Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#97 – Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

If you ever wanted to throw a friend, here’s a great way to do it!

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chip and Dale!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 8/12/18
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers Longplay

We are almost at 100 NES games into this project, yet somehow this will be the fourth Disney Afternoon NES game on the list already. Sure, I handpicked DuckTales to round out my first ten games, but then TaleSpin followed quickly after. DuckTales 2 was beaten just a few months ago. I did not watch much of those cartoons in the Disney Afternoon lineup, but I sure played a ton of Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers over the years. Time to play it again and document it all!

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers was an animated series from Walt Disney Television Animation. It was created by Tad Stones and Alan Zaslove. The series technically started with a preview episode that aired in August 1988. The full series began on the Disney Channel in March 1989 with a 13-episode run in its first season, which included that preview episode. Season 2 ran 47 episodes from September 1989 through May 1990. The first five episodes of the season were initially created as a standalone movie named Rescue Rangers: To the Rescue. The third and final season was an abbreviated five episode run from September 1990 through November 1990. Reruns were aired as part of the Disney Afternoon from 1990 through 1993.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is one of the few releases to launch near simultaneously in both Japan and the US. Both the Famicom version, named Chip to Dale no Daisakusen, and the NES version were released June 1990. The PAL version would wait until December 1991. There was also a port to the Playchoice-10 arcade machine. Capcom both developed and published this game. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers was included as part of the Disney Afternoon Collection compilation released in 2017.

Small cutscenes progress the story.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a side-scrolling platformer. The Rescue Rangers work together to find their neighbor Mandy’s missing kitten. Chip and Dale go hot on the trail and fend off a bunch of mysterious robotic enemies. It turns out to be a distraction as their enemy Fat Cat captures Gadget, one of the Rescue Rangers. Now the remaining Rescue Rangers have to work their way through several levels to find and defeat Fat Cat. Simply reach the ending of this story to beat this game.

At the start of the game you decide if you want to play single player or two-player mode. In single player you then get to pick if you want to control either Chip or Dale. Both play the same so just pick the one you like more. In two-player mode, player 1 is Chip and player 2 is Dale. Two-player mode is simultaneous play which I have found is a big draw to this game.

The controls are normal platformer controls. You move around with the D-pad and press A to jump. You can control your fall with the D-pad for good old precision movement. Hold Down to duck low, and if you press A then you will jump down through ledges. The B button is used to pick up and throw objects. Normally you will throw crates but there are other things you can grab. Push into the crate from the side and press B to pick it up. You can move around like normal when holding a crate. Press B to throw the crate sideways the length of the screen. You can hold Up and press B to throw a crate straight above your head, like you have super strength. If you duck while holding a crate you will hide inside of it. You’ll see your character’s eyes peeking out. While hiding like this, enemies can walk right into the crate and take damage, acting like a shield of sorts. If you throw the crate while hiding you will throw it low across the ground. In the two-player mode, you can throw crates at each other, stunning your partner briefly. You can also pick the other player up, carry him through the level, and throw him around. Press Start to pause the game, and press Select to also pause the game and bring up a status screen.

Always carry a crate along.

A little information is on-screen during play, and the rest of it is shown on the status screen. The top of the screen shows your health meter in the corner. You get three hearts of health and damage from an enemy causes you to lose a heart. In this game there is no way to extend the maximum health meter. There is also a C or a D displayed above the health depending on if you are playing as Chip or Dale. The status screen from pressing Select shows your character portrait along with the number of lives, flowers, and stars you have collected.

There are powerups and collectibles you can find. Flowers are the most common item you will see all the time out in the open. Meanwhile, stars are usually found hidden behind a crate. Once you collect either 100 flowers or 20 stars, a 1up star will float into play from the side of the screen. You can occasionally find 1up stars hidden in crates. You can tell the difference as 1up stars flash colors and normal stars do not. Health-restoring acorns can also be found in crates. Normal acorns restore one heart and blinking acorns restore all health. While not a powerup, I want to also mention the metal crates. You can’t throw these, but you can pick them up, drop them, and stack them to build makeshift stairs.

