Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers – NES
Release Date: June 8, 1990 JP/June 1990 US
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Earthboundmother
In the 90’s, there was a fairly magical time when a kid could flip on the television after school and see a block of terrific animated shows that were not restricted to Saturday mornings but occurred every weekday. Debuting September 10, 1990, The Disney Afternoon was a syndicated 120-minute block of time that was launched with four half-hour shows, each of which were light hearted, entertaining, and just fun to watch. Among the ranks of cartoon broadcasts including the wonderful Ducktales and its spin-off, Darkwing Duck was an unlikely reboot starring a couple of characters who at one time in Disney history were the mortal enemies of Donald Duck himself, namely two mischievous chipmunks dubbed Chip and Dale.
Just before getting my daily Mario Bros. 3 fix on my NES, I would happily spring in front of the television and watch Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, the adventures of a plucky band of investigators lead by Chip and his comedic partner in justice, Dale. Soon enough, Nintendo Power (the glorious, often biased but very official Nintendo magazine) would inform me that Disney had given publishing rights to Capcom for the series and several others, which I was ecstatic about. There wasn’t an issue of Nintendo Power I hadn’t read cover to cover and knowing that Capcom was responsible for one of my favorite, imagination striking games, Mega Man 2. I made sure to ask if I could rent Chip ‘n Dale the very next time my mom took me and my sister to the video rental store. This was a time of very deliberate planning when it came to investigating a game title; commuting and brick and mortar stores were unavoidable. Downloading wasn’t an option, you had to do the leg work, hoof it out to discover if a game was worth buying. I was a tried and true gaming gumshoe at that time in my life (all of 9-years old), researching fervently to figure out which games I really wanted to try out. If I was lucky, I would be allowed to rent two games (usually for about $2 a piece) knowing that if one didn’t pan out, it was good to have a backup to lean on for the next few days. NES games were fun and easy to blow through most of the time on a 3-day rental but finding one you wanted to play over and over again for all three days (and eventually buy) was a challenge sometimes. Unless you were me, of course. With Nintendo Power as my mighty ally, there was rarely a terrific title I missed.
Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers is surprisingly entertaining and amazingly fun, even if the series isn’t something you’ve ever seen or ever want to see. It’s a legitimate 2-player co-op, Contra style. Are there machine guns available? Uh, sadly no. The only weaponry on hand are little boxes, metal blocks and large apples to throw at enemies you encounter on the way to save your teammate, Gadget Mouse, from your evil nemesis, a gangster alley cat called Fat Cat. Sorry… still no machine guns. Looking for a tragically fun element of gameplay? You may scoop up your fellow chipmunk and lob him as well! Once you’ve hefted a chipmunk in arms, they’re stuck in your clutches until you let them go! Mua-ha! Keep in mind amidst all the chipmunk-hurling fun however, that they may inadvertently sail off of a cliff to their doom so be careful; your partner is not a weapon, they just get hurt if they make contact with any enemy or peril you toss them into. At the end of the day, try not to be that guy.
Speaking of chipmunks in arms, there wasn’t a time that my sister and I didn’t get into an in-game scuffle when playing Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. I would often pick up Dale while she played with him (her favorite character) and scurry to safety through a challenging part. This was, of course, so she could keep playing (she was and is ever my little sister). In turn, if she could, she would pick my chipmunk hero up and fling him into the nearest enemy to prove she could handle herself just fine. Sigh. Memories. However, this is the burden of actually getting to personify your cartoon heroes on the same small screen they reside in.
As a game released by our good friends at Capcom, it’s a fairly straightforward adventure, very similar in gameplay and appearance to any Megaman title; choose a stage, clear it, beat the boss. Repeat. I don’t view that aspect as a negative at all. With the controls being so smooth and solid and the consistent humor of enemies like ninja-flying-squirrels, it’s all just too entertaining to get old. After battling it out and learning the ropes of the game, my sister and I could probably still be on an NES Olympic team competing in the tandem crime-fighting chipmunks category. We were like clockwork, had every routine down when it came to enemies, foes, and bosses alike including Fat Cat himself, who attacks you in the end with ashes from his lit cigar. Classy.
The game is fairly easy but such a blast to zip through alongside a friend or solo as your chipmunk of choice. Challenges like alien life forms that assume your shape and dangerous running kitchen faucets that you have to jump on to turn off with a satisfying “squeak-squeak-squeak” are only some of the obstacles met while on this case. The length of the game is remotely short but I find it really satisfying as it is accomplishable in less than a Disney afternoon. There are even more reasons I love Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers too; even as a 9-year old, I tended to like to have a warm up game or two ready before playing Super Mario Bros. 3 which was more of a commitment for a cart you couldn’t save on. I especially wanted to have games ready that weren’t as infuriating or as challenging as Mega Man 2 was for my sister. The NES was ultimately mine but I liked sharing it with my sister a lot and encouraged her to game. True 2-player co-ops were rare for the time and after playing Chip ‘n Dale, I was just spoiled. Heck, I think maybe both of us were.
This title was a commercial success for Capcom, selling around 1.2 million copies worldwide and generating a 1993 sequel that I still haven’t encountered or played. It remains on my emulator list of “missed NES opportunities.” After the release of Final Fantasy 2 in 1992 and what was to be the RPG console boom of the 90’s in general, there were a whole lot of platformers that escaped my sleuthing eye… but thankfully, not this one.
I must say with a decent amount of indignation, that even if I’d never watched a single episode of Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, I would have been indefinitely connected to the television screen via NES controller for this title alone. There was a plucky, capable damsel to save, and there was a dastardly Fat Cat to bring to justice. I had every reason to jump on this case like it was my job. I was moving with great ease thanks to Capcom. In the long standing history of franchise ports to gaming consoles, there are few that really shine and I whole-heartedly include this title among them. If only all crime-fighting escapades could be this fun.
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