Oh come on. You had to know that if there's one game I was going to buy this week, it was this one. I've been anticipating Retro Game Challenge for months now and have had my heart broken time and time again as it's been pushed back from it's original release date. I went out to buy it yesterday, but apparently Best Buy has them backlogged. So I did the unthinkable and went to Game Stop, who informed me that they get games a day after the release date and in doing so, reminded me of yet another reason why I hate them. I proceeded, in the pouring rain, to check three Wal-Marts and my local Target as well... To no avail... I went home cold, wet, and sad.
However, today was a whole different story! Apparently Best Buy was going to sell the game for $40.00, but I got it at Game Stop for $30.00! Like I said though, normally Best Buy is cheaper, so it probably would have actually been $30.00 on the shelf. I felt a little dirty for giving my money to The Man of the video game industry, but my excitement for the game distracted me from the bad taste in my mouth.
You probably already know the premise of the game. If not, it's based on a Japanese TV show where a guy has to beat Famicom (NES) games. In Retro Game Challenge, the guy from the show has gotten tired of people like you getting amusement out of his pain, so he decides to send you back in time to live out the gaming era of the 80's. It's pretty much an NES-era simulator. A game about playing games if you will. You get news, cheats, and tips from magazines, play games while your friend cheers you on, and meet challenges presented by the guy from the show (Game Master Arino).
I only just bought it, but I have already met all of the challenges in the first game, Cosmic Gate. It's a shooter that borrows more than a little from Galaga. Enemies fly down, shoot at you, then form into a moving mass as they individually attack you. However, the game has of it's own uniqueness that it stands apart from Galaga. I'm actually starting to notice that while all the games take something from already existing NES games, they add so much of their own features that they feel like homages, yet completely new and fresh.
For instance, in Cosmic Gate you have the added gameplay element of gates that appear when you shoot certain enemies. These gates allow you to skip levels and move through the game faster. There are also asteroid-shooting bonus stages and a power-up that makes your ship shoot "armor piercing rounds" every third shot. Unlike your regular shots, these bullets pass through a whole line of enemies, allowing you to combo up kills for more points. Definitely my favorite feature.
The games feel like 8-bit games, yet totally new as well. I believe this is because they really are new games. These aren't the same NES games that you've already played, even if they share some gameplay elements with them. When it came to the second game, Robot Ninja Haggle Man (BEST TITLE EVER), I actually started the first level and went "Huh?" not knowing exactly how to play. Actually it plays a bit like a mix of Ninja Gaiden (Ninja), Mega Man (Robot), and Super Mario (Haggle Man) with some new elements thrown in of course.
What is a Haggle anyway?
The retro feeling is very authentic as well. My favorite part of the game so far has been the HILARIOUS Engrish included in the games, whose story summaries are filled quote-ammo like "Challenge to the protection of the Mother Earth!" I also love the fictional magazines that you can read. I've always loved reading video game magazines (even more than reading game news on the internet) and the magazines in this game really take me back to a time before I used the internet as my main source of game news. The majority of the game (outside of the games themselves) is a very relaxing and nostalgic experience.
One complaint I had was that the challenges in Cosmic Gate were WAY too easy, but after completing it, a new magazine later gave me a cheat code to play the game in Hard Mode. The challenges in Haggle Man are also harder, so I'm sure it'll get more difficult as the game progresses. My other complaint is that, while there is a notepad for taking notes and writing down codes, you can't save what you just wrote! You can pull up the notepad while your playing the game and write on it, but as soon as you exit the notepad, the page gets thrown away! I would have liked to be able to have a whole notepad that I could write and draw on (like I did when I was a kid) for passwords, strategies, and cheat codes.
Other than those two complaints, the game has been awesome so far. It has a lot of replay value as well, because once you complete the games, you unlock them in Freeplay mode where you can play them to your heart's content. Freeplay mode records not only your high scores, but other things like how many times you've pressed the "A" button and how many Game Overs you've gotten.
All in all, so far Retro Game Challenge seems like a must buy for any retro game fan. It also seems to be partially targeted at them young whipper snappers that don't realize how much harder games were back in the day. I really hope that you go buy this game to support the guys who worked so hard to bring it to the US. It's very creative, nostalgic, and fun, not mention cheap. I love Retro Game Challenge to death and I can't wait to play more of it. I really want to get to the full-blown RPG at the end!