Have you ever owned a game that wasn't very well known even though it was good? I have, several of them, many of which even got sequels, but that still didn't improve their chances of being known. For this review, the game in question is one of my favourite games, Retro Game Challenge for the Nintendo DS.
Released in the US on February 10, 2009, Retro Game Challenge is a licensed game based on the hour-long Japanese reality show, Game Center CX which airs on Fuji TV. In the show, Comedian Shinya Arino (an employee of Game Center CX) is given a classic game to play and is then tasked with a challenge given to him by the show's staff. Most of the time, this challenge is to finish the game within the fourteen hours that he is in the studio, but sometimes he is given extensions depending on the length and/or difficulty of the game or help from one of the Assistant Directors. Additional challenges may even be issued to him if the game proves to be too easy. Even though the show never airs in any English speaking territories, I still watch the show as the improvised humor of Arino is top notch considering that most of the show (outside of the intro) is unscripted. While improv doesn't exactly translate well with a game that's obviously scripted, the humor is still well done in Retro Game Challenge.
Now, unlike the show, the game actually has a plot. Because of how good Arino had become at classic games, he becomes a god-like demon called the Retro Game Master and sends the player into the 80's where you must complete gaming challenges in his domain. Now because of the licensing issues with making a game like this, eight brand new NES styled games were created instead. These titles replicate the look and feel of of the era they represent extremely well and could even be considered legitimate individual titles in their own right.
Now the games are what make this title interesting. Each of the eight games has four challenges attached to it which range from quick to time consuming depending on the difficulty and the genre. If you are having a bit of trouble completing a challenge, you can look through the game's manual for tips or though a fictional game magazine call GameFan which contains strategies and cheat codes to help you complete your challenges more quickly. The games were developed with inspiration from games played on the show and with personal suggestions from Arino and his fellow staff members. They are as follows:
- Cosmic Gate (a space shooter inspired by games like Galaga and Space Invaders)
- Robot Ninja Haggle Man (an arcade platformer styled after Ghosts 'N' Goblins and the many ninja themed games of that time)
- Rally King (a racing game modeled after titles like Super Off Road and Bump 'N Jump)
- Star Prince (a space themed shmup designed after games like Gradius and Star Soldier)
- Rally King SP (a more difficult reskin of Rally King meant to parody "special edition" games given out as contest prizes)
- Robot Ninja Haggle Man 2 (the sequel to the first Haggle Man, it has the same gameplay, but levels are much larger and more difficult)
- Guadia Quest (an RPG inspired by games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy)
- Robot Ninja Haggle Man 3 (the sequel to Haggle Man 2, this game parodies how many games underwent a drastic redesign for their sequels. It is modeled after Ninja Gaiden)
While it may not seem like much variety as two of the games are extremely similar to two of the others, the challenges are vastly different which makes them a bit more tolerable.
All in all, this title replicates the games and magazines from the 80's extremely well. Each of the eight games are responsive, the music is well designed for the games they are made for, and after all of the challenges for a specific game are finished, you can play the game in its entirety from the title screen without any of young Arino's commentary. If you buy the game and happen to like it, I would also recommend the show from which it is based. Most of the episodes have been getting subtitled by fans and are being posted here. I think you might enjoy them too, but until then, I'll be seeing you.