March 27, 2009
Last night, I beat Retro Game Challenge. I picked this up after hearing about it on the CAGCast. Hearing Wombat talking about the game was more than enough to make me interested in the whole retro vibe, and the alternate takes on classic games was intriguing.
As soon as you turn it on, you know what you're getting into. The game throws a story at you about being trapped in the past by a Master Gamer and needing to complete 4 challenges in each of the 8 selected games of a fictional yesteryear alongside his younger self to return to your own time.
That's about as good a setup as you can expect for a collection of games like this. The gameplay is broken down between 8(technically 7, but I'll get to that later) different retro styled games that come very close to being analogous to actual games from classic gaming history. I'll break it down by each game.
The classic early gaming shooter! Basically, it's Galaga, with a few differences, like being able to upgrade your gun to be able to fire through a line of ships every third shot, and the bonus stage being dodging or destroying rocks in an asteroid field. The "Cosmic Gates" referenced in the title, are warps scattered throughout the game to finish it more quickly. I would say the shining moment of this game is the perfect use of engrish, be it that the game is telling you about the "enemys" or how many asteroids you "shooted".
Robot Ninja Haggle Man
I'd say the concept for this one is the hardest of the 8 games to pin down to an actual game, the closest I can think of would probably be to call it a mix of Bubble Bobble and Mario Bros. It's a sidescrolling platformer that gives you ninja stars to throw at the enemies, which doesn't kill them outright, but stuns them so you can kill them by stomping on their heads until you get to the boss at the end of the stage. There's also an interesting mechanic of using doors to kill the baddies, it's a pretty fun experience all in all, and starts a trend of "fake" endings for the games.
It's a racing game that's like a mix between Spy Hunter(without the guns!) and RC Pro AM. Also included in the game is a sweet drift/boost mechanic that insofar as I know, is nowhere to be found in the era the game is from, and from where I'm standing, would be a welcome addition to some of the classics.
A vertical shooter, similar to Xevious and Zanac, with multiple weapon upgrades and secrets aplenty to find around the 4 stages with bosses and mini bosses. It continues from Ninja Robot Haggle Man where, after you get to the end, you start over and replay through again because the enemies were "imitations".
Rally King SP
This here is the reason why I said there were technically 7 games. It's Rally King all over again, with "marketing" and different colors for the levels. I'm pretty sure it's a parody of some "special" editions of games, but none come to mind at the moment.
Robot Ninja Haggle Man 2
At first glance, it's exactly like the first game in the series, but refined to the same degree you would expect of a sequel. Instead of a fixed height to the stages present in the first, there are larger stages to roam over, and requiring you to find the bosses instead of presenting them to you. Again, the tradition of replaying the game to see the "real" ending is present.
Up to this point, all of the previous games were arcade-style, where you can pick up and play for 10 minutes and still get the full experience of the game, even if you don't finish it. This is where that changes. Upon reaching this game, you've spent maybe 3 or 4 hours playing the other games. You will spend almost twice that here. Guadia Quest is a very capable RPG, and is very similar to Dragon Warrior. Everything is menu-based and the game is very slick, maybe able to hold its own outside of the rest of the collection, with a surprising amount of depth for the simple collection of the rest of the games.
Robot Ninja Haggle Man 3
You're probably expecting this to be another incremental upgrade to the formula previously established. WRONG! This is a take on reinventing a game franchise, as we've seen in Super Mario Bros 2 and Zelda 2, and I would say it's a huge improvement! The simplistic stomping-on-heads gameplay is thrown out the window in favor of the style of hardcore ninja sims such as Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi. Being similar to those two, it's almost frustratingly hard, alleviated somewhat by the upgradable nature of the Robot Ninja. I'm honestly not sure if I would have been able to complete this game without the help of the built in cheats for the game.
Punctuating your gameplay experience, there are ingame "magazines" complete with tips, tricks, and cheat codes for all of the games. Another cool feature of the magazines are the editors for the magazine(for instance, Dan Sock, a play on EGM's former Dan "Shoe" Hsu) and the wonderful names of the people who write in to them(including, I swear to god, Amanda Huggenkiss and Ben Dover). This helped the game alot, giving it a very tongue in cheek atmosphere, which was exacerbated by a memorable nameless reference to The Wizard and thus, the Power Glove(it's so bad).
I'm very glad I started playing this game, I really couldn't put it down after I picked it up, and I'll continue to play it, as I haven't even started on the High Score mode yet.