When I think about the NES days, I remember some of my favorite gaming moments. If I sit here and try to come up with my favorite titles, over 50 different games pop into my head almost immediately. Back in those days, the games were simple and fun. Everything was focused on gameplay, and nobody ever took the time to worry about the bells and whistles… mostly because there weren’t any. Fast forward a couple decades and now gameplay tends to take a backseat to all the other factors in the game.
That brings us to Retro Game Challenge for the Nintendo DS. Bandai Namco was apparently thinking the same thing that I was, and decided to return to the roots of gaming, while not completely abandoning where we are now. It captures the highs, lows, and amusing quirks of NES games, while (in a way) approaching a staple of gaming from this generation; achievements. The final product is a fantastic effort, but not a perfect execution.
Retro Game Challenge is made specifically for hardcore gamers. You pick either male or female, get turned into a kid, and you are sent back to the 80’s by Game Master Arino. He is sick of losing to his friends at current-gen games, so he goes back to his “home-turf” and has you complete his retro challenges. You end up at Arino’s house when he was a kid, and he observes you while you play the games. He also brings home a fictional game magazine, GameFan, which includes cheats and info on the retro games you’ll be playing over the course of the game. It’s all really well put together, and if you were around in those times, it succeeds in bringing you back.
The game consists of original 8-bit games that pay homage to NES games of the past, and most of the games included are well developed. There are eight games in total; six originals and two sequels. There is a fixed shooter, shoot ‘em up, racing, RPG, platformer, and action-platformer to play through. Some are better than others, but it will all depend on your personal genre preference. On any kind of compilation, six games wouldn’t be acceptable, and I don’t think it is here either. Don’t get me wrong; the games included are fun to play and can stand on their own. However, with how many different types of games they could have come up with, it makes no sense that we are only getting six original titles. To me, it seems like they are holding back for a sequel, which, in fact, does exist. I don’t really think it’s fair, but I suppose that isn’t my choice.
Gameplay works by giving you four challenges per game title, and new games are unlocked by completing the one that came before it. The challenges are simple and usually require a specific level or point goal. For almost every challenge, you are forced to restart from the beginning of the game, and play through until you complete the goal. It’s a really neat take on the achievement idea, but there is a flaw with the execution. I understand that with old games, you always had to restart from the beginning, but here it doesn’t make any sense. Instead of making me restart and constantly do the same things, the challenges should have been implemented in a way that you completed them while playing through the game. Playing through the opening level of a game four times isn’t fun, and it takes away from how good the games in Retro Game Challenge actually are.
Despite how much I find negative, the game is still a joy to play, even if the way you play it isn’t. It almost felt as if I was taking a break from my reviewing process and spending time with some old classics. As far as atmosphere, the game nails it. There is also a free-play mode that is unlocked after completing the retro games, which allows you to play through on your own terms, and it’s the way the games should be played originally. While I don’t agree with the execution of Retro Game Challenge regarding the way you complete challenges, and the amount of original games, it’s still a great pick-up and fun play-through for those who love old school games.
+ Return to the 8-bit games that hardcore gamers love
+ Atmosphere for the time period is excellent, and also references the present
+ Games are very well developed and could hold their own with classics of the past
- Eight games in total (six original and two sequels).
- Have to constantly restart games to complete challenges, rather than playing the games for what they are.
- Arino (kid) will say things while you are playing games. It’s cool at first, but gets annoying later on in the game.
Letter Grade – C+