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Critical Reception: Xseed/Namco Bandai's Retro Game Challenge

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Retro Game Challenge, a collection of 8-bit styled titles that reviews describe as "the best compilation of games that never were, but that you'll wish had been."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Retro Game Challenge, a collection of 8-bit styled titles that reviews describe as "the best compilation of games that never were, but that you'll wish had been." The title currently earns a score of 81 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish gives Retro Game Challenge a grade of A-, noting that the title is just as relevant to younger gamers as it is to those who grew up in the era that the game simulates. "Retro Game Challenge is based on an admirably convoluted, if slightly ludicrous, premise -- the host of a Japanese TV show has sent you back in time to play videogames with his younger self -- but you don't need to understand the backstory in order to enjoy RGC for what it is," Parish begins. "Specifically, it's a compilation of eight very entertaining 8-bit titles spanning an impressive range of genres," Parish continues. "The games in question are all fake, having been invented on the spot for RGC. Really, though, that just adds to their charm." Parish explains that the title works on two levels. "First, it works as a compilation -- the fact that it's compiling completely made-up games notwithstanding," he says. "I only wish all publishers put this much care into their authentic anthologies. RGC includes complete scans of (imaginary) game manuals, illustrations of (fabricated) cartridges to select from, and a library of (non-existent) magazines to leaf through for tips and previews." "None of this would matter a bit if the work being compiled was no good," Parish admits, "but fortunately that's not an issue. And therein lies RGC's second success. Each of the playable pseudo-games here is a deft homage to the best moments of the 8-bit era, combining elements of multiple NES hits into new creations so good you would have paid full price for them back in the day." "RGC is aimed directly at people who fondly remember saving their pennies to purchase titles the likes of Metroid or Super Mario Bros. 3," Parish concludes. "But don't worry, youngbloods -- you can play it and enjoy it, too. RGC is the best compilation of games that never were, but that you'll wish had been." Jeff Cork at Game Informer rates Retro Game Challenge at 8.5 out of 10, explaining that the variety of challenges is especially appealing. "One minute you might have to score 200,000 points in a Galaga clone, the next you’re tasked with finishing in the top five in a racing game -- there’s even an RPG to slog through," he writes. "Each of the games is rendered with blocky sprites and accompanied with a symphony of bloops and beeps." Cork also praises Retro Game Challenge's faux gaming history. "Between challenges you can read fake magazines for editorials, codes for making challenges easier, and previews of upcoming games," he describes. "There’s a neat sense of progression between those games, with sequels adding features, graphical upgrades, and everything else you’d expect in real life." Cork cites one of Retro Game Challenge's included series as an example: "Robot Ninja Haggle Man in particular goes from a relatively simple 'slam the doors on the bad guys' kind of affair to an item-filled action game during its three iterations." "The games are definitely infused with tons of retro appeal, but more importantly they’re fun to play on their own merits," Cork notes. "Even if you’re not old enough to remember blowing on carts, Retro Game Challenge is interesting and varied enough to entertain for hours." Over at GameSpot, Carolyn Petit gives Retro Game Challenge a score of 7.5 out of 10. "Video game nostalgia has been packaged and sold in a myriad of forms, but you've never played a throwback to the 8-bit era quite like Retro Game Challenge," she begins. "It's an unusual concept that succeeds at feeling fresh and delightfully dated at the same time." Petit notes that the game remains compelling throughout thanks to its varied challenges. "For each game, you're given a sequence of four challenges that typically start out very simple and get progressively more difficult, though they never approach the staggering difficulty of many actual 8-bit games," she explains. Petit continues: "The challenges range from standard stuff like achieving a certain score or passing a certain level, to more unusual tasks, like getting through a specific level without using any ninja stars, or completing two laps around a track without drifting (which isn't as easy as it sounds)." Retro Game Challenge's similar sequel titles may become tiresome, however. "There's Rally King SP, a special edition of Rally King that has some different track layouts but is otherwise identical to the original," Petit describes. "And then there's Robot Ninja Haggle Man 2, which tosses you into bigger rooms with more enemies but does nothing else to advance the gameplay." "Thankfully, Retro Game Challenge saves the two most elaborate games for last. Guadia Quest, a surprisingly involved role-playing game in the vein of Dragon Warrior, is the game whose challenges will take the most time to complete," Petit writes. "Finally, there's Robot Ninja Haggle Man 3, a complete departure from the earlier games in the series that takes the bulk of its inspiration from the NES Ninja Gaiden games, though the level designs aren't linear and you'll have to do a fair bit of exploring to find the boss of each area." Petit feels that Retro Game Master's presentation and storyline make for a truly memorable experience. "The story mode makes this something more than just a compilation of retro-style games," she notes in conclusion. "It makes it an endearing tribute to games of that era and the experience of playing them and enjoying them with friends." "It's appropriate that Game Master Arino's first act is to turn you into a kid," Petit says. "While the games here have their flaws, the kid in you who once loved 8-bit games will be won over by the charms of this knowing homage to their glory days."

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