Brian Provinciano has been working on what is now known as Retro City Rampage for just over a decade, originally started as an NES game called “Grand Theftendo”, is now it’s own release on PSN, PSVita, and PC. In a world where HD remakes rule the modern landscape that prey on your nostalgia, Retro City Rampage is non-HD demake that is something new, but everything you’d expect it to be and more.
The game’s hilarious and highly manic opening introduces you to PLAYER, the unnamed anti-hero who will save Theftopolis City. Unfortunately it is too fast-paced for its own good as references and story elements whiz right by you. The premise here is that PLAYER is looking for work and inadvertently gets involved with saving it from certain doom. Story Missions are seemingly standard when you have fetch quests and have to drive to multiple points in the city to accomplish tasks. Soon, you’ll be doing races in a 3D mode on motorcycles, riding Donkey Kong, and other oddities you wouldn’t expect, like playing a rhythm game. Missions are varied and massively entertaining that despite random spikes in difficulty, will have a blast playing (and replaying).
Retro City Rampage’s main gameplay is as if the original Grand Theft Auto were an 8-bit game. You run around on foot and can hijack cars, go into stores to purchase items for your character such as haircuts, tattoos, and clothing. You can even get a style makeover to look like the game’s creator or even some Canadian personalities (the developer’s home country). Vehicles run the gamut from bicycles to motorcycles to cars, vans, and trucks. You’ll even get to drive a DeLorean. You have a plethora of melee weapons at your disposal like mops, bats, and even Link’s famous Sword & Shield if you can find the secret area. PLAYER gets his hands on some hardware and will shoot pistols, shotguns, and machine guns. When you shoot, there is an auto-lock system that allows you to keep firing on your target while circle-strafing. The game introduces you to a cover mechanic that’s entirely throwaway. It will protect you from gunfire but completely scraps the nostalgia and immersion.
You’ll find nearly endless references to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Back to the Future, Bill & Ted, Oregon Trail, RoboCop, Bionic Commando, Ninja Gaiden, Super Mario Brothers, Zelda, Contra, Double Dragon, Game Genie, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Metal Gear Solid, Vanilla Ice, the list goes on and on and on. These references help cement it in the era and time period it’s going for, and it totally works.
The Story Mode isn’t the only thing you’ll find in RCR. You can try your hand at Arcade Challenges which takes the unlocked challenges from story mode and puts in an easy-to-access menu rather than driving around the city looking for them. Here you’ll perform GTA-style “rampages” such as shooting a rocket launcher while impervious to damage or tossing as many people in to the water as possible. In the end, you’re scored. You can earn a Participation Medal, Bronze, Silver, or Gold depending on performance and are instantly replayable should you fail or want to improve your score.
The Free Roam mode allows for you to explore Theftopolis City without the limitations of the story and also allowing for you to play as special guest characters such as Minecraft’s Steve or Super Meat Boy. All extra characters can be easily unlocked from the arcade or select story missions. Choosing Steve from Minecraft makes the entire city full of blockheads, which is real neat.
Editor’s Note: Be wary of cheat codes. I found myself a cheat code (written on the wall in-game) and haphazardly activated it, only to learn after doing so that it disables saving and achievements. Had I known this beforehand, I wouldn’t have activated and lost some progress. So be sure to use cheat codes once you’re currently saved.
Brian Provinciano has gone far beyond just making an NES-looking game. Open up the video options and you’ll be able to set widescreen or full screen, TV displays such as Pixel TV or Tube displays, set graphics options such as a Virtual Boy display, GameBoy, or different variations of colors and display options of the 80s. There are so many in-fact, that you’ll often switch just to get a different experience during play.
Retro City Rampage is an amalgamation of the 80s and 90s rolled up into one nostalgic homage to the era. It’s attention to detail in control, look, and feel is unfettered by any other game meant to evoke the same emotions. If you weren’t born during the NES era and have no reverence for the material or the style, you’re doing yourself a disservice from a very enjoyable game. There’s plenty of things to do, whether it’s playing the story (and then it’s Turbo New Game+), or completing challenges for better scores and exploring freely through the city for collectibles and secrets left within the city walls.
A Steam code was provided by the developer for review purposes