Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#135 – Cabal

Shoot the background and the enemies within.

Skulls with wings make for very attractive title screens.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 9/27/19 – 10/2/19
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: Cabal Longplay

Cabal turned out to be a pleasant surprise for a couple of reasons. First, it has a style of gameplay that is not commonly seen on older consoles like the NES. I don’t think it’s wholly unique on the console, but it is underrepresented at least. The second reason is it turned out to be an easier game than I anticipated going in. With so many games to play, I’ll always appreciate that. It’s always a good time blowing stuff up, and you’ll get a lot of that in playing Cabal.

Cabal first released in the arcades in 1988. The game was developed by TAD Corporation, published in Japan by Taito, and published in North America and Europe by Fabtek. The game was successful enough to be ported over to the NES and various computers. The NES version released in June 1990 in North America only. Here it was developed by Rare and published by Milton Bradley.

The story here is a simple one. You play the role of a soldier ordered by Major I.M. Havoc. The Dreaded Republic of Allied Terrorists, i.e. D.R.A.T., is planning a massive terrorist assault and you are the one tasked to diffuse the situation. You get to go in alone, or with a partner, into the terrorist camp and destroy it from within. Leave no man standing, that sort of thing. Your mission covers five levels of four scenes each. Complete each level to win this game.

Duck and cover.

Cabal is a shoot-em-up from a third-person perspective. Your character sits along the bottom of the screen shooting into the background while various enemy soldiers fire at you. Your attention is divided two ways. You shoot at the enemy via a targeting reticle on the screen and you move this around freely. When you are shooting you stand in place, leaving yourself open to attack. When you stop shooting, then you control both yourself and your crosshairs. To succeed in this game, you need to juggle between shooting at the bad guys and getting out of harm’s way.

Here are the controls for Cabal. Use the D-pad to move your crosshairs in all directions. Press and hold the A button to fire your machine gun and its unlimited ammo. Holding down A locks your feet into place. If you tap and release A quickly, you will lob a grenade. It has to be a very light tap. You have limited grenades as displayed on the bottom of the screen. Holding down the B button gives you some advanced movement options. B with Left and Right lets you run. If you press diagonally up with B held, you will jump and dive into a roll, while diagonally down with B does a duck and roll. While rolling, you can change directions a little bit to help dodge.

In addition to the perspective, another neat thing about this game is all the things you can destroy. Different enemies appear constantly, sometimes hiding behind parts of the background. With enough firepower, you can destroy many of the obstacles in the way. Buildings, towers, walls, stationary vehicles, all are fair game. For larger objects, they might go through several phases of damage before crumbling entirely. Sometimes it is helpful to remove the hiding spots in order to defeat enemies more quickly. Most levels begin with walls in front that give you some temporary protection from enemy fire. I say temporary because they will fall to firepower eventually, including from your own shots if you aim too low.

Many background features are destructible.

There are some powerups that aid you. Sometimes enemies drop these when defeated, while others are revealed from your various acts of destruction. The most common pickups are stars that are just for points. You may find extra grenades for your stash. You can also pick up some temporary enhancements for your machine gun in the form of a red rifle and a blue rifle. I believe the red rifle gives you wider crosshairs while the blue one gives you faster rapid fire. Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two, though the extra firepower certainly did help take down more stuff.

This game has a common flow over its five stages. You need to defeat a certain number of enemies per scene to clear it. There is a long Enemy bar at the bottom of the screen that shrinks for every enemy you defeat. Once you defeat enough bad guys to empty the bar, the level ends immediately. All remaining destructible objects are knocked down while you run gleefully forward toward the next scene. Completing the fourth scene in each level opens up a boss battle. The boss’s health bar is displayed at the top, simply shoot the boss enough to take it out. The bosses are damage sponges so this will take some time.

There are several types of enemies that appear throughout the stages. Standard green soldiers are the bulk of what you’ll see. They walk across the screen, eventually stopping to fire at you. The white soldiers are really annoying. They behave similarly to the green soldiers, only they stop to lob grenades that you can shoot to detonate while airborne. They also roll out of the way when shot. They take quite a lot of firepower to defeat. Tanks sit still for a while before driving forward and shooting. A direct grenade takes them out, or a lot of machine gun fire. Helicopters swoop across the top of the screen and fire a stream of bullets. Bombers quickly appear to drop bombs straight down. You can blow up the bombs before they land just like grenades. Soldiers in scuba gear pop out of the water briefly to shoot you. There are also harmless medics that pass by. They don’t appear often and I always avoided shooting them so I don’t know what happens if you shoot them.

Scuba divers don’t give you much advance warning.

This game has both lives and continues. You begin with four lives. You get an extra life for beating the end-of-level boss, but that’s all. When you run out of lives, you can continue three times. Continues are essentially an extra set of lives and you keep playing right from where you died with no interruption or setbacks. If you are score chasing, keep in mind that continuing resets your score back to 0, but that’s the only drawback.

This was my first time playing through Cabal. I’ve only played this during cart testing and only played just a few scenes. I don’t think I did very well playing. This is not a super common cart, but it isn’t terribly hard to find and it’s not that expensive, selling for around $6 or so.

I expected this game to be much harder to beat than it was, considering my brief experience from the past. It turns out, at least for me, that the first few stages are pretty challenging compared to most levels in the game. I found a good strategy that was most helpful for the middle levels in the game. It took me four attempts total to beat the game. On the third attempt, I got all the way to the final boss and lost. I had no trouble on the fourth try, only needing to use two out of my three continues to beat the game. A couple days later I sat down to record my longplay video and that time I needed all three continues to win. Still, it was a pretty comfortable victory considering that.

Hiding behind walls in the corners was my best strategy.

I have some observations about the game that led me to discovering a solid strategy. It didn’t take long to see that the enemies always appear from the same locations at the same intervals. Soldiers often walk in from either side of the screen. Once you clear out the obstacles and take out a few soldiers close together, they will reappear in the same order. I got into a rhythm where I could empty out the screen and figure out about when the next wave would walk in. I positioned my guy on the side of the screen where the most soldiers appeared so that I could blow them away right when they appeared, before they could stop and fire. Often, I had enough time to get the ones on the other side of the screen too. Levels with mostly green soldiers are easy with this strategy, but it gets trickier with enemies like white soldiers and the scuba divers. What helps with that is I noticed that rolling on the ground is very effective at avoiding standard fire. Either you can’t get hit while rolling or your hitbox is very small. I got into the habit of rolling constantly anytime I was under fire until I found a safe spot to open up and fire. This is not a foolproof strategy, but it kept me from dying enough to beat the game.

Cabal is a fun shoot-em-up on the NES that I enjoyed played. The graphics and animations are pretty good. There can be a lot of activity going on the screen at once, from destructible buildings to grenades exploding to blankets of bullet fire, sometimes all at once. Unavoidably, the sprites flicker, but the game whistles along and I didn’t remember any slowdown. The controls might seem cumbersome at first, but I adapted to them quickly. Controlling both your player and the crosshairs takes some getting used to, and I can see it not clicking with everyone. I don’t remember much at all about the music, which usually tells me that it wasn’t that great anyway. The boss battles are pretty well done but tend to drag on a bit. The levels can drag on too. This is a repetitive game by nature, but it is a short enough game that it is okay by me. There is a mix of good and bad things here, but overall it is a fine game.

#135 – Cabal


#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