Retro Game Challenge (released in Japan as GameCenter CX: Arino no Chousenjou) is a compilation of retro-style games developed by indies zero for the Nintendo DS. It was originally published exclusively in Japan by Bandai Namco in 2007, but was later released in North America in 2009 by XSEED Games.
Retro Game Challenge is based on the Fuji TV-produced Japanese reality television series GameCenter CX (localized as Retro Game Master in North America) starring comedian Shinya Arino. Similar to the manner in which Arino challenges difficult retro games over the course of the show, players of Retro Game Challenge are assigned several objectives to complete across eight original 8-bit-style games.
Each of the individual games is presented as its own release across the chronology of a fictional 1980s-era game console called the "Game Computer," (heavily inspired by the Japanese Famicom) complete with period-appropriate artwork and in-game instruction manuals. Issues of a fictional gaming magazine called GameFan provide coverage of each title, as well as offering various gameplay tips and cheats that can be used to make progress or achieve higher scores.
The original game was successful enough to warrant a sequel, GameCenter CX: Arino no Chousenjou 2, which was released only in Japan in 2009. A third game, GameCenter CX: 3-Choume no Arino, was a 2014 3DS Japanese exclusive.
At the beginning of the game, players select either a boy or girl avatar who will receive the various challenges assigned by Game Master Arino, an evil "digitalized" version of Shinya Arino spawned by his own frustration at failing to achieve "complete dominance" in modern games. After being turned into a child by Game Master Arino, the player is thrown backwards in time to the 1980s and appears at the childhood home of a young Arino, who agrees to help the player complete his future digital self's challenges by providing the necessary gaming hardware and software.
The game's overall structure requires players to clear each of a game's four challenges in order before attempting the next. Once all four challenges in a single game have been cleared, the next game in chronological release order is unlocked. Several of the challenges are simple tasks, such as scoring a set number of points or completing a certain level. Other challenges may require the player to master some of the games' more esoteric aspects, such as activating secret warps in Cosmic Gate or defeating multiple enemies simultaneously in Haggle Man 2.
After clearing all four challenges for a single game, that game becomes available in Freeplay mode. High scores and various other game data are maintained in Freeplay mode, but cheats are disabled with the exception of continue codes.
Guadia Quest and Haggle Man 3 saves in Story mode do not carry over to Freeplay mode, and accomplishing goals in Freeplay mode does not affect Story mode.
GameFan is a gaming magazine read by young Arino. A new issue of GameFan is unlocked after every few challenges beaten. It features tips and cheats for all the games featured in RGC, previews for upcoming games, and sales charts that include the games featured in RGC as well as several other titles that are not featured. GameFan's mascot is Larry T. Bird, a blue bird who appears on the cover of every issue.
Several real-world video game journalists and critics are referenced within GameFan's pages, including "Dan Sock" (based on Dan Hsu, former editor-in-chief of Electronic Gaming Monthly), "Johnny England" (John Davison, another former EIC of EGM), "Dave H." (Dave Halverson, founder of Diehard GameFan), and "Milkman" (James Mielke, former editorial director of 1UP.com).
While each of the games within Retro Game Challenge are original, their audiovisual and gameplay elements are tailored to provide an 8-bit retro feel similar to actual Famicom/NES games of the 1980s, complete with fully illustrated manuals.
There are a total of eight titles unlocked by playing the game's Story mode:
- #1: Cosmic Gate
- #2: Robot Ninja Haggle Man
- #3: Rally King
- #4: Star Prince
- #5: Rally King SP
- #6: Robot Ninja Haggle Man 2
- #7: Guadia Quest
- #8: Robot Ninja Haggle Man 3
- Release: November 8, 1984
- Developer: TOMATO
- Genre: Shoot-'em-up
Kill Mass Insektors and return to Earth!
While on patrol around the M32 Nebula for the Space Alliance in Galactic Year 2550, the new fighter craft Infinity receives a distress call from Earth. On the way back to Earth, the Infinity is ambushed by humanity's sworn enemy, the Mass Insektors.
Cosmic Gate is inspired by early vertical shooting games and bears a particularly strong resemblance to Namco's 1981 arcade hit Galaga.
Waves of insect-like enemy ships fly in from off-screen and must be destroyed by the player's ship in order to advance through a total of sixty-four stages. There are three types of enemies: pawns, guards, and bosses. Pawns occupy the bottom two rows, guards occupy the second and third rows, and bosses occupy the top row.
