Retro Re-release Roundup, week of December 27, 2018

This's KOF. Enjoy it!

2018's final re-release roundup is a short one: just one Arcade Archives Neogeo game — the one-hundredth such release on Switch, by the by  and a Japanese Sega Ages release that I'm throwing in prematurely in order to make this week's update not feel like a total write-off. The post-Xmas drop-off is real, and I can't imagine there'll be much to report on next week, either, but as always, I'm happy to be proven immediately and embarrassingly wrong.


The King of Fighters 2002 

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

What's this? The second-to-last Neogeo KOF game and the final KOF game made under the purview of the Korean studio Eolith, released in arcades in 2002 and remade several times since; this non-canon "dream match" brings together dozens of characters from across the series' history and combines the new move-canceling MAX mechanic with a return to the traditional three-on-three format from earlier entries, with particular influence taken from the previous dream match title, KOF98.

Why should I care? While many of the new assets, particularly with regard to the stages and backgrounds, suffer from Eolith's typical lack of polish, KOF2002's MAX system adds a lot of fun combo potential without being as immediately and obviously busted as systems from entries past, and the overall roster balance is as even as KOF rosters ever get; this is the last great KOF game of the Neogeo era and remains a fan-favorite.

Useless fact: Many of KOF2002's hidden desperation moves, only accessible when your character is in MAX mode with less than 1/4 health remaining, are very obvious references to popular manga and anime, with Choi's "Shakushi" move being taken wholesale from the villain Kuro from the manga One Piece.


Gain Ground

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
  • Price: ¥999
  • Publisher: Sega

What's this? A strategic action game, developed and released in arcades by Sega in 1988 and subsequently remade for Mega Drive, Master System, PC Engine CD and, much later, PlayStation 2; this release marks the first arcade-authentic port of the original game and includes Flip Grip-friendly vertical display support, bonus features like an automatic rewind features and a mode that lets you start with all twenty characters, as well as the option to play either the two-player Japanese version or the rarer three-player international version.

Why should I care? Gain Ground's peculiar combination of slightly Gauntlet-esque run-and-gun action, single-screen puzzle-like stages and a wide variety of specialised player-characters that need to be rescued and escorted from stage to stage is quite unlike anything else from Sega or indeed other developers of this era, and while certain home conversions were definitely handled with more consideration than others, the relatively high-resolution playfield of the arcade version makes a world of difference.

Useless fact: While none of Gain Ground's characters appear directly in the game, the recent multi-publisher crossover strategy game Project X Zone features a few missions which directly recreate specific stages from Gain Ground, complete with arranged music.