< Game Roundup: Windoze Edition
Thoughtcrime Experiments Lab Report #1 >

Retro Game Master: That's me. That is to say, someone who just beat"Retro Game Challenge." This was the first commercially-sold game I've played right after the release date, such that there was no online help when I got stuck. Definitely worth the money, especially since the sequel is supposed to be even better, and no one will translate it unless the first translation makes money.

I was bewildered by the fictional game title "Haggle Man", which sounds like the most boring Mega Man villain ever, until random commenter asserted that the Japanese name of the game is "Haguruman", "haguruma" being Japanese for "cog-wheel". So it's a deliberately bad translation.

Which brings me to a kind of gutsy game design decision made by "Retro Game Challenge": to reproduce the aggravating aspects of 8-bit games along with the pleasurable aspects. Today's 8-bit-style games try to improve on the classics. RGC does this, both in terms of adding depth of story and great new game mechanics, and in terms of not doing stupid things like restricting when you can save in an RPG.

But a big chunk of your time is doing things that are basically unpleasant: level grinding, playing a lame racing game[0], playing a rebranded version of the same racing game, etc. It's the other half of the gaming-as-sadomasochism argument started by "Mighty Jill Off". And this, more than anything to do with the archaic game technologies or the cultural differences, is what probably makes the game not speak to people who weren't gamers in the 80s.

All in all, it's a great piece of verisimilitude, with enough improvements over the thing being verisimiluated that it's not an empty exercise in form. Guadia Quest is more fun than Dragon Warrior, and Cosmic Gate is more fun than Galaga, although the latter mostly takes the form of me realizing that Galaga's not as fun as I remember. The Mega Man-like power-up system in Haggle Man 3 deserves especial praise.

Deserving of antipraise is the voice acting, most glaring of the game's anachronisms, which kept me from getting immersed in the retrosity. In an interview, one of the localizers says "we’re confident that we made the right choice" in re the voice acting. I'm not privy to the inputs into that decision, but hopefully they involve child actors being impossible to work with, because the frat-boy-sounding voice actor they got for Arino does not work. It's true that kids are hitting puberty earlier and earlier, and Arino in the game is trapped between childhood and adulthood, but at this point you're just making excuses.

[0] Although unlike racing games from the 80s, "Rally King" has Mario Kart-style drift boosts, which is cool.

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