Tag Archives: disney

FGC #276 Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers

Zip alongMuscle 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.

MeowChip ‘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.

Out!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.

YummyI 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.
  • ChuggaUseless 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!

DAMN BOXES

FGC #198 DuckTales: Remastered

This game is radI don’t usually talk about a game’s music on this blog. The reasons for this are three-fold: One, I traditionally play the featured game, take a day or two to “digest” the experience, and then write. While I’m usually cutting through the video of the game at that time to make screenshots and gifs, I’m rarely actually re-listening to the music/sound at that time. As a result, unless the music is really memorable, I’m not really thinking about it while I write the article. Two, while I’m writing the article in question, I’m usually listening to my “work mix” of 6,000 or so MP3s, so, unless the game is already on my playlist, it’s not really in my head. This doesn’t apply to every game, because, completely randomly, Bloody Tears is on my Winamp (yes, seriously) as I write this right now. Go fig. And, finally, I try not to discuss the music too much on this blog because the blog is not an auditory medium. I’ve got gifs and such to remind everyone how a game looks in motion, but, short of embedding a midi into the article, the best I can do with music is throw out a basic, “hey, remember that one song?” This does occasionally make its way to the bullet point section of any given article, but even that is usually something of an afterthought.

All that said, after nearly 200 articles, I figure I can write one article about a game’s music.

Fly me to the moon, it’s time to talk about ducks exploring the lunar surface.

AlleyoopDuckTales was kind of inevitably part of my childhood. In this case, I’m talking about the series and the videogame, which, at the time, combined to be one of the few franchises that actually made sense on television and videogame console. Hey, you love Back to the Future, right? Well here’s a completely bonkers videogame version that involves bowling. What about bloody slasher Friday the 13th? Well get ready to pelt zombies with rocks! And it wasn’t any better when a mascot went in the other direction: the most groundbreaking platformer in history somehow turned into a show that closely followed the Bozo/Krusty the Clown formula, and the courageous and mute Link of the NES became an attitude-riddled teen in his animated incarnation. It took a few years, but we did finally get that Sonic the Hedgehog series where he was the forsaken prince of a kingdom and played in a rock band with his royal siblings. Point is that when the Disney Afternoon finally started churning out videogames, its offerings were actually related to the source material, and Monterey Jack or Darkwing Duck would actually be the same characters and do the same things whether or not someone hooked up a controller.

So both DuckTales and Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers were integral parts of my childhood, because I watched the shows every afternoon, and played the matching games whenever available. I actually didn’t own either game, but one of my super best friends (the same kid I “saved” in The Legend of Zelda) owned both, and, yes, there was a lot of 2-player Chip ‘n Dale action. But DuckTales got its share of play, too, because, even as a one player game, there was a lot of… audience participation during our play sessions. “No, you butthead, go over there, get the diamonds! Don’t jump on the treasure chest, that’s how you get… oh, now you have to do the CHOMPlevel over. Give me the controller, you suck!” … Hm I wonder why I don’t hang out with my childhood friends anymore…

Anyone that has ever played DuckTales knows that it’s a Capcom game that, like Mega Man, offers an opening stage select. This was a tremendous boon for us Nintendo kids, because, thanks to difficulty and underdeveloped attention spans, it was a rarity to see the later levels of any given NES game. A game that started with “here ya go, take your pick” was always welcome, because it meant you could actually see almost the entirety of a game without having to restart on Level One 12,000,000,000 times. So you might think, with five options available, we’d be all over playing any and every level.

We weren’t. We only played Moon. We only went for the cheese.

There probably are multiple reasons for this. Amazon has a very “grass world/level 1” vibe, and who wants to start on a basic stage when there are more interesting options? Duckuvania and The Mines both required some focused level searching to bypass various locks, so screw that noise. And the Himalayas had that blasted snow that hampered your pogo attack. The pogo cane was the second best thing about the game! Why is there an entire level that destroys it!?

YAYBut there was always the moon level, and that got played a lot. I couldn’t tell you why, exactly. Maybe it was the space environment that seemed more fantastic than any vampire castles or journeys to the center of the Earth. Maybe it was pounding on aliens, which is always a good time. Or maybe it was simply that ten second cameo from Gizmoduck. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the fact that DuckTales’ Moon features the best music in the game, and, arguably, all of the NES.