Large treasure boxes may hold special items. You can find full-health acorns inside them sometimes. You can find a powerup with the letter P on it that helps you carry heavy items. There are some things like large apples that you can pick up but they slow your movement and you can’t jump as high. When carrying an apple you can see Chip or Dale visibly sweat because it’s so heavy. With the P powerup you can carry big items the same as normal ones. Boxes may contain a hunk of cheese that lures fellow Rescue Ranger Monterey Jack. He will go after the cheese while knocking a hole in the wall that opens up the next screen. The best powerup is Zipper, another Rescue Ranger. He provides temporary invincibility and knocks out all your enemies for you while it lasts.

Choose your own adventure!

You jump right into the action after the initial story sequence in a new game. The end of this level is when Gadget gets captured. After a message from one of the characters, you get to choose the next level you want to play from the map. Each area is identified by a letter of the alphabet, and you can fly your plane to the one to want. Of course, you have to beat a level before you can pass it on the map to the next one.

At the end of each level before the map screen, you get to play a bonus game. This is a single-screen platforming segment with a few crates that have items inside. You want to find stars and 1up stars here if you can, but the bonus game is over so quickly that you have to be intentional on where you want to look. In two-player mode this is especially devious as you can stun the other player with thrown crates, losing precious bonus time in the process.

The levels themselves are mostly straightforward platforming. There are locations where everything is large in contrast to your small size. You can run around library books or jump over steaming pots in the kitchen. Some stages have interactive elements. For instance, you can turn off streams of water in the way by jumping on top of and turning the tap. You can also hit switches with crates to turn things on and off. The path of the level may take you in any direction, but you always stay on track and the screen doesn’t scroll to let you backtrack.

Turn the tap to shut off the upper valve also.

Most stages end in a boss battle. Instead of the bosses dropping throwable items, you get a single red ball used to attack. This ball acts like the crates but it is permanent. Throw it into each boss five times to defeat it. The ball always rebounds off the wall and flies backwards before dropping to the ground after its next collision with one of the sides. This is so you can’t lose the ball behind some of the larger bosses in the game.

You start the game with three lives. You can play when the status screen shows zero lives remaining, so you always have one more life than it appears. The same thing happens with continues. You can continue up to three times from the start of the stage where you died. Before your last continue, the Game Over screen will display “Continue 0.” I think it’s nice to have what feels like an extra continue just in case you need it!

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers was a game I’ve owned since I was a kid and I have played through the game countless times. We did not own this new, but it sold well enough that there were a lot of second-hand copies floating around. I don’t recall how I got my first copy but I have had a few other copies I bought within game lots on eBay. As a popular, yet common game, it always sells for around $10-$15.

This huge boss is probably some kid’s toy robot.

I have played a lot of this game, but I hadn’t played it recently. I liked the idea of trying to beat the game without dying, but this time I just wanted to beat the game well enough to move on to the next one on my list. I died four or five times in my run and I didn’t get too far in before I died the first time. It’s not a great outcome, but I’m satisfied with it. I made sure to play all the stages. Poor Area E gets ignored by just about everyone since there’s really no reason to play it due to its location on the map. I wanted to give it part of the spotlight during my playthrough because it’s a good level like the others.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a great NES game suitable for any collection. It has colorful and detailed graphics, peppy music, responsive controls, and fun levels. The enemies and traps are interesting with some creative behavior and interactivity, and the boss battles are well made. The levels are in some unusual but clever settings and they really suit the game well. My only gripes are that the game feels a bit too short and the game difficulty is mostly easy. A few of the levels can be skipped over entirely making for an even quicker game if that’s what you want. These are minor complaints. This is an excellent game made even better by supporting two players. Games like this tend to make me crave more of it, but lucky for me there’s an NES sequel coming up someday. I haven’t yet played Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers 2, nor do I know much about it at all, so I am very much looking forward to playing it!

#97 – Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers


#78 – DuckTales 2

Scrooge McDuck decided he didn’t have enough money after all.

Look at that shiny gold!

