Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#120 – Ice Hockey

Skinny, regular, or fat, they are all great players!

Here there are more players than allowed on the ice.

To Beat: Win a game
To Complete: Win against all teams
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 4/6/19
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: Ice Hockey Longplay

I am surprised at how few hockey games there are on the NES. There are only four of them. Hockey may not be one of the more dominant professional sports in the US, but there are many NHL teams and tons of fans all over. I’m surprised that there are more wrestling games than hockey games, for instance. I am not huge on hockey, but I have spent a lot more time playing a couple of the NES hockey games than many other sports games. Ice Hockey is in the conversation for the most popular NES game of the sport.

Ice Hockey was developed and published by Nintendo. I couldn’t figure out if it was made by either their R&D2 or R&D4 divisions at Nintendo. It was first released in January 1988 in Japan on the Famicom Disk System. The NES release launched first in North America in March 1988 and in PAL regions in April 1988. That’s a pretty quick turnaround for converting an FDS game to an NES cart and launching worldwide within months of each other.

Ice Hockey on NES is a simple game. This is a five-on-five game with four players on the ice for each team and a fifth player serving as goalie. The action all takes place on one screen that pans side to side to follow the puck. Games are three periods long. To beat the game, all you have to do is win a single match.

I always pick two skinny and two fat.

At the start of the game, you can choose options for your match. There are six teams to pick from: The United States, Sweden, Poland, Canada, The Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia. Choose your team and your opponent. Each team is a different difficulty level, but it’s hard to tell which teams are easier or harder aside from experience. In a two-player game, each player picks his or her team. Next, choose the game speed from one to five, which is from slowest to fastest. You can also choose the length of each period. They can be either seven, ten, or fifteen-minute periods. Press Start to move to the next screen. Now each player can select the lineup of the starting four. Use the D-pad to move the cursor between players and press A to change the player type. The three player types are skinny, regular, and fat players. At least that’s what most players I’ve heard call them. The players are also numbered on this screen. Players 1 and 3 are supposed to be defensive players while 2 and 4 are offensive players. To finish up here and get started with a game, move the cursor to END and press A.

Each period begins with a faceoff. You can set up your players in the formation you want. Use the D-pad and the A and B buttons to swap players around before the puck is put in play. The referee will blow a whistle to signal the end of setting up the formation. The two players nearest the referee will wait for the puck to drop. Mash the A button to hopefully pass the puck to a teammate before the opponent gets a hold of it.

I found the controls to be a little tricky but not too bad. The D-pad moves you in all directions on the ice. You only control one player at a time. The buttons do different things depending on if you are on offense or defense. On offense, the A button passes the puck to a teammate. Control moves to the closest player in the direction of the pass. The B button is used for shooting. You can hold down B before releasing to perform a more powerful shot. On defense, the B button changes which player you control. The flashing player is the one you move. You can also move the goalie to protect the goal. At all times, the A button is used for battling for the puck. Get near the puck and press A to fight for it. This can help you steal the puck away from an opponent or knock away a defender trying to steal from you.

Large players tend to knock over smaller ones.

There are some advanced techniques that are handled by the B button. On shooting, the longer you hold down B, the more powerful shot you will take. Keep in mind this leaves you open the longer you prepare for your shot. Instead of holding B, if you quickly tap the B button while holding the puck, you will pose for a shot but not actually shoot. Sometimes faking out your opponent like that is helpful. The manual mentions that you can do “flip shooting” by storing enough power in a shot by holding B. This lets you shoot through an opponent. I’ll be honest, I don’t really understand how or if this works or how to pull it off. The final B button control is a defensive one. If you are actively defending the goal, rapidly tapping the B button causes all the players to move in near the goal, helping you in defense and probably recovering the puck after a missed shot.

