Retro Game Challenge Review for Nintendo DS

Retro Game Challenge Review for Nintendo DS

A Blast from the 8-bit Past…
Sort of

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 screenshot

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.

Retro Game Challenge screenshot

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.

Retro Game Challenge screenshot

Don’t expect to be blown away by the graphics; the visuals look like they come straight out of the 8-bit past. However, this isn’t a bad thing. The highly pixelated sprites and familiar old-school graphics mix with the chiptune audio tracks and blippy sound effects perfectly.

Retro Game Challenge screenshot

The retro graphics are so convincingly replicated you wouldn’t be able to immediately tell the games were made from scratch just for this DS release, without knowing so ahead of time. If you’re up for a trip down memory lane along with a completely new experience, Retro Game Challenge should do the trick. Another great aspect of the presentation is the way the dual screens are utilized. The bottom screen shows your character and the young Arino plopped in a living room in front of a gaming console connected to a TV. While the games themselves appear on the upper screen, the living room scene remains static, and you can watch and listen to Arino’s reactions to how well (or poorly) you play each retro game.

Many aspects of the game pay homage to the early years of gaming culture, but the inclusion of fully readable gaming magazines is icing on the cake. Every so often, little Arino will inform you a new issue of GameFan magazine has arrived, and you can mosey on over to the bookshelf to select an issue and digitally thumb through the pages. Each issue is packed with tips for the games, actual cheat codes that can be used, and editorial content penned by actual game journalists and editors in the industry.

Retro Game Challenge hearkens back to a time when 3D graphics didn’t exist and video games were nowhere near as elaborate as the high-end affairs current-gen systems offer. Even so, the highly creative presentation is top-notch, and the varied gameplay will keep you busy for hours on end. This one’s a must for retro gaming enthusiasts.

Pixelated and dated in a good way. 4.0 Control
Simple D-Pad moves and twitchy button mashing makes for sore thumbs and a great time. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The chiptunes and old-school sounds are top-notch. 4.6

Play Value
Challenges will keep you busy for quite some time, and the fun found in the full games themselves lasts even longer.

4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Experience Games in a Whole New Way: Rather than simply playing a game straight from start to finish, each game is played in short spurts to accomplish specific goals.
  • Wide Variety of Games to Keep Players Engaged: From classic shooters to racing, ninja action to epic role-playing, gameplay variety ensures there’s something for everyone.
  • Entire Games Available for Free Play: Every retro game introduced in the story is available in its entirety once the initial challenges have been completed.
  • Experience the ’80s Gaming Culture: Not only do the in-game magazines provide cheat codes, they are also a source of entertainment and a virtual history lesson about the video game industry. Fake ’80s news stories cover actual emerging ’80s gaming trends, the evolution of software, and even the video game crash of 1983.

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