Retro City Rampage makes it clear right from the title what you should probably expect from this game, it’s an 8-bit Grand Theft Auto homage. Makes perfect sense. That graphics are simple, sprites are tiny and the plot is deliberately lame but the concept behind the game is still amazingly brilliant. It’s an open-world experience never available on 8-bit systems that’s full of video game/pop-culture references, levels designed after specific games (Paperboy/TMNT) and even throws in filters that emulate old computer and console displays.
At first glance, newer gamers might not fully appreciate the time and effort put into creating RCR, which has been in development since the early 2000’s. At one point the programmer behind it, Brian Provinciano created an NES development kit to build the game. He was remaking GTA as a damn Nintendo game first! Then he ran into issues with the obvious NES limitations and switched to the PC. Oh well.
The story from Wikipedia:
In the city of Theftropolis, “The Player”, a thug for hire, decides to gain work as a henchman of a major crime syndicate led by the Jester. Three years later, during a bank heist gone wrong, Player runs into a time-traveling telephone booth, which he decides to steal from its owners. The booth flings him forward an indeterminate amount of time to the unspecified future year 20XX. Upon arrival, the booth breaks down and a man named “Doc Choc” arrives in a familiar looking vehicle and takes him and the booth in, believing Player to be a time-traveling hero. The Player must work with Doc Choc to gather the rare parts needed to repair the time booth, while avoiding law enforcement, his former employer Jester, and Dr. Von Buttnik, Doc Choc’s rival and the head of R&D at A.T. Corp, a tech corporation Player formerly worked for that wishes to use the time machine to predict future popular products, and control the market as a result.
The gameplay is simple, you run around Theftropolis shooting everything or hijacking vehicles with viewpoints that at times shift from top-down to 2D side-scroller. Various weapons, cars and upgrades are at your disposal as you tackle the 60+ missions. I love nostalgia more than most but nostalgia can only carry a game so far and this game has a few issues. Controls can be sluggish at times and the missions become repetitive after awhile. The enemies can be cheap, most of the cars are slow, difficulty randomly increases and after awhile the story vanishes into a sea of pop references.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, the bright, colorful graphics are well-done and the nods to game titles and references on the buildings are worth driving around to point out. The music is spot-on and feels at-home with other NES titles and the inclusion of cut scenes and mini-games are also a nice touch. You can also customize your character, earn trophies and unlock other characters.
Retro City Rampage sets out to recreate 8-bit classics but is able to accomplish so much more and offer at times, a much more robust experience than anything we found on the Nintendo. It has a few shortcomings but the experience outweighs it. Ch-ch-check it out.