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retro game challenge; sonic's ultimate genesis collection
games Posted 2009-02-19 18:24:41 by Jim Crawford
Retro Game Challenge, a.k.a. Game Center CX, is a Nintendo DS anthology of eight NES-era games that never existed. It's a spin-off of the Japanese TV show, in which Shinya Arino, each episode, spends a day trying to beat an old, difficult game. He's not very good and gets frustrated easily. The show is in its 10th season.

In the game, Arino channels his frustrations into digitizing himself and sending you back in time to his childhood. He forces you to meet certain achievement-style challenges by playing old games in his collection.

Young Arino sits next to Young You as Young You play these games, making comments and egging you on. My favorite of these interjections is comes after Robot Ninja Haggleman 3 introduces a new character named Haggleman Lady, and Arino complains that he's bothered by Haggleman Lady because he can't tell whether she's supposed to be a man or a lady.

The game also features retro-styled game magazines of the same era, with previews, reviews, cheat codes, developer interviews, and pontification on the state of the game industry. The localizers did a pretty amazing job. The magazines were based on early Famitsu in the Japanese release, and are based largely on early EGM in the American release. If you're familiar with the magazines they're riffing on, you'll recognize the awkward and overenthusiastic writing style -- as well as actual personalities from the magazines.

(Actually, I half-wish the localizers hadn't done such a great job. I'd love to see the Famitsu-alike issues translated literally, to preserve that particular culture as well as possible.)

As for the games themselves, they have the look and feel of retro games, but with modern, player-friendly design sensibilities behind them. The difficulty is tuned such that the experience of playing them for the first time is a lot like the experience of going back to a game you played a ton of as a child, so you're already pretty good once you get your bearings, and know how to avoid all the cruel traps designers loved to include back then (which don't exist in these games). You can definitely go too far along this path and make the games trivial, but in my case at least they hit the balance just right.

I've also been playing Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, an anthology of 49 retro games that actually did exist, and I've been thinking about how awesome it would've been for this anthology to have the same general structure as Retro Game Challenge. It's already almost there, with one easy achievement per game (though not for every game). If they'd included a few more achievements for for each game, and added an unlocking system -- though Retro Game Challenge's unlocking requirements are probably too stringent -- then they'd have a pretty compelling metagame.

I think it would be an effective way to counter the modern player's natural inclination, when faced with a wealth of old games, to give up and move on from a particular game if it isn't fun within 30 seconds.

Hell, maybe Project Gutenberg should be paying attention too.
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The Show Is Awesome
Posted by Anonymous (Westquote) on 2009-02-24 01:20:42
I laughed so many times watching this:
re: The Show Is Awesome
Posted by Jim Crawford on 2009-03-03 01:50:00
That is really good. I hope the DVDs make it over here.
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