Capcom and Disney, together at last.
PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
RELEASE DATE: June 1990
Could Disney do any wrong in the late 80s/early 90s? They made arguably some of the best animated films of all time during that period, along with some of their greatest weekday shows (“Goof Troop”? Hellz yeah!). Even in a relatively young medium like video games, Disney showed great tact in hiring an up-and-coming development company named Capcom to make games out of their licenses. This resulted in a wonderful partnership that included Ducktales, Tailspin, Darkwing Duck, Mickey Mousecapades, Aladdin (SNES), the Little Mermaid, and everyone’s favorite chipmunks, Chip and Dale. Basically, if you saw a Disney license and a large red “Capcom” block on an NES box, it was worth playing.
Much like the Ratchet and Clank series are arguably the pinnacle of 3D platforming games today outside of Mario, Capcom’s Disney games were some of the best platforming side-scrollers found on the Nintendo outside of Mario. Chip ‘N Dale is no different. It’s a straightforward side-scroller that has you take command of either Chip or Dale (or both, should you decide to have a friend play with you). The goal is to scuttle from level to level on a Bionic Commando-esque map, in order to save Gadget from Fat Cat and his nefarious schemes. Typical stuff, but the level design is fun, if a tad simplistic. You run through plant factories, on top of electric wires, up in the trees, and other places chipmunks may or may not venture. You don’t really have a weapon to attack the bionic dogs and bees and ninja squirrels that come at you, but you can throw boxes and very large apples at the enemies to make them fly humorously off the screen. There are also collectible flowers and stars that are placed all around the level, but I’m still not sure what purpose they serve, other than to make an obnoxious buzzing noise when you grab them. Acorns give you health, and every so often, a 1-Up star will come floating through the level. You use a cherry tomato to destroy bosses, which may be the sweetest way to destroy anything ever.
As expected from Capcom, the game looks, plays, and sounds good, although not as stellar as Capcom’s main productions. Graphics are colorful, but sparse. I was surprised to see very little detail put into the backgrounds of the stages, which I wouldn’t have expected from them. Still, it holds its own with NES games of the day. Controlling Chip and Dale is carefree and easy, like a crisp autumn day, and the music, while certainly not Capcom’s best, has a silly charm to it. Capcom also toned down the difficulty for the younger gamers, but that doesn’t mean the game’s without challenge; it’s just not as hard as Bionic Friggin’ Commando. It’s a testament to the quality of Capcom games that I even picked this up when I was younger. I personally wasn’t a huge Chip and Dale fan, but even as a child I knew, thanks to the Mega Man series, that I would follow Capcom to the ends of the earth and back. Whatever they developed, I would play, even if I wasn’t the greatest fan of the cartoon.
Eventually, Disney parted ways with Capcom and signed on with Virgin Interactive. I’m not sure it was for the best. Virgin made some decent games like The Lion King and the Jungle Book on the SNES, but after that partnership ended, Disney games became less and less synonymous with quality. Capcom, on the other hand, established itself as one of the premier game developers in the world. Much like Disney, they recycle their franchises ad nauseum, but also like Disney, even the lesser entries in a series aren’t entirely bad. Both companies know quality is important, but in establishing a financial bottom line, quantity is also important – hence the straight-to-video sequels for beloved Disney classics like “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast” and the WTF entries of Capcom Fighting Evolution and Resident Evil: Dead Aim into the Capcom canon. I’ve definitely strayed into borderline essay territory so I’ll just say, Capcom and Disney should never have parted ways. Both companies have very similar mindsets and I think, if they could agree on the financial terms, they could make sweet gaming magic together again. Ch-ch-ch-ch -ch-CHING!