Retro Re-release Roundup, week of June 13, 2019
Locked and loaded.
This E3's provided a bumper crop of retro reissues, not least of which being the TurboGrafx Mini, but it's also bittersweet inasmuch as the Xbox One backwards-compatibility program has been put to rest in order to bring all hands on deck for legacy compatibility on Microsoft's upcoming console. Come to think of it, that new Contra game doesn't look so hot, either... or the new Battletoads... or the Commander Keen phone game... okay, forget what I just said and forget the zillion games in this update, I think E3 might be canceled.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Konami
What's this? A horizontal fixed-screen shooter on a vertical screen with a fairytale motif, released in arcades by Konami in 1982. Players control a pig on a gondola that moves up and down along the edge of the screen; an army of balloon-riding wolves will either descend from above or rise from below depending on the stage, and the player has to pop their balloons with arrows (or the occasional chunk of meat) in order to keep them from grabbing momma pig and/or her babies.
Why should I care? A lot of consciously "cute" arcade games of this vintage tended to underwhelm, either through adopting unique systems that aren't fun in practice or simply because they're shallow, but Pooyan's a well-crafted game with a little more depth than might be apparent at a glance.
Useless fact: Pooyan received an unexpected homage in Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, of all games a handful of extra ops, literally titled Pooyan Missions, challenge the player to "rescue" kidnapped POWs by shooting their fultons, with the original arcade music blaring all the while.
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE - NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM
April '19 NSO update: City Connection, Double Dragon II, Volleyball plus Twinbee SP
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: available as part of Nintendo Switch Online
- Publisher: Nintendo, Arc system Works, Clarice Games
What're these? A staid six-a-side volleyball game from Nintendo's black box era, a shoddy port of Jaleco's side-view maze game and the arguable best entry in a classic brawler series with far more misses than hits, as well as a Twinbee state that puts you at the start of the second loop.
Why should I care? You won't find a better game among the NES' modest brawler library than Double Dragon II (sorry, Kunio-kun) and you won't find a better volleyball game on NSO than Volleyball.
Helpful tip: The Famicom version of DDII has quite a few subtle differences that make it the version to play — you're given continues by default, you can play through the entirety of the game on any difficulty and there are tweaks to enemy AI and certain stage elements for each difficulty setting that broaden the level of challenge in both directions.
XBOX ONE BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY
Xbox One Backwards Compatibility THE FINAL
- Platform: Xbox One (worldwide)
- Price: starting from $9.99 / £6.75 / €9,49, or free if you own the original game disc or digital version
- Publisher: various
What're these? The final wave of OG Xbox and X360 titles for Xbox One, which also includes a few Xbox One X enhancement patches and some hard-to-get DLC content; Microsoft's formally shifting their focus to compatibility efforts for the next-generation "Scarlet" hardware, so there are the last games scheduled for Xbox One, and they picked a few doozies.
Which OG Xbox titles are available? Armed and Dangerous, Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Double Agent and Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict. Additionally, you can also download DLC content updates for the first three Splinter Cell games, the two Star Wars Battlefront games (the OG XB games, obviously), Armed and Dangerous and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, free of charge.
Which X360 titles are available? Asura’s Wrath, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, Enchanted Arms, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Far Cry Classic, Far Cry Instincts Predator, Infinite Undiscovery, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands, Skate, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, Syndicate, and Unreal Tournament III. Additionally, they've also made Too Human available to everybody for free, mostly because they can't charge for it, what with the whole "court-ordered out of commercial existence" thing.
Which games have been XIX enhanced? The Banjo Kazooie trilogy, both Perfect Dark games, both Viva Pinata games and Kameo: Elements of Power; regardless of how you own them, be it individually or as part of Rare Replay, you'll get the upgrade.
Why should I care? Microsoft's recent dedication to backwards compatibility was undoubtedly a move of desperation forced upon them by competition from Sony and others but there's no questioning their results — they've assembled a wide and respectable library of games from previous console generations, emulated and enhanced with admirable consistency and at no cost to owners of the original games, and their biggest fault is that they're ending this initiative on XB1 so soon. Too Human sucks ass.
Helpful tip: Casual Splinter Cell fans, know this: the OG Xbox version of Chaos Theory is substantially enhanced and markedly better over the other console ports, with comparable quality to the PC version, and the OG Xbox version of Double Agent is a completely different game to the HD version and is considered by many to be the better game, mostly owing to the fact that it's essentially Chaos Theory 2.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide outside of Japan)
- Price: $39.99 / €39.99 / £34.99
- Publisher: Square-Enix
What's this? A straightforward compilation of the first three entries in Square's long-running Mana series of action-RPGs: the original 1991 Game Boy game (which retains the original localized title, Final Fantasy Adventure), the beloved 1993 SNES sequel Secret of Mana and, for the first time outside of Japan, the legendary 1995 Super Famicom followup Seiken Densetsu 3, now bearing a brand-new localization and a new title, Trials of Mana. (It's digital-only for the moment, but there's a physical version due at the end of August.)
