Retro Game Challenge (a.k.a. Game Center CX: Arino's Challenge) is a Nintendo DS game based on the Japanese TV series Retro Game Master. In the game, your character is pulled back in time to The Eighties and the childhood of one Shinya Arino (based on the host of the show himself), and are tasked with meeting the challenges of his evil-self-from-the-present by playing eight different 8-bit games, which emulate the style of actual Family Computer games of that time. Only then will you be able to return to your own world.Each of the eight mini-games comes with its own fully colored and illustrated (in-game) manual, and Kid Arino will periodically buy game magazines that contain cheat codes (which you are allowed to use against his future self) that you can browse while playing.Absolutely no marketing in America led to poor sales, which means that XSEED didn't bring the sequel to America. But have no fear: a Fan Translationis available now!
Haggle Man 1 and Haggle Man 2 provide examples of:
Affectionate Parody: Well yeah, it does derive some of the gameplay elements from Ninja Jajamaru-Kun, going as far that both series feature ninja protagonists and introduce vertical stage scrolling by part two.
Assist Character: Koume, Little Zenmai and Cyborg K9, as soon as you collect three scrolls that summon one of them.
Awesome, but Impractical: In the original Haggle Man, it would be more probable that you'd summon your buddy in the completely wrong time (for instance, K9 when the enemies are on the other floor or Koume when they're outside the screen range), thanks to the fact that they're summoned instantly when you pick up the third scroll that's required to summon them. That would be later "fixed" for the sequel where you can choose when to summon them by pressing Up+B once you've collected three scrolls.
The Door Slams You: Haggleman can enter and exit doors to kill enemies close to them. Helpfully, entering a door affects all on-screen ones that share its color.
Dub Name Change: The Princess's actual name, never mentioned in the localizations, appears to be Hoozuki; Cyborg K9 is actually Karakuri Ken. Speaking of "karakuri", which roughly means "wind-up toy", if you stick to the Japanese title of the series, Haggle Man would be less of a stereotypical "intellegent robot" to you.
Goomba Stomp: One way to stun and then kill enemies in the two games.
Good Bad Translation: Intentional: his original name is Haguruman, which is a pun on the Japanese word for "gear". Extended in the 3rd game, where he can equip Hagglegears, or Geargears.
Sequel Difficulty Spike: The second game wastes no time in overwhelming you with enemies. Also, all bosses now have multiple HP.
Spelling Bonus: A partial example: entering any 3 doors in the alphabetical order changes all the doors in the level to the same color, allowing you to operate all of them at the same time until they become desynchronized, and entering them in the reverse alphabetical order repairs Haggleman if he's damaged, allowing him to take another hit.
Palette Swap: In SP, the palettes for all the tracks past 3 are changed, to be set at night.
Star Prince provides examples of:
Combining Mecha: One of the minibosses. Defeat it before it completely links up to get a technical bonus. Since the whole game is a big Shout-Out to Star Soldier, this miniboss is a joke on Lalios, a miniboss from Star Force who behaves in the exact same way and offers the same opportunity for a technical bonus.
Bag of Sharing: The party as a whole has 63 item slots to share among them, equipped weaponry and your journal included.
Beef Gate: If you cross a bridge to another landmass, you can expect to be beat down by disproportionately powerful foes, which serves only as a way to keep you corralled in the area where the game progression wants you to be.
Continuity Nod: There are more references to the show, apart from GameGuadia. Say, if you've watched Game Center CX, doesn't the king in the Centraan castle look familiar to you?
There's also Guadianip, which was called "Kacho's Business Card" before the game went overseas! ...and if you thought showing Arino's business card to Guadias to increase their pact probability was drugged in and out, then check out the weapon dropped by the white GameGuadia... Which is Slapstick. Of course, given that Arino is a comedian, even if he doesn't specialize in slapstick humor...
Development Hell: An In-Universe example; the game's original planned release in September 1986 gets delayed all the way to September 1987, possibly lampshading how major RPG releases got delayed back in the day (and still do).
Downer Ending: Even though you vanquished the Dark Scream, you still killed the Dark Lord and Holy King on his orders, violated the treaty, and completely shattered the peace between the three worlds. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero. It is inferred that for all you did, you at least brought hope, and that the people's desire for peace could still lead to something good in the long run, "but that is a tale for another day."
Escape Rope: Naga Wings and the first hero's Warp ability.
Forced Level Grinding: Apart from that you will obviously need to grind to defeat monsters, bosses and unneeded Guadias, Arino himself will set you a goal to get level 7 for the second Guadia Quest challenge.