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat the game with the best ending
What I Did: Completed the game with all endings
Played: 3/12/18 – 3/15/18
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: DuckTales 2 Longplay with Best Ending

It’s another milestone of my Take On The NES Library project, sort of. DuckTales 2 is not the first sequel on my list. That goes to Super Mario Bros. 2. However, DuckTales 2 is the first direct sequel, in the sense that it is basically the same game. Milestones are going to be harder to find the longer I go into the project, so I like pointing them out and celebrating the ones we have. DuckTales 2 doesn’t do a whole lot in changing the formula of the original game, but I think that’s okay. NES DuckTales is quite good, and more of the same shouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

For more information on the background of this series, check out my DuckTales review.

DuckTales 2 was first released on the Famicom in April 1993. The NES release in North America followed in June 1993, and a PAL release followed later in the year. It was published by Capcom. Make Software is credited as the developer, although from what I can find, they may have only been responsible for the sound engine in the game. My belief is that Capcom and Make Software co-developed the game. That is pure speculation on my part just because of how similar this game is to the original DuckTales which was developed by Capcom. A Game Boy port followed in November 1993 in North America and December 1993 in Japan.

Travel the world in search of treasure again!

DuckTales 2 is a side-scrolling platformer where you control Scrooge McDuck. The story begins with Huey running to Scrooge with a torn piece of paper. They figure out that it is a portion of a treasure map left by the late Fergus McDuck. Naturally, they want to try and rebuild the map so they can locate the lost treasure of McDuck. Scrooge and company start an expedition to five different locations both to find the remaining portions of the map and to collect highly guarded treasures along the way.

The game controls the same as the first game. You walk around with the D-pad and you can duck by holding Down. The A button jumps. While jumping, if you hold Down and B you use your cane as a pogo stick. You bounce high off the ground, and this is how you defeat enemies and pass over spikes. If you walk into a wall or solid block for a little bit, you will see Scrooge stand in place for as long as you hold the direction button. If you press B in this state, he will swing his cane like a golf club and whack the object next to him. You can also jump with A in this state and then swing your cane to hit objects off the ground. You can press Start to pause.

A few features were added to DuckTales 2. Scrooge’s cane is used to hook certain objects. Perform the golf swing on these things to grab onto them with the cane instead of hitting them. You can then hold the opposite direction on the D-pad to pull on them. You can drag certain blocks on the ground, as well as pull switches and activate objects. Release the B button to let go of your hooked object. There are hooks above the ground that you can grab onto simply by jumping to them. Press A again while hooked to jump off or press Down to fall.

Scrooge’s cane is more versatile.

At the start of the game, you see a map of the game world. There are five levels and you can play them in any order you like. Simply use the D-pad to move a cursor to the different stages. The icon next to a stage will show Scrooge’s face if you have already completed the level once. Otherwise, it shows the treasure you can find guarded by the boss at the end of the stage. Launchpad will read some information about the level you selected. You can choose to play that stage or switch to a different one.

There are three equipment upgrades you can find. You can speak with characters by walking up to them. Normally they give you some advice about the level you are in. In certain levels, you can find and talk to Gyro and he will give you an adaptor upgrade for your cane. The hammer adaptor gives you a more powerful golf swing, the iron adaptor gives you a stronger pogo jump, and the power adaptor lets you pull heavier things. They are applied automatically when you get them and they are permanent. Now you can break or pull certain blocks that hide treasure or other paths you can explore.

Like in the original game, you can find different items in the stages. Sometimes enemies will drop jewels that add to your money total at the top of the screen. Small diamonds are worth $1000, large diamonds give you $10,000, and red diamonds yield $50,000. Items mostly come out of treasure boxes, both small and large, that you can open by bopping them with your cane, either by pogo jump or golf swing. Boxes may also hide ice cream cones that restore one point of health and cakes that refill your entire health meter. Extra lives in the shape of a small Scrooge also appear occasionally inside a treasure box. A couple large treasure boxes hide special treasures that are worth a million dollars each. Also, each stage has one large treasure box containing a piece of the treasure map. The difficulty level chosen on the title screen influences the items you’ll find. The harder difficulties have fewer health recovery items, replacing them with jewels.

Check every nook and cranny for the map pieces.