I am not a “music” guy. I have been in orchestral and rock bands, I have written songs, and I have, on occasion, been a human beat box. But still, throughout the years, I have never really understood what “works” in music. I can watch Youtube videos explaining the differences between minor and major keys all day, and, still, I can’t tell you, from a musical perspective, what makes any given song better than another. I am entirely a subjective music listener, and, aside from “I generally like pianos”, I can’t really describe why my favorite songs are my favorite songs.

So, uh, just believe me when I say that the DuckTales NES Moon theme is the best thing ever.

And it somehow gets better! Against all odds, a licensed game based on a cartoon property from the 80’s got a remake in the 21st Century thanks to a bunch of dedicated nerds. Capcom and Wayforward (with seemingly an emphasis on the latter) worked together with Disney to bring back the NES DuckTales game in the form of a magnificent “HD remaster”. The whole “remaster” thing seemed like a misnomer, as this was practically an entirely new game. There’s a whole new overarching plot, dialogue, and two levels. And what has returned from the original is now gorgeous with hand drawn sprites and updated level layouts. And one of the Beagle Boys gets a new hat!

No swimming musicBut the remastered music is what got my attention. The music was composed by Jake Kaufman, a man who, by his own admission, was a giant fan of the original. “”I’ve heard this stuff in my head, as arrangements, since I was 10, so I knew exactly what to do…” That sounds about right. I reiterate that I am absolutely not a music guy, and I don’t know how to describe this, but Kaufman nailed the moon theme (and every other song, but that’s neither here nor there). Whatever Moon was trying to do on its tiny little NES speaker was taken to new, otherworldly heights on DuckTales: Remastered, and, for the first time ever in a videogame, when I first reached the moon stage on my initial play of DuckTales: Remastered, I put down my controller, and just listened. I’m pretty sure I bought the soundtrack about ten minutes later. Then I hit Continue because I accidentally let Scrooge get killed by aliens. I was distracted!

DuckTales: Remastered made a great thing even greater. This description could be applied to the entire game, but for me, it’s always going to come back to the Moon. Who says there’s no sound in space?

FGC #198 DuckTales: Remastered

  • System: WiiU, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3 for the initial release. It also found its way to various computers and cell phones. There’s even a physical release! I own it!
  • Number of players: You have to be smarter than the smarties and tougher than the toughies, so there really isn’t room for more than one.
  • Favorite stage: Did you read the article?
  • Spooky!You know, you could have linked to the actual song in question somewhere around here: Oh, like you don’t know how to find Youtube. Teach a man to fish for songs!
  • Just play the gig, man: Oh! And the moon theme became a persistent leitmotif throughout the other stages. That’s pretty awesome!
  • Favorite boss: My one complaint about the Remake is that it makes the bosses very “stage-y” with repeated patterns and long periods of invincibility (i.e. why is that boss hiding in the background again). That said, I do like the Magica De Spell fight, because it’s hectic, varied, and occasionally drops some ice cream. Everybody loves ice cream!
  • Did you know? Alan Young and June Foray reprised their vocal roles as Scrooge McDuck and Magica De Spell for this game. They were born in 1919 and 1917, respectively. When they were born, there was barely the concept of “video”, left alone a “videogame”.
  • Would I play again: Yes, while anxiously awaiting that Chip ‘n Dale remake.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Tetris Blast for the Gameboy! It’s like a regular block game, but with more explosions! Please look forward to it!

Shakes
This still makes me nervous

FGC #109 Disney Adventures in the Magic Kingdom

Kingdom's KeysOf the entire NES library, this is the game I most want to see revisited with modern sensibilities. Sorry, Karnov, but Disney Adventures in the Magic Kingdom might be the best concept for a video game that has just been sitting trapped in an eclectic game from 1990.

