Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (Prototype, Nintendo)
Deep down, in my heart of hearts, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers has always been one of my favorite NES experiences. So simple, so pure, so fun: this game is my whole childhood nestled into a single cartridge. And even though the experience is short and easy, that just makes me want to keep turning back the clock to play through Fat Cat’s dastardly mazes all over again.
Every kid has his or her favorite teddy bear or blanket that they become attached to and feel all warm inside when they’re near to it. That’s how much Rescue Rangers meant to me, only I still haven’t outgrown it yet. Hopefully, I never will.
Cooperative two-player is a blast, too, thanks to something I dub “chipmunk wrestling, ” in which you pick up your pal and launch him into cacti and bad guys or just off a building–all in the name of good fun.
Putting aside my boyhood crush on Gadget, the anthropomorphic mouse heartthrob, none of this is nostalgia talking, either—after all these years, hiding inside boxes to take out patrolling gangster weasels still feels as enjoyable as ever. That’s why finding a prototype of this game has been high on Nintendo Player’s to-do list.
Originally obtained from Niels Thomassen, a Dutch prototype collector, the back cart label on this “Rescue Ranger” prototype is commonly seen on Capcom NES prototypes found in Europe (such as the site’s Adventures in the Magic Kingdom prototype). The game, however, is NTSC-formatted.
The cartridge houses an NES-SKEPROM-01 (copyright Nintendo 1987) prototype PCB. Both CHR and PRG have stickers with the Japanese title handwritten on them.
Before getting into the nitty gritty, I again called on former Disney game producer, Darlene Lacey, to give some insight into Rescue Ranger’s development process. Apparently Rescue Rangers was one of the least troublesome Capcom projects, with little to no changes being required to meet Disney’s quality assurance and squeaky-clean, family-friendly branding.
Windhex shows a number of differences in the game code (1,188, to be exact). I checked under every crate and steel box to try to uncover the prototype’s mysteries.
Prototype (left) / US Retail (right)
The verified good dump of the US retail version shows some graphical glitches during the opening cutscene. Chip’s bomber jacket appears to have a tear going right through it, and some green fuzz off of Monty’s turtleneck sweater has gotten stuck to the back of Dale’s head. Dale also looks to be standing smack-dab on Monty’s big toe in the US retail version, and Gadget’s tail stands up straight into her ear.
European Retail (left) / Japanese Retail (right)
The European and Japanese versions have the same “fixed” cutscene as the prototype.
Prototype (left) / US Retail (right)
When you press Select during the game, you are taken to a black screen where your character’s flowers, stars, and players (lives) are listed. In the prototype, these words are spelled out instead of being abbreviated in the US/European/Japanese retail versions.
Also, your character’s name, the values of each category, and the pointing arrows (not seen in the US/European/Japanese retail versions) flash rapidly in the prototype.
In the US/European/Japanese retail versions, collecting 100 flowers causes a 1-Up star to appear. What’s interesting is that the North American instruction manual contradicts the final version in that it states: “Flowers- Collect as many of these as you can! For every 50 flowers you collect, a 1-up star appears.”
The prototype stays true to the manual, so only 50 flowers are needed to call forth a 1-Up star.
Furthermore, the North American instruction manual has this to say about the stars: “Stars- For every 10 stars collected, a 1-up star appears.” Again, this is incorrect in the US/European/Japanese retail games, as 20 stars are needed for a 1-up star to appear.
In the prototype, only 10 stars are needed.
While playing through both versions side-by-side, I was left with 19 lives when I reached Fat Cat in the US retail version and a whopping 31 lives in the prototype. Obviously, these lower item requirements make the game even less of a challenge than before. That Fat Cat doesn’t stand a chance in the prototype!