DuckTales 2 features an item shop. Like in the first game, each level ends in a boss fight and you earn a treasure worth a million dollars. Combine that with your earnings from the stage, and then you get a chance to spend it in the item shop. Two items in the shop are ones you can bring into the stages. The cake acts just like the cake item from the treasure chests, but this one you can use anytime. Pause the game, then use the D-pad to scroll through your items to select the cake. The other item is the safe, but unlike the cake you don’t have to use it through the menu. The safe lets you keep your money earned if you lose a life within a stage. Normally you lose your accrued cash when you die. You can buy extra lives and a continue globe that lets you continue if you run out of lives. The extra energy item adds a point to your maximum health. You begin with three points and can buy two of these items to get up to five health. You can also buy a piece of the treasure map, but this isn’t always for sale.

Here are the five stages in the game:

Niagara Falls: This is the first level in the list and not a bad one to start off with. This level has water in it that you can cross on a life raft. Knock the raft into the water and smack the wall while standing on the raft to push it to the other side. There are logs falling down the falls that you must cross, as well as a crumbling bridge.

Bermuda Triangle: This stage takes place on a ship near the Bermuda triangle. This level has barrels that you can smack with your cane that sometimes give diamonds. One neat object is a cannon that you can fire by hooking with your cane and pulling a cannonball loose. There are also conveyor belts that you can drive by pulling them with the cane.

Behold the rare spring blossom!

Mu: This level takes you below ground passing through the ruins of past civilization. There is an ancient city here that can give you something special if you can find it. There is a flower that you can tug on with your cane to springboard you across a large gap. It’s the only one in the game but it’s neat.

Egypt: This pyramid level is the most maze-like stage of all. It has several looping paths and hidden floors. There’s a lot of treasure for the taking if you are willing to look for it.

Scotland: This stage is a large castle, and there are plenty of knights and spikes to contend with. One enemy here is a floating hand carrying a lantern. It shows up a lot and sometimes you can bounce off it to reach treasures.

There’s a bit more to play past these five stages. Scrooge’s rival, Flintheart Glomgold, appears on the pirate ship. You have to go there and deal with him to beat the game. If you can find all seven pieces of the map, you get to play one additional level containing the lost treasure of McDuck before the final showdown.

Snakes and quicksand are a dangerous combination.

This was my first time playing DuckTales 2. It’s one of those late lifespan NES games that is both fun to play and very expensive to buy. A loose cart sells around $125 these days. It has been near that amount for several years now. The first DuckTales game was popular enough that DuckTales 2 seems to have sold decently well for a 1993 NES game. I say that because it is easier to find than many of the other expensive NES games. I have seen a few copies for sale in stores since I’ve been looking for games, and I can’t say that for other games this costly. It’s also the most expensive NES game I’ve owned more than one copy of. I bought my first one for $100 on eBay, and the other I found in an eBay lot of six games that I bought for $60 total.

I struggled a little bit more playing DuckTales 2 than I would have expected. I got Game Over a couple of times while I was l learning the levels and looking around for secrets. I suppose it’s easy to be careless when you aren’t focusing solely on surviving and beating levels. Once I committed to buying the health upgrades and whatever else I needed, I didn’t have any problems beating the game after that. I got the normal ending of the game with plenty of lives to spare.

Getting the best ending like I wanted took a little more effort. Through normal play and exploration, I found all of the map pieces but two. The one in Niagara Falls I thought was very well hidden. I found that one last though I found it on my own. The map piece in Egypt gave me real trouble. To get it, you have to solve a puzzle that opens a gate leading to the map segment. There’s a clue before the area that gives you the hint needed to solve it, but I just couldn’t figure it out. I tried everything I could think of and got nowhere. I had to look up the solution to that one online. I gave it my best try so I have no issues with looking up the answer, even if I prefer not to.

These lantern hands show up in tricky spots.

Just like in the first DuckTales game, there is a third, bad ending if you finish the game with no money remaining. There’s a clearer path to the ending in DuckTales 2 because you can spend extra money in the shop, and you spend in smaller amounts than in the first game. If you need some extra money to balance it out, or simply more chances to buy in the shop, you can leave a level through Launchpad. This lets you keep the money you have earned in the stage plus lets you shop again. You can do this as many times as you want. I was able to get the bad ending on my second try. This means I got all three endings in DuckTales 2.

