Muscle memory is a hell of a drug.
While I’ve become something of a videogame glutton over the years (now celebrating my 70th purchase of a port of Tetris), when I was a wee Goggle Bob, my inventory was severely limited. If memory serves, by the time the Nintendo was being retired (which, reminder for you young’uns, the NES kept on trucking well after the release of the SNES, as companies didn’t quite know when to stop back in the day), I owned a whopping thirty NES games, and considered that dirty thirty to be more NES games than anyone would ever need. After all, I had Mega Man 1, 2, and 6, why would I need anything else?
But the flipside to this titanic collection was the rolling “neighborhood” games. I was a Nintendo kid, and my best friend was a Nintendo kid, and that one guy down the street was a Nintendo kid, and… you get the idea. We had our collected collections, and, pooling our resources, we created a sort of neighborhood library of Nintendo cartridges. Ultimately, it was no different from trading baseball cards or…. What do kids today play with?… Pogs? It was just like trading pogs, only with videogames, and, ya know, there was a significant expectation that you’d get the game back. And if not, then it was time to tell mom, because I wasn’t the one that blew fifty bucks on Wizards and Warriors 2. And speaking of mom, it was clear the parents of the neighborhood were on to our little NES black market, so it was very common for birthdays and Christmases to see complimentary games across the region. I got Ducktales, and Jon got Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. And when we’re both done, guess what’s going to happen? Trading time!
Of course, not all games are created equal.
Ducktales is a great game, but it’s a “kiddie” Disney game, and I have always been a totally, radically mature soul. So, right before Christmas, I changed my vote, claimed Ducktales was stupid, and convinced my parents (errr… Santa Claus) to purchase some other Nintendo game. I want to say it was TMNT: The Arcade Game, but it’s entirely possible it was any other videogame on Earth. Unfortunately, my best friend Jon’s parents didn’t get the memo (or didn’t care), so he still wound up with the “matching” Chip ‘n Dale. This, I figured in my young mind, was fortuitous, as it meant I got to play excellent Disney Capcom gaming just as easily when he was inevitably done with the game and I’d borrow it away to my Nintendo. Everybody wins! The only hang-up was a few months later when I discovered that he wasn’t ever going to let it go.
Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers is a two player co-op game. What’s more, it’s a two player co-op 2-D sidescroller on the NES, meaning it was released at a time when that kind of thing was almost completely unheard of. If you think about it, that’s really weird, as 2-D sidescrollers were all over the place, but I guess Super Mario Bros. was 2 player alternating, so that’s what everyone aped. In a way, this made CnDRR a magical unicorn in a field full of tubby cow ponies. But even more than that shining bit of rarity, CnDRR was just plain fun, and it was just as fun to play with a buddy as it was to play alone. Yes, two player “cooperative” might lead to a few more deaths by Chip scrolling Dale right off the screen, but it also meant instant respawning, which was fairly essential in some of the later stages/bosses. This all Voltroned together to make CnDRR the first “Smash Bros.” in my memory: if we were getting together (what today might be referred to as a “play date”), we were going to play Chip ‘n Dale, because it was fun for the whole (two people) gang. It didn’t matter if it was a joyous Saturday afternoon or ten minutes after Great Aunt Bernie’s funeral, it was time to hurl red balls at Fat Cat.
So the good news was that we had found a fun game that was going to dominate all of our play time for at least the next year, but the bad news was that Jon was going to continue to be the keeper of Chip ‘n Dale, and I could borrow the cartridge roughly around the same time that Monterey Jack gives up cheese. So I, poor wee Goggle Bob, was forced to only play this excellent game at Jon’s house, and never in the relaxing luxury of my own basement. Mine was a harsh childhood.
But this lead to an unusual phenomena.
As previously mentioned, I had a collection of Nintendo games as a child. And, as you might expect, I am very good at these games. I’m not breaking any speedrun scores or however we judge Nintendo skill, but I’m pretty sure I can clear Quick Man’s stage on one life (don’t hold me to that). That said, many of the games from my childhood collection, whether through nostalgia or some manner of drive to learn the classics, I have played and re-experienced as an adult. To use Mega Man 2 as an example again, I’m likely to replay through the entire Mega Man franchise at least once a year, and most of the time that isn’t even because they just released yet another Mega Man collection. It’s just one of those things that happens, like an inexplicable urge to once again conquer Giant’s Imaginary Hallway in Final Fantasy.
But that never happened for Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. Maybe it was because I played it so much in my childhood (and it’s not exactly a complicated game), or maybe it was a side effect of always considering the game to be “kiddy”, but, one way or another, I never really got back around to playing CnDRR. I don’t feel like this is something I have to apologize for, I mean, there are other games on my backlog that have been sitting unplayed since the late 90’s (I’ll complete you one day, Castlevania 64)… Though, on the other hand, I do feel a little bit of guilt at not playing a game that had so completely ruled my childhood. What’s that? There’s a new Disney Afternoon Collection by the same folks behind the most recent Mega Man collection? And it’s available now? Oh, let’s do this thing.
And that’s about when I learned that that game you played over and over when you were seven might just stick in your brain.
I plowed through Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers in about twenty minutes. I didn’t get hit at all during the first stage. The majority of the bosses (save that damn caterpillar) never touched Chip. Gadget was rescued, Fat Cat was trounced, and the day was saved, once again, by the indomitable Rescue Rangers. Also, I got that P bottle, and I’m still not completely sure what that does.
And… should I be surprised? I haven’t played the game for twenty years (low estimate!), but it’s like riding a bicycle (sidenote: bad simile, as I am terrible at riding a bicycle. Don’t ask). I didn’t think videogame “skills” were that pervasive in my unconscious mind, but, just like I can still open my high school locker in a few twists (assuming they haven’t changed the combination in fifteen years), I can beat Chip ‘n Dale inside of an hour. One whole game condensed to some part of my brain that will always remember exactly when to duck into a box. My conscious mind boggles.
Muscle memory: horrifying and useful.
FGC #276 Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers
- System: NES, and now, against all odds, available on the Playstation 4, Xbone, and PC. Yay!
- Number of players: Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers.
- Favorite Boss: Even though I usually skip his stage, this really is the game where Mega Man X3’s Volt Catfish got his start. Bless you, Capcom, and your unending reserves of electric catfish.
- Useless powers: Also, that same stage includes “the raft” and a hammer that may be used to clobber your way through dirt blocks. That makes two completely unique items in a completely skippable stage. What was going on there?
- Chip or Dale: I always choose Chip, as he is the leader. And he has a cool hat. I decided to go with Dale for the FGC article, though, in the name of trying (absolutely not really) new things.
- Further Childhood Memories: I remember being at Disney World when I was like five, and I asked my dad how to tell the difference between Chip and Dale. He replied that there was no way to do that, they’re just chipmunks, move on. Then a helpful Disney employee explained that Chip has a black nose “like a chocolate chip.” I was impressed with this knowledge, but even more than that, I remember my traditionally stoic father lighting up like an enthusiastic Christmas tree at this new information. See? You’re never too old to learn new facts about chipmunks.
- Did you know? The flowers are supposed to provide 1-Ups after every 50 pickups (according to the manual), but it actually requires the more NES standard 100. There’s apparently a beta version of CnD floating around out there, though, where the fifty thing stays true. I can understand the change, at least, not like this game needed to be easier.
- Would I play again? Probably! Just might take another twenty years. Let’s see how good I am at this game then.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS! Coins! All the coins for Mario! Please look forward to it!