Retro Re-release Roundup, week of March 28, 2019

Cloud gaming comes to Switch.

There's lots to take in this week, dear readers, including a pair of behind-schedule Sega Ages titles for Switch and the second of the recently-announced deluge of Final Fantasy ports to Switch and Xbox One... sadly, it doesn't seem like Square's taken the initiative to fix any of the bugs that have plagued these ports for years but then again, they have been shown to be susceptible to loud, sustained complaining, so here's hoping.


Formation Armed F

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

What's this? A vertically-scrolling sci-fi shooting game, developed and released in arcades by Nichibutsu in 1988; this game combines Nichibutsu's tried-and-true "formation" upgrade system with additional mechanics and visual presentation that draw more than a little influence from Irem games like R-Type and Image Fight.

Why should I care? You're looking for a shooter with the flavor of an Irem game but one tenth of the difficulty.

Helpful tip: If you ever feel like your ship is dying to shots it didn't touch, know that the hitboxes on enemy bullets are particularly large, so... dodge better, I guess.


Prehistoric Isle 2 

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

What's this? A sequel to SNK's pre-Neo Geo horizontal shooting game, developed by Pulstar/Blazing Star devs Yumekobo and released in arcades in 1999; this entry sees near-future rescue helicopters facing off against CG-rendered dinosaurs who've suddenly warped into an inland city from a mysterious island unstuck in time and space.

Why should I care? Prehistoric Isle 2 has seldom been re-released until now and, while a little plain, it's also a much easier game than Yumekobo's previous efforts, so if you're sick of being slaughtered by Pulstar, you might find a little relief here.

Useless fact: The dino horde's place of origin, the mysterious Greenhell Isle, also serves as the home of Samurai Shodown characters Tam Tam and Cham Cham.

The King of Fighters 2002

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


Alex Kidd in Miracle World

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £5.99
  • Publisher: Sega

What's this? The first and arguably most beloved title starring Sega's would-be Mario killer Alex Kidd, originally developed by Sega and released for the Sega Master System in 1986; in addition to save states, button configs, international version variants and mini-challenges with online leaderboards, this release boasts a new "Ages Mode" which adds a five-second rewind function, easy continues, new between-stage art and music arranged for the Sega Mark III's FM Adapter sound module.

Why should I care? Alex Kidd in Miracle World is synonymous with Master System, for good or ill, and this particular version aims to make the experience both less unforgiving and more complete.

Helpful tip: The rock-paper-scissors icons shown in the border art aren't just for decoration - they indicate the winning moves to the game's janken-based boss battles, so follow them exactly and you'll never lose a round.

Gain Ground

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £5.99
  • 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.


Cel Damage HD

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $16.99 / €19.99 / £16.99
  • Publisher: Finish Line Games

What's this? A toony vehicular combat game that began life as a US Xbox launch title way back in 2001; previously released for PS4, Vita and Xbox One, this HD port is specifically based on the 2002 PS2 version, Cel Damage: Overdrive, and it seems to be a fairly no-frills upscale without any new enhancements or features.

Why should I care? Cel Damage: Overdrive was a literal bargain-bin title back in 2002 and age hasn't done it any favors, but if you're looking for a Vigilante 8 / Twisted Metal-esque experience on Switch, well, this is it.

Helpful(?) tip: This may very well be the last time you or I ever think about Cel Damage, so savor the moment while you can.

GODS Remastered

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide), PlayStation 4 (Europe, at least)
  • Price: $16.99 / €19.99 / £16.99
  • Publisher: Robot Riot Games

What's this? A new version of Bitmap Bros. Grecian-theme exploratory platformer, originally developed for Atari ST and Amiga in 1991; this remaster retains the levels and controls of the original but adds infinite continues, new audio and the option to toggle between the original sprite graphics and brand-new 2.5D visuals. (This same remaster hit XB1 and Steam last year, completely passing me by.)

Why should I care? You possess a fondness for arbitrary lever-pulling that I will never understand.

Useless fact: As with most Bitmap Bros. games, the success of GODS "inspired" several titles from other developers, perhaps most prominently the Amiga conversion of Codemasters' Robin Hood: Legend Quest.

Final Fantasy VII

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One (worldwide)
  • Price: $15.99 / €15.99 / £12.79
  • Publisher: Square-Enix

What's this? The modern ur-JRPG, now gracing Nintendo and Microsoft consoles for the very first time since its original PlayStation release in 1997; much like the recent PS4 version, these ports are based on the 2013 PC release and include accessibility options like the ability to turn off battle encounters or triple the game speed.

Why should I care? Bob and Jeremy have dedicated multiple podcasts to this very topic over the last few weeks, as it happens.  

Squaresoft Bug Report: Every annoying bug that was present in previous ports, including the audio skipping bug that seems to persist across multiple games, is present and accounted for on Switch and XB1 with no noticeable fixes.

Snow Battle Princess Sayuki

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam
  • Price: $14.99 / €14.99 / £13.49
  • Publisher: Ninja Games Japan / Joyfulroad

What's this? An overhead run-and-gun action game set in a world of Japanese mythology, originally developed by Starfish-SD and released for Wii and PlayStation 2 as Heavenly Guardian in 2008; this title was initially conceived and greenlit as an official sequel to the Kikikaikai/Pocky & Rocky series until Taito's merger with Square-Enix killed the licensing deal, so the game's extreme similarity to that series shouldn't be mistaken for mere plagiarism. (The Steam version actually came out last week but I didn't notice due to the name change.)

Why should I care? Sayuki is by far the least offensive of Starfish-SD's mid-'00s franchise revivals, and it's not as if Taito's likely to offer up the real deal anytime soon.

Useless fact: I've not yet tried this port but based on the trailer and hazy memories from a decade ago, this ports seems to contain all the content from the Wii version (ie an additional level not present in the PS2 version) but does not feature the Wii version's independent aiming system, which made use of the IR pointer.


LSD Revamped by Ship to Shore PhonoCo. 

  • Format: 3xLP (red vinyl)
  • Price: $40
  • Availability: from March 28

LSD: Dream Emulator originally hit the Japanese PlayStation to abysmal sales and benign bewilderment from critics, but the rise of the internet video age saw a resurgence of interest in Osamu Sato's opaque "not a game", eventually leading to the 2010 PS Archive release which became a modest cult success; now, in commemoration of LSD's newfound international audience and its 20(+1)th anniversary, Ship to Shore's offering a 3LP set containing the original soundtrack and all-star remix album, newly remasted from the source by Osamu Sato and containing some additional brand new remixes. It's not necessarily an easy "game" to "play" but if you dig late-'90s UK-influenced IDM, you'll be able to listen to it just fine.