I remember the first time I saw Retro City Rampage in a Nintendo Power magazine (RIP!). It was a majestic sight for my eyes. “GTA in an 8-bit world?! Awesome!” I recall the project getting delayed a bit and, by the time it was released, I had all but forgotten about it. I never played it and I always felt like I was missing out.

It always seemed like a game I’d want to be able to take with me, however, so when the 3DS version was announced, I knew it would finally be time for me to make the plunge and see what it was all about. I know the original title had a ton of reviews, so this won’t be a comparison to the previous incarnation, because I never played it. This is a fresh set of eyes on the game. For a list of details that have changed from the original, please read the following news article we ran.

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Beat up Zach Morris and sleep with Kelly. I think every late-20s to early-30s male has had this fantasy in their head. I know I did. Never would I think I would have the chance, though. Retro City Rampage: DX gave me that chance. Despite the names being slightly altered, you know who is who and what you are doing.

That is the biggest charm of the game: every mission has references to 80s and 90s culture, from music to TV to games. So many references, even obscure ones, are littered throughout the game and it really brings it to life. Not many times have I legitimately laughed out loud while playing a game and Retro City Rampage: DX had me cracking up throughout the whole campaign.

A lengthy campaign it was, too. To complete the main mission of the game, it took me around fifteen hours and that was moving at a brisk pace. In this game, you are a man by the name of PLAYER. PLAYER lives in the city of Theftropolis in the year 1985. During a bank heist gone wrong, he enters a time machine phonebooth (Bill and Ted reference) and arrives in the year 20XX. He meets Doc Choc (Doc Brown/Back to the Future), who rescues him and mistakes him for another time traveler. In order to repair the phone booth, he must help Doc Choc locate parts scattered throughout the city through various missions. If all that sounds insane, it’s because it is.

The gameplay consists of a pre-Grand Theft Auto 3 style, but with an 8-bit shine. Besides the lengthy main quest, there are tons of side quests. Want to go on a “rampage”? Hit up one of the many “arcade” missions. Speaking of arcade, there is a fully functioning arcade within the game, featuring new renditions of other indie titles to play.

You can even customize PLAYER however you see fit. Whether it be a stylish mullet, a Kid n Play high-top fade, or — my favorite — the Jason Vorhees hockey mask, PLAYER has a ton of different physical options. There are also unlockable characters to use throughout the game, along with unlockable abilities. This is no standard 8-bit title at all.

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The touchscreen is used well, too. A constant mini-map, the ability to change music on the fly, and change of weapons are all available at any time. Speaking of the music, the chip-tune tracks are masterfully done and feature top chip-tune artists such as Freaky DNA. The sound effects are also well done, albeit a bit muffled in true 8-bit style.

The styling of the graphics may be a turn off for graphic purists, but the game looks beautiful and fluid in motion. Add to the fact that you can change the colors of the game — even a Virtual Boy color scheme that turns everything red and black — the scope of this game is a big budget title. The camera works well and always keeps you in check with the chaotic action going on during the game.

For all the praise, there are a few minor quibbles to address. The first one is the “elephant in the room”: there is no 3D support. I understand the reasoning behind it, but I felt the mini-games could have at least been revamped with 3D effects. Also, as great as the story is, a lot of the references might fly over younger gamers’ heads. The game is rated T and I don’t imagine many 13-18-year-old gamers will pick up on references such as RoboCop, Saved by the Bell, and Metal Gear for NES. Also, a few of the areas feel a little too difficult, but I suppose that can be attributed to 8-bit game styling.

At the end of the day, one thing is clear: Retro City Rampage: DX is the best indie game on the 3DS right now. If this game was released as a full-priced 3DS title, it would have been well worth the money. The fact that this game, as big as it is, is only $10 is astounding to me. From great graphics to tight gameplay and outstanding writing, Retro City Rampage: DX should be on everyone’s 3DS system. Move over Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Retro City Rampage: DX is the new king of the sandbox on handhelds.

Written by Shawn Long

Shawn Long

We call him Mr. Testosterone. He calls himself the reincarnation of Scary Larry. Watch his dance moves in his weekly video series, Week in Review.


Pros:

  • Amazing open-world gameplay
  • Hilarious writing
  • Excellent value

Cons:

  • Some sections seem a bit too difficult
  • Younger gamers might not "get" the humor
  • No 3D effects

Final Score:  9 / 10