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Review

Retro City Rampage DX (3DS eShop) Review

Having started as a home-brew title for the NES and being developed for 7 years until the more modernized rebuilt game came about – Retro city Rampage was somewhat of a darling to the games community when it first released back in 2012. The idea of a top down Grand Theft Auto game with a retro pixel art style was a very intriguing idea to be fair. Originally released on the PC and eventually the Wii in 2013, the game was filled with a lot of charm but also with a lot of issues. Is this re-release directors cut on the 3DS the solution to the problems that plagued the original, or is it just more of the same?

From the get go I immediately got the impression that the differences in the game where going to be very minor. The amount of pop video game culture references that where/are present do make the game feel like it’s trying to hard to grab at a thread of nostalgia from the audience – this was an annoyance in the original release and it is no different here. While many developers are trying to grab peoples attention by reliving the past – the sheer density of references combined with cliche 80’s style characters does more to distract from the rest of the game than aid it. Practically every video game you can think of from that period will get a nod too plus a few newer Indie favorites like Super Meat boy and the Bit.Trip series, this is an indie over load for better or worse.

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Underneath this however is a top down GTA style game play reminiscent of the original GTA games from the mid 90’s, the game play is driven along by a somewhat linear story line that pushes the character from point to point at a fairly brisk pace in a plat that unfortunately doesn’t make much sense, it has variety but no coherence. While I have been very negative so far the good news is that the actual gameplay is fairly fun, it is not a big winner in terms of complexity or density of options but what it does aim to do it handles with some flair. With 60 missions to play through it at least tries to give a big playground for the player. It’s a shame that more could not be done in this area as despite the stats here, it all feels boxed in and limited, it has the mentality of a game options that would have been great in the 80’s but not a modern game. While the driving, gun play and traversing are all handled well the mere limited options simply wear a little thin after only a short amount of time. Driving from point A to B, having another shoot out and so on just doesn’t cut it in a modern game system for the most part. The difficulty curve is fairly reasonable with a constant sense of danger but without being excessive in its punishment, at the very least it does not dictate that the end user is of expert gameplay skills, this can be approached by most player.

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The audio and visual presentation has remained unchanged as far as I can tell with other releases, comparing it with the PC version I could not see any major differences – this is not a bad point as this is for the most part simply just the game finally getting a portable release in the Nintendo universe having already made it’s way to the Vita last year. Everything runs as smooth as ever and this is expected since the game is not out to push the visuals in any significant way. There are no 3D effects to be seen as this is purely a 2D affair, while the inclusion of such effects would have been a welcome addition – I do get the feeling that it is much easier said than done simply due to the isometric nature of the visuals. Nothing gained, nothing lost. The audio is the same chip tune tracks that adorned the original release as well and while they are unchanged this is not an area of contention. The NES inspired sound tracks all fit the mood of the world presented which is a great achievement.

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I do understand that it is trying to be a retro styled product while producing it with the past limitations, it is somewhat missing on what audiences really want. A retro experience with some of the bells and whistles/refinement that comes with a modern product. Despite there being no real hardware limitations its a shame to see a game being limited in terms of it’s potential scope, by sticking to the artificial limitations of older hardware this title actually ends up feeling more held back than than is gained by the aesthetics. It’s like filming a movie today with the pacing and flow of a 1950’s film, while the novelty is nice at first – it does throw out genuinely positive advances made since that era in favor of a ‘pure’ experience. There has to be a mid ground and this game misses the target for the most part.

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While I have been a big harsh on this game, it is a title that falls into a very difficult position. It always felt like this was the prelude to something bigger, a game that was waiting to be expanded into a bigger more complete experience but instead all I got was the same old game looking to be a brief glimpse into a past that never was. Kudos is in order considering the bulk of this was developed by a single individual, as it stands it should be considered a fantastic achievement – very few people reading this will ever produce something on this scale in any field of entertainment yet alone release it and make a living from it. Despite that it does have to be judged on the final product.

Considering it’s birth as a NES home brew I should not be surprised by the end result and at the very least due to the success of this release on other platforms, the NES home brew did finally get completed if in a somewhat toned down version, the best part is that it is included in this release. If you want to see the NES pushed to it’s limits and what a good technical read on how it was done I would highly recommend you search for it when you have a spare hour or so. It shows that there is a lot of heart an soul in this game which is always a positive.

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There is some fun on hand but it is limited, while you can kill a few hours exploring the city and following the story line, ultimately it is a somewhat shallow experience. It could have been so much more than is presented but maybe that is for a sequel in future if there ever is one. Everything on show is polished and executed well but it can’t mask the scope issues. I’m not saying you should avoid this title, hardly at all, just understand its limitations and take it for what is on show and not as some deep retrospective into a possible past.

Rating: 3/5

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About The Author
Michael Verrenkamp
I'm just a humble man from Melbourne that knows a little bit about games and not much else and that's just the way he likes it.

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