Tag Archives: nintendo age

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 #273 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

ThwipRobin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a NES movie tie-in game. We just covered Home Alone, released the same year, and that was a game that contained one stupid concept that was supposed to stretch over twenty minutes. RH:PoT is Home Alone’s bizarro evil twin (is that redundant?) , while HA did one thing poorly, Robin Hood attempts to do everything possible on the NES. And, head’s up, it still does it all poorly.

It’s a movie game!

First and foremost, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a licensed NES version of Kevin Costner’s film of the same name. Does… does anyone remember Costner’s Robin Hood? I saw it in theatres when I was a wee Goggle Bob, and I remember exactly two things about the movie: it was boring, and my dear mother had a minor freakout over an incredibly chaste sex scene that I can only vaguely recall. That’s… about it. However, I would have more fond memories of the movie if, like in the videogame, there was…

Dem Bones
A GIANT FUGGIN’ SKELETON MONSTER.

RH:PoT does its best to follow the will of Costner, but I apparently wasn’t the only one who was generally bored by the film. In addition to the basic stuff like Robin must befriend Little John and defeat the Sherriff of Nottingham, there are quite a few (mandatory) “side missions” on Robin’s to-do list. I guess there’s a rampaging boar attacking the countryside? Well, slaying that is a good way to earn the people’s trust. Then it’s time to take Robin’s Merry Men on a quest to get some actual weapons training. That’s probably a good idea, too. And, for some reason, everybody gets a bad case of the runs (maybe after eating that boar?), so Robin has to find a magical healing spring. Nothing like mystical bodies of water to keep the gang going.

Okay, let’s face it, with the exception of the boar, everything above sounds like a bore. But it does pad out the run time of the game… which is kind of weird for a NES game. This was well before the “80 hours of gameplay” bullet point, and, again, contemporary release Home Alone could only provide 20 minutes of gameplay. It’ll take you that long to get out of the first dungeon (literally a dungeon, for a change) of Robin Hood. That could have been the whole game! Nobody would have been upset! But no, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves has so much more to offer, likely to justify…

It’s got the inventory from hell!

I don't know what to do hereWith the exception of a few random bits we’ll be discussing shortly, you exclusively control Robin of Loxley for the majority of this game. Yet you pick up two new party members within the first screen, and gradually accrue more and more buddies from there. What’s the point when you’re only ever Robin? Simple: Robin can only carry six items at a time, and you’re going to need much, much more inventory space to conquer England. Robin needs to recover health, and Duncan has got some meat, so pass that ham over here, blindy, it’s time to top off the ol’ HP. I knew there was a reason we were keeping you around!

Unfortunately, this whole system goes downhill really quickly. To say it’s overcomplicated is kind of an understatement: Robin has multiple “body” slots, and an item like an amulet that proves your lineage can be “equipped” on any given body part (Hand? Chest? … Do amulets go in your pants?), or “used”, or even “eaten” if you want Robin to have to make a quick run to the healing spring. But first you have to remember which one of the knuckleheads in your party has the jewelry in the first place. Morgan Freeman, you got it? No? Little John? Nope? Dammit, did one of you dorks pawn that priceless family heirloom for beer money? I need that thing for a fetch quest, dammit!

And a quick side note, absolutely nothing about this inventory system is at all “necessary”. Final Fantasy (1) of 1987 solved the whole “try every inventory item everywhere” conundrum with its separate item, equipment, and key items slots… but Robin Hood didn’t get the memo, I suppose. Hey, Virgin Games? The NES controller only has four buttons. Maybe we could cut down a little on the bloat? Then again, bloat seems to be the name of the game, as…

It’s got four different gameplay modes!

They're made of dynamiteYou are Robin Hood. You are in a top-down, Zelda-esque environment. This seems to make sense, as you’re using keys and finding secret passages and battling guards in various Zelda-esque ways. You’re not going to be lucky enough to find any heart containers, but, aside from the thick layer of brown that’s been smeared all over this game, a lot of Robin’s adventure seems almost like a lost prototype for The Legend of Zelda 2. Okay… maybe Willow 2. Still! Not bad!

But then, after stabbing a guard down in top-down perspective, the second guard in the first area of Robin Hood suddenly initiates a “duel” system, and now you’re in a 2-D perspective that seems like some kind of weapons-based Street Fighter analogue. It’s time to d-d-d-d-d-duel, and it’s exactly as fun as repeatedly poking an opponent with an ineffectual stick can be. On the plus side, though, Robin suddenly has amazing ninja jumping skills, so he can leap eight feet in the air and somersault across the screen. Or roll around the ground like the sprightliest of hedgehogs. And I’m sure this isn’t all just to save on the animation budget. No, there was a lot of somersaulting in the movie, right?

