Whenever they’re involved, somehow, whatever’s wrong gets solved…
The NES’ birthday is too monumental to only have one podcast dedicated to it. We’ve already kicked off the festivities on Qoopa Klub by discussing a few various aspects of the NES and its history (NES Peripherals were discussed on Episode 75, and old-school game difficulty in Episode 74). Our upcoming episode, 79, will have a discussion all about our favorite third party NES titles. Nintendo developed games were often in a league of their own when compared to other developers. That didn’t stop companies like Capcom, Konami and Hudson Soft from stepping up to the plate and demonstrating that not only were they no slouches, but that they, too, could create definitive experiences on the NES.
There are a large number of games that could easily be included in this conversation. I want to save some of the juicier ones for the podcast, of course, but I wanted to make sure I highlighted one of my all time favorites from my youth: CHIP ‘N DALE RESCUE RANGERS (Capcom, 1990).
Capcom simply MUST be mentioned in any conversation about prolific developers for the NES, as they contributed a number of stone cold classics for the system that hold up just as well today as they did upon release. After some initial stumbles (such as hiring Micronics to port their early arcade hits to the NES, resulting in dreadful conversions), Capcom’s batting average with their NES titles steadily improved with each release. It reached the point to where even their licensed games were guaranteed to be at worst competently made, and at best, unforgettable games. A nice change of pace from the usual dreck that publishers like LJN were farting out based on popular movies and TV shows of the time, surely. Young gamers knew that when the box had that gorgeous purple trim, they were likely in for a good time.
Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers isn’t even the most beloved of Capcom’s list of Disney properties (DUCK TALES almost assuredly holds that honor), but I remember Chip ‘N Dale’s NES game much more vividly than Scrooge’s. Capcom had definitely mastered their own brand of action platforming by this point in their development process, and it shows a nice refinement here in Chip ‘N Dale. Players star as the titular Rescue Rangers as they traverse various platforming stages to rescue their buddy Gadget from the evil Fat Cat. Because of the title character’s diminutive size, stages were visually interesting as they presented more “real world” locales but from a tiny rodent’s point of view. Hopping along on things like beakers, telephone wires, and lightbulbs gave the game a nice style that separated it from the pack a bit.
Chip or Dale control similarly, with a nice weight and handling to their movement. Combat is handled by throwing various objects found scattered across the stages. When standing on top of a box, for example, you can pick it up over your head and throw it, or you can choose to duck down and hide in it. The movement is weighty, yet fast and fluid enough to give this game a sense of immediate motion and speed that something like MEGA MAN did not possess organically, as it required much more methodical play (obviously, experienced players can circumvent this after becoming familiar with the game).
The real star of the show here, though, was the simultaneous multiplayer on offer. Nothing was more fun for me as a kid than playing Chip ‘N Dale with a friend or family member, as many 2 player games made each player take turns. Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers throws the both of you in the action, and you can choose to play cooperatively, or you can choose to make life a living hell for your partner (much like the NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. series). Remind me to never ever play this game with Jancko. I don’t think I could handle the barrage of projectiles being thrown at me by my best “friend.” ❤
The difficulty of the game is fairly tame in comparison to other games being released at the time, and even Capcom’s own stuff had a typically meaner edge to it. Given the license and fast paced nature of the game, though, this is actually a positive thing. The fact that there are branching paths (primitive though they may be) through the various stages in the game guarantees that you can fire it up and experience a different stage than you did last time.
Another standout feature of the game, and most Capcom stuff in general, is the fantastic soundtrack. Even with licensed games, which other developers were content to just arrange an annoying and repetitive version of the property’s theme song and loop endlessly, Capcom scored their games with the same punchy and pleasing arrangements they had become known for.
Although not necessarily a definitive NES experience, Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers is a hoot to play. Give it a go!
What are YOUR definitive third party NES titles? Let us know by 07/12 so we can shout you out on episode 79! Tweet @qoopaklub, post on our Facebook page, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.