Retro Re-release Roundup, week of October 17, 2019

Infinite rediscovery.

The burgeoning end-of-year deluge is upon us, and that goes for classic games just as much as it does new ones. If you can find the time to finish even one Infinity Engine game before the end of the year, let alone four of 'em, you're a far more fortunate person than I.


Vs. Castlevania

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

What's this? Konami's classic NES vampire-slaying action-platformer, converted for release on Nintendo's Vs. System hardware in 1987; it's pretty much as you remember it, save for increased damage output from most enemies and a substantially shorter timer during the first few stages, as well as the customary altered Vs. System color palette.

Why should I care? You should never not care about Castlevania, even ugly-color Castlevania.

Helpful tip: The timer and scoring changes seem to have been made to reduce the number of lives the average player will accrue, but certain scoring tricks like the multiplier on subweapon kills remain intact, so you can still farm lives in the latter half of the game with relative impunity.


Columns II: A Voyage through Time

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

What's this? The first direct sequel to Sega's once-ubiquitous falling-block puzzle game, released in arcades in late 1990 and ported to consoles just once before now as part of a Sega Saturn compilation in 1997; the Sega Ages version adds a multitude of features including online versus play, a stage select and item toggles for the game's notoriously difficult single-player mode, a brand new endless mode and an unlockable gallery showcasing the Sega cameo characters that appear in the Sega Ages intro animations, as well as the original Columns game as a bonus.

Why should I care? Columns II is an uncharacteristically grueling entry in a generally casual franchise and of all the Sega Ages games released or announced so far, it's the hardest to blindly recommend, but Sega and M2 have done everything possible to make this the most accessible and enjoyable version of the game possible, up to and including bundling it with the original game, so if you're ever going to try it, this is the version to pick.

Useless fact: Columns II was rushed to arcades in order to capitalize on the massive success of the original game — the original hit arcades in March of '90, made it to Mega Drive that June and Columns II, which is primarily based around Columns MD's flash mode, hit arcades that September. (The original game was also released as a pack-in launch title for the Game Gear the following month.)

Puzzle & Action: Ichidant-R

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

What's this? The second game in a series of pioneering competitive minigame collections that originated in arcades and received ports and conversions for Mega Drive, Game Gear, Saturn and PS2, almost none of which left Japan; the Sega Ages release includes an authentic, little-seen English-localized ROM and online play for 2 players, as well as the Mega Drive conversion which contains several additional modes including a local 4-player mode and an RPG-style boardgame quest mode. (The Mega Drive content remains untranslated, unfortunately, but you can probably bluff your way through most of it.)

Why should I care? Putting aside the novelty of the extremely obscure English version, the Puzzle & Action series established the basic template for games like Konami's Bishi Bashi and Nintendo's Mario Party series and, given the inherent simplicity of the format, it holds up pretty well. (The original entry, Tant-R, is present on the Japanese Mega Drive Mini, so if you recently tried that game you'll know exactly what you're in for with Ichidant-R.)

Useless fact: If you're wondering what the hell "Ichidant-R" means, it's a neologism of a Japanese phrase — the first game in the series was titled TANT-R ie "tanto aru", which translates to "a bunch o' stuff", and the sequel's title ICHIDANT-R essentially translates to "a whole bunch more stuff".


Baldur's Gate & Baldur's Gate II Enhanced Editions

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (worldwide)
  • Price: $49