Flashing pawns will open a warp if shot before any other enemies, which can be used to skip levels. Flashing bosses appear every four levels, and drop a power-up when defeated. This power-up allows three shots to be on screen at the same time, with every third shot being a missile that can go through multiple enemies. When a missile hits multiple enemies, a multiplier increases the score for every consecutive enemy it defeats. Players earn an extra life at 20,000 and 70,000 points, with further lives awarded for every additional 70,000 points scored.
When bosses dive at the Infinity they will often take one or two guards with them. Defeating the guards and then the boss will reward bonus points if they are defeated before they return to the formation.
Every fourth stage is a bonus round where the goal is to destroy as many asteroids as possible. At the end of each round the score is tallied (with charmingly incorrect grammar indicating how many asteroids were "shooted") and bonus points may be awarded. There are small, medium and large asteroids to destroy, with the largest size being exceptionally difficult to demolish without a powered-up shot unless it was caught near the top of the screen.
- #01 - Beat Stage 5! - Beat this challenge by finishing Stage 5! Don't skip any stages.
- #02 - Use the Warp Gate twice! - This challenge is to find and use 2 Warp Gates before your ship gets destroyed!
- #03 - Giant Asteroid! - Destroy a giant asteroid in the Asteroid Zone to beat this challenge.
- #04 - Get 200,000 points! - Beat this challenge by simply reaching 200,000 pts. You're free to use any cheats!
Robot Ninja Haggle Man
Save the princess! Doors are the key!
- Release: September 13, 1985
- Developer: GEARS
- Genre: Arcade Platformer
The evil scientist Chingensai has kidnapped the Princess and taken her to his Mech Hideout in Neo-Kichijoji City. Haggle Man, a product of Neo-Nippon's best scientist, embarks on a journey to rescue the princess. He is joined by Koume, Cyborg K9, and Little Zenmai; who can be called upon for assistance during his journey.
On the fourth and eighth floor of the Mech Hideout, Haggle Man faces Dark Haggle Man, a robot built from Haggle Man's blueprints by Chingensai. On the eighth floor, Haggle Man faces off against Chingensai himself. After Chingensai's defeat, the princess is once again kidnapped and Haggle Man must replay through the same eight floors to reach Chingensai again.
After finally defeating Chingensai, Haggle Man rescues the princess and they return home.
The ninja theme and gameplay of Robot Ninja Haggle Man are both highly reminiscent of Jaleco's 1985 "elimination platformer" Ninja JaJaMaru-Kun. Haggle Man can run, jump, and throw shuriken. Most platforms can be jumped through--that is, Haggle Man can jump onto a platform from directly underneath, and he can leap directly off a platform to surfaces below (without having to run to the edge). He can also enter doors, causing all onscreen doors of the same color to spin.
Enemies are defeated by stomping on their heads or hitting them with a spinning door. Some enemies can be stunned by shuriken, making it easier for Haggle Man to stomp on their heads. In other cases, enemies will defend against shuriken, but this also freezes them in a defensive posture for a split second, giving Haggle Man enough time to run up and jump on their heads anyway. Progression is achieved by defeating all enemies on each floor, upon which the boss character will reveal itself. Defeating this boss character unlocks a portal to the next floor.
All levels are self-contained. That is, while there is enough height and breadth such that the screen must scroll left, right, up and down to cover the entire scope of each level, there is no progression from its "beginning" to its "end". As such, each level is more or less a very large room.
Entering three doors in alphabetical order will turn all onscreen doors the same color, allowing Haggle Man to defeat more enemies at once and gain more points. Entering three doors in reverse alphabetical order will heal Haggle Man if he has been hit.
Entering doors can also uncover hidden scrolls. Collecting three scrolls unleashes a screen-filling smart bomb attack that either stuns or clears away on-screen enemies. Also, the boss characters will be hiding behind doors. Haggle Man can stay behind doors for as long as the up button was held on the D-pad. So, if the player reveals a boss character, and have Haggle Man stay behind the door long enough, the boss character will leap out onto the level. This way, Haggle Man can defeat it without having to wait until all the other enemies are defeated.
- The Japanese name for Robot Ninja Haggle Man is Karakuri Ninja Haguruman. Haguruman is a combination of haguruma and man; haguruma meaning gear, and "man" representing a robot like in the Mega Man series. For the North American release XSEED opted for a more direct translation, as a North American publisher would have likely done 1985.
- #05 - Kill 2 w/o landing! - Kill 2 enemies in a row by stepping on them without touching the ground!
