Retro Game Challenge
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-03-17 Nintendo DS Compilation E (Everyone) Namco / XSeed

Ever since the DS launched, there have been dozens of classic titles ported to Nintendo's newest handheld in the hopes of rekindling the love of the franchise once held by fans. Taking an interesting stance in this world is Retro Game Challenge, a game which, from the outset, appears to be a conglomeration of past titles, but is in fact an entirely new animal, complete with an assortment of games hearkening back to the 8-bit glory days of NES gameplay.

Wrapping the entire package together is a bizarre storyline revolving around your battle with the crazed, game obsessed Arino who sends you back in time to the mid 1980's, where you meet a younger version of your captor, and are forced to complete challenges in each of the title's eight complete games in order to make your way back home.

Each title may be original to the game, but many take their theme and basic gameplay mechanics from the biggest games of the mid-late 1980's.

Cosmic Gate and Star Prince are space shooters in the vein of Galaga and Star Soldier, respectively, while Rally King is a top-down off-road racer containing multiple themed tracks filled with stationary obstacles such as sand traps, ice patches, ponds, trees, shrubs, and so on.

Haggleman and Haggleman 2 are side-scrolling, level-based action titles that take their story from the likes of Mario in that they contain a princess who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (that is, routinely finds herself kidnapped). However, instead of levels containing breakable boxes and other more expected platforming elements, Haggleman instead contains a series of revolving doors that you can hide behind in order to ambush enemies who may get too close.

All of these games are fun in their own individual ways, and are made even more so when you take advantage of the game's fictional magazine GameFan and the cheat codes, hints and tricks it throws your way for each game. These magazines are surprisingly detailed and are filled with upcoming previews (such as previews for Star Prince that appear while you are playing Rally King) and overall show a real attention to detail.

The rest of the game shares the same depth and contains references to the 8-bit gaming lifestyle, such as the fact that many games contained a fair amount of Engrish (poor Japanese to English translations) or the fact that in certain instances you would have to blow on a cartridge in order to get it to play, even forcing you to enter a command for your character to blow on them to complete the experience.

And while the aforementioned GameFan magazines are appreciated, the single most notable portion of the game is Guadia Quest, a complete 8-bit RPG that can last upwards of 10 hours or more, depending on whether or not you choose to thoroughly level up your characters between each major break in the story.

No matter which game you play, each comes with four basic challenges, ranging from simply reaching a certain level, completing a task without dying or using weapons (Haggleman), or in the case of Rally King, finishing a race in a certain amount of time, or in a particular position. These challenges, while varied, never become overwhelming, even though many are quite time consuming.

As your progress, your relationship with young Arino will grow, as he forever acts as a sort of cheerleader during challenges, complete with verbal exclamations of approval or disappointment, depending on your in-game performance.

Both you and your partner are designed in a bit of a chibi style, with incredibly large heads perched atop downright tiny bodies in comparison. The rest of the graphics are just as you would expect, and are true representations of the 8-bit era of gaming, complete with rudimentary sprites and the same style of pixilated environments we all grew up with as kids. The sound department is just as retro with appropriate, upbeat (but very simplistic) instrumental music playing throughout.

After playing enough retro game compilations to last a lifetime, Retro Game Challenge came as a very welcome surprise. With addictive, entertaining gameplay, and a true element of humor and challenge, Retro Game Challenge is, in my book, a welcome addition to the DS's gaming library.

Special thanks to Jimmy Soga and XSeed for providing a copy of this title.