I think DuckTales 2 is a little bit easier than the first game. I rated DuckTales a 4/10 and gave DuckTales 2 a 3/10. Most of that difference is due to the ability to purchase additional lives and continues. Another difference is that I believe you can earn unlimited money in DuckTales 2. In the original, you could only leave with Launchpad once per stage. Here you can revisit a level you are good at, take the money or any extra lives you can find, and leave with Launchpad as many times as you want. It’s grinding made easy. The difficulty of the levels themselves are roughly the same in my mind. It’s not a complete pushover of a game but it shouldn’t take experienced players very long to beat.

DuckTales 2 is a great NES game, but doesn’t offer as much as you might expect from a sequel. The graphics, music, controls, and gameplay are all top notch. It’s the kind of quality you would expect from a Capcom-published NES game from the 90s. The upgrades are nice and help add a bit of exploration to the game even though it can be a little tedious replaying stages. The levels all have a good amount of secrets to find, as well as branching paths and some neat obstacles to interact with. It’s a fine game, but it does feel just like the first DuckTales game. I appreciate games like DuckTales 2 that give you more of what you want. I know not everyone feels that way. Plus, it’s hard to recommend buying the game when it’s so expensive and is over so quickly. It’s worth a play any way you can manage it if you like DuckTales.

#78 – DuckTales 2 (Best Ending)

#78 – DuckTales 2


#76 – The Rocketeer

A game based on a movie about a guy and a jetpack sounds about right.

One of the nicest looking NES title screens so far!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 3/4/18
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: The Rocketeer Longplay

It’s already starting to become difficult writing introductions for some of these games. In this case, I don’t have any connection to The Rocketeer. I haven’t read the comics the character came from, nor did I even know they existed until today. I have heard of the movie but haven’t seen it. The NES game doesn’t do anything new when compared to games I’ve already covered. I’m sure the comics and film are enjoyable. I thought the game was enjoyable. Lacking any connection, it’s hard to know exactly what to say. Maybe The Rocketeer is something you have fond memories of. If I can help you stir up some nostalgia and say some good words about this game, that will make it all worth it.

The Rocketeer is a superhero created by Dave Stevens. He first appeared in Starslayer by Pacific Comics in 1982. Stevens sold the film rights for The Rocketeer the next year, but creative differences and rights changes kept any sort of movie dormant for a long time. Eventually, Walt Disney Pictures decided to take on The Rocketeer, though they insisted on making several changes and the ensuing negotiations delayed the film even further. After many script revisions, The Rocketeer released in theaters in June 1991. It received mixed reviews and was viewed as a financial disappointment. There have been rumors of a reboot as recently as 2017, and a Disney animated series inspired by The Rocketeer is currently in production and slated for a 2019 release.

There were two video games based on and called The Rocketeer. The NES game was released in May 1991, surprisingly one month ahead of the movie release. It was developed and published by Bandai. It is exclusive to North America only. The developer NovaLogic released a PC game in December 1991 which was later ported to the Super Nintendo in May 1992. The PC/SNES game is a collection of minigames based on the Rocketeer and is a different game than the NES version.

I’d say the cutscene graphics are shockingly good.

The Rocketeer on NES is a side-scrolling platformer with its story based on the movie. You play the role of stunt pilot Cliff Secord in 1930’s Los Angeles. He discovers a rocket pack hidden inside the cockpit of a biplane. With the help of his mechanic Peevy, they fashion a helmet to go along with the rocket with the intent to keep and use it. However, mobsters sent by movie star Neville Sinclair pursue both Cliff and Peevy in order to steal the rocket pack. Sinclair captures Cliff’s girlfriend Jenny to help convince Cliff to return the rocket pack. The six chapters of the NES game follow this and the rest of the story.