Gratuitous Japanese: A lot of the endgame equipment has untranslated Japanese names, possibly as a way to try to work around the enforced 8 letter item name limit.
Guide Dang It: While the GameFan magazines help you through some of the tougher parts of the dungeons, many of the items and spells have incomprehensible names with single letter variations with only a small number of them explained in the ingame manual.
Thankfully averted in the sequel, where pressing Select gives you a description on any item, spell or skill.
Metal Slime: The Fool enemies found in the lower levels of The Dungeon, which only take damage from spells, cast spells to put your party to sleep, run away often and give the most EXP of any enemy if killed.
Mon: The Guadia, as can largely be expected, although they're pretty limited compared to most other examples: each one has a fixed level of strength, you can only have one at a time and they mostly exist to give you an additional attack, heal or stat increase every few turns.
Monster Allies: Part of the gameplay in Guadia Quest is to make pacts with special "Guadia" monsters, who then pop in during battle to do attacks. Some Guadias are better suited to certain foes, making getting the best Guadia for the job part of the strategy.
Schedule Slip: Guadia Quest's release date gets pushed back twice.
Shout-Out: A twofer - one of the towns has a duck hanging out in the graveyard, which only says "Aclaf!" when you talk to it - a reference to both the old Aflac Duck and Castlevania II's infamous "graveyard duck".
There's a multilayered joke in an item that only someone who's played Dragon Quest will get. In Dragon Quest, the 'warp to town' item is called a Chimera Wing. In Guadia Quest, the equivalent item is called a Naga Wing... and the monsters labeled "Chimeras" look suspiciously like nagas.
The layout of the first town is almost identical to Corneria.
Something Completely Different: Compared to all the previous titles, Guadia Quest takes a lot more hours to beat, features a lot more strategy to it, and is the first out of the bunch to have a save feature.
Stupidity Is the Only Option: The king's excuses to send the scions off his various errands get flimsier as the game progresses, but you still have to do them.
Turns Red: Asking for a pact with a Guadia makes it fight you at full power.
With This Herring: The party starts out woefully underequipped despite being sent off to do the king's will. He, however, also gives 500 ducats so the party would get all the needed equipment by themselves.
Haggle Man 3 provides examples of:
Bottomless Pits: Combine these with non-linear levels full of one-way paths to earlier rooms, and screens with a never-ending barrage of enemies just waiting to knock you off whatever platforms you have available, and it's possible to go through the entire game dying only from falling in pits.
Checkpoint Starvation: While Haggleman still respawns in the room where he died, you can save your game only, and only inbetween levels. This would be, of course, exploited by Game Master Arino, who would automatically turn the console off every time you beat a challenge, forcing you to watch the same Amatsumi intro cutscene at least three times.
Extended Gameplay: So you think defeating Choi in episode three ends the game? Well, there is also Dark Haggle Man to be defeated. And then Haggleman Lady. Which is, three bosses in a row.
Quirky Miniboss Squad: The trio from Cameraman Abe's very own manga, Delinquent Daimyos, acts as this game's boss characters. Gets subverted, however, since they are separate from each other between the episodes.
Wiz-Man provides examples of:
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: White enemies can be killed with any magic rod, blue enemies can only be killed with a fire rod and red enemies can only be killed with an ice rod. Dark purple enemies can only be killed with a golden rod. Interestingly enough, while the white enemies are usually the slowest and least aggressive and the dark purple enemies are the opposite, white wizards are the fastest ones of their type, possibly as an attempt to prevent them from becomming Demonic Spiders, not that the dark purple wizards are much slower.
Guide Dang It: Most of the golden wands have ridiculously obscure requirements to make them appear, including but not limited to: touch a specific maze wall, kill enemies in a specific order, input a series of directions as a Classic Cheat Code, press the otherwise unused Select button or circle the maze clockwise: furthermore, each one of these only works in a specific level and to get additional golden wands to appear, you need to fulfill another requirement that's a variation of the original one. Thankfully, none of them are required to beat the game or any of the challenges and outside of the gameplay benefit of letting you collect both colors of dots at the same time and attack any enemy, they only determine your cosmetic endgame rank.
Mutekiken KungFu provides examples of:
Calling Your Attacks: When under the effects of the Muteki Ken power-up, every one of main character's attacks causes a subtitle for the said attack to pop up if it hits an enemy, much like in Fist of the North Star.
Warp Zone: Each level has a hidden shachihoko that can be revealed by hitting a specific invisible spot multiple times: doing so and then grabbing it afterwards quickly zooms the main character to the end of the level while he struggles to hold on to the fish.
