Retro Re-release Roundup, week of December 6, 2018

Classical tragedy.

Another jam-packed selection of new old junk this week, including a product one might have expected would be the marquee item of the holiday season, if not the year; unfortunately, it's marred by mediocre emulation, a basic feature suite and a frankly bizarre selection of games and formats.... yet the question that repeats in my head more than any other is, why Rainbow Six? Seriously, why?


Double Dragon II: The Revenge

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Hamster / Arc System Works

What's this? The second of Technos' popular street brawling games, originally released in arcades in 1988, remade for the NES soon after and ported to many other platforms besides; experience new moves, smarter revamped enemies and the peculiar front/back attack system as brothers Billy and Jammy attempt to avenge the cold-blooded murder of DD damsel Marian.

Why should I care? As always, the arcade games probably won't match or exceed your memories of the NES versions but DDII offers a more responsive, balanced and varied experience than the arcade original and arguably represents the peak of the genre before the hegemony shifted with Capcom's Final Fight.

Useless fact: DDII was originally planned as a more conventional version-up for the original arcade game but the director was able to convince his bosses to allocate budget for additional graphics ROM for new enemy sprites, hence the mix of new-ish enemies and mostly recycled environments.


Twinkle Star Sprites

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One (worldwide), PlayStation 4 (worldwide, December 11)
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Hamster

What's this? A cult split-screen competitive shooting game with an aggressively moe aesthetic, developed by the usually-macho ADK for the Neo Geo in 1996 and subsequently ported to the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast; each player can launch projectiles into their opponent's screen by destroying chains of enemies, and by successfully and repeatedly deflecting enemy attacks the players can trigger player-specific counterattacks and summon bosses, with the goal being to deplete the opponent's life points.

Why should I care? Twinkle Star Sprites' pioneering hybrid of shooting game controls and vs. puzzle-esque mechanics is simple, accessible and a valid counterpart to mainstays like Puyo Puyo or Magical Drop, and it arguably has yet to be topped by recent imitators like the just-released Rival Megagun.

Useless fact: Twinkle Star Sprites planner/designer Yoshiyasu Matsushita still works in the industry and recently drew the cover art for the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection.


PlayStation Classic

Price: $99.99 / €99.99 / £89.99 /  ¥9,980
Publisher: Sony

What's this? Sony's me-too addition to the holiday nostalgia market, featuring a mix of 20 well-loved (or well-remembered, at least) original PlayStation games in a miniature PlayStation shell, complete with replica first-generation PlayStation controllers; the system uses a HDMI output and supports virtual memory cards for save data as well as a single save state per game, activated by pressing the "reset" button on the console.

Which games are included? 14 games are common between regions — Battle Arena Toshinden*, Final Fantasy VII, Intelligent Qube, Jumping Flash!*, Metal Gear Solid, Mr. Driller, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, Resident Evil: Director's Cut*, Revelations: Persona, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, Tekken 3* and Wild Arms — with the additional eight titles varying by region; Japanese systems include Arc the Lad, Arc the Lad II, Armored Core, G-Darius, Gradius Gaiden, Parasite Eve, SaGa Frontier and XI[sái] (Devil Dice) whereas western systems include Cool Boarders 2*, Destruction Derby*, Grand Theft Auto*, Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee*, Rayman, Syphon Filter, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six* and Twisted Metal.

(* = for reasons known only to the akashic records of Ken Kutaragi, these games are the 50HZ PAL versions)

Why should I care? I'm not the person to make that argument, given that every new piece of info made me care less and less to the point where I sold my preorder, but I do genuinely believe that these products needn't offer a faultless selection of games and that, regardless of whether it was deliberate or accidental, there's just as much validity in a product that offers a curated gallery of the banality of the late-'90s rental rack as there is in a product that showcases nothing but canonized classics.

Useless fact: According to a promotional interview posted on the Japanese PlayStation Blog, Tekken series producer Katsuhiro Harada had to fight to include the wildly popular Tekken 3 on the PS Classic; due to tight deadlines and uneasiness about the ease of emulation, Sony allegedly would have been content to include either Tekken 1 or 2 if not for Harada's repeated insistence that they shouldn't squander the opportunity to give people the game they actually want. Man, I don't even know anymore.


The Darkness

  • Platform: Xbox One (worldwide)
  • Price: $19.99 ($3.99 until December 12)
  • Publisher: 2K Games

What's this? A 2007 first-person shooter adaptation of Top Cow Productions' schlocky anti-hero comic, developed by Starbreeze Studios as the immediate followup to the critically-acclaimed Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay; players control a mob hitman marked for death who unwittingly awakens a demonic entity that gives him supernatural powers fueled by literal darkness.

Why should I care? You're keen to revisit of the early single-player FPS highlights of the early X360 era and, like me, you're only now realising that this game never came to PC. (You're also not fussed by the fact that, for as cinematic and over-the-top as it tends to be, aiming and shooting things in this particular game isn't actually all that fun.)

