It may have taken a game with a rather gentle difficulty to get me over the top, but I finally climbed the mountain and finished something on my return to the NES this week. I was stuffed by Castlevania III. Psyched out by Power Blade. Uh…rolled…by Marble Madness. And in the unkindest cut of all, Paperboy wasn’t working. It refused to fire up, the first casualty to turn up in the collection. The game that taught me the random crazy people/insane traffic dodging skills necessary to navigate the pedestrian traffic of my every day commute was dead. I needed hope. It arrived in the hands of 4 rodents and a fly.
Rescue Rangers is the comfort food of the platforming genre. Chip and Dale leap great distances with incredible control, allowing you to simply jump over almost all the game’s enemies. The environment is jam-packed with platforms of varying heights, and you can leap to/drop from them nearly at-will. In a stunningly rare NES nod to realism, Chip and Dale actually seem to move with the litheness and quickness of real chipmunks. You know, if chipmunks could pick up small boxes and apples and hurl them in any direction they chose at a speed that would impress Aroldis Chapman.
This is all to say you have more than the necessary tools for the demands this game makes on you. The controls are snappy and responsive, among the best in the NES catalog. The bosses are nonthreatening, to say the least. For each fight, you pick up a little red ball and hurl it in the direction of the boss. You then use your ridiculous chipmunk quickness to get out of the way of their scattered and predictable shot. Not one of them, even Fat Cat, has a 2nd attack pattern. It becomes almost impossible not to beat this game when you combine all the above with the fact that the game also tosses a slew of extra lives, and a constant supply of acorns for health refills.
This breezy difficulty might make for a snoozer if it wasn’t for the fact that the smoothness of the control scheme, the ease of interacting with the environments and the general cuteness of the Rescue Rangers crew just make it a hell of a lot of fun to play.
Once you beat Fat Cat for the final time, the game suddenly decides that you’ve had enough fun. It presents you an ending that’s underwhelming, even by NES standards. I kept waiting for it to go back to the start menu, but by the 4th time the Rescue Rangers theme song started repeating, I knew this game had no intention of rewarding my modest effort in beating it by saving me the trouble of getting up and hitting the reset button.
For all that NES magic (seriously, if a Nintendo game gives you fantastic play-control and a memorably awful ending, it’s worth playing any day of the week) the game’s best feature might be the sweet 2-player simultaneous co-op. I asked AJ if she wanted to play, but she was working on some documents and expressed disinterest. I guess I didn’t ask Htopia’s official feline Calliope if she wanted in on the fun, but she let out a pretty sizeable yawn and fell asleep when I beat the first boss, so I don’t think she would have been up for it anyhow. I personally had to go it alone, but if you have the opportunity, Rescue Rangers is best enjoyed with a friend.
A man has to learn to walk before he learns to run, and before he learns to walk he’s going to stumble a few times. I stumbled through a few games before I got my feet under me again, and all it took was Rescue Rangers’ high fun/low frustration ratio. Now, I’m running full speed. I breezed through Marble Madness immediately afterwards, which had given me the slip just a couple days earlier. Though I wouldn’t mind my next round being a bit more challenging, I’m convinced that anyone in need of a dose of gaming confidence should invest the 30 or so minutes necessary to beat it.