Arino's challenges take the form of four specific accomplishments within each of the eight games, ranging from "Jump on and defeat two enemies" to "Beat this whole game without getting a game-over." After you've leaped, shot, raced or leveled your way through all four of a game's challenges, that title is unlocked in freeplay mode, where you're able to explore its every nook and cranny without any challenge-imposed restraints.
Don't think that challenges are just tedious warm-up sessions for freeplay, though. Extremely well-designed and perfectly paced, challenges keep the game perpetually fresh and entertaining. After all, even if, say, the top-down racing antics of Rally King have you cursing up a storm, Guadia Quest's dungeon crawling and Star Prince's alien blasting are just around the corner. There's something for pretty much everyone as long as you're willing to spend 30 or so minutes unlocking it. And challenges are varied enough that - even if your hate for a certain genre has inspired epic poetry - you'll likely have more fun than you'd expect while "tolerating" its quick appearance in Retro Game Challenge.
The only real problem with RGC's by-and-large excellent lineup are the "sequels." Two in particular, Robot Ninja Haggle Man 2 and Rally King SP, are essentially retreads of games whose challenges you may have just conquered minutes earlier. Granted, that could very well have been an intentional decision on developer indieszero's part. RGC parodies because it loves, and making fun of over-sequelization in the gaming industry is topical if not necessarily enjoyable. Other examples of the game's fun-poking prowess: innkeepers in Guadia Quest who ask, "Do you feel asleep?", a fictional magazine called GameFan with "articles" by actual games journalists and an entire game created for the sole purpose of product placement. While playing Retro Game Challenge, you'll laugh - aptly enough - like an excited child.
But the above jabs are only that. RGC's jokes are good-natured, and the game truly is, above all else, a love letter to the good ol' days of gaming. Whether it's in-game magazine articles building your excitement for the upcoming "releases" you'll soon unlock, young Arino's excited yelps when a game gets interesting or simply the absurd amount of detail present in each game, RGC exudes a palpable passion for that which it lampoons. Rarely do such great intentions mesh with top-notch game design, but in this case, everything's in near perfect order.
Bottom Line: Retro Game Challenge beautifully encapsulates nostalgia, not only through its mostly excellent collection of games but also through presentation so accurate that it nearly defies description.
Recommendation: Buy it. RGC is easily one of the DS' best, most unique titles. Even if you missed out on gaming's formative years, here's your chance to rectify that mistake/chronological impossibility.
Nathan Grayson thinks that a villain whose ultimate objective is to force you to play videogames is probably not much of a threat.