Useless fact: The Darkness is perhaps best remembered for including a ton of public-domain video footage that can be watched in-game, including an episode of the live-action Flash Gordon and the entirety of To Kill a Mockingbird, a practice that should have been adopted by all other games but was instead adopted by almost none.


Atari Flashback Classics (December 7... maybe)

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (North America/Europe) 
  • Price: $39.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Atari / Code Mystics

What's this? A bumper collection of 150 classic, unreleased and homebrew Atari games spanning arcade, Atari 2600 and 5200, equipped with features including save states, a collection of scanned console manuals and online multiplayer for select games, as well as Switch-specific enhancements like touch control for trackball games. (I've seen suggestions that it'll also include Flip Grip-friendly portrait support where applicable but I can't verify that info, so don't take my word for it.)

Which games are included?  Lookee here. In essence, this is an all-in-one collection of the three Atari Flashback compilations released individually for PS4 and XB1.

Why should I care? 150 games, dude! Only a fraction of those games are something you're likely to compelling for more than a minute or two, mind, but there's a lot of novel and obscure titles in here for the crate-diggers.

Plea for help: The cockroach that's currently puppeting Atari's rotting carcass seems to have trouble promoting, shipping and scheduling their products, so nobody, including the developers of this collection, is entirely sure it'll actually be available this week — if you manage to grab a copy or see it on shelves, please let the world know, or at least us here at Retronauts, because Atari probably won't bother to do so.

Katamari Damacy REROLL

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC (worldwide, digital-only in Europe) 
  • Price: $29.99 / €29.99 / £29.99
  • Publisher: Bandai-Namco

What's this? Keita Takahashi's surreal twin-stick Shibuya-kei dung-beetle simulator, originally released on PlayStation 2 in 2004 to wild acclaim; this version is ever-so-slightly remastered with widescreen and high-res support and a few subtle visual additions like ambient occlusion, as well as optional motion controls on Switch.

Why should I care? Katamari Damacy remains a charming, joyous and utterly holistic experience and, as tempting as it may have been to "modernize" aspects of the controls or redraw some of the textures, this remaster wisely decides not to fix what ain't broke. 

Useless fact: While REROLL is both the first version of the original Katamari Damacy to be released in Europe and the first mainline Katamari Damacy game released for Nintendo hardware, it's not the first mainline Katamari game developed using Nintendo hardware; despite the original game being targeted entirely and solely for release on PlayStation 2, much of the game's prototyping was done using Gamecube hardware and development kits as they were more advanced and more user-friendly than Sony's equivalent development kits at that time.

Sega Mega Drive/Genesis Classics

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (North America/Europe)
  • Price: $29.99 / €29.99 / £29.99
  • Publisher: Sega

What's this? A near-identical port of the Mega Drive value pack released on consoles earlier this year that includes all the same features — online multiplayer, save states, rewind, mirror mode, achievements and a virtual bedroom hub — with the added benefits of portability.

Why should I care? You're sick of waiting for the Sega Ages titles to roll out and you're willing to sacrifice quality for quantity.

Helpful tip: For whatever reason, the Switch version of this collection is missing Wonder Boy Monster Lair and Wonder Boy in Monster World, but if you're looking for a Monster World fix, look no further than Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, the new Monster World series game that just launched on consoles and PC. h

The Last Remnant Remastered

  • Platform: PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
  • Price: $19.99 / €19.99 / £15.99
  • Publisher: Square-Enix

What's this? A UE3-to-UE4 conversion of SaGa mastermind Akitoshi Kawazu's typically opaque squad-based fantasy RPG, originally released for X360 and upgraded for PC in 2009; this remaster is based on the PC version and retains all of that version's system changes and adds modern lighting and post-processing effects, re-rendered cutscenes, enhanced textures and vastly reduced pop-in, with some additional tweaks like a context-specific speed-up button.

Why should I care? You'forgot to buy the PC version before it was delisted and you're not confident it'll come back, or you just want a brief reminder of a bygone era when Kawazu games had, y'know, budgets. (The PS3 version they announced a decade ago still hasn't been officially cancelled, so... fingers crossed!)

Helpful tip: The remaster removed the option to manually select English or Japanese voices; the game's voices and subtitles are now locked to match the region settings of your console and cannot be mix-and-matched, so if you decided to change your region settings to Japan just to get Japanese voices, you won't have the option for English subtitles.


Namco Museum vertical orientation patch (image courtesy of RoryDropkick)

Someone at Namco's paying attention, eh? Namco Museum received an update this week that allows you to play every game in the collection in vertical orientation — a peculiar update at first glance, perhaps, but one that's particularly useful to Flip Grip owners, as it allows one to casually switch between vertically- and horizontally-aligned games without having to constantly remove and reattach the grip.