Retro Re-release Roundup, week of March 14, 2019

Dip your letter to reveal the code 281-330-8004!

If this week's roundup is giving you a case of deja vu, know that you're not mistaken: now that Hamster's finally running out of Neo Geo games to put out, they've resorted to going back and releasing all the games that skipped North American PS4 owners for no good reason. Better late than never, eh?


Elevator Action

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

What's this? A minor arcade hit from Taito that blends elements of platforming, shooting and mild stealth tactics, released in 1983; it's been ported, arranged and remade countless times but this is the untouched arcade original.

Why should I care? It's a little more complex than the average 1983 arcade game and it's an obvious inspiration for later games like Impossible Mission and Rolling Thunder.

Useless fact: One of the more inexplicable Elevator Action followups, 2009's Elevator Action: Death Parade, reimagines the game as a first-person lightgun shooter, played via an arcade cabinet equipped with fake elevator doors that open and close in front of the screen.


Baseball Stars Professional

  • Platform: PlayStation 4 (North America)
  • Price: $7.99
  • Publisher: Hamster

What's this? One of the first titles for SNK's Neo Geo MVS arcade hardware and a followup to their popular Baseball Stars title for NES that trades the home game's detailed career mode for flashy arcade graphics and the de rigeur assortment of rival teams that lightly parody various pop-culture tropes and celebrities.

Why should I care? You don't feel like waiting around for Baseball Stars 2 and you can't stomach the moderate wackiness of 2020 Super Baseball.

Useless fact: Baseball Stars Professional marks the first appearance on Neo Geo for SNK voice actor (or more accurately, "the one native English speaker at the office") Michael Beard, a man whose distinctive tones would graze over a dozen other Neo Geo games across the years, both as an announcer and character actor.

Money Puzzle Exchanger

  • Platform: PlayStation 4 (North America)
  • Price: $7.99
  • Publisher: Hamster

What's this? A quirky versus puzzle game by defunct arcade devs FACE, released for Neo Geo in 1997; players are tasked with matching coins in order to convert them to a higher denomination — five 1-coins make a 5-coin, two 5-coins make a 10-coin, etc — as an interesting alternative to the colour-matching systems seen in similar games like Magical Drop and Bust-A-Move/Puzzle Bobble.

Why should I care? Let's be real, this game is just Magical Drop with a twist, but it's a really neat twist that can be enjoyed by players of all skill levels as a completely valid alternative to its derivative.

Useless fact: Money Puzzle Exchanger's close resemblance to Magical Drop was not lost on Data East — they successfully sued FACE for copyright infringement, ultimately resulting in the bankruptcy of FACE and a post-bankruptcy settlement in Data East's favour.

The King of Fighters 2001

  • Platform: PlayStation 4 (North America)
  • Price: $7.99
  • Publisher: Hamster

What's this? The first post-bankruptcy KOF game, developed by Brezzasoft under the supervision of Korean company Eolith; this game marks the end of the "NESTS Saga" storyline and maintains the striker system from preceding entries with a new ratio mechanic that lets players manually designate the role of each character within their 4-person team.

Why should I care? This definitely shouldn't be anybody's first KOF game -- certain characters are literally broken and most of the Eolith-produced assets are far below KOF's usual standard -- but most of the new characters are fun and the sub-boss/boss duo are the ultimate manifestation of SNK Boss Syndrome, should that be something you actually enjoy.

Useless fact: One of the new characters introduced in this game, the grotesque Kyo Kusanagi clone K9999, was such an unabashed ripoff of Tetsuo Shiima from the manga/anime Akira — upto and including having the same voice actor — that modern-day SNK refuses to acknowledge his existence and has replaced him with a slightly less unoriginal character called Nameless in more recent games.


Joe & Mac Returns

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (North America, Europe)
  • Price: $7.99 / €7.99 / £7.03
  • Publisher: Flying Tiger Entertainment / G-mode

What's this? The fourth and final entry in the Joe & Mac series, developed and published in arcades by Data East in 1994; the side-scroller format has given way to a fixed-screen action setup in the vein of Bubble Bobble (or more accurately, Data East's own Tumble Pop), but the duo's cartoony antics and cavelady-oglin' buffoonery remain intact.

Why should I care? You're hankering for a Bubble Bobble-like that also offers an authentic slice of '90s Japanese casual sexism.

Useless fact: The end stages of Joe & Mac Returns play host to a handful of cameo enemies from other Data East titles, including Karnov, Fighters History's Mizoguchi, the eponymous Atomic Runner and even the walker mech from Wolf Fang/Rohga.


March '19 NSO update: Kid Icarus, StarTropics, OG Fire Emblem & Yie Ar Kung-Fu plus Kirby's Adventure SP & Zelda II SP

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: available as part of Nintendo Switch Online
  • Publisher: Nintendo, Konami

What're these? A pair of quirky, RPG-tinged action from Nintendo, one a side-scroller set in an extremely liberal interpretation of mythical Greece (Kid Icarus), and one a Zelda-esque adventure game by way of American pulp cinema (StarTropics), as well as savestates for Zelda II (max stats!) and Kirby's Adventure (immediate access to the post-game Extra Mode). On the Famicom side, Japan was treated to the original Fire Emblem game (subtitled Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, not that it's playable in English) and the conversion of Konami's early one-on-one martial arts title Yie Ar Kung-Fu.

Why should I care? StarTropics' overseas exclusivity has kept Nintendo from giving the adventures of Mike Jones (WHO?) the prominence it perhaps deserves as a relatively popular late-era NES title, and Kid Icarus is worth a cursory playthrough if only to observe just how thoroughly Sakurai strip-mined that game in order to make Kid Icarus Uprising.

Useless fact: StarTropics is the first Nintendo Switch Online title that's exclusive to countries outside Japan, and StarTropics 2 seems like a safe presumption, so that makes two... will there ever be a #3?


Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon by Limited Run Games

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
  • Price: standard version $29.99 (limited to 2000 copies [Vita]), collectors edition $54.99 (limited to 3000 copies [Switch] / 1500 copies [PS4/Vita])
  • Availability: from March 15 10AM & 6PM EDT

I usually try to shy away from adding pseudo-8-bit games to the roundup, not least of all because I'd be throwing eight hundred terrible games at you every week, but I'm making an exception for Inti Creates' homage to Dracula's Curse for a few reasons: one, it's rad; two, Limited Run Games arranged a new NES-style collectors edition box designed by actual Konami NES/SNES cover artist Tom DuBois, and three, it's getting a cartridge release on Vita, a relatively new platform that feels like it's been dead for at least fifteen years. Sales start at 10AM Eastern tomorrow: the Switch/PS4 versions will be getting a wider retail release in future but those Vita versions will be available for all of ten seconds, so act fast.