IGN Review of Retro Game Challenge
For years publishers have been mining their back catalogs and releasing collections of retro games on every system and handheld around. So you would be forgiven if you assumed Retro Game Challenge was yet another compilation of old school games you've played many times over. Don't let it pass you by, though -- you definitely haven't played these games before. Whereas last year's Mega Man 9 was but one new 8-bit game, Retro Game Challenge offers eight original titles in an NES style. And they're all really good. If you are even the least bit interested in classic gaming, you really have to check this one out.
The primitive sprites; the 8-bit chiptunes; the screen flicker; the cheat codes; hilarious translation resulting in Engrish ("Try to the next course!"); the simple gameplay that encourages you to play the same levels over and over. Our childhood memories spent with the NES have been lovingly recreated here. On offer in this collection are new space shooters, platformers, racers, and even a 10 hour role-playing game. There really isn't a lemon in the bunch and they're all a blast to play, although a couple are merely "enhanced" editions of other games in the package. Here's a quick rundown:
Cosmic Gate -- A simple Galaga clone that adds warp zones and asteroid fields. Great sound effects.
Haggle Man -- A platformer where you play a robotic ninja who must jump on enemies and reach the top of a castle in order to save his girlfriend.
Rally King -- A top-down racer with a slick drifting mechanic.
Star Prince -- A spiritual successor to Cosmic Gate that adds vertically scrolling levels and boss fights, clearly inspired by Star Soldier.
Rally King SP -- An enhanced edition of the racing game that alters the courses and switches to night races.
Haggle Man 2 -- Bigger levels and stronger enemies.
Guadia Quest -- An epic RPG in the style of the original Final Fantasy.
Haggle Man 3 -- A side-scrolling action platformer, much different than the first two Haggle Men.
But this isn't a normal collection of games, it's a "challenge." You'll have to complete specific objectives in a linear fashion in order to unlock new games. Beginning with the Galaga clone Cosmic Gate you'll have to clear goals like "complete stage 5," "use a warp twice," and "destroy a giant asteroid." Once you've satisfied the powers that be you'll unlock the next game, the platformer Haggle Man, and so goes Retro Game Challenge's progression. Finishing a game's challenges will also make it available in Free Play mode, which tracks all kinds of stats like play time, number of enemies defeated, and how many 1-Ups earned.
These specific challenges are a lot like achievements on the Xbox 360 in that they get you to play a game in ways you might not normally think of. People tend to fall into their own routine when they're deep in a game, and might not use all the powers available to them or they might miss a shortcut. The goals here get players to really explore the whole game, and it's mighty impressive just how full-featured these new retro games are. Each is a full game with multiple levels, bosses, easter eggs, secrets, and storyline (however simple it may be).
If you heard the music in Retro Game Challenge out of context you'd probably think it was from some NES game you missed back in the day. It's a spot on impersonation of those classic soundtracks, and the tunes are very catchy.
The only thing getting in the way of all this great gameplay is an unnecessary premise that involves players being sent back in time to the 1980s by some Japanese gaming guru. He's the one issuing these challenges with the idea that if you complete them all you'll get back to the present time. But these games are strong enough to stand on their own and I could do without the cheesy justification. While you play games on the DS' top screen, your character and a buddy are sprawled in front of the television watching on the bottom. Your friend provides lots of chatter while you play ("whoa!" and "you missed it!"), and while that doesn't bother me the text dialogue in between challenges quickly becomes tedious.
But that doesn't get in the way of enjoying these new classics. Not only is the presentation of the games impressive, there is all this extra content to delve into like manuals (complete with amusing translation errors) and game magazines where you'll find tips and tricks. One of the editors of GameFan , the imaginary monthly rag, is Dan Sock, a name that sounds vaguely familiar. References to '80s game culture abound -- even the fine film The Wizard is alluded to. The jokes are all pretty juvenile, but some surprised me with how un-PC they were. Fan letters come from people like "I. P. Freely," and even "Homer Sexual." Really?
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