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

Irem's masterwork returns to slaughter a new generation.

Happy Independence Day, y'all! Feeling patriotic? Nostalgic? Or maybe you'd just like something, anything to distract yourself from the chintzy toyparade of your would-be despot-in-chief? In that case, today's Arcade Archives release, Irem's ruthless murder gauntlet Ninja Spirit, has everything one might want: it's engrossing, demands one's full concentration and offers a stakes-free release valve for the dread and despair that permeate every moment of the tangerine hellworld we're all forced to inhabit. Yeehaw!


Ninja Spirit

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Hamster / Irem

What's this? A side-scrolling ninja action game with a traditional Japanese dark fantasy motif, developed and distributed in arcades by Irem in 1988; the game received many ports in its day, including an extremely well-received port for the TurboGrafx-16, but none quite captured the intensity of the arcade original.

Why should I care? You're looking for a more traditional counterpart to the "USA Ninja" stylings of Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden, and you're accustomed to the suffocating difficulty of Irem's late-'80s arcade output.

Helpful tip: Here's a very broad tip for navigating the infamous free-falling section before the final boss: stay in the dead center of the screen for a few seconds, veer hard to the far right wall and stay there for a couple more seconds, then drift two or three lengths left from the wall and dodge/attack where necessary... but really, you ought to make a save state and memorize the entire drop.


Cyber Lip

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

What's this? A run-and-gun sidescroller from the early days of the Neo Geo, developed and published by SNK in 1991; one or two players can blast their way through an army of androids and the occasional not-Giger monstrosity in order to take out a rogue computer that's threatening humanity (or is it?).

Why should I care? Cyber-Lip is one of the few SNK-made Neo Geo games that hasn't been reissued to death, and if you unfocus your eyes you can probably delude yourself into believing you're playing Contra III for a little while.

Helpful tip: Don't fuss over the choice of elevator at the end of each stage — you have a 50/50 shot of being dropped into a random event stage no matter which elevator you choose at any point.

Strikers 1945 Plus

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

What's this? A remixed conversion of Psikyo's vertical shooting game Strikers 1945-II, released for Neo Geo in 1999 and butchered for PSP in 2009; this version combines new and salvaged assets from previous Strikers titles with new level layouts, revised enemy attack patterns and a compact bordered play area that attempts to preserve the verticality of the original versions on the Neo Geo's horizontally-aligned screen.

Why should I care? You're curious to observe how the cramped playfield forced Psikyo to arrange their game into quasi-bullet hell, or you just happen to be nostalgic for this particular version.

Useless fact: Psikyo was formed by ex-members of Video System's Aero Fighters team who wanted to make authentic vertically-oriented shooting games and felt the Neo Geo was a poor fit for their sensibilities. Oh, how the worm turns...


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

What's this? A wacky fixed-screen co-op action game in the Bubble Bobble mold, published in arcades by SNK in 2001; by tossing your children(!) onto enemies, you can prime enemies to explode and create chain reactions for big points.

Why should I care? There are surprisingly few fixed-screen action games of this type available for Neo Geo — just two, off the top of my head — and this one happens to be the better of them.

Useless fact: If Zupapa! strikes you as a little behind the times for a game released in 2001, that's with good reason -- Zupapa! was originally developed, demoed and subsequently shelved by Money Idol Exchanger makers FACE in 1994, only to be unearthed years later as one of SNK's final pre-bankruptcy releases.


Gourmet Warriors

  • Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $11.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Piko Interactive

What's this? An absurd brawler from many of the minds behind the Cho Aniki series, originally published in extremely limited quantities for the Super Famicom in 1995 and reissued on cartridges last year as Gourmet Squad; as the title implies, there's a culinary angle to the game, with defeated enemies dropping a variety of ingredients that can be combined between stages to create foodstuffs that affect your character in a variety of ways, not all of them helpful. (The Steam version is a tersely-translated ROM in an emulator, nothing more and nothing less.)

Why should I care? Gourmet Warriors doesn't offer much for anyone looking for a traditional brawler — your characters' deceptively wide move sets are wasted on the docile enemies, and enemies and characters alike tend to have way more HP than is necessary — but it does boast an extremely silly menagerie of bizarre and well-animated characters that are unlike anything else on SNES.

Helpful tip: Most of the enemy roster is selectable via a hidden command — on the character select screen, hold L+R to allow the cursor to move freely around the screen and then try selecting random areas of the screen between the character names/letters in order to select one of the game's enemies.

Layton: Diabolical Box in HD / Layton: Pandora's Box in HD  

  • Platform: iOS, Android (North America, Europe)
  • Price: $9.99 or equivalent (single-purchase, no IAP)
  • Publisher: Level-5 IA

What's this? Professor Layton the second, originally released on Nintendo DS in 2009 to great acclaim; all the traditional dollar-store jumbo-book puzzles you remember are back, now presented with HD assets and redone phone-friendly UI, as well as the full suite of extra puzzles that were previously locked behind the Nintendo Wi-fi Connection.

Why should I care? Broadly speaking, the previous Layton HD remaster was fantastically suited for mobile play and I imagine this one fares similarly; specifically, Diabolical Box represents the Layton series diving headfirst into barely plausible Scooby Doo-tier plot twists, so if you found the original a little staid, strap yourself in for this one.

Useless fact: Diabolical Box is actually a few weeks shy of Retronauts eligibility but given that most of the world, myself included, failed to notice this even came out, I figured I'd cut it some slack.


Space Invaders Invincible Collection's exclusive limited-edition Amazon Prime Day DLC

This is one of the more tenuous tip-offs I've posted in recent memory — it pertains to a Japan-only release, requires a Japanese Amazon Prime account and currently doesn't have an exact date or even a listing — but the just-announced, 2020-scheduled Space Invaders Invincible Collection for Switch is following in the footsteps of the recently-released Darius Cozmic Collection by offering an additional game, Space Invaders '90 (Mega Drive), as an exclusive promotional item for Amazon Prime Day, so if you're the type of person who'll be annoyed that they missed something because they didn't pre-order a game during a specific 36-hour window nine month before the game was released, keep an eye on Amazon Japan early next week.