05 January 2010

Retro Game Challenge - Nintendo DS

An 80s love letter to retro gamers and anyone who likes a challenge, Retro Game Challenge was a delightful surprise. When you use words like “sweet” or “thoughtful” to describe a video game it’s usually for titles that feature ponies or Italian plumbers who save princesses. When talking about XSEED’s Retro Gaming Challenge, these words refer to the game’s personality and sensibilities as much as its characters.
It may be because I’m a child of the Atari 2600 and NES, but I found the overall attitude of this game refreshingly warm and thoughtful. It is a power ballad written to 8-bit gamers like myself who long for the days when high scores were everything and extra lives made a difference.
Older gamers often defend the early games for their brilliant use of innovative gameplay in the absence of mindblowing graphics and memory. We say those things, then we let our NES and Genesis gather dust in the shadow of our new consoles. We may miss the simplicity of game’s past, but we rarely go back and visit them. That’s where Retro Gaming Challenge is brilliant. Instead of licensing a bunch of 8-bit classics and bundling them with a goofy storyline, XSEED has managed to produce faithful – and deep – clones of classic 8-bit genres and presented them in a compelling way that begs to be played.
Retro Game Challenge is based on the original Japanese TV series, Retro Game Master. The game takes you back to the 1980s, where you play as a young boy forced by the evil “Game Master” Arino to test your gaming skills in a variety of retro-style video games including shooters, racing games, platformers and an epic role-playing game. Once you master Arino’s challenges, you can return to the beginning to play any of the eight games in their entirety.
The interface – which has you sitting in front of a TV and picking games (and magazines filled with cheats and tips) from the living room bookshelf – is cool and nostalgic. The in-game magazines provide cheat codes to help you warp through complicated levels, but they also offer a virtual history lesson on the video game industry. The fake ‘80s news stories cover actual trends and milestones in the industry from the ‘80s, including the meteoric rise and fall of new game releases.
It is the clever presentation and the game’s ability to take you back in time to your misspent youth jamming cartridges into a game console that sets the game apart from the simple retro release compilation games.
But it’s all about the games in the end. If they were no fun to play, the charm would wear thin quickly. Luckily, the games are fun and the charm doesn’t fade.
By Victor Paul Alvarez

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