Retro Game Challenge Review: Turning Back The Clock On Awesome
When “Captain N” was on the air, back in the late 1980s, I used to be a big fan watching it as religiously as an 7-year-old could. However, there was always something I thought was missing from the show – why didn’t Kevin and the gang have their own video game? Granted 19 years later, I now fully understand what kind of licensing hell that would have been, but, ironically, 19 years later, I also feel that something has finally come along to fill that void in my life, which was coincidentally based on its own TV show, “Retro Game Challenge.”
The entire plot of “Retro Game Challenge” is charmingly ludicrous: since you’ve become so good at modern day games, you’re sent back in time by an insane “Game Master” who forces you to complete challenges in old-school games in order for you to return to the future. (If that doesn’t interested “Captain N” fans, I don’t know what would.) Top that off with the fact that the child version of Game Master is your unwitting playmate – in fact, the old-school games you have to play, and the magazines you have to read for tips are actually all his. While the basis for “Retro Game Challenge” is a 50 on a 1-10 bizarreness scale, the story isn’t really why you need to play this game; it’s the retro games that you’re forced to play to complete challenges that makes it a true gem. They’re utter 1980s bliss packaged for your Nintendo DS.
There are eight different “mini” games that are included in “Retro Game Challenge,” all of which are inspired by various classic games, however, each of them is their own unique experience. The games span six different genres, touching on everything from “Cosmic Gate”’s “Galaga” inspired gameplay, to “Guardia Quest” take on the 8-bit “Dragon Warrior” games. It was just like going back and digging through my library of old NES games, and picking a handful of games at random, and just constantly swapping them out. I don’t really want to ruin it for anyone but, fans of the racing, action-puzzle, sidescrolling-action-platformers, shmups, and turn-based RPGs will all be very happy with the games that are included in this package. If one game in particular really strikes your fancy, you’ll be able to play it as much as you want, in the game’s freeplay mode, once you complete all of Arino’s challenges.
Going through each of these games, and having to learn their intricacies really quickly, in order to progress through Game Master Arino’s challenges, really made me feel like a kid again – and not just because of all the sprites. Playing each of these games really took me back because it was the first time, in a long time that I didn’t know exactly what to expect from a game, and it made me remember just how hard the things we take for granted nowadays once were. For example, it’s virtually a sin in today’s games to make players wander a dungeon with no sense of direction, or no map to guide them, but that’s exactly what “Guardia Quest” does. There’s no arrow telling you where the stairs or the boss are, and it’s up to you to make your way through the game’s dungeons with little to no guidance – just keep walking and random battling until you found the right stairs.
One of the other aspects of “Retro Game Challenge” that took me back was the two button controls, which can’t be described any other way than exquisitely simple. Two buttons used to be all you needed for hours of fun. When today’s developers talk about making games “accessible” what they’re really trying to do is make games as simple as they were back in the day, and appeal to a mass audience. “RGC” does that perfectly, by only asking the player to use buttons other than the “A” and “B” to switch between DS screens, virtually anyone can pick up and play the eight games and be on their way.
“Retro Game Challenge” was made for the, now grownup, children of the 1980s - if you’re birthday is after December 31st,1984, you won’t be old enough to fully appreciate all the little touches that were included in all of the games, or all of the humor behind the conversations with young Arino. It was as if they filmed my friends and me when we were playing video games when we were younger - all excited, and sitting on the floor, willing to believe everything your classmates told you. In all honesty, it’s one of the first games that really brought back memories of playing games when I was younger - not just memories of the games themselves. The game even includes a replica Famicom, and Famicom carts, which I totally would have reminisced about if I was Japanese, but I’m not going to complain about localization, since I’m thrilled that it was localized. While the little touches don’t make the game, they really add a wonderful layer to the game that caught me off guard, in a good way.
In the end, there was little that I found that I could dislike about “Retro Game Challenge” since the game did exactly what I had hoped - brought me eight “new” retro games, complete with fun challenges. Sure, none of the games are multiplayer, the setting of the game is skewed towards Japanese video game history, and some of the challenges were a lot easier (or harder) than others, but I’m not going to, because the 7-year-old inside of me won’t let the 26-year-old me do it.
I have an utter and complete weakness for games from consoles past - my apartment is virtually covered with games that were released for consoles that don’t support specs above 16-bits. Unlike some people, I’m okay with old, or “classic,” games because I think there is something really appealing about the simplicity that retro games offer. When it was originally released, “Retro Game Force” was one of the first non-import friendly games that I considered importing, just to experience the games, but, after waiting a year or so XSEED came through, and I can undoubtedly say it was worth it. Now, if we could just get to work on getting those DVDs over here.