Disney Land and Disney World are, in modern times, practically legendary. Through a fluke of evolution, modern children are born with an almost homing pigeon-like desire to one day make a pilgrimage to the Magical Kingdom and spawn more ridiculous photos with “real life” gigantic rodents than should be allowed. Find your nearest child and take a good, long look into their eyes. While you’re scaring the youngster, consider that somewhere in that meaty little kid brain, there are nearly a million synapses, at any given moment, generating a desire to eat waffles with Donald Duck. And a youth’s longing for Disney can never be sated! Eating, farting, and basking in the loving glow of the House of Mouse is all a child needs to survive. Note that I didn’t list breathing…

And it’s funny how the happiest/magicalest places on Earth aren’t exactly… kid friendly. No, I’m not saying Disneyland started offering sharp, pointy things on the promenade or Epcot’s giant golf ball is now a sex farm; what I’m talking about is how Disney attractions are very… regulated affairs. For all the talk of it being a child’s paradise, kids aren’t exactly allowed to be kids at a Disney park. Children want to run around, be free, and maybe break everything that has ever been considered valuable. Disney is all about sitting quietly and watching the play. Here’s a haunted mansion, here’s a pirate attack, here’s a runaway train… now sit there and enjoy it. Make no mistake, I’m not saying Disney is boring, simply that it is not the first thing I would expect as a child’s dream attraction.

Incidentally, if pressed, I’m thinking of a city-sized combination ball-pit/tunnels o’ fun/bouncy castle for the ultimate in juvenile fun. Unfortunately, I’m well aware that such an attraction would, possibly within minutes, lead to more broken, bloodied children than Jurassic Park (also exactly what I’d expect to be the decisive kiddy attraction). This is, in a way, one of the chief reasons video games are so appealing to children: you can do whatever you want, without fear of reprisal or injury. Gold for all!Super Mario basically lives in a bouncy castle kingdom, and those pipe mazes have more in common with a McDonald’s Playplace than any real sewers. And while many “old school” video games are more regimented, challenge level affairs (what fun is a game without winning?) more modern “open world” games offer the exact kind of free-wheeling freedom children are denied every time they’re grounded for something as insignificant as lighting the living room on fire.

Disney Adventures in the Magic Kingdom is one of those rigid NES games. The concept is that you are… a cowboy? Cow child? Come to think of it, why didn’t they stick a Mickey hat on this kid’s sprite? I guess the ol’ ten gallon signifies adventure? Bah. Okay, in the interest of making this tangent eventually end, let’s call this guy… hm… brown hair… big yellow shoes… Sora? Yes, you’re Sora, friend of Mickey (not a euphemism), and Goofy has “accidently” dropped the golden key to the Enchanted Castle, so it’s up to you to explore the Magic Kingdom and reclaim the six silver keys (and reassemble Kingdom Key B?) from particular attractions. As far as plot excuses go, it’s not that bad, and it allows the game to have stakes (help Mickey!) without going too dark for a Disney licensed product (the Pirates of the Caribbean are not eating the tourists).

It may be restricted, but the gameplay is pretty diverse for a NES game. The Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion stages are both 2-D platforming affairs, and this is a Capcom game, so those areas are fairly thoughtfully designed. They’re no competition for DuckTales, but they’re better than anything ever seen on Adventure Island. Also, despite both levels using the same basic gameplay, Haunted Mansion is more “carefully time your jumps across moving platforms” while Pirates is “avoid all these enemies”, though there is a bit of overlap. Autopia (the go-karts) is an overhead car chase stage in the style of Spy Hunter, and Big Thunder Mountain is a minecart stage (ugh) where controlling your cart’s speed and guessing at the right path are the only challenges. No one can hear you careFinally, there’s Space Mountain, where the best damn ride in the park has been reduced to a completely random Simon Says event. Alright, yes, Space Mountain kind of sucks, but the rest of the package is pretty alright, and, with unlimited continues and the ability to trade collectible stars for health refills, pretty doable for a NES game.

While the game isn’t all that exciting, it does boast a pretty amazing concept: what if you could actually participate in the Disney attractions? Watching a pirate is pretty alright, but how about actually fighting pirates, and pilfering their booty? Touring the Haunted Mansion is a lot more interesting when ghosts hop out of mirrors, and escaping a collapsing mountain is a skosh more fun when there’s actual danger from those tumbling debris. And who doesn’t want to explore space, even if it’s limited Space Mountain space? Mickey, I really want to grab that silver key on Asteroid F, but can I just enjoy having my own freaking space ship for like five minutes?

