Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    • JP 06/08/1990
    • US June 1990
    • UK 12/12/1991
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/16/2017.

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Capcom for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on June 8, 1990, North America in June 1990, and Europe on December 12, 1991. The game is based on the Disney animated television series of the same name, which premiered on The Disney Channel on March 4, 1989, though a preview episode did air before that on August 27, 1988. Capcom is best known for being the creators of the highly prolific Mega Man franchise, but back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the company was licensed by Disney to create a series of games on the NES. Most of those games were based on animated TV shows and movies by Disney, such as DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, and The Little Mermaid, plus there were also a few games starring Mickey Mouse. Of these, the DuckTales NES game is the most well known, as it was a massive success when it first came out, and is still loved today. However, the second most notable one is Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, which was also highly successful back in its heyday and is still cherished even now. That's because it's good.

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If you're not familiar with the TV show, then let me explain a few tidbits about it. As its title implies, it stars Chip and Dale, two tiny chipmunks that were already established Disney characters long before the TV show ever existed. On the show, Chip and Dale decide to start a detective agency called Rescue Rangers, along with their two mouse friends, Gadget Hackwrench and Monterey Jack, referred to as Monty by his pals. A fly named Zipper was also part of the team. Together, the pint-sized detectives solve crimes that are deemed "too small" for the police to handle, often taking on other talking animals as clients. The main antagonist of the show is generally Fat Cat, a tubby cat that's basically the animal equivalent of a mob boss. In this game, the Rescue Rangers are on a mission to find a missing kitten for a girl named Mandy, but Gadget is kidnapped by Fat Cat during the investigation. According to Fat Cat, the kitten case was merely a distraction so he could capture Gadget and force her to work for him. It's now up to the titular Chip and Dale to rescue their friend.

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Depending on who you choose at the beginning, you control either Chip or Dale for the duration of this rescue mission. Both chipmunks control identically, so the differences between the two are merely cosmetic. Left or right on the d-pad makes your chipmunk scurry in those directions, down ducks, and the A button is mostly for jumping. You can hold down on the d-pad and press the A button to fall through certain thin platforms. Health is represented via hearts at the top of the screen, and you lose one every time you're injured, but grabbing acorns restores it. Obviously, getting injured enough to sap all your hearts results in your death, which causes you to lose a life. Lose all your lives and you'll get a Game Over, and there are limited continues, so you've got to be careful. Similar to the cherries in Super Mario Bros. 2, collecting a certain amount of flowers or stars will cause a 1up star to lazily float by. Pressing the select button takes you to a screen that shows the current amount of flowers, stars, and lives you've got. Everything is pretty straightforward and the controls are extra precise.

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Similar to Super Mario Bros. 2, picking things up is the main mechanic of the game. In order to pick something up, you have to hold the d-pad in the direction of the object and then press the B button. This will cause Chip or Dale to hold the object above their head, allowing them to carry it around. When carrying something, you can press the B button again to throw the object forwards in a perfectly straight line, or hold up and press B to toss it upwards. Throwing stuff is the only way Chip and Dale can kill or harm enemies, so it's pretty important. Objects you can pick up include crates, steel boxes, apples, logs, and bombs. Each object has slightly different properties, like how bombs explode after a while, or how Chip and Dale can hide inside crates and steel boxes by holding down while carrying them, which will protect them from a single enemy. Apples and logs are heavy and will weigh them down, reducing the height of their jumps, though there's a power-up that negates this effect. Steel boxes don't travel far when thrown, but can be stacked on top of each other and used as platforms to reach higher ground. Carrying and throwing stuff feels great, and it doesn't at all detract from the game's rapid pace.

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Upon completing the first stage, you'll be taken to a map screen that lets you pick the next stage. You can't pick all the stages right off the bat, but you'll typically have a choice between two or so. It's possible to even skip stages, giving the overall structure of the game a bit of nonlinearity, but each stage is still completely linear. Stages are designed fairly well, emphasizing the size disparity between Chip and Dale and their environments. You'll traverse giant countertops, run across gigantic fences, jump on gargantuan power lines, climb massive bookshelves, stand atop large ceiling fans, stop big faucets from unleashing waterfalls, and more. Even the aforementioned apples are twice the size of Chip and Dale. Monty will also appear during some stages, but he doesn't do much. Zipper, on the other hand, acts as a temporary invincibility power-up when found. One downside to the stages is that you can never turn back, as the screen only allows you to scroll in a single direction. This is mostly bad during vertical sections, because if the screen scrolls up far enough, the bottom of the screen will function like a bottomless pit, killing you instantly if you fall down. Other than that, the stages are quite enjoyable.

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Following the platformer protocol, there is a boss at the end of almost every stage. Unfortunately, the bosses are this game's weakest point. Boss battles revolve around repeatedly throwing a special ball object towards the boss in order to damage it. Unlike most objects, this ball doesn't disappear off screen when thrown, and will continually bounce back into the arena for repeated use. You do have to be careful when that happens, as the ball can temporarily stun you if it hits you on the rebound. The problem is that many of the bosses are nearly identical save for some minor differences. Almost every boss shoots projectiles at you from the top of the screen while you pick up and throw the ball upwards towards it over and over again. A few of the bosses are completely stationary, some fly back and forth, but the one common trait nearly all of them share is that they're situated at the top of the screen. It's clear this part of the game was very low effort.

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Prior to starting the game, you're given the option to either play alone or with another person cooperatively. During cooperative play, players can stand on top of each other's heads, pick each other up, throw each other, and push each other around. All this can either be used to help or hinder the other player, depending on each player's disposition. Players can even temporarily stun one another by throwing objects at each other. Thankfully, this doesn't actually do damage, but it's never beneficial. If two people are particularly uncooperative, things could get nasty. Dead players that still have leftover lives will return holding onto a balloon, giving them the temporary ability to fly around the screen while invincible, allowing them to choose a safe place to land. If both players die at the same time, they'll have to start from the last checkpoint. Unless your friend's a jerk, the optimal way to play this game is with two players.

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Normally, licensed games are awful, but that's not the case with Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers. Many of these Capcom developed licensed games on the NES actually used a similar engine as the classic Mega Man games. A lot of the talent that made those Mega Man games also worked on these games, like Tokuro Fujiwara, who previously worked on Mega Man 2 and Ghosts 'n Goblins before producing the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers NES game. Considering how good the Mega Man games are, it's no surprise that most of these Capcom developed Disney games turned out so well. Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a wonderful example of this, as it's one of the best games on the NES with relative ease. This is up there with the DuckTales NES game for sure.

Word Count: 1,510

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