- #06 - Floor 3 w/o stars! - Beat Floor 3 without using ninja stars. Utilize scrolls and doors to defeat enemies!
- #07 - Floor 4 w/o dying! - Beat Floor 4 without dying even once! You can take damage, just don't die!
- #08 - Floor 8 and on! - Beat Floor 8 and see what happens next! You can use cheats but you must beat Floor 8!
Hyper-speed rally racing action!
- Release: November 21, 1985
- Developer: SimpleSoft
- Genre: Racing
Rally King stars Holland Mackray, who is competing in the World Rally Tour with the goal of becoming the champion.
Rally King plays from a top-down perspective in the style of several other 8-bit racing titles, such as Famicom Grand Prix: F1 Race or Road Fighter.
Players steer their rally car using "tank" controls, where left and right change the angle of the car's trajectory. There is a rudimentary drift mechanic which is activated by achieving a certain minimum speed and letting off the gas while turning hard in a direction. Drifting is indicated by smoke puffs coming from the rear wheels. A speed boost can be achieved if the player can sustain a drift in one direction for at least a full second.
Rally King displays a health meter for the car. Every time it bumps into a wall or another racer, the health meter depletes. Once the health meter is empty, the car explodes. The player can choose to continue (up to three times) from the same level on which they died, but their score is reset to zero.
In addition to other cars, there are several obstacles on the course that will either cause the car to spin out (puddles, sand dunes) or merely slow down (dark gravel patches). Small bumps give the car a little air time, and "ghost cars" act as power-ups providing up extra points or health refills if driven into. Furthermore, finding some secret shortcuts will award the player with a huge point bonus.
- Rally King's main character Holland Mackray is named after the late rally driver Colin McRae.
- #09 - Drift Boost Twice! - Beat this challenge by 2 drift boosts in the same course! Check the manual!
- #10 - Complete Course 1! - Finish Course 1 to beat this challenge! The rank/score doesn't matter!
- #11 - Course 2: 5th or up! - For this challenge, you have to complete Course 2 in 5th place or higher!
- #12 - Get 15,000 points! - For this challenge, you just need to get over 15,000 points.
Use power-ups and the barrier to win!
- Release: June 3, 1986
- Developer: TOMATO
- Genre: Shoot-'em-up
The ancient Sky City, long protected by the treaty, was destroyed and the only remaining inhabitant of the city was a young man of House Tirus. He decides to take possession of Valbird, which now only he can activate. The young man heads to space with the fate of the galaxy in his hands.
Star Prince's title and gameplay pay homage to Star Soldier, a 1986 Hudson Soft shoot-em-up. Star Prince plays top-down and offers a bevy of shot power-ups, including a spread gun, a super-powerful rapid-fire laser and a simultaneous rapid shot plus short-range cluster bomb combo.
By holding down the fire button, the ship can generate a shield that absorbs enemy bullets. Every three bullets it absorbs then gets unleashed in a devastating attack. The shield can also stop bigger shots and destroy smaller enemies, but it disappears upon doing so, requiring the player to hold down the fire button again to regenerate it. Clearing Star Prince's second challenge in story mode unlocks a rapid-fire option activated by holding down the Y button; however, the shield cannot be used while rapid-firing.
A large points bonus can be unlocked if the ship randomly shoots across certain parts of each stage's environments. Uncovering the letters P-R-I-N-C-E will net a full bonus. The player can also get "technical" bonus points for destroying certain mid-boss characters efficiently (most likely determined by length of time).
Star Prince also loops once, requiring that the player play through the game's four stages once again to fully complete it. The second loop features slightly increased difficulty, with some enemies shooting bullets where they didn't during the previous run-through.
- #13 - Beat Area 1 Mid-Boss! - Beat the challenge by defeating the mid-boss in Area 1! It'll be ringed with artillery!
- #14 - Get a 1-up - Get an extra life for this challenge! Either get 50,000 points or a 1-up Tomato!
- #15 - Kill the Area 2 Boss! - Kill the Area 2 Boss Soldion! Be sure to get power-ups to make it easier!
- #16 - Get 250,000 points! - Just get over 250,000 points! Use bonuses to help you! The PRINCE bonus is helpful!
Rally King SP
Tie-in product with Inokichi Noodles!
- Release: August 28, 1986*
- Developer: SimpleSoft
- Genre: Racing
* Giveaway only; not a commercial release
After winning last year's World Rally Tour, Holland Mackray has entered once again. But this time, he has Larry T. Bird and Inokichi Cup o' Chicken Noodle on his side.