The controls are typical of this kind of game. Use the D-pad to walk left and right and press Down to duck. Cliff can jump with the A button and attack with the B button. The basic attack is a punch, but there are other weapons he can use. Press Select to switch weapons. Start pauses the game. If Cliff has enough fuel, he can also fly. To do this, press A to jump and then press A again before he reaches the top of his jump. This engages the rocket pack and now you can move Cliff in all directions with the D-pad alone. Cliff falls if he runs out of fuel, but you can drop early by holding Down and pressing A.

The top left corner of the screen contains a small status bar. On top you see your ammo count. Underneath that is a picture of your currently selected weapon. At the bottom of the bar there is a red meter on the left and a gray meter on the right. The red meter is Cliff’s health, and the gray meter is his fuel level. You can have up to eight bars of health and eleven bars of fuel. Pretty simple.

Cliff has several weapons already equipped and they all share from the same pool of bullets. You can press Select to cycle through each weapon, skipping the ones where you don’t have enough ammo. The default punch attack doesn’t require any ammo. The pistol uses one bullet and fires a slow, straight projectile. The rifle requires two bullets, and although it is just as powerful as the pistol, the shots travel farther and much faster. The spray gun costs three bullets and shoots a three-way shot. Grenades cost five bullets and are thrown forward in an arc. Finally, the bazooka costs a whopping fifteen bullets. You won’t use it often, but it is very effective against large bosses.

There’s plenty of walking, punching, and shooting to go around.

There are item pickups to help Cliff in his journey. Red hearts restore one point of health, and purple hearts give a full health refill. A pack of bullets adds ten to your ammo count, and a pack of silver bullets adds twenty ammo. Finally, the gas can restores four units of fuel. All of these items can be found lying on the ground. Sometimes, defeated enemies will drop a red heart, a bullet pack, or a fuel can.

There are several different enemies that get in your way. Standard black enemies just run at Cliff. They often come out of doorways in the background and they just keep coming out one at a time if you stick around. Red soldiers stand in place and fire bullets. You can duck underneath his fire, but usually he stands behind a crate or something and you have to get close to take him out. Purple soldiers are annoying. They kneel on the ground and fire fast shots, so they are tricky to defeat without getting hit. Some enemies have rocket packs of their own. There are other types of traps and devices such as cannons, mines, and even tiny tanks.

The whole game is structured by a chapter system that feels a lot like Ninja Gaiden. Between chapters or major sections of the game, there are cutscenes that drive the story. You can speed up the text by holding A, or just press Start to skip them entirely. Each level may contain sublevels and sometimes there are story segments between these scenes within a chapter. Some chapters end in a boss fight. Of the four bosses in the game, two of them are large encounters with your full complement of weaponry. The other two are smaller scale encounters and you are limited in what you can use to fight. The game does a decent job of explaining these forced limitations through the story segments.

You can fight a 1930’s helicopter.

Cliff only gets one life, and if you die, you get to see a cutscene of his death. You will probably see that a lot in the game. The Rocketeer has unlimited continues and you get sent back to either the start of the chapter or sometimes to a scene in the middle of a chapter. Not only that, but there is a password system too. You get a password between every chapter. The passwords are nine digits long, broken up into three groups of three digits. Maybe they are a little too long for this kind of game, but not too bad.

This was my first time playing The Rocketeer. I remember when I tried out this game after I bought it. I missed a jump in the first chapter that sent me back a distance and that’s when I stopped playing. I don’t see this game around much, but I’d still say it’s a common NES title. I own a complete copy of The Rocketeer that I acquired piecemeal. Several years ago, I purchased a nice lot of boxed NES games which included The Rocketeer. All of the games in that lot were missing the manual so I must have acquired one separately.

I ended up beating the entire game on my first attempt. I have gotten back into the habit of waking up in the middle of the night to do some chores and play NES before going back to bed. This night I fell asleep early, so I had more time to work with than normal without feeling like a zombie the next day. It took me right around two hours to beat the game blind. I knew there were only six chapters in the game but I didn’t think I’d get through it all right away. The next evening, I recorded my longplay which took over an hour. I got it done before midnight, so I managed to beat The Rocketeer within one calendar day.

There’s not as much flying around as you might expect.

