Anybody else clamoring for the good ol' days, but… like, now?
Retro City Rampage DX is not just a parody game improved upon from its original outing. It’s a mixture of 8-bit revival and a love letter to the era to which it’s emulating: the 1980s. Video games, movies, music—nothing is too weird or niche to get a shout-out by these pixilated sprites and storefronts, meaning this is a game so completely up my alley that I’m starting to think this was some sort of a “Truman Show” situation. I think one of the developers might've read my journal…
For those who missed it the first time, RCR is the story of Player—that’s you, err, the player—who finds a time machine piloted by two gnarly dudes (insert your favorite guitar riff here), but breaks it on re-entry into the world. He’s discovered by a crazy scientist in a car with top-hinged doors that needs to reach a certain speed to go back in time too, to travel back to find the right parts so Player can get back, presumably, to do more terrible things in his time… because in both times, he’s a murdering thief who does whatever criminal acts someone’s willing to pay him for. Or doesn’t pay him for.(Seriously, he kills a LOT of people. This is an 8-bit Grand Theft Auto-esque title after all.)
Drop in some “don’t worry, we changed the names to avoid getting sued” influences, like the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-inspired dam level and Smash TV rooms designed with a few Legend of Zelda boss battles in mind, and suddenly I was back in footie pajamas parked in front of the TV on Xmas morning. Hell, I can even bop on the baddie’s heads and throw their bodies around for more damage! Remember how fun the days before ratings systems were?
There isn’t a significant amount that's “new” here, hence the “DX” at the end of the title; rather, like Link’s Awakening DX on the Game Boy Color, this is a re-working to make what was great the first go around even better. There are more graphical options to choose from instead of the previous three (keeping a personal favorite from the original version, a green-and-yellow monochrome mode to give the impression of a Game Boy called “Brick Handheld”), the markers on the maps are larger and easier to read and follow, and the HUD is minimized enough to keep necessary information, but open up more of the screen for exploration.
There are also adjustments made to the gameplay, the most noticeable of which is speed. Everyone on the screen appears slightly larger and sped up to whip the world around you faster and in dynamic fashion. That only goes to make the new weapons selection screen all the more necessary and welcomed; shifting to the next in your arsenal is still there, but not having to scroll through every weapon to find the right one for the situation allows for a more free, open experience.
Sadly, the slippery driving controls are still slippery (like that of the original PSOne GTA), but crashing doesn’t spin the car around in an unreasonable fashion, though being awkwardly caught in tight spaces still happens often enough, especially when surrounded by cop cars and tanks. It’s a slight improvement, and more could probably be done, but the improvements are definitely worthwhile. Running around a large city with different areas all worth exploring and scouring for every little hidden gem is smooth-sailing and a blast to boot. The whole city feels like it was legitimately planned out like a city would be, and once you’ve run a few missions within the story, you’ll never feel lost. You might check the map for a specific location, but you'll be aware of your general location, no problem.
The amazing thing about the world of RCRDX is that all of the references made are overt and recognizable, yet blends into the background so easily. Witty throwback Zero Wing reference and almost-Little Mac's trailer on a billboard? Running people over with generic replicas of the Turtle Van or a Vespa scooter, then abusing the Mariachi just to take his guitar for some pitch-perfect head wounds? If you’re an old-schooler who needs a retro fix, there are very few games that can fit the bill better than Retro City Rampage DX.
Which begs the question: Is it better to burn out, or to burn down the city that's trying to burn you?