Rally King SP is a special version of the original Rally King only available as a giveaway to winners of a GameFan Magazine contest, making it a rare collector's item. The "SP" version adds GameFan branding and a cameo from the magazine's mascot Larry T. Bird, as well as featuring a promotional tie-in with fictional instant noodle brand Inokichi.
Gameplay in Rally King SP is identical to its predecessor. The mechanics have not changed, nor have the high-level course designs. However, there are certain jumps and obstacles in places where they weren't in the previous game, and coloring is altered: For example, the desert level is blue instead of yellow. Another noticeable difference is the addition of GameFan and Inokichi advertisements between tracks.
- The concept of a tie-in revision of a game with minor changes is a reference to the Japanese trend of Famicom titles that also received special tie-in versions, such as All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros., and "Gradius Archimendes Hen," a version of Gradius that featured similar cross-promotion with a popular Japanese brand of instant ramen.
- #17 - Course 1 w/o Drifts! - Finish Course 1 without drifting! Keep your finger on the A Button to maintain traction!
- #18 - Course 2 in under 2:28! - Finish Course 2 in under 2 minutes and 28 seconds! There are no other restrictions!
- #19 - Do a Start Boost! - Nail the timing and blast off the starting line. Think of this as a break.
- #20 - Beat Course 3! - Finish Course 3 without getting a game over! It won't count if you place too low!
Robot Ninja Haggle Man 2
Play through more advanced stages!
- Release: December 10, 1986
- Developer: GEARS
- Genre: Arcade Platformer
A year has passed since Haggle Man defeated Chingensai and rescued the Princess. One day, a mysterious building appears in Neo-Nasu Kogen, and the princess is once again kidnapped by Chingensai. But he was supposed to be dead! So Haggle Man travels once again to Chingensai's new Mech Hideout to defeat him once and for all.
Haggle Man 2 is very similar to its predecessor. The game features larger levels with more enemies, and enemy reinforcements will appear after a time.
Allies can now be summoned at any time when Haggle Man has three scrolls by pressing up and B, instead of having the ally be summoned automatically.
In many cases, bosses in the previous Haggle Man could be defeated with one jump after being stunned. This time around, it takes three clean jumps to defeat all bosses.
As in the first game, Haggle Man will fight Chingensai at the end of the eighth level, and the levels will repeat themselves a second time. However there is now an all-new Wily-style boss battle against Chingensai at the end of the game.
- #21 - Double Door Kill - Kill 2 enemies at the same time using the doors! Use the same colored doors!
- #22 - Get 3 scrolls! - Get 3 scrolls to call a friend! Find scrolls behind the doors in the stage!
- #23 - Kill the Boss! - Force the boss out from behind the door! Get him out with some enemies still alive!
- #24 - Beat Floor 4! - Just beat Floor 4 to beat this challenge! You can use continues or cheats!
Venture forth to save the world!
- Release: September 11, 1987
- Developer: Coelacanth
- Genre: RPG
Long ago, a legendary knight used beings known as Guadias and brought peace to the land. After bringing peace to the land the knight went into seclusion. The world remained at peace for many years, with Heaven, the Underworld, and the land of men all co-existing in harmony.
Centuries later, a dark power has emerged that threatens to destroy the peace established long ago. The king of Centraan has called upon the descendants of the legendary knight, who will have to use the power of Guadias to restore peace to the world once again.
Guadia Quest: Feast of the Mad King is an old-school RPG which borrows much of its design from the Dragon Quest series, especially Dragon Quest II.
The main feature that sets Guadia Quest apart from role-playing games of the 8-bit era is the monster-recruiting system, which takes cues from Shin Megami Tensei. Creatures called Guadias can be convinced to join the player's party, which will occasionally aid the party by attacking enemies for massive damage. Only one Guadia at a time can be recruited to the party, and they must fight and defeat a Guadia--no easy feat--before it will join the party.
Guadia Quest gives the player a three-character party. One character is the warrior or tank character, who can wield the most powerful melee weapons, gains the most hit points, and only has access to a very limited amount of spells. Another character is the basic magic user, having access to the most powerful spells and only able to deal (and take) very limited physical damage. The last character sits neatly in between the two previous ones, being adept at casting spells and also dealing a decent amount of physical damage.
Battles are completely turn-based, again in the vein of Dragon Quest, with the player queuing up their characters' commands before each round during which they are unleashed based on everyone's speed rating. While powerful, Guadias do not act on every turn, requiring several turns of "resting" before automatically attacking one or more enemies. The party's Guadia will usually attack first if it is in its ready state.