I rated The Rocketeer a 4/10 in difficulty, but the game is a bit more challenging than the score would let on. Some of these areas run on for a while and it doesn’t take much to run out of health and have to start all over. You will need to memorize the levels and enemy points, but lucky item drops can be the difference in surviving to the next chapter. There were a couple of areas where I survived for long stretches with almost no extra health. There is a gradual increase in difficulty as the game progresses, though I had more trouble with Chapter 5 than the final level. Of course, all these issues are heavily mitigated with infinite continues and passwords. Also, if I could beat the game in one night without having played it past the first area before, it can’t be that hard.

Here are some techniques I came up with while playing The Rocketeer. I tend to use only punches until I reach about 50 bullets. Then I switch over to the pistol. It’s cheap to use and gives you much longer range, and if enough enemies continue dropping bullets, you can keep using it for a long time. I used the Bazooka for a couple of the boss battles. Other than that, I didn’t bother with any of the other weapons because they simply weren’t as cost efficient. The standard runner enemies are timed to pop out of doorways just as you cross their spawn point if you always run full speed. I learned that the hard way. Whenever I see a doorway or somewhere I think an enemy will appear, I pause for a bit. Another thing I learned is that enemies that shoot at you will stop briefly whenever they get hit. If you can get near an enemy and hit them, you should be able to keep shooting or punching and they won’t retaliate. Finally, I was not able to consistently get the hang of beating the purple enemies out in the open without getting hit at least once. What seemed to work the most often is jump the first two bullets, immediately crouch and fire, and then jump the third bullet. That stuns the enemy and you can beat him quickly after that. I started figuring that out near the end of my second playthrough. It’s tough to do, but I don’t have a simpler way other than using heavier firepower.

I think The Rocketeer is a pretty decent game. The graphics and cutscenes are all nicely detailed and look really good on the NES. The music is good, although not super memorable. The controls are simple but effective. There are a few issues. One complaint I have is that jetpack movement feels very slippery. I had a hard time lining up with targets while airborne. Some of the jumps are a little too long and they are easy to misjudge and miss. Enemies spawning right on top of you is mean design, and it happens all the time if you aren’t paying attention. This game can be fun, but it feels ordinary. This is one of the best examples of an average game I can think of. If you like most NES games, you’ll probably like this one too.

#76 – The Rocketeer

TaleSpin Box Cover

#12 – TaleSpin

A cleverly named Disney cartoon becomes an intriguing NES shooter.

Let's go flying!

Let’s go flying!

To Beat: Reach the end credits
Played: 1/22/16 – 1/23/16
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 3/10

Well that didn’t take long to reach another Disney-to-NES conversion courtesy of Capcom! Based on the animated Disney television series of the same name as part of The Disney Afternoon, TaleSpin is unique among its NES counterparts in that it’s not a platformer but an aerial adventure true to the cartoon series.

TaleSpin, the Disney animated series, had a 65-episode run all within a span of a year running from September 7, 1990 to August 8th, 1991. It tells the story of Baloo, a pilot for his freight service, and his navigator Kit as they aim to deliver goods while avoiding and fighting air pirates lead by Don Karnage and other foes that attempt to steal their cargo. I’m simplifying this as it’s a show I didn’t watch and I’m not familiar with it. The NES game was likely developed during the show’s initial run on TV since it was released in December 1991 after the final episode had already aired.

Make those shots count because you only start with one!

Make those shots count because you only start with one!

TaleSpin on NES is a horizontal scrolling shooter with a few interesting mechanics. You can fly Baloo in eight directions and fire bullets with the B button to attack enemies. If you press the A button, Baloo flips around and flies both backwards and upside-down causing the screen to scroll left instead of right. Not many autoscrolling shooters allow you to scroll both left and right at will – this is the only one that I’m aware of. Your only attack is the default shot but you can aim your shots diagonally if you shoot while moving up and down, so altogether you can fire in six directions. It’s an interesting mechanic and it makes sense since the plane banks up and down pretty severely as you fly. However it takes some getting used to and it will cause misfires. This mostly occurs because to fire straight you must not be moving vertically, so to properly aim at something straight ahead you must line yourself up and stop completely before shooting. The game will occasionally scroll vertically and in these parts the scrolling is forced with no backtracking like in the horizontal scrolling areas.

