time Saturday evening rolled around I had been playing the game a fair amount and was getting through the stages at a fair clip.  Well I did feel accomplished for having beaten it, I remember being a little disappointed even then that the game was so short.  Much like Ducktales, if you really put your mind to it, you could beat the game in under an hour.  Now, this was a time before speed runs became a thing so I wasn't really looking to play a game multiple times just to see how quickly I could beat it a second time through.  Beaten was beaten, and done was done.  Once the game was returned that meant I would likely never rent it again, and to me there was a certain amount of "why bother asking for this for Christmas" if I've already beaten it?

Again, not that the game itself was really lacking, after all, the gameplay was solid Capcom platforming, which is no surprise considering that it was produced by Tokuro Fujiwara, who was also responsible for the hit Mega Man 2.   So how does the game hold up replaying it today?


As you would expect with a Capcom game the controls are solid.  The "A" button jumps and the height varies by how long you hold on to the button.  Much like Mario physics, you can change direction mid-jump, and if you fall into a pit or are hit by an enemy you usually don't feel like it was cheap...usually.  You push "B" and the directional pad against blocks, apples, and various other objects to pick them up and can choose to throw them up, left, or right.  Pushing down with certain items will result in your chipmunk pal "hiding" behind the item, but it's more like a temporary shield used to defeat enemies that charge at you.  Pushing down and "A" on some floors will result in you dropping down to the floor below, unless you are above a pit, in which case...well, death will occur.  Sometimes this particular mechanic does not work as well as it should if the game glitches, but the the times this happens are rare; and any time you accidentally drop through the floor won't leave you yelling at the game but rather smacking your own forehead for your stupidity.

Gameplay and Graphics

Time to save the princess--er, Gadget!
The story of the game involves your nemesis the nefarious Fat Cat, a fiendish feline who has kidnapped Gadget, the resident fix-it and inventor gal of the Rescue Rangers team and plans to use her skills to his own evil ends.  There are some cute little cut scenes in between stages, but the cut scenes are little more than changing still images with text underneath.  Not that this was terrible, after all, it was just an 8-bit system so you couldn't cram too much into the game.  The overall gameplay was pretty fun at the time, and still is today.  The character animation of Chip and Dale as they run along feel like real running movement.  The design team also managed to work in details like Chip's hat and bomber jacket, and Dale's Hawaiian shirt to a satisfying degree.  Even though Gadget and Moneterey Jack and Zipper are relegated to walk ons and cameos, this is Chip and Dale's game after all, it is still nice to see them make an appearance and actually look a bit like their TV show counterparts. 

The overall colors pop in a pleasing way, and they even borrow a few bad guys from other episodes of the show.  The overall gameplay does have some flaws though.  Like the original Super Mario Bros., once you scroll left you can't back track.  If you left one of the life-replenishing acorns just out of reach on the screen...oh well, better hope that there was another one later.  (There usually was.)  You can collect stars and flowers to earn extra lives, and only have two continues.  However, if you are grabbing every flower you can along the way the low number of continues won't really pose a problem.

Music and Sound

Like a carnival gone wrong...

The sound set has a few recognizable blips and bloops from both the Mega Man games and the previous Disney game venture of Ducktales.  No problems here in my opinion.  As a kid it felt kinda neat being able to recognize those sounds not only as something from a previous game but as a distinct trademark of a particular company.  (I still remember the chime for pausing old-school Konami games.) As an adult and more fulling understanding the limitations of programming, it makes reusing certain assets in a sound file understandable.

That said, the music is lacking in comparison to most other Capcom games.  The Mega Man games has one of the most memorable soundtracks out there.  The Ducktales game has several tracks that have been re-imagined on youtube, one of the fan favorites being the "Moon Theme."  Whether this was because more heart was poured into the other games or just the composer had little to work with compared to Ducktales; the 30 second music loops can quickly grow tiresome, even for a game that only takes roughly an hour to beat.  Although the chip-tune version of the Rescue Rangers theme that plays on the title theme is pleasant enough, many of the scores area  bit too frenetic and cloying at times.  Not that they aren't okay at first, but you'll have had your fill of them by the time you beat a stage.

Overall Impression

Nice job!  Play Again?

A fun and worthy entry into the Capcom hall of fame, and in particular, the TV show tie in route?  Definitely!  Too short?  Definitely that as well.  I wish I knew why they decide to keep the game so short, if I were to venture a guess I would assume that it had something to do with its intended audience of kids.  Something fun with tight control that will make a kid feel like they accomplished something when they beat it.  A few things though that occurred to me then and they occur to me even now.  First, by the time Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers was released; I had already played through and beaten the first two Mega Man games, and those were nothing to sneeze at in the difficulty department.  Even as a kid I felt the Rangers game was too easy for kids--and I was one!

Second, with games ranging from 30 to $50 a pop back then, unless a kid's parents were wealthy or had no sense of self control when it came to spoiling a child, you would have felt ripped off having plunked that much down and gotten so little game for your dollar (or waited for a particular game for Christmas only to have it turn out the game was terrible in my case.)  Heck, a part of me admits that there are times when I feel some of the downloadable Wii U games I've picked up for a just a couple of bucks should have had more content then what I got.  Maybe I'm greedy that way.  But this isn't really about how I feel now, but how I felt back then.  And truth be told, I wish there had been more meat on the bone even then.  Beating that on a Saturday not only meant that I was likely never to rent or buy the game in the future, but it meant that I was facing Sunday without the prospect of a cool rented game to play.  Sounds silly, I know.  But hey!  I was ten at the time and I guess that's just how I thought.

Well, now as an adult I can say that it would be fun to do a speed run through the game, or an item collection run, or some other goal I made up myself--and now that it is a part of my NES collection, why not?

I just wish the tunes were a bit catchier...

Ahhhhh...much better.

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