I’m a huge fan of GameCenter CX. Fuji Television’s show about one middle aged comedian trying to beat old videogames is far and away the best TV show ever made about videogames and if you haven’t discovered it yet then I suggest you search for the fan translated episodes on Youtube. Retro Game Challenge is the first of two games based on the TV show and localised for the US by XSeed games. It also happens to be one of the best DS games available.
GameCenter CX, the TV show, celebrates the old 8, 16 and 32-bit glory days of gaming and revels in nostalgia. It’s fitting then that Retro Game Challenge is a love letter to the Famicom era of videogames in Japan. The story is that you have been sent back in time and turned into a child by Arino, the presenter of GameCenter CX, and must complete retro game challenges before you can return. A great excuse then to play through some excellent 8-bit styled games.
|Ninja Haggleman in action with the bottom screen to show how the game is presented|
Presentation is top-notch in this game. The bottom screen is taken up by two children, one represents you and the other representing Arino as a child, sitting in front of the TV and games console. The console is never named as a Famicom but it’s pretty obvious what it represents. From here you can talk to Arino or select games and read their manuals. Every game has a stylised pixelated retro look to make it seem like it was originally released on the 8-bit Famicom. Sprites only have 3 colours and the colour palette is limited. One of the most impressive features is the magazine collection you acquire throughout the game. These feature tips, videogame charts and previews of upcoming games. They are written with a very amateurish and enthusiastic way that is perfectly fitting for a newsletter or magazine from that era.
|If you like your Hudson Soft shooters, you'll love Star Prince|
New games are released to the player once challenges in the previous game are completed. One of my favourite little details about the game is how each game represents a different era of the NES/Famicom. The games become more complex and elaborate as the months and years role on. The first game ‘Cosmic Gate’ is a fantastic galaga clone, while later ‘Haggleman’ represents the platformers heyday after the release of Super Mario Brothers. The last two games are Guadia Quest, an RPG very much in the 8-bit Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy mould and Haggleman 3, which feels like the exploration focused platform games from the end of the Famicoms life such as Adventure Island 4, Bionic Commando or Clash at Demonhead.
|The highlight of the package is definitely Guadia Quest, an excellent and sizable RPG|
There are 8 games in total although two of them are rehashes of other games, namely Haggleman 2 and Rally King SP. What is remarkable is that each game would have been considered a minor or major classic if released in the 1980’s on the Famicom. Cosmic gate is a superior Galaga clone. Haggleman and its sequel are fun if simplistic plaformers. Rally King is the weakest game in the bunch but still a great game that reminds me of Neo Driftout on the Neo Geo. Star Prince is a superb vertical shmup that plays very like the classic Hudson Soft games on the Famicom and PC Engine. Guadia Quest is the highlight of the package and is a brilliant 15-20 hour 8-bit RPG. Last is Haggleman 3 and my only complaint about this game is that it’s only 4 stages long. It’s a great mix of Ninja Gaiden with light exploration elements.
|Ninja Haggleman 3 is exellent if a little short|
There’s so much game packed into this cartridge that it’s an absolute bargain. Even outside of the games there’s a whole heap of charm and humour. The magazines and manuals are fun to read and if you don’t like or have trouble with some games there’s cheats to be found in these magazines that can help you complete any of them. If you are a fan of GameCenter CX there are some very humourous lines from the young Arino especially when he comments about his gaming prowess when he gets older. The only disappointment is that there was a second GameCenter CX game that isn’t getting localised so I have to wait for a fan translation before I can enjoy it.