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Friday, May 6, 2011

Imitation 8-bit

Top screen (awesome 8-bit game)

Bottom screen (You and your bud, chillin' and playing games)

Retro Game Challenge is an 80's childhood simulator for the Nintendo DS where you play a ton of vintage, replica 8-bit video games.

Here's the funny thing about it: Despite all of it's faithful replication of the games I played during my childhood, Retro Game Challenge only appears to have authentic 8-bit gameplay.

The game design is completely modern.

You play as a kid who hangs out with this Arino guy (because he owns a video game system and you, apparently, do not) and you play video games all day while talking about things like how amazing graphics look in 1987, and how the hell do you write down a password where the capital O might just be a Zero?

You get to play space shooters, platformers, top-down racers, an RPG, all with Arino, who is always super-excited to watch you play his games on his video game system. He cheers you on when you're kicking ass, gasps when the master boss appears, and whines when you miss a power-up.

And he never asks for a turn to play.

Arino, you're the best friend a kid could have.

The gameplay elements are exactly what you'd expect from the era:

  • Point system
  • 1-ups
  • Turbo button (you know those controllers that had a special rapid-fire button? You get one later on).
  • Instruction manuals
  • Engrish
  • Time limits
  • (RPG) Opening up a menu to select a 'Talk' option. No 'Stairs' option, thank god.
  • Slow-down. Yes, slow-down, like when the NES had more than five sprites on the screen, the game would slow down? They simulated that feature. I'm so used to it that I didn't even notice at first.
  • Sequels with completely different gameplay from the original.
  • Cheat codes

But guess what? There are other features of Retro Game Challenge that have nothing to do with the 80's.

  • Achievements. This is the main goal of the game. You always have a specific objective, like beating the third boss in Star Prince or getting 10,000 gold in Guadia Quest.
  • Universal continue. There's a single cheat code that works on every game where you can continue on the same level you died on. Basically, it's an unlimited continue option that most 8-bit games did not have. The game acts tough, but it's very forgiving.
  • (Racer) Mario Kart drift, where you drift and then blast off. Exactly the same.
  • (RPG) Auto combat option. The ability to automatically attack in combat was a feature that didn't really appear until 16-bit. Can someone prove me wrong on this?

And aside from all of this, most of the games have super-complicated elements, like the scoring in Star Prince where every enemy and object you shoot scores differently depending on the order in which you hit them.

So imagine all of your favorite 8-bits, only with a lot more depth and modern sensibility (the nostalgia without the reality), and that's what Retro Game Challenge plays like.

And it's better for it.

(The game sold about four copies here in the States, so I'm afraid this will never happen)

1 comment:

  1. For the most part I agree; the games in this collection are inspired by both classic and new games (with a slightly heavier focus on the former). For example, even Mappy had a complicated scoring system based on matching similar objects.

    My main problem with this game is the achievement system. (I think modern achievement systems are destroying the gaming industry, but I'll leave the full vent for later.)

    First of all: none of these achievements are actually as hard as mastering and completing your average NES game. The games in this collection are much, much easier. It's interesting how NES games were developed when its core audience would lose interest if a game was too easy, and it seems like the reverse is mostly true nowadays.

    Secondly, back when I was your age we used to play NES games for fun, not for some virtual pat on the back. It's becoming hard to imagine what with developers trying to convert our game libraries into potential experience points or whatever. Except you never level up.

    Also: it's called "bullet time," not "slow-down."