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Let’s Pretend This Horrible Throwback 3DS Game Doesn’t Exist

Photo: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

Photo: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

I just wanted to let you know that Game Center CX 3 for the Nintendo 3DS is very bad.

If you have no idea what Game Center CX is, then you were in no danger of buying this Japan-only Nintendo 3DS game anyway. But in case you’re still reading, it’s a famous Japanese television program about a comedian named Shinya Arino who plays classic videogames, mostly badly.

It has spawned a series of videogames, the first of which was released in the U.S. under the name Retro Game Challenge. And it was pretty awesome: You played a series of games that were newly created, but designed to look and feel exactly like the retro games of the past. Shooters, platformers, even a retro RPG. The whole experience was trimmed with callbacks to the 80’s — each game had classic box art and a manual that you could read through, and you got more information about the new games by reading classic game magazines that hid tricks and tips.

As good as the first game was, the sequel was even better, with much more varied game types: It parodied Jordan Mechner’s Karateka, introduced a text adventure, and the RPG design was modeled after the Game Boy Color. It was one of the most brilliant games on the platform, and so of course even though every crappy shovelware piece of lazy trash from here to eternity was released on the Nintendo DS in America, nobody ever brought Game Center CX 2 out of Japan.

Five years later, the third game in the series finally emerges. The original developer indieszero has kept itself quite busy in the meantime, producing the music game Theatrhythm Final Fantasy for Square Enix and NES Remix for Nintendo, but it didn’t do this game. Instead, Bandai Namco contracted shooter developer G.rev to handle it, and it sure did made a dog’s breakfast of it.

Superficially, it looks like they nailed all the elements: Eight retro-styled games across a variety of genres. But the humor, the attention to detail, the passion of the two previous games is completely gone. There’s no heart in any of these games, none of the tangible love for the classics that popped out of every pixel in the last ones. They’re not charming parodies, they’re just by-the-numbers games with pixel art.

Image: Bandai Namco Games

Image: Bandai Namco Games

The level design is bland and haphazard, the controls janky and unresponsive. The missions that you’re given for each game are unimaginative, but insofar as nothing really happens in any of these games anyway, maybe there was no way an imaginative mission structure was possible anyway. The role-playing game doesn’t feel like an NES game or a Game Boy game or anything identifiable, other than feeling like a crappo feature phone game. The only thing Game Center CX 3 will make you nostalgic for is the N-Gage.

In fact, the mission designs often go beyond “unimaginative” into “hellish,” forcing you to replay long, boring stretches of these craptastic games over and over. Thankfully, the developers must have taken pity on people who actually had to play this game and dropped in numerous opportunities for you to just skip over annoying sections after you’ve tried them a few times.

I kept playing in the hopes the games would get better. They got worse. Significantly worse. It went from a passable Mario Bros. clone to a boring platformer to a hateful Pong variant.

All of the adoring, intricately detailed wrappers, the box art and manuals and magazines, are gone. In their place is an ugly small town made up of buildings that you can tap on to watch your character talk to other characters and get hints, tips and new games.

You cannot use the buttons to navigate, so you have to keep pulling the touch pen out and putting it back. Also, you can’t check the goal you’re supposed to be pursuing while you’re playing the game. Many, many bad design decisions like this pile up to make it an experience of infinite microfrustrations.

While I was complaining about this game on Twitter, a follower alerted me to the fact that someone is close to finishing a fan translation of the unreleased, fantastic Game Center CX 2. So if you’re thinking about importing this 3DS game — don’t. Buy the second game instead and jump through whatever hoops you have to to get it into English, if you don’t read Japanese (seriously — there’s a text adventure).

And we’ll just pretend this one doesn’t exist.