|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco Bandai Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Xseed Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 10, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
For gamers who cut their teeth on the Atari 2600 and the NES, blocky graphics, punishingly straightforward gameplay, and simplistic audio blips bring back waves of nostalgia. Technology and gaming innovation has progressed in great strides since the early days of the industry, but it's difficult not to look back on the simpler days of gaming with some measure of fondness. To that end, publishers have capitalized on our love of old games by re-releasing the classics on new hardware, and offering countless collections packed with retro games.
Retro Game Challenge is an old-school inspired collection like no other. Taking a slightly different route, it doesn't compile retro hits from days long past and simply repackage them for your consumption. It takes things a step further to create an entirely different kind of experience rooted in gaming history. While the games contained in this spirited title may look, sound, and play like their forbearers, they're entirely new creations that riff off of classic game design and conventions made popular decades ago. Not only that, this endearing package is packed full of silly nods to the early video game culture of the 80s that should put a smile on any gamer's face.
Loosely based on a retro-themed Japanese video game television show, the game introduces players to Game Master Arino - a diabolical virtual manifestation (he's a floating head) of a gaming whiz keen on testing your mad skills. He transports you back in time to the 1980s and refuses to bring you back to the present until you've proven yourself by completing a number of arbitrary-but-fun challenges in various retro-inspired games. In the 80s, you wind up in the living room of the kid version of Arino. He befriends you, cheers you on in each challenge (played on a Famicom-like gaming system), and chats you up about geeky gaming stuff made up of the lexicon spoken by youth. Your humorous interactions with the young Arino might closely resemble personal experiences from the good old days, and the story elements make Retro Game Challenge far more enjoyable than a mere game collection.
All of the eight retro games in Retro Game Challenge are heavily inspired by and modeled after 8-bit classics in a handful of different genres. Some are nearly identical to the games they're based-on; others offer slightly unique elements to switch things up a bit. Cosmic Gate apes Galaga with the addition of asteroid levels and space warps. Star Prince, a slightly more elaborate space shooter, advances the genre with improved graphics and tons of enemies and environmental elements to blow up. Three entries in the Robot Ninja Haggle Man series offer a glance at the evolution of the platforming action genre. The Rally King (and the upgraded Rally King SP) channel the high-speed racing fun of R.C. Pro-Am. No retro collection would be complete without an epic RPG, and Guadia Quest fits the bill perfectly with gameplay inspired by equal parts Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior.
Though you can eventually unlock and play each retro gaming morsel in its entirety, the main story-driven mode in Retro Game Challenge focuses on the challenges themselves. Each game has four challenges mandated by Arino, and you'll be asked to complete them one at a time as you delve into a particular title. Completing all of the challenges for a particular game not only lets you progress to the next tier of challenges, it also unlocks the full game to be enjoyed unfettered in free play mode.
Your objectives vary in nature and difficulty. In some cases, you'll be required to gain a specific score, beat a certain level, or obtain a unique item. Other times you'll be asked to achieve goals that are more specific to the games themselves. The final, ultimate challenge is a biggie. The retro games are tremendously fun to play, but only being able to dig into a small portion through the specific challenges was a smart design decision. Each tidbit gives you just enough of a particular title's flavor before cutting you off, making the desire to play the game again even stronger. It makes the reward of unlocking them even sweeter.