Now if I’m being realistic, pretty much everything in this game has been revisited in some game or another in the last few decades. The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean both had complete games (mostly based on their movies), and any number of games have taken those archetypical ideas and ran to interesting places where heroes may or may not be able to hold their breath for ten minutes. vroomWe explored well beyond Space Mountain with the Federation of Space Loonies. As fun as Big Thunder Mountain can be, we are not lacking for tense minecart stages after Donkey Kong Country Returns. And as far as racing time, not only have we had a racing game or two in the last few years, the whole “ride” was adapted into a minigame within Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, complete with the race against a dastardly Pete.

But worrying about the levels or attractions is immaterial to what could be “the real thing”. What I want is what this game could be in the modern era: Grand Theft Auto: Magic Kingdom. Okay, no, I’m not suggesting you should be able to carjack your way around Disney World, I just want to see a game where you have control of the park, and I mean complete control. Ride It’s a Small World or jump off the rails and see how many cultures you can toss into each other. Soar over the entire park with Dumbo. Scale the Tower of Terror. Hunt the Jungle Cruise. Hall of Presidents boss rush. Take Mr. Toad on a truly wild ride. The possibilities are endless, and we have the technology to do it! Both Disney Parks are already designed like video game levels anyway!

Ask most kids where they want to go on vacation, and the answer is going to involve Disney. And that’s doable. But the secret wish? What that same kid wants but will never have? Complete control over Disney. No lines. No waiting. No rules. Just unbridled, unfettered fun.

It might not be possible in reality, but what else are video games for?

FGC #109 Disney Adventures in the Magic Kingdom

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. And, like the majority of the Capcom/Disney library, I wouldn’t be expecting a rerelease anytime soon.
  • SpookyNumber of players: One lil’ kid in his lil’ cowboy hat.
  • Favorite Attraction (in game): Haunted Mansion is some good ol’ Capcom style NES platforming. Pirates would come close, but it seems a little too anxious to deplete your piddling health within its first five seconds, leaving the poor hero inching along in fear of that final hit. It’s hard to enjoy anything when you’re deathly afraid of skeletons.
  • Favorite Attraction (real life): Space Mountain. How did this game make the most fun part of the park into the most dismal? Oh, right, Simon Says has never been fun.
  • Disney Memories: I actually went to Disney World annually with my family for most of my childhood, thanks to a combination of disposable income (being an only child is awesome!) and far too many relatives living in Orlando and surrounding areas. Honestly, and I even said this at the time, I always enjoyed going to Universal Studios Florida more than Disney World. The rides were… more adult? Ah, who am I kidding? I was just that much of a freak for Back to the Future.
  • Capcomian: This is the third Disney/Capcom game, so this was before the likes of Talespin and Darkwing Duck. DuckTales was the first, though, and it’s kind of amazing that Capcom never hit that dizzying high ever again. Then again, there aren’t any statues trying to rob me in this game, so maybe we broke even.
  • Did you know? I neglected to mention that one of the silver keys is available through a trivia game played throughout the park. The questions asked are wildly insane in their varying difficulty. Who are the chipmunk leaders of the Rescue Rangers? Think I can handle that one. But “What was the first Academy Award winning cartoon?” (Flowers and Trees), “What year did the Mickey Mouse Comic begin?” (1930), or “What is the name of Hook’s ship in ‘Peter Pan’?” (None) are all questions that I’m not sure anyone would ever know the answer, particularly pre-internet. At least “What Yummyis the name of the Evil Fairy in Sleeping Beauty?” has only gotten easier in recent years.
  • Would I play again: I admit I have a certain fondness for this title… but I think I have more fondness for other Capcom/Disney games I can actually play to completion without cursing at Space Mountain. Sorry, Proto-Sora, you’re going back in the drawer.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Primal Rage for the SNES! And I was just talking about Jurassic Park and bodily harm….Please look forward to it!