Retro City Rampage was originally released on the PlayStation Network and PC back in the fall of 2012, on the X-Box Live Arcade service in January 2013, but has finally found its home on the WiiWare service. Retro City Rampage initially started out as an 8-bit “demake” of Grand Theft Auto 3, but quickly grew into the game we know today. However, it’s quite clear that the GTA series still influenced Retro City Rampage’s overall design.
In Retro City Rampage you play as a character known as “The Player”, an obvious nod to the person executing the control inputs, otherwise known as you. After a bank heist goes south, The Player stumbles upon a time-travelling phone booth which sends him into the future. Upon reaching 20XX, Player meets Doc Choc whom helps Player get back to his own time period by repairing the time machine. This leads you right into the main story of Retro City Rampage where the Player must journey around Theftropolis to find parts needed for the repair.
Immediately, you’ll notice that this game is full of parodies, above you’ve probably already recognized nods to Back to the Future and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The nostalgia is definitely a highlight of Retro City Rampage and doesn’t stop there; within the first ten minutes of playing I had already stolen a Turtle Van and murdered some Ninja Turtles.
Much like the GTA games before it, there is a ton of stuff to do in the open world of Theftropolis. Want to run around stealing cars and tormenting the citizens of Theftropolis? Sure, go right ahead, however, don’t lose sight of the game’s story missions as this is where the game truly shines.
Story missions are represented by the letter M on the world map and come in two different colors; blue for the main story, and orange for optional missions. Follow the main story missions and you will play through a variety of scenarios that all lead to a final boss and ending. These missions are one off chunks of gameplay that could consist of stealth, arena combat, and even the dreaded Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dam level. For the most part, these missions continue to be quite varied and are definitely a lot of fun, however, there are more than a handful of repetitive missions that require you to deliver an item, or kill an enemy. Also, toward the end, the difficulty ramps up to NES hard levels.
You can play Retro City Rampage using the Wii Remote, or the Classic Controller – I used the latter. You’ll control The Player with the left analog stick, attack with Y, jump and stomp with B, and switch weapons with L and R. You can also take advantage of twin sticking shooting with the Classic Controller, something that will help the aiming impaired like myself. You can hold down Y to lock onto enemies, but using the right analog stick is much easier. I noticed that Player moves really fast which can make handling him a little difficult at times, though I did adjust after a few play sessions.
It doesn’t quite live up to the hype, but is an enjoyable mix of mayhem and structure in a new, but somewhat familiar 8-bit package.
Of course, vehicles also play a huge role in Retro City Rampage’s gameplay. Driving a vehicle is simply down by pushing forward and using Left and Right to steer. You can hit the brakes with B, but let’s be honest; you probably won’t be doing that a whole lot. Stealing a car is as simple as walking up to it and pressing X and pressing X again to exit. Some vehicles have special abilities such as turbo boosts and guns, both of which are controlled by pressing Y. The cars handle almost identical to Player, except they are a little faster. You can also change the radio station by pressing L and R which will trigger songs from the game’s soundtrack.
Retro City Rampage has a more to offer outside of its five hour story mode including customizing your character with masks, hats, etc., playing indie inspired mini-games (think Super Meat Boy and Bit.Trip Runner) at the arcade, or wreaking havoc in challenge levels. Challenge levels are completely optional, but it is fun to see if you can get a gold medal by blasting away with the rocket launcher or throwing grenades at everything that moves. You’ll likely trigger the cops during these sequences, and they can be a pain because they will not hesitate to kill you, resulting in a failed mission – the same can be said of game’s main story. One thing in particular that I noticed is that these cops are triggered easily, which for obvious reasons can become an annoyance.
You can also play the game’s free roaming mode – Theftropolis is a joy to explore – if you’re just looking for some quick action, or challenge yourself to unlock achievements and other playable characters; it’s safe to say that Retro City Rampage scores high in the replay value department.
While Retro City Rampage borrows heavily from nostalgic franchises and GTA, it manages to create its own identity thanks to its soundtrack and gorgeous 8-bit visuals. The graphics have a unique and detailed style that overshadows any thoughts of unoriginality. I could see some complaining that the characters are too small, but I believe they lend to the game’s personality. You can also choose a variety of filters – a feature that wasn’t supposed to make the WiiWare version –that make Retro City Rampage look like it’s being played on a variety of retro consoles. Lastly, its authentic sounding NES soundtrack is the best of all the NES-inspired soundtracks in recent memory. I would gladly let these tunes tickle my ears all day long.
Retro City Rampage will likely be the last high profile WiiWare release, and a great one at that. It doesn’t quite live up to the hype, but is an enjoyable mix of mayhem and structure in a new, but somewhat familiar 8-bit package. It is also only 1000 Wii Points, a great value considering other versions of the game are $15. Retro City Rampage will appeal to hardcore Nintendo fans, diehard GTA fans, and anyone looking for a nostalgic kick in the ass.
8/10 – Great
Purchased on the Wii Shop Channel