Retro Re-release Roundup, week of April 4, 2019

Stanley the Bugman's fleeting moment of glory, revisited.

Full disclosure: many of the games listed in this week's update have been available on Steam for the better part of a month but went largely unnoticed because Steam is an unyielding torrent of crap that few can comprehend. Speaking of, have fun with Radical Rex!


Donkey Kong 3

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

What's this? The final game in the classic Donkey Kong trilogy, released in arcades in late 1983; Mario has been replaced by one-and-done hero Stanley the Bugman, who's seeking to protect the contents of his greenhouse from both Donkey Kong an a horde of angry insects by leaping between layers of scaffolding and blasting them with bug spray — it's less "Donkey Kong with shooting" and more "Galaga with jumping".

Why should I care? As unwelcome a genre shift as it was at the time, Donkey Kong 3 is an objectively sound and creative fixed-screen shooter; even the NES version of Donkey Kong 3 tends not to leave the vault very often, so this may be your only opportunity to try the genuine article, not that it's a hugely different experience. (One point in the arcade game's favor: touching an insect sees Stanley murdered by a swarm of bees.)

Useless fact: Legendary Nintendo composer Koji Kondo's initial application to work at Nintendo was due in part to his fondness for Donkey Kong 3, apparently.

Omega Fighter

  • Platform: PlayStation 4 (North America)
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Hamster

What's this? An atypically orthodox vertical shooting game from the usually-quirky defunct arcade developers UPL, released in 1989; the game challenges players to take down a massive and deadly spacecraft, with each stages taking place above or around a different section of the mothership. (The Arcade Archives release contains both the original game and the dipswitch-only "Special Mode" remix, as well as the fully-fledged revision, confusingly named Omega Fighter Special.)

Why should I care? Despite its somewhat primitive visuals, Omega Fighter has gained a cult following among shooting enthusiasts due to a number of forward-thinking systems that would be adopted by hardcore shooting game developers decades later, including a proximity-based scoring system, a suicide attack and a bomb-type weapon that induces artificial slowdown; if you're looking to experience the missing link between Zanac and Ketsui, look no further than Omega Fighter.

Useless fact: A long-standing rumour among Japanese arcade fanatics suggested that Omega Fighter had been designed by an anonymous famous arcade developer — that rumour was later confirmed by former UPL members, who revealed the mystery man behind the game was none other than Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands creator Fukio "MTJ" Mitsuji.


Brave Battle Saga

  • Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $4.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Piko Interactive / Chaunpu

What's this? A Taiwanese active-time-battle RPG that bears more than a little resemblance to some of your 16-bit favorites, original developed for the Sega Mega Drive bootleg market in 1996, translated by fans in 2010 and now sold to you for a fiver by Piko Interactive using that same translation.

Why should I care? Piko had the old translation patch pulled off the internet, so your options are to pay for the ROM or pay significantly more for the repro, I suppose. 

Useless fact: This game was originally packed with sprite rips from Super Famicom RPGs including Final Fantasy VI and Romancing SaGa and featured the bootleg sound driver du jour, that of Data East's High Seas Havoc; I cannot state with all certainty that the stolen content remains in this version but I strongly suspect it hasn't been replaced.


  • Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $4.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Piko Interactive / Binary Emotions

What's this? A "spiritual clone of Puyo Puyo", originally released for Amiga in 1997; I sense nothing spiritual about this game, but they seem to have the clone part down.

Why should I care? You can't help but respect someone for being honest about their inspirations, I guess?

Useless fact: This version of Minskies is not the original Amiga game but the completed-but-never-released DOS port running in DOSbox.


  • Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $4.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Piko Interactive / Beam Software

What's this? An absurd point-and-click adventure game with action elements, developed for the NES by Aussie studio Beam Software and released exclusively in North America by Konami shell company Ultra Games in 1992; players control the hapless Nightshade, a vigilante who takes it upon himself to protect his city after the city's real superhero is murdered by a coalition of supervillains.

Why should I care? Nightshade was an ambitious title that stood apart from ostensibly similar NES games due to atypically dense and silly dialog, as well as the adoption of console-friendly elements like real-time action combat and avoidable deathtraps as substitution for hard failstates, and the wonders of emulation make it a vastly more accessible experience (you can now save your game, in other words).

Useless fact: The core creative team behind Nightshade went on to make the SNES Shadowrun adventure game and the point-and-click interface of the latter draws obvious influence from the former..

Radical Rex 

  • Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $4.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Piko Interactive / Beam Software

What's this? One of those attitudinous platformers we've all tried so hard to forget, developed by Beam Software and published by Activision for various consoles in 1994; players control a fire-breathing, skateboarding dinosaur on a romp that's one part Joe & Mac and one part Bubsy. (The game was originally released for Genesis, Sega CD and SNES, and this looks to be the SNES version running under emulation.

Why should I care? The title theme features some extremely dubious voice samples that are probably intended to sound like rapping.

Useless fact: Activision offered the readers of the Australian magazine Nintendo Magazine System the chance to win a Radical Rex-themed skateboard by writing a poem about "why dinosaurs are too hip to be extinct". Presumably, there were no winners.

Spellcasting Collection

  • Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $5.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Piko Interactive / Legend Entertainment

What's this? All three of Infocom alum Steve Meretsky's ribald interactive fantasy fiction games — 1990's Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All The Girls, 1991's Spellcasting 201: The Sorcerer's Appliance and 1992's Spellcasting 301: Spring Break — together in one unglamorous DOSbox bundle, as is Piko Interactive's wont.

Why should I care? Steve Meretsky built a reputation upon marrying smart puzzles to knowingly dumb humor, and by playing these game back-to-back-to-back you'll be able to witness the gradual erosion of that reputation at your own leisure.

Helpful tip: As with so many adventure games of the day, you'll occasionally need to reference external materials in order to satisfy the game's copy protection requirements; those documents are included with the game and can be located in the SteamLibrary\steamapps\common\Spellcasting Collection\Docs folder.


After Burner Climax

Platform: iOSAndroid
Price: free to download, remove adds for $1.99 or equivalent
Publisher: Sega

After Burner Climax is back! No, not the console port, and no, the Android version doesn't seem to like, work, but Sega had to break the streak of goodwill-inducing projects sometime, it's just their nature.


Thunder Force IV vinyl from Data Discs

  • Format: 3xLP
  • Price: £31.99
  • Availability: from Saturday April 6, 7PM UK time

The recent Sega Ages release seems to have reawakened a wider appreciation for Thunder Force IV, not least of all because of its voluminous, catchy and intense soundtrack that contains some of the most sophisticated and downright heavy FM guitar tones ever coaxed out of the Mega Drive sound chip. True to form, Data Discs has responded with a new album that contains the entire 38-track soundtrack, plus the ten "omake" tracks that only appear in the game's sound test upon clearing the game, across three LPs in black, opaque blue or blue/black/grey swirl variants, complete with a poster featuring the new key art drawn for the Sega Ages release by former Technosoft developer (and future Hotel Dusk designer/director) Taisuke Kanasaki.