Review: Retro Game Challenge

RGC_Package.jpg OK, so what does it tell you when you start a game and are sent way back to the past and transformed into a little kid to face off against some ‘grand master’ video gamer on a game-by-game challenge, and the release date comes up and … it is well after you have left high school and arcades and those sorts of things behind? Yeah, it is a clear sign that you are old! I had to chuckle at that moment …

But more importantly, what does it tell you when a game manages to capture the spirit of arcades and early home video game consoles in a thoroughly modern package that is wrapped around remade versions of those games? When it is able to enthrall a hardcore gamer, his kids, and even a non-gamer wife? It is a stunningly rare occurrence, marking Retro Game Challenge as a very special game!

The story centers around a character named Arino – who is apparently based on the host of a Japanese video game show. Arino (evidently unlike his real-life counterpart) is not very good at video games, and as a result constantly loses challenges and grows increasingly angry towards more skilled gamers and seeks revenge. This anger leads him to become manifested in a digital version of himself, and to suck the player into the digital world where he is sent back in time to when Arino was a child. And this is where the game challenges begin.

It is a simple premise, yet one that works very well – immediately you have a basis for games of the 1980’s, the rationale to complete challenges successfully, and an impetus to do well so you can be returned to your modern day self again.

Of course, the games themselves are the attraction – everything else is the glue that holds it together, but without solid home arcade games this would have been a throwaway.

You start back in 1985, where you discuss your situation with Arino before getting started playing something called Cosmic Gate, which is a nicely emulated version of Galaxian. You have a series of challenges to complete in this game, and after each one you interact with Arino and learn a bit more through magazine articles. Eventually you unlock new games – well, actually what happens is that you complete the current challenge and move on to the ‘launch’ of the next game.

There are eight full games included within Retro Game Challenge, including Cosmic Gate, a vertical ship-based shooter game reminiscent of Blazing Lazers, a racing game called Rally King, a ‘series’ called Robot Ninja Haggle Man that includes a Mega Man-style game, a sequel with some advances, and a more advanced game that is similar to Ninja Gaiden (similar difficulty as well). There is also a nice jRPG called Gaurdia Quest which is very much in the style of the early Dragon Quest games. There is also a sequel to Rally King and a follow-on to Cosmic Gate called Star Price with much advanced gameplay.

I enjoyed every single one of the games without exception. As I said, there were some that were fairly similar – the second ‘Haggle Man’ and the two Rally King games come to mind – and there were challenges that I found rather frustrating, but ultimately I found every game loads of fun. Once you complete the challenge portion of a game, you can replay it whenever you want.

One other nice detail is the game magazine collection. It is hard for me to recall spending the majority of my life without call waiting, the internet, cell phones, and instant-everything. Yet back in the 1980’s you would go to your local bookstore or game shop and buy electronics and gaming magazines that would give you hints and tips and previews of upcoming games. The magazines here do exactly that. You can get a glimpse of games you will encounter later on in your challenge, and also pick up hints and tips to complete challenges. There are even cheat codes given out, making some of the tougher games much more (fun) manageable.

Retro Game Challenge is not the first time classic arcade games have been assembled in a single package – these collections have been around for years. But it feels different because of the smart way it is packaged as a cohesive experience and not just another rag-tag band of miscellaneous games. The characters, story, magazines and games come together to form a compelling gameplay challenge. It is attractive to older gamers who have been gaming since Pong was the only ‘home arcade’; it is also fun for those who enjoyed the arcade but didn’t keep up with gaming outside of the arcade; and for younger audiences it provides a glimpse back in time that is paired with a gameplay quality that makes it something they will enjoy and never want to let out of their collection!

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Pros:
+ Looks great and is a blast to play
+ Wonderfully accurate game recreations
+ Very humorous and never takes itself seriously
+ Magazines recall the pre-internet era nicely

Cons:
– A couple of games are too similar
– A couple of challenges are VERY challenging (possibly a Pro for some!)

Game Info:
Platform: DS
Publisher: XSeed Games
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Release Date: 02/10/09
Genre: Compilation
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!