Now put away that coffee gun before you sugar and cream us
(Note: This article is part of the Disney Afternoon Collection review set, in which all games included in the package, as well as the package itself, get a review of their own.)
After the success of Capcom’s first developed licensed game, DuckTales (1989), the next wave of Disney products was sure to hit the NES. In June of 1990, Capcom released Adventures in the Magic Kingdom, inspired by the Disney theme parks, and Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (1990, rereleased 2017 as part of The Disney Afternoon Collection), a jump ‘n run platformer that was based on the cartoon show of the same title which ran from 1989 to 1990 as part of The Disney Afternoon block.
This series sees Chip and Dale, the two chipmunks from the classical Disney shorts, receive a complete overhaul with the former being dressed as a miniature Indiana Jones and the latter wearing Thomas Magnum’s shirt. The unlikely duo works as investigators and solves crimes that humans often don’t consider too small to care about. For this they get help from two mice, the female engineer Gadget and the chubby, seasoned, globetrotter Monterey Jack, who is friends with the fly Zipper.
In the same manner as the show, the Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers game starts off with the two chipmunks searching to find a lost kitten belonging to their neighbour Mandy – a throwback to the plot of the episode Catteries Not Included (S01E02) that aired in 1989. And just like in the show, Prof. Nimnul’s mechanical bulldogs roam the streets and attack the rangers whenever they can. The stage boss is even the weird robotic pillar, called Brusher, from the same episode. Right there, the game does exactly what too many licensed games don’t; it incorporates the source material and designs the game and its plot around it. Fans of the show will immediately recognize the scenes and others will just enjoy the ride. What’s more, even though Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers uses the episodes to build its stages, it also diverges from the cartoon to build a coherent plot. As it turns out, Fat Cat, the group’s main antagonist, used the kitten as a distraction to kidnap Gadget, which didn’t happen in Catteries Not Included.
Sadly, this turns the game into a “save the damsel in distress” mission, which is a bit overdone, but is simultaneously used to show how the resourceful Gadget develops a communication device to send out hints and pieces of advice for the upcoming levels. With that said, every single level feels like it was inspired by the show: Towards the end of Stage B, for example, the shape shifting lizards really do look like a green version of DTZ from the episode Dale Beside Himself (S01E03), which also aired back in 1989. It then reaches its climax when the boss of that level turns out to be the Fleeblebroxian space ship dropping irkburgles that fans know all too well. Even better is the fact that some of the stages in the game are completely optional to allow players to mix things up a little when they replay Rescue Rangers. The design team, that included Masahiko Kurokawa (黒川雅彦), did a great job and Harumi Fujita’s (藤田晴美) music really does sound like 8-bit renditions from the show. Disney game producer Darlene Lacey even recalls that “Rescue Rangers was one of the easiest Capcom projects that she ever had, with little to no changes being required to meet Disney’s quality assurance.”1
Rescue Rangers doesn’t just stick close to the show, but also has an engaging combat mechanic. Rather unusual for platformers, the heroes cannot attack enemies unless they pick up certain items first and then throw them at the baddies. It’s a minor twist that has some great effect as players will start to think ahead and always carry something with them. Littered throughout stages are crates, steel boxes, bombs, logs, and apples that can be picked up to hurl at these evildoers. Crates disappear after they have been used, steal boxes can be reused, but are too heavy to be thrown very far, bombs explode if they’re held on for too long, and logs as well as apples can hit multiple enemies but are so heavy that they reduce Chip or Dale’s jumping height. Additionally, the two chipmunks can hide inside the crate and steal box when enemies run towards them for a guaranteed hit.
Overall, the thought that went in to the way bad guys are defeated is amazing and its execution is flawless. It gets even better when this game or its sequel is played with a friend. Unlike the other games in The Disney Afternoon Collection, the Chip ‘n Dale titles are two player games in which friends and family members tackle the stages simultaneously, which is awesome and definitely a blast for anyone familiar with games like Contra (1990), Pocky & Rocky (1992), or Heavenly Guardian / Legend of Sayuki (2007). Nevertheless, there is a tiny thing to note here: Friendly Fire.
Just as much as crates can be thrown at enemies, they can also be hurled at the other player. This doesn’t hurt the other one, but stuns them, which then leaves them open for enemy attacks. Players can also annoy each other by picking the respective other up and even throw them at enemies or down bottomless pits. It’s therefore probably the best to only play with friends who like to play co-op. That said, these features do have their benefits as someone who is good at platforming can simply pick the other character up and carry them through difficult sections. Players can also perform combo throws by tossing crates between one another, which requires a bit of skill but is fun to pull off. The only downside to the local co-op, however, is that when one player dies, the game just continues in single player mode, which is definitely an oversight and would drastically reduce the fun, were it not for the rewind function that was added when the game came out as part of The Disney Afternoon Collection in 2017.
As was mentioned in the review of said collection, at time of writing, the local co-op only works when both players play with a controller. I was unable to get it to work with both players using the keyboard or one playing on the keyboard while the other uses a gamepad. It is also important to note that the entire bundle only has partial controller support. I was lucky because I played with two wired Xbox 360 controllers, which worked fine. Players should also be wary of the spikes’ hitboxes which are wider than their sprites. That often times leads to unfair hits.
The controls in Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers are tight, the throwbacks to the show are plenty but don’t need to be understood by players, and the fun time is high, especially in local co-op. Sadly, both players require gamepads to enjoy playing together, something that not all players have at home. Beyond that Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a very solid platformer worth playing and holds up very well and after all these years. The game is currently available as part of The Disney Afternoon Collection together with another five other titles for the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, and Steam. The bundle itself costs U.S. $ 19.99 or your regional equivalent.
Be kind, rewind
Thank you for reading my article. If you like, please do feel free to leave a comment. There’s no need to register or login. Also, all screenshots shown here were taken by me during my playthrough. You can also follow my reviews on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/curator/8839524-Gaos-Corner/ Have a nice day.
Links to the other Disney Afternoon Reviews
- Gao Li Reviews The Disney Afternoon Collection
- Gao Li Reviews DuckTales
- Gao Li Reviews TaleSpin
- Gao Li Reviews Darkwing Duck
- Gao Li Reviews DuckTales 2
- Gao Li Reviews Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers 2
- Nintendo Player, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (Prototype, Nintendo Entertainment System), Nintendo Player, accessed 2017, March 7, retrieved from http://www.nintendoplayer.com/prototype/chip-n-dale-rescue-rangers/