Retro Game Challenge
  • Genres:
    • Miscellaneous
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo DS
  • Developer:
    • Indies Zero
  • Publisher:
    • Xseed Games
  • Released:
    • JP 11/15/2007
    • US 02/10/2009
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/27/2009.

Based on a Japanese television series, Retro Game Challenge is a game about reliving the 1980s as a child who must complete various videogame challenges mandated by a demonic apparition. While most of us haven't been in contact with demonic apparitions (seek out an exorcist if you have), any child of the '80s will appreciate the nostalgic value. Don't assume that this is just a collection of old NES games, however. In truth, none of the games in this compilation are real; they're entirely new creations. Most of these creations do try to mimic a few popular games from back then, but they all have a unique twist.

Image Image

The aforementioned demonic apparition is really just some mega lame nerd who's embarrassed at not being very adequate when it comes to playing old games. All the frustration of losing repeatedly at NES games is what allowed him to transcend the realms and become what he is today. With his newfound powers, he decides to send you back in time to play videogames with his kid self. He also turns you into a kid, because becoming a demonic apparition lets you do whatever you want, obviously. On the surface, he wants to test your gaming mettle. In reality, he just wants some friends. In between your heroic deeds as a 1980s videogame player, you'll be treated to dialogue from the kid-form of that pestering demon. He'll commend you on your amazing ability to play NES games, and remind you of the type of things kids used to talk about when it came to games. For instance, he'll sometimes tell you a stupid rumor he heard from school that only a complete nitwit would believe. Sure enough, he'll believe every word of it.

Image Image

To further enrich the illusion of gaming in the '80s, you can read fake instruction manuals or fake game magazines that you unlock as you advance the story. The magazines have fake interviews and reviews in them, even sections dedicated to fake rumors and speculation. There's a lot of attention to detail, making it pretty entertaining to read through this stuff. It's not all just for show, either; you'll get a lot of tips, tricks, and even cheat codes that'll help you out.

Image Image

There are eight games total, with four "challenges" to complete for each. These "challenges" are rarely ever challenging, and are typically just a means to unlock the other games, as you don't start with them all. They're like tiny achievements, consisting of random tasks such as getting to a particular stage, defeating a number of enemies, collecting several extra lives, and so on. With the exception of the final challenge, none of them require you to actually finish a game. The developers don't seem to have a lot of faith in their core audience.

Image Image

A wide range of genres are covered here; you've got two space shooter games, two platform games, two racing games, an RPG, and one really awesome game that just so happens to be really awesome. As a result, you'll probably find a few that aren't your cup of tea. Don't fret, as the fake magazines will usually have cheat codes that you can use to skip most of a game or completely devoid it of challenge. Cheat codes should be used responsibly, or else you won't get the full experience.

Image Image

Your first game is Cosmic Gate, a top-down shooter that's very similar to Galaga or Space Invaders, in that you can only move left or right alongside the very bottom of the screen. The twist here are the flashing enemies you can defeat to reveal warps that'll let you skip a few levels, kind of like the Warp Zones in Super Mario. A sequel is later "released," titled Star Prince (modeled after Star Soldier), which lets you move in all directions and erect a shield to block small shots. I found the first one to be rather repetitive, but the sequel was a real treat to play through.

Image Image

After doing all four challenges for Cosmic Gate, you'll unlock Robot Ninja Haggle Man. Despite the long and ridiculous name, this is one game to remember. A quirky little platform game that lacks scrolling screens, it instead provides you with several innovations. Each level consists of a one-screen room (the second game has rooms that span several screens, but they're still not very big) that you traverse in an effort to locate the floor's boss. The main attraction here are the flip-panel door objects that you can hide behind to evade your foes. These panels are color-coded, and flipping one will cause all the other ones of the same color to flip as well. Enemies that run into a flipping panel will be defeated, so you can use this strategy to rack up combos and the like. Ordinarily, the boss is located by defeating every enemy in the room, but you can take a sometimes quicker route by flipping all the door-panels until you find the boss, who's hiding behind a random one. Your ultimate goal is ascend the authentic Japanese tower in order to save the princess, of course.

Image Image

Driving a monster truck through dangerous courses with a top-down view, you aim to be the best racer in Rally King, or make it out alive, at the very least. Vehicles back in the 8-bit days weren't too sturdy, so your monster ride can only withstand so many bumps into the scenery until it explodes into a most fiery death. I think the main innovation here is the drift mechanic, which... well, it's not very innovative. Mario Kart has been doing it for quite a while, and so have many other racing games. It's really tough to control this one, so don't be too surprised if you crash into everything your first time through. Because the top-down view is pretty limiting for this genre, you're given a little arrow signal to let you know what turn is coming up. I'll admit that I'm no fan of this one, but it's not too shabby. For some reason, they force you to do this game twice, both times being nearly identical. A little lame, if you ask me.

Image Image

The biggest flaw must be Guadia Quest, this game's clone of the Dragon Quest series. If you know Dragon Quest, then you'll recall all of the grinding required to advance. Guadia Quest is essentially that grinding on a much larger scale. Unless you're a mentally depraved individual who can't wait to undergo hours of senseless torture, you're not going to want to finish this one. The fake magazines will become really useful right about this time, as they'll reveal a secret to Guadia Quest that will have you skip past all the grinding and just see the ending credits. I know that sounds like a really cheap thing to do, but trust me, the hours of grinding you'll need for the first four challenges alone are sufficient. There's no sense in going the extra mile and finishing this vile thing.

Image Image

If you weren't discouraged by Guadia Quest, then the last game you unlock will gladly make up for it: Robot Ninja Haggle Man 3. The third one features a completely different play style, and doesn't look much like an NES game to me. Upon first impression, it'll feel like you're playing an SNES version of Ninja Gaiden with really good animation. Once you start on your quest, however, you'll soon realize that it's nothing like Ninja Gaiden: being a robotic ninja, Haggle Man can equip special "gears" to enhance his capabilities, such as jumping higher or increasing his attack power. His third quest hinges on exploration, as you'll traverse through fairly large stages to reach your goal. Defeating enemies will yield money, with which you can buy gears; hence Haggle Man. Compared to every other game, this one has a lot going for it. It's a little disheartening, then, that it's the one you'll spend the least time on. It is possible that they thought this game would just be way too awesome for people to experience in large quantities. Too much awesome can be terminal.

Retro Game Challenge is a great mixture of nostalgia and intrigue, and is surprisingly well-made. It does rely heavily on nostalgic values, but anyone who's able to appreciate the classics should be able to get some entertainment out of this one.

Word Count: 1,416