GunDuel provides examples of:
Combining Mecha: If you play the game in 2-player mode with young Arino and kill enough enemies, a large G will appear: collecting it will merge the ships together and give you a powerful forward shot with a homing secondary weapon as well as a pair of Attack Drones that rotate around your ship. It wears off at the end of the stage and making the power-up appear again in the following level requires an increasing number of kills, making it unlikely that you see it more than twice in a single playthrough, unless you make it a point to do the opposite of what comes naturally with your superpowered ship and stop racking up kills when you get close to the unseen threshold value so that you don't reach another one when you already have it active.
Guadia Quest Saga provides examples of:
Action Bomb: The Demon Dungeon has an encounter with a pair of enemies resembling bombs: if you don't kill them both on the same turn, the other one explodes and more than likely causes a Total Party Wipe unless you have the foresight to use the Defend Command beforehand.
Missing Episode: Actually the third game in the Guadia Quest series, released for the Game BoyExpy GameComputer Mini. This is probably due to the actual show's tendency to skip over some of the games in the series or having Arino challenge them out of order as well as the fact that the second Dragon Quest (which the series is an obvious homage to) wasn't as much of a gameplay upgrade over the first one as the third one was. Finally, as stated below, this game places more emphasis on the Mons, much like the Game Boy-originated spinoff Dragon Quest Monsters did originally.
Arino's reasoning for why he doesn't own the second game is because he lent it to a friend who moved away and he doesn't want to buy games for the second time.
Mon: The Guadia again. The way they work is somewhat different from the original game: each character can have a Guadia set to them that gives them 2 additional skills, you can choose to power yourself up with them that gives you a different basic attack command and stat boosts at a cost of a constant HP drain every turn, and when you fight enough battles with one, they rank up and learn new skills you can replace old ones with. The old Assist Character function of the Guadias from the first game has been replaced with Guadia Meisters, NPCs that can also use Guadias that you need to beat in a 1-on-1 battle with your Guadia in powerup mode to make them join, and unlike in the first game, they can help you multiple turns in a row. You can also trade your Guadia with young Arino who has a different version of the game, much like in the games that inspired the mechanic, complete with a competition-exclusive Game Fan Guadia that he naturally manages to win 2 of so that you won't be screwed out of one since he refuses to give his only one to you.
Schedule Slip: Much like the original Guadia Quest as well as its unseen sequel, this game also ends up being delayed.
Useless Useful Spell: Less so than in the first game, thanks to a number of unique weapons that can cast Standard Status Effects-inflicting spells when you trigger the strongest possible hit with them, meaning you don't have to waste turns and MP casting the said spells normally. The damage-dealing spells are also more powerful by default and won't be outclassed by physical attacks quite as early.
Arino Ace Detective parts 1 and 2 provide examples of:
Call Back: Arino starts the game with dried squid in his inventory, his go-to snack when he's doing the challenges in the show.
The "Think" command that gives hints on what to do next involves Arino applying a cooling sheet on his forehead, again, like he does in the show.
Game-Breaking Bug: As a plot point: the Love&Game cult have tampered the CX Industries' newest game to display a message from them and then permanently destroy the Gamecom it's played on.
Hilarious in Hindsight: In the second game, Arino ends up in a wrestling ring with Inoko MAX when his investigation leads him to search an underground wrestling arena and he's given a participation ticket instead of just a spectator one, where he clumsily struggles through a round with Inoko and ends up winning in the end. He keeps complaining that he's never done it before, but it sure wouldn't be his last...
Immediate Sequel: The second game starts exactly where the first one left off with a few reminder flashbacks, and in order to prevent the player from spoiling the story for themselves, you can't even start playing it without the clear data from the first game.
Unexpected Gameplay Change: Considering the rest of them are essentially Visual Novels, a top-down racing minigame where you need to dodge obstacles and throw balls at your opponent towards the end of each one that can be replayed with a Classic Cheat Code is hardly something most people would expect.
Demon Returns and Super Demon Returns provide examples of:
Charged Attack: The sequel has a chargeable Spin Attack that can be executed either vertically or horizontally and is needed to break grey skull blocks, but since it's used by holding down the otherwise unused Y or X button, it seems to be more trouble than it's worth.
Cranium Ride: Inverted, the main gameplay mechanic Devil Ride instead involves flipping enemies over, making them spin around perpetually and riding on their undersides. Doing this increases Damon's movement speed and jump height depending on the type of enemy being ridden on and may also allow him to damage other enemies with the one he's riding on if the enemy in question is spiked from that side: if not, the enemy you're riding on is killed and you need to repeat the process to get another one, and regardless of what direction the enemy hits you from, riding on an enemy saves you from taking a hit. You can also use them to pull off a single-use Double Jump that also kills the enemy.
However, you have less traction when riding on an enemy and you also keep moving forward constantly, unless you hold down to stop.
Cursed with Awesome: The hero: he's turned into a purple imp-like demon by the Big Bad of the game, but all it does is to give him sharp claws from which he can fire small tornadoes when sufficiently powered up and the ability to use any enemies he runs across as his personal form of transportation. It does seem to hinder him in that he needs to consume apples constantly to stay alive, though.
Nintendo Hard: By far, the hardest pair of games to complete when it comes to plain skill: some of the later levels require a ridiculous degree of acrobatics with the Demon Ride, especially in the second game, and if you want to collect all the DEMON letters for 100% Completion, good luck figuring out where most of them are located. The second game practically requires the 99 lives code to beat it in any reasonable amount of time.
Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: A minor example: the way souls work as a demonic equivalent to Super Mario Bros.'s coins, the game gives the implication that Damon eats them. One of the GameFan magazines points out that he's actually saving them by collecting them.
Spell My Name with an S: The main hero is called both Damon and Demon: the manual and GameFan magazines call him the former, but the name above the score display in the game reads Demon, and the end credits for the second game also calls all his forms Demon. The unseen Spin-Off comic also calls him Demon instead of Damon, which young Arino complains about, along with the comic turning into a series of silly misadventures where everyone "just horses around".
Go! Edge Jump MAX provides examples of:
Call Back: The Happi Men that occasionally fly by and give 7650 points if caught are a reference to the stamp rally events in the actual show where the staff members who you'd get stamps from wore bright yellow happi coats.
Endless Game: The only one that really counts as this, since the point is to survive as long as possible and it's designated as a "game training tool" instead of an actual fully-realized minigame with a manual, Gamefan coverage and challenges.
Triotos and Triotos DX provide examples of:
Alternate History: These games essentially fulfill the same role as Tetris in the game's universe: not only are they puzzle games, but the original Triotos is also implied to be a massively successful launch title for the GameCon mini much like Tetris was for the Game Boy, and it was also developed by an eastern European engineer (a Czechoslovakian mathematican in Triotos' case). Finally, both games also feature distinctive national imagery, Russian in Tetris' case and Japanese in Triotos' case.
Falling Blocks: Naturally. The basic gameplay resembles a hybrid of Columns and Tetris (the 3 block setup of the former combined with the rotation of the latter), with a large focus on combos due to a relatively small playing field, the ability to wipe out any of the 3 colors on command by matching an entire row of blocks horizontally and easily acquired wildcard blocks that can match up with any type of block.
Retro Game Challenge 1 and 2 in general provide examples of:
Addressing the Player: Parodied in both games: the name you enter in the beginning is only used as a very end and only because young Arino realized he never actually addressed you by your name, so he does it around 6 times in a row to make up for the fact he never did so earlier. Played slightly more straight in the second game, where it's also used whenever you call Game Master Arino.
Biting-the-Hand Humor: TOMATO is basically an alternate universe version of Namco, complete with the Galaga clone and its' logo's font used since Star Prince. According to Retro Game Challenge 2, they've also created Wiz-Man two years after the aforementioned Cosmic Gate.
Call Back: In the second game, young Arino praises the Gamecomputer Floppy Disk System, thinking it's cool the way you can rewrite games on them. He then asks what kinds of games you'd write on one, and the choices given are puzzle games and shooters, the 2 genres the real Arino is the best and worst at, respectively.
Classic Cheat Code: Each of the games is loaded with cheat codes, but the most widespread would be the Start+Left continue trick, which is used in no less than four games!
Console Wars: Young Arino and his friend get into one late in the second game, with Arino rooting for Game Computer and its upgrades, with his friend staying loyal to the ENTER series.
Deus ex Machina: Played for laughs: in the second game, the likewise second game you need to challenge is Mutekiken Kung Fu, but it's only available for the western-made ENTER-2000 console, which young Arino doesn't own. Cue his father conveniently not only winning the lottery but also buying him the very console AND the right game with what's implied to be zero prompting from young Arino.
Every 10,000 Points: Some of the games (such as TOMATO's two shooters) give you extra lives at certain numbers of points. This is most noticeable in GunDuel in the sequel, where the various massive score bonuses can give you 10-15 extra lives by the time you beat it.
Excuse Plot: A mean virtual Arino sends you to the past to play retrogames.
During the Haggle Man 2 scenario, Kid Arino thinks that Haggle Man now looks cooler, either because it's a sequel or because he wants Haggle Man to look cool. Then the third Haggle Man game turns out to have a Darker and Edgier makeover.
Future Me Scares Me: Young Arino wonders if he'll actually be like that when he grows up, though he's glad that his future self is still a gamer.
Hint System: The second game's Gamefan magazines have this as an additional feature: in addition to finding the hints and codes in question in the magazine itself, you also need to scratch away the foil covering key words and codes on the touchscreen to reveal them.
Star Prince has the especially hilarious "GREAT!" in big flashing letters, followed by "Finaly you saved ancient times ROYAL POWER!" "Thanks for playing - And you will get final bonus!", before counting up the bonus points for however many lives you have left.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: The "GameFan Magazine" parody (see Woolseyism on the YMMV page) extends as far as its staff writers, thinly veiled Shout Outs to actual game journalists. For instance, Dan Sock standing in for Dan "Shoe" Hsu, Johnny England for John Davison, "Milkman" for James Mielke, and others.
A particularly on-point extension is when one of the editorial letters is penned by "Dave H.". The real-life GameFan magazine was founded and ran by Dave Halverson.
The first game wasn't released in Europe or Australia, either. However, the lack of Region Coding in all DS cards DOES make up for it... At least for people living in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
No Fair Cheating: You're allowed to use even the most game-breaking cheats and shortcuts to win the challenges Game Master Arino sends you, but most of the cheats in Free Play Mode are disabled.
Relaxed in the sequel: if you simply can't beat a challenge no matter how hard you try and you've played the game at least 5 times, you can call Arino and forfeit it to move onto the next one, but there's no way to complete them later and you can't forfeit any of the endgame challenges.
Play Every Day: The second game encourages this with its Daily Challenges: completing one each day for up to a week straight gives you bonus points, which are used to unlock additional t-shirt designs and power-on quotes for young Arino.
Read the Freaking Manual: For information on game mechanics, you should read them. True to his real life self, Young Arino comments early on that he feels like a cheater if he reads them.
Retcon: The second game is essentially this to the first one: the exact same events happening for the second time is never touched on other than a "familliar feeling" from young Arino's part and any games that you're not given a challenge for that existed in the first game aren't mentioned outside of young Arino referring to them in the optional chats and possibly existing as alternate versions in Joyco Land.
The sequel has Arino puzzled over the first level midboss in Mutekiken Kung Fu, an Afro Karate Master. He wonders what kinds of enemies you might end up fighting later, and one of the guesses you can make is Velociboxer.
Strategy Guide: Young Arino comments on the ascension of strategy guides made for specific games. He says that GameFan Magazine is enough for him.
"Games should be games, and ads should just be ads."
Too Long; Didn't Dub: While the US version fared pretty well on adapting the source material to its' target audience, there are still some goofs met here and there.
First, the Game Computer and all the cartridges for it look more similar to the original Famicom rather than NES. Second, the Engrish bits are left in one game (roughly two), Rally King, which, oddly enough, appears to be Western-developed, according to GameFan Magazine and their partnership that spawned Rally King SP!
John Garland, Clarissa Arvin and Marvin P. Android are claimed to be the men behind Guadia Quest in one of the GameFan Magazine's articles, as game programmer, scriptwriter and monster designer respectively. Not that these names appear in the credits, though, since not only they are replaced with Shinyah Ibihara, Hasabaun Suzui, Ryuoujin Arisaka (that's right, there are two scriptwriters) and G-Ichiron Matsumoto, the entire staff appears to be Japanese, loosely based on the Game Center CX's cast! Inconsistent Dub ahoy.
Updated Re-release: Rally King has two of them: SP in the original game and a tournament-based ex in the sequel. Talking of sequel, the first Haggle Man also has an expansion in the part of Koume Edition, so does Star Prince with its' Score Attack Version. Finally, there is Cosmic Gate on MASA-X, which, with all the gameplay extras such as actual bosses, could be considered an in-universe Polished Port, although due to the fact that it runs on a fictional counterpart to the MSX, it suffers from a more limited color palette. Interestingly enough, despite the various extras, the ingame company who made the original game didn't apparently like the end result.
Urban Legend of Zelda: Young Arino will often comment on playground rumors. Sometimes they provide real tips and secrets, but more often than not they'll be just that, rumors.
X Meets Y: Just about every game in here is an already existing product with a new gimmick, either new or reimagined from somewhere else. In particular, Rally King can be best described as Road Fighter meets R.C. Pro A.M., Guadia Quest is Dragon Quest fused with the monster recruitment scheme of Shin Megami Tensei and Haggle Man 3 is basically Ninja Gaiden on Metroidvania rails.