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Even better than getting a new, much-hyped game that is indeed totally great is getting an almost unheard-of, underrated game that turns out to be great. This was the case when I popped Retro Game Challenge into my DS for the first time. What I believed to be a simple collection of retro-style games turned out to be the most clever, enjoyable game I've played in a long time.
Retro Game Challenge presents itself as a parody of gaming as a whole in the '80s, and doesn't take itself seriously for a single step of the way. At the very start of the game, I was told by a gigantic, polygonal head that since he (the head) sucks at modern games, I would be forced to go back in time to the '80s and complete a number of retro-styled gaming challenges alongside a younger version of the floaty head. Taken out of context, this plot makes zero sense. With context (the talking head is representative of a host of Japanese game show where the host plays old games and fails at them), the plot still makes no sense. Quite frankly, the plots of most '80s games made little sense, so I saw this as Retro Game Challenge succeeding already.
There are eight games to be played, but one must unlock them one at a time, completing four specific challenges within each before unlocking the next. The challenges feel a lot of like achievements, and whether it's grinding to level 7 in "Guadia Quest", getting 250,000 points in "Star Prince", or getting a "double-door kill" in "Robot Ninja Haggleman 2", they are usually pretty fun. Between completion of the various challenges, the younger version of the game show host, named Arino, will regularly bring home the newest edition of his favorite gaming magazine GameFan. GameFan is a 15-page, mini-version rip-off of EGM, with short interviews with the "developers" of the various games included in the compilation, cheat codes to help you beat challenges more easily, and short editorials by fictional editors.
On the lower screen there is the collection of games (complete with made-up, retro box-art), in-depth, old-school-style manuals for each game, the library of GameFan magazines, and the persistent avatars of your character and the young Arino, the latter of whom will often have humorous things to say that will really bring you back to your childhood, such as "at school today my friend told me that you could unlock a new character in so-and-so game by doing *insert stupid task here*." On the top screen is an empty TV screen, which turns into the display of the games once you choose to play them. The best thing about this setup is that one can easily switch between the two mid-game, and even leave the page of a magazine or manual open on the bottom screen while you play. If that doesn't bring back memories of the good 'ole days nothing will.
Unlike most real game compilations, which feature great old games and a lousy presentation, this fake compilation features an awesome presentation with great new games styled to look like old games. The presentation is what really sold it for me, but all eight games in the package are a success as well, which is a stunning accomplishment. "Haggleman" 1 and 2 are decent puzzle-style platformers, improved by a good bit of strategic elements to the gameplay, "Rally King" and "Rally King SP" are fun little top-down racers with cool physics systems, "Star Prince" is an awesome, vertically scrolling shooter, "Cosmic Gate" is a well-done, if not blatant rip-off of Galaxian, "Guadia Quest" is an incredible, 10-hour RPG that draws from the likes of Dragon Quest II, and "Haggleman 3" is a fantastic side-scroller that, if updated visually and expanded upon lengthwise, would be a suitable full-scale DS release on its own.
Retro Game Challenge has what it takes to join the ranks of some of your all-time favorite DS titles. If you like retro games, this package is like a reasonably-priced Godsend. Whatever the developers set out to accomplish, whether that be, "bring back memories of old-school games in a humorous way", "provide a collection of games that will last players a long time", or "successfully recreate good 'ole games", they succeeded on every front. Stop reading this review and go support them buy buying this literal modern classic now.
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