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• Retro Game Challenge

developed by indieszero, published by Xseed Games
1 player/1 save slot/Nintendo DS/2009.02.10/aka Game Center CX (JP)

There’s a fun television show from Japan called Game Center CX, where a comedian named Shinya Arino tries his hand at popular video games.  Fans can wax nostalgic as the host plays popular titles, particularly those from the original 8-bit Nintendo, which were usually pretty tough.  In Retro Game Challenge, the tables are turned when Arino sends the player back to the ’80s to play a variety of games lovingly based on classics from that era.  Although the games themselves are completely new, they mix elements from popular titles in order to give the player a strange feeling of deja vu.

Adding to this false trip down memory lane, the player can read excerpts from a game magazine that satirizes Famitsu, the dominant publication in Japan both then and now.  In the English version, the magazine features cameos from well known game editors for publications like EGM and Die Hard Game Fan, most of whom have since moved on to work in the industry proper.  Reading the magazines isn’t just for fun as they provide helpful tips and secret codes (like the well known Konami debug code) that make the games a lot more forgiving.  It’s a respectful tribute to everything that made gaming in the ’80s great, and if you were there to experience it firsthand (1 in 3 families owned a Nintendo, after all) you won’t want to miss this chance to relive it.

The Games

There’s a total of 8 games in all, representing the shoot-em-up, platformer, racing, and action genres.  However, you won’t have access to them all at once.  Instead, the games slowly trickle out the way they do in real life, as you complete Arino’s challenges.  There’s even an RPG that takes around 10 hours to complete!  Thankfully the challenges are pretty simple, and don’t require you to finish one game before a new one becomes available.  That way you can sample all of the games even if you don’t like a particular genre.

  • Cosmic Gate (basic shoot-em-up based on Galaga & Space Invaders)
  • Robot Ninja Haggleman (puzzle platformer based on Ninja Jajamaru-kun [now available on the Wii’s Virtual Console])
  • Rally King (racer similar to R.C. Pro Am or F1 Race)
  • Star Prince (involved shoot-em-up based on Star Soldier)
  • Robot Ninja Haggleman 2 (sequel with improved game mechanics)
  • Rally King SP (same as above with cosmetic changes)
  • Guadia Quest (simplified RPG based on Dragon Quest 2 & Final Fantasy)
  • Robot Ninja Haggleman 3 (action game based on Ninja Gaiden & Metroid)

There’s a pretty decent variety in the games, and they’re fairly involved; more so than you would expect from a mini-game collection.  Robot Ninja Haggleman has 8 stages, and its sequel forces you to play through the game twice to get the good ending (ala Ghosts ‘n Goblins).  Star Prince is a gorgeous vertically scrolling shooter with four stages that get tough enough to make palms sweat.

Guadia Quest, the role-playing game, allows you to save anywhere and you can recruit certain monsters to help you on your quest.  It’s the most involved of the games, and had me hooked!  The final game is Robot Ninja Haggleman 3, which is an excellent replica of the best side-scrolling action games (including the infamous difficulty).  The biggest let-down is the inclusion of Rally King SP, which is nearly identical to the first Rally King.  It would have been nice to see a sequel that went from the overhead perspective to a view behind the car, similar to Rad Racer or Hang On.

DS Functionality

The DS’s two screens are used quite successfully, and in a somewhat funny manner.  The top screen displays the retro game, while the lower screen shows Arino’s living room, complete with both of you sitting in front of the television and game console.  The young Arino will chat with you between gaming sessions and ask you questions.  He’ll also make comments while you play based on what’s happening (like moaning when you die), which is sort of like having a friend intently watch you play.  You can also use the bottom screen as a note pad, which can come in handy if you want to use the secret codes.

Conclusion

As a child of the ’80s, it’s somewhat difficult for me to judge Retro Game Challenge objectively.  I’m not sure that it would be as much fun for people who missed this particular era in gaming, especially since there is a degree of repetition amongst the games which may turn some people off.  There’s certainly been a resurgence of retro-style games in recent years, so maybe it would appeal to a wider audience.  However, there is no question that if you have fond memories of the original Nintendo that you will absolutely love this game.

Quick Run Down

PROs:

  • 7 fun games, lovingly based on ’80s classics
  • Accurately recreates ’80s atmosphere (magazines, secret codes, etc.)
  • Funny dialogue with young Arino
  • Budget-priced, excellent value

CONs:

  • One of the 8 games is a duplicate!
  • Haggleman 3 is a bit too unforgiving…
  • The sequel wasn’t released outside of Japan!!

One Sentence Review: Take a trip down memory lane with these retro games based on recognizable classics from the golden era of gaming!
One Word Review: Nostalgic!

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