- #25 - Reach Timbuktoo! - Find Timbuktoo and get there! When you get there, save to finish the challenge!
- #26 - Level 7 Grind! - Raise your 3 party members to Level 7! Save after you're done to end the challenge!
- #27 - Get 1,000 ducats! - Amass 1,000 ducats to beat this challenge! Remember to save afterwards!
- #28 - Kill B4 boss in D.D. - Kill the boss on floor B4 in the Dungeon of Darkness! Remember to save afterwards!
Robot Ninja Haggle Man 3
New battle system and cutscenes!
- Release: July 21, 1989
- Developer: GEARS
- Genre: Action Platformer
It has been five years since Haggle Man defeated Chingensai once and for all. One day Haggle Man receives a message from Haggleman Lady, an agent of a secret organization, informing him of a national emergency. The three regalia, Neo-Nippon's national treasures have been stolen. It is said that the power of the three regalia can break the wards sealing the Gate of Darkness and unleash chaos upon the world. Haggle Man them embarks on a journey to retrieve the regalia, joined by Koume, Cyborg K9, Little Zenmai, and Haggleman Lady.
Eventually Haggle Man learns that the individual behind the theft of the regalia, "Lord Dark" is actually Dark Haggle Man. After finally defeating Dark Haggle Man, Haggle Man learns that Haggleman Lady is also one of Chingensai's creations, and she challenges Haggle Man to a battle in order to learn what makes Haggle Man different from her.
The gameplay in Robot Ninja Haggle Man 3 is completely different from the previous games in the series. Haggle Man 3 is an action-platformer with open-ended level designs, taking inspiration from games such as Metroid and Ninja Gaiden.
The game consists of three episodes, each dedicated to retrieving one of the regalia. Each episode is an open-ended world that takes place in a different area of Neo-Nippon. Some areas are inaccessible initially, but can be reached after equipping certain gears. Throughout the levels there are doors, some of which lead to rooms full of enemies, and some of which lead to Elder Hakase's store where Hagglegears, ninjutsu items, and other power-ups can be purchased.
Haggle Man can run, jump, slash enemies with his sword, and throw shuriken. Taking a page from Shinobi's book, the default attack is the shuriken, but when Haggle Man is within close proximity of his target, the attack automatically becomes a sword slash. Ninjutsu items allow Haggle Man to make use of additional attacks which may be more effective than the sword or shuriken. Through the course of the game, he can pick up nuts from fallen enemies. These can be cashed in at Elder Hakase's store to buy new Hagglegears or ninjutsu items.
Hagglegears can be collected and equipped to augment Haggle Man's abilities. He can equip up to three gears at once, each being a different size. Each gear has a specified power rating, and Haggle Man cannot equip gears that cause the total power to exceed Haggle Man's maximum power allowance. Power upgrades can be purchased from Elder Hakase's shop.
At the end of each episode there is a boss battle. The third episode also features a second boss battle, followed by a third that plays completely different from the other boss battles in the game.
- #29 - Equip 3-Shot Gear - Find the Hagglegear "3-Shot Gear" and equip it! Use hints to find it!
- #30 - Kill the Regen Tree! - Destroy the Regen Tree that keeps healing in Episode 1! Rapid shots are most effective!
- #31 - Beat Episode 1! - Beat Episode 1 for this challenge! Gather nuts and defeat the boss!
- #32 - Kill 100 in Ep. 2! - Kill 100 enemies in Episode 2! If you die, you'll start from the beginning!
The Final Challenge
Once all Haggle Man 3 challenges are complete, Game Master Arino offers the player his final challenge involving all eight titles.
- #33 - Complete all! - The final challenge is to see the endings of ALL the games! Must be done in Story Mode!
Retro Game Challenge received mostly positive reviews from critics. It received a 7.5 from Gamespot's Carolyn Petit, and was praised for its "variety and authenticity". Damon Hatfield of IGN gave the game an 8.6, touting the quality of the invented games and the concept of the challenges as its high points. 1up.com's Jeremy Parish also appreciated the quality of the games contained within Retro Game Challenge, scoring the title an A-.
On the more critical end, Giant Bomb's own Jeff Gerstmann, who gave the game 3 of 5 stars, appreciated the game's concepts but wasn't a fan of the repetitive nature of some of the gameplay mechanics and design. " If it were a bit more open-ended about which games you could play at any given time," Gerstmann says, "...and didn't double-up on some of the games, it'd be a pretty cool little collection."
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