Much of the strategy in this game depends on the mix of players on your team. The three player types have different characteristics. The regular-size player is the typical average player that has no real strengths or weaknesses. The skinny player is a weak shooter and he does not hold up well in a puck battle. However, he is the fastest player on the ice and he is really good at winning a face-off. The fat player is just the opposite. He is very slow and is poor at the face-off, but he has a very powerful shot and he is good at body checking opponents in the fight for the puck. You can choose whichever mix of players you want that either fits your playing style or provides balance.

There are some penalties in the game. The main one is icing. I’m not going to pretend to understand how icing works. I’ve read the explanation several times and have even watched videos on it, and I still don’t quite get it. What you need to know is that icing stops play and results in a face-off. You can also be penalized for getting into a fight. If a puck battle goes on long enough, other players will join the fray. Eventually the referee will come in, break up the fight, and send one player into the penalty box for a couple of minutes. The harder you mash the A button during a fight, the less likely you are to be penalized. With one player out of the game temporarily, obviously one team has more men on the ice. This is called a power play. You want to take advantage of the power play to help score as much as possible.

Quite a scrum in the middle there.

The game mixes things up a little bit between each period. Teams switch sides at the start of a new period. After the second period, you’ll see a brief cutscene of the Zamboni machines smoothing out the ice. There is overtime if both teams are tied up after regulation. Overtime periods are two minutes long. If both teams are still tied after that, they go into a shootout. Each player goes one-on-one against the goalie of the opposite team, and any goals scored are tallied. If the game is still tied after the shootout, it loops back to another two-minute overtime period. The game will cycle back and forth between overtime periods and shootouts until a winner is crowned.

Ice Hockey seems to be one of the most popular two-player games on the NES. While I have never actually played multiplayer, I have played the game solo once before as part of the Nintendo Age contest. I was happy enough just to win a game. I’m not skilled enough for any huge blowout scores like would be expected in a contest setting. This is a very common game. I’ve acquired many extra copies and still have several spare carts currently.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not very good at this game, even though that would be expected for not having much experience with the game. I started playing by picking USA every time and playing the remaining teams from left to right on the highest speed. My lineup was two fat players and two skinny players. I was able to win just barely on the first try against Sweden and Poland, and I won with a sizeable lead against Canada. I first lost big then won easily against the Soviets. The Czechoslovakian team was far and away the most difficult team for me to beat. Their team has three heavy guys and they just wrecked me all over the ice. I had a lot of trouble scoring goals because I couldn’t get good position and didn’t really figure out any consistent strategy to scoring. I had the best luck scoring with a skinny player and “passing” the puck into the net. After a few tries, I played well enough to squeeze out a win.

Skinny passing into the net was sometimes effective.

After reading through the manual, I decided that my goal was to beat all of the other teams. If you defeat all the countries on speed level 5, then you get to change the lineup of the opposing team before a match. Ultimately, I was not able to unlock that feature. I had a couple of really bad matches that went off the rails so early that I reset the game. I figured resetting was why I couldn’t do anything extra after finishing off the last team. It wasn’t until several days later that I realized I never actually beat the USA team and that was probably my issue. Oops! I went back and beat USA in a single game, so now I have beaten all teams.

There are a couple of bonus features that you can enable by entering in a code. On the title screen, press and hold the A and B buttons on both controllers, then press Start on Controller 1. This removes goalies from the game. If you do the same button inputs on the team selection screen, this disables puck friction. When the puck gets loose, it will fly about and ricochet until either a player collects the puck or it enters a goal.

I can definitely see the appeal of Ice Hockey on NES and why it is highly regarded as a fun game to play. It is a simple game with a good amount of depth. The graphics are simple but charming. It is clear what is going on all the time. It has good music. The controls are straightforward, yet it has some complexity with some additional features that only use the two buttons. The gameplay is solid and it is an ideal two-player game. It certainly checks all the boxes for what you want in an NES game. For so few hockey games on the NES, this is definitely one you want.

#120 – Ice Hockey

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#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