Retro Re-release Roundup, week of May 2, 2019

Ivalice's opus goes portable.

Plenty of do-overs on today's roundup: games playing regional catch-up (Aggressors of Dark Kombat, James Pond, Impossible Mission), the further proliferation of the latest Final Fantasy remaster and the surprise self-published port of the Digital Eclipse-developed SNK 40th Anniversary Collection to Xbox One, a platform renowned for missing out on a lot of retro games and Japan-centric games alike... to quote the great Yuji Naka, if you haven't seen it then it's new to you, right? 


Terra Force 

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

What's this? A multi-perspective sci-fi shooting game, developed and released in arcades by Nichibutsu in 1987; Terra Force's big hook is the ability to switch between vertically-scrolling"above-ground" stages and horizontally-scrolling "underground" stages by uncovering and entering tunnels hidden in the stages.

Why should I care? Terra Force is one of the few shooting games of its vintage that has a reputation for being too easy, which I'm sure is an appealing prospect to some.

Useless fact: Terra Force bears absolutely no connection to Nichibutsu's more well-known shooter, Terra Cresta; the name was a pure marketing ploy.


Aggressors of Dark Kombat

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

What's this? A one-on-one street brawler starring seven rowdy scrappers and one World Heroes interloper, released by Neo Geo co-conspirators ADK (geddit?) in 1994; while it may resemble a traditional fighting game, the free-scrolling ground plane, grabbable weapons and heavy focus on grapples place it somewhere between a wrestling game and a beat-em-up in terms of game systems.

Why should I care? You're looking for a versus melee combat game that's very different to the many other fighting games on SNK's roster and you don't mind that it's not the least bit serious.

Useless fact: ADK's lead character Joe Kusanagi was originally slated for inclusion in the all-star fighting game Neo Geo Battle Coliseum but was left off the roster due to having an extremely similar name to KOF mainstay Kyo Kusanagi; instead, the sassy exchange student Kisarah Westfield was added to the lineup and in a fun inversion of her ADK super move, "Jealousy Bomber", Joe becomes the target of her affection instead of the victim.


Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One (worldwide)
  • Price: $49.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Square-Enix

What's this? The latest iteration of the 2017 HD remaster of Yasumi Matsuno's 2006 Final Fantasy game, originally released for PlayStation 2; this version carries all the content and improvements from the 2017 PS4 release and the 2018 PC release, including upgraded high-definition visuals, a new map system, autosaves, new game plus, three different soundtrack options, game speed settings and all the content from the International Version, and adds a few additional features like the ability to reset your job board and two extra gambit sets, as well as 4K support on X1X. (The game runs at 60FPS on XB1 and 30FPS on Switch, by the by.)

Why should I care? Square somehow figured out how to add even more conveniences to a game that already let you play it at x4 speed, and now it's on a handheld, too.

Squaresoft Bug Report: To my knowledge, not only was the FFXII port spared the audio bugs that have afflicted all the other FF remasters but the Switch version also contains the entire game on the English card, so no half-downloads or buying from Asia in order to play with Japanese voices and English text. (The occasional lip-sync bugs from the PS4 version remain, however.0

Impossible Mission

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (North America)
  • Price: $14.99
  • Publisher: System 3

What's this? The 2007 dollar-store remake of the much-loved exploratory platformer originally released for Commodore 64 in 1984; there are three skins to choose from, ranging from "reminiscent of the C64 game" to "crummy PlayStation launch title", but the basic jump-and-run gameplay through randomized rooms remains intact and untouched.

Why should I care? That's a question better asked of the developers, I think.

Useless fact: The original C64 version's synthesised voice clips were provided by a company called Electronic Speech Synthesis, who saw the game as a guinea pig for their software; the game proved to be such a hit, with particular acclaim given to the synthesised voices, that ESS dramatically raised the price for their services, ironically ensuring they'd never be hired for another piece of game software.

James Pond: Codename Robocod 

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (North America)
  • Price: $14.99
  • Publisher: System 3

What's this? The umpteenth port of the second and arguably most popular entry in the James Pond series of euro-as-euro-gets platformers, developed by Vectordean for Amiga and Mega Drive in 1991 and carpetbombed onto every possible platform since; to my knowledge, this Switch version is derived from the 2003 version that forms the basis of the PlayStation, GBA, DS, PS2 and PS3 versions (I told you this game got around!) and now includes an additional 36 hidden levels.

Why should I care? If you missed out on or have otherwise forgotten the era of '90s European platformers then a few minutes with Codename Robocod will allow you to very quickly determine whether you should or shouldn't bother playing any others.

Helpful tip: When this game came out in the UK a few weeks ago, I made comment of it being more of a remake than a port and questioned whether that should be taken positively; I still can't offer an answer, but Stuart can. 

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (May 3)

  • Platform: Xbox One (worldwide)
  • Price: $39.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Other Ocean

What's this? A surprise digital-only port of Digital Eclipse pre-Neo Geo SNK compilation, featuring the full suite of games from the Switch and PS4 versions, X1X support for 4K resolutions... and, for the sake of throwing Xbox owners a bone, Baseball Stars.

Which games are included? Alpha Mission (arcade & NES), Athena (arcade & NES), Beast Busters (arcade), Bermuda Triangle (arcade), Chopper (arcade), Crystalis (NES), Fantasy (arcade), Guerrilla War (arcade & NES), Ikari Warriors (arcade & NES), Ikari III (arcade & NES), Munch Mobile (arcade), Paddle Mania (arcade), POW (arcade & NES), Prehistoric Isle (arcade), Psycho Soldier (arcade), SAR Search & Rescue (arcade), Sasuke vs. Commander (arcade), Street Smart (arcade), Time Soldiers (arcade),,TNKIII (arcade & NES), Vanguard (arcade), Victory Road (arcade & NES), World Wars (arcade), ZMA Wars (arcade)... and Baseball Stars.

Why should I care? SNK40th is a proven product that contains a lot of great games that seemed destined to completely skip Xbox, so now you have a chance to play them all... including Baseball Stars.

Baseball Stars: I don't know whether both the arcade and NES versions of Baseball Stars are included, but I'll keep you posted.


Diggin In The Carts - Kode9 Remixes 

  • Formats: digital, vinyl EP, streaming
  • Price: £3.80 (digital) / £7.99  (vinyl)
  • Availability: ships from May 3

Hyperdub founder Kode9 has capped off the Diggin In The Carts project with a remix EP featuring a handful of tracks from the main compilation, including Actraiser's temple theme and the "bad data" jingle from Dezaemon SFC, the remix of which can be sampled here. (A DITC2 would be nice but, y'know, Red Bull...)