And then, of course, post duel everything is back to top-down, because I guess that one guy was worthy of a duel, but every one of his identical buddies is just going to get stabbed in typical Zelda-style. It’s the NES-era, there doesn’t have to be a reason for anything.

Speaking of top-down, every once in a while you will be informed that “many” soldiers/enemies/skeletons are coming, so it’s time to zoom the camera way the hell out, convert all the sprites to something that would be comfortable on the Atari, and become Gauntlet: No Fun Edition. These “army fights” are the only spots where Robin’s Merry Men get to shine… and by “shine” I mean they all die instantly because they stand in front of the one dude shooting arrows like he’s on a CW drama. You-as-Robin must inevitably kill every last army opponent, because you can’t count on NES AI to do anything, and I suppose you’re expected to heal your now mortally wounded teammates after every skirmish. But what’s the point? They’re just going to die instantly again, one way or another. Nihilism, thy name is Robin Hood.

And then there’s an entire other mode for when you’re riding horseback. And it’s a lame knock-off of the Turbo Tunnel! Nobody wanted anything like that!

It’s a terrible NES game!

I say thee neighOn one hand, I want to laud Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for trying so much when then average NES game offered so little. On the other hand, I feel like half the problems in this game are a result of design excess continually leading to further excess. You’ve got extra characters, so there has to be a battle mode to justify them, even if it isn’t any fun. There’s an inventory system that involves disproportionately intricate management, so let’s have 900 useless items. There are “significant” battles, so let’s make a half-baked entirely new mode for each “boss”… or any creature that remotely looks like a boss. And horses! We need to have a whole new world for horses! Horses are cool!

Unfortunately, and fairly obviously, none of these systems mesh together into anything approaching a fun experience. Robin Hood: Princes of Thieves might be the most robust licensed game on the NES… but it’s just about as fun as Home Alone.

Sorry, Virgin Games, no points for trying.

FGC #273 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. … Wait, there’s a Gameboy version, too?
  • Number of players: The stupid army segments might almost be passable if they allowed a second player to help out, but nope. Or, oh! A two-player duel mode! Could base an entire franchise on that.
  • You have failed this quiver: Robin Hood does get a bow pretty early, and it is nice to have a long-range weapon handy. Unfortunately, this Robin isn’t very dexterous, and “strafing” is pretty much beyond him. As a result, while the bow is useful for sniping melee opponents, Robin will always lose against some other dink with a bow. And then it’s back to that super fun inventory system to juggle over a more apt weapon…
  • Devil’s in the Details: Each character has a “look” command, and it’s your typical “describe the item” narration to help you distinguish a blob of pixels that maybe looks like a potion from a blob of pixels that maybe looks like bread. However, if you try to use Duncan’s “look” command…

    Poor guy

    … Poor Duncan.

  • Favorite Merry Man: Azeem is found just chilling in his cell, but he tells Robin he dug a secret passage out of the prison like five feet over. Was… was Azeem just waiting for some white dude to come along so he could help his escape? Huh. Little John’s “has a stick” kind of pales in comparison.
  • Filthy Cheater: There’s a complete “start on any chapter” password system that is accessible with a secret code. Unfortunately, the passwords will often start you off in levels where you need some particular item, and, nope, it’s completely inaccessible now. Karnov asks: why bother?
  • Did you know? They accidentally switched the character portraits for Guy of Gisbourne and The Sherriff of Nottingham. This is yet another slight that Alan Rickman was forced to endure.
  • Would I play again: Not for all the gold in Sherwood.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Arcana Heart for the Playstation 2! Wow, we went a while without a fighting game. Almost hard to believe. Now it’s time for teenage girls to fight for the amusement of perverts! Please look forward to it!

Ugh
Just roll with it

FGC #250 Kid Icarus

You are now hearing this theme songKid Icarus isn’t bad, but there is definitely something “wrong” there. In replaying through the whole of the game for this review, I desperately tried to figure out the problem. Was it the deadly vertical scrolling? No, that’s a pain, but it didn’t offer any challenges that Mario or angel alike couldn’t overcome. Was it the labyrinthine, repetitive dungeons? No, they’re annoying, but a quick trip to the internet made those maps surmountable (I suppose graph paper could have sufficed in a pinch). And the final level is actually kind of a fun reward for completing the rest of the challenges, so that can’t be the trouble.

No, in playing Kid Icarus, I realized where the real problem lies: Every single time a new monster popped on the screen, I said, “Oh great, it’s this butthead.”

Watch out for buttheads

Like, look at these buttheads. Infinitely respawning buttheads? Yep, right here in the first level, and then every level after that.

GAZE

And these buttheads just float wherever they want. Monoeyes? Oh, that’s a clever name… for a butthead.

Grandpa, that's just Maggie

Ah, the grim personification of death, or just another butthead that is going to kill Pit? I think you know the answer.

There are so many buttheads, we might be here a while…