Along the way you will pick up money bags and cargo containers that look like little briefcases. Collecting these will give you money at the end of the stage that can be spent on upgrades for your plane, the Sea Duck. You can buy extra shots for your plane as well as a permanent speed increase and some armor to increase your total health. You can also buy extra lives and even extra continues if you need some additional tries. You start the game with three hearts for health but only one bullet on the screen at a time causing the game to be fairly challenging at the start as every shot counts. Buying an extra shot right away is crucial to help ease the later levels.

Extra shot purchased.  Good player!

Extra shot purchased. Good player!

Enemies when destroyed will occasionally drop fruit on a parachute and this is the only way to earn points during the levels. Some parts of the levels hide pickups and they are revealed if you shoot their hiding spots. These often appears in nooks in the stages or in corners and thankfully you don’t take damage from touching the walls so feel free to look to your heart’s content. Just make sure not to get pinched by the scrolling screen as that will cost you a life. The entrances to the bonus stage are also hidden and revealed when shot. In these areas you switch to Kit who rides on this air surfboard called an airfoil. You can pop balloons that reveal fruit and extra lives and you can really stock up on lives by hitting every bonus area.

There are eight levels in total and each level ends in a boss encounter. There are a variety of locales to journey through and some of them are interesting for a shooter such as a haunted house and a baseball stadium. The bosses tend to be fairly challenging particularly since the Sea Duck is a pretty big sprite with equally large hitbox, the bosses spray a fair amount of bullets and other moving parts around, and also because each boss has an invincibility period after taking a hit.

How many times do I have to tell you?  No flying inside the house!

How many times do I have to tell you? No flying inside the house!

Like I mentioned before I had not watched the cartoon basically at all, and in the same way I did not play TaleSpin on NES until adulthood. I think I bought my copy for $8 as part of a buy two get one free sale at my local game store. The game came up awhile back as part of the NA weekly contest as a high score challenge and I’m pretty sure I beat the game on either my first or second try at that time. I also got acquainted with the locations of the bonus areas back then because they are very point-heavy with all the fruit you can collect, so that experience helped me here too.

My playthrough of the game was fairly ordinary and unremarkable. I was very rusty at the start and I lost all my lives on the first level, but once I started it up again I was cruising through the levels with little trouble until I ran out of time that night and had to turn the game off. Starting over the next evening I beat the game with at least a dozen lives to spare and I didn’t need any continues to get the job done. There was one boss at the end of the fifth stage that gave me some trouble. It’s a crane with a wrecking ball that drops down on you and the boss shoots these bouncing shots so you are being attacked from above and below. It’s just about impossible to not take damage here. The only way I could beat it was to get there with full health and just sit in the middle constantly shooting it while avoiding attacks as best I could and taking advantage of my invincibility period to move to safety. I was able to beat it that way by attrition. With that in mind, here’s a hot tip for this boss! When doing some research for this post I found out that you can destroy the wrecking ball which completely takes out the attack from above. Look at me, I did it the hard way!

This boss is so hard with that wrecking ball intact.

This boss is so hard with that wrecking ball intact.

I had some trouble coming up with a difficulty for TaleSpin. The game isn’t exactly a cakewalk and it takes a few levels for the difficulty to ease up once you get some powerups under your belt. That was the way it went for me but once I got over that hurdle I thought the game was pretty easy. There are so many extra lives available not to mention continues I never had to touch. I decided to place the game just below average difficulty although I could be persuaded to slide the game up or down a notch.

TaleSpin is a solid experience from a good developer based on a quality Disney property, so it’s hard not to recommend the game. The mechanics are neat but they do require some practice and thoughtfulness that takes some time to get used to. Boss fights aside, TaleSpin isn’t all that memorable to me, but that’s not really a negative thing. With Capcom on NES you are pretty much assured of getting a good game no matter what and that is definitely the case here. My advice is if you decide to play TaleSpin, stick it out past the first level and buy that extra shot. I think you’ll have fun with it!

TaleSpin Ending Screen

#12 – TaleSpin