Why should I care? Trials of Mana was neck-and-neck with Final Fantasy V as the most painful SNES localization miss of its era, so it's nice to finally get closure almost 25 years later. It also remains an astonishingly pretty and atmospheric pixel-art game, and the games it's bundled with aren't too shabby, either.
Useless fact: The technical work that went into translating Trials of Man was performed at such a low level that one can extract the ROM from their collection and play it on real hardware or the emulator of one's choice, provided your flashcart can run 48Mb ROMs and your display can handle the SNES' hi-res interlaced mode.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $19.99 / €19.99 / £15.99
- Publisher: Konami
What's this? The third of Konami's recent anniversary collections, this one focused on their legendary run-and-gun action series Contra; as with the Castlevania collection, these games come with save states, replay saves, a small array of display options and a bonus gallery filled with translated developer documents and other materials.
Which games are included? Ten games are available at launch — Contra for arcades, Famicom and NES, the arcade game Super Contra, the NES game Super C, the SNES game Contra III: The Alien Wars and its European counterpart, Super Probotector: The Alien Rebels, the chronically overlooked Genesis title Contra: Hard Corps and the European Probotector variant, and the original black-and-white Game Boy version of Operation C — with the Japanese versions of arcade Contra, Super Contra, Super C, Contra III, Contra Hard Corps and Operation C promised as part of a future free content update.
Why should I care? Two or three of these games are stone-cold classics and, while the series definitely improved leaps and bounds once it reached consoles, there isn't a single dud on this collection (spurious designation of the Probotector titles as distinct games notwithstanding).
Helpful tip: Between this collection and the hubbub around the Mega Drive Mini, you've probably learned this by now, but it bears repeating: Contra Hard Corps was designed around a three-hit life bar that was stripped from the overseas versions, so if you're struggling to make progress with one-hit deaths, wait for the patch and play the Japanese version instead.
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: SNK
What's this? The Digital Eclipse-produced collection of pre-Neo Geo SNK treasures, featuring 30+ games with 4K display support, per-game settings and control options, save states, a rewind feature and replay viewer, several display options and a massive virtual museum of flyers, developer documents and SNK history.
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) and ZMA Wars (arcade).
Why should I care? This port received a surprise release and thus I've not spent much time with it but I can recommend the previous three versions of this collection and I suspect this version's as good as any.
Helpful tip: Baseball Stars remains an Xbox exclusive, from the looks of things.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $19.99 / €19.99 / £15.99
- Publisher: Square-Enix
What's this? A surprise port of the unlikely UE4 remaster of Akitoshi Kawazu's 2009 SaGa-in-all-but-name RPG released earlier this year for PS4 and PS4; most of the changes were visual in nature and look to be accounted for on Switch, and this version also carries forward the significant system changes implemented from the original PC version, as well as some other small additions like a speed-up button.
Why should I care? You're looking for a primer for the SaGa games that were just announced for the west: the Romancing SaGa 3 remake and the latest version of the most recent game, SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions.
Useless fact: The good ol' Square/Switch tax is Japan-only this time around, presumably because that's the only area of the world where people will pay top dollar for Kawazu mayhem.
SOUNDTRACKS & MISCELLANEA
Banjo-Kazooie merch from Fangamer
- Items: pins, shirts
- Price: from $10
- Availability: ships early August
Hot off the heel of Banjo & Kazooie's announcement as Smash Ultimate DLC, Fangamer's offering a selection of Banjo merch including a pair of t-shirts and two pin designs, as well as a yet-to-be-revealed plush set. (They're also rolling out a t-shirt and pin based on the classic Rareware logo.)
Dragon Quest IX wi-fi quests are back?!
Even the Japanese version's not quite Retronauts-eligible just yet but I can't imagine there'll be many more convenient opportunities to unlock this content in the future, so here's a heads-up: if you connect your DS' wi-fi with the primary DNS set to 184.108.40.206, you'll be able to download all the additional quests to your copy of Dragon Quest IX, as well as access the DQVC item shop, features that have been offline for the past five years or so. (Remember, original DS games require a WEP connection. Thanks for the tip, this dude!)
Sonic CD vinyl from Data Discs
Format: 3LP vinyl
Availability: ships September
Between the somewhat recent Sonic CD remaster and Sonic Mania's heavy and unabashed Sonic CD worship, I think people have finally come around on the particular flavor Sonic CD brought to the classic Sonic aesthetic. Of course, the debate about which version of the soundtrack is better will never be settled, so Data Discs can only cater to so many, but if the European/Japanese tunes are your jam then you have until June 17 to put in an order on the 3LP set, which comes in black, blue and the etched blue/green variant pictured above.
Special Tee Shot (SNES) prototype dump
From promised early SNES title to Kirby reskin to Satellaview revival, Nintendo & HAL's Special Tee Shot went through a long and tumultuous development cycle, and this recent public prototype dump provides some insight on the game's original, pre-Dream Course form; there are a lot of obvious and subtle differences from the later versions, including a lot of never-before-heard music, that people are in the process of analysing right this moment. (One immediate difference is the controls, which have already been patched to conform to the controls of the later versions, if that's something you'd prefer.)