Shinya Arino is the man Dr Kawashima might have become if he'd blown his student loan on shoot-'em-ups and Mario plushies, and spent all of his time playing videogames at medical school instead of studying. Like Kawashima in Brain Training, Arino presents his game in the form of a disembodied head, issuing challenges designed to test your reflexes, nerve and cunning. But while Nintendo's health-'em-up is concerned with testing your mental dexterity, Arino's purpose is simply to test your skill at videogames, specifically the kind of 8-bit Japanese classics of the mid-1980s.
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly when nostalgia became an aesthetical choice for contemporary game developers. But titles such as Capcom's Megaman 9 prove that a return to the rudimentary sprites and chiptune of the medium's beginnings through design rather than necessity can yield compelling results. Retro Game Challenge takes the 8-bit pastiche to its extreme, presenting an entire collection of Famicom (NES) titles that never were; new creations dressed as old ones, each one given a fake release date and make-believe magazine coverage. Precision-designed to appeal to 25-35-year-old gamers, Retro Game Challenge seeks to recreate that heady experience of being an 8-year-old hardcore videogame fan in the 1980s, a task to which it applies itself with thrilling relish.
Retro Game Challenge is based on a Japanese retro gaming television show, Game Centre CX, of which Shinya Arino is the presenter. At the start of the game Arino winds the clock back to the early 1980s, just as Nintendo's Famicom is gaining widespread popularity around the world. Here the young Arino and your character sit cross-legged on tatami mats in his family home, staring into a 14-inch CRT television set playing the latest titles together in that innocent and unquestioning way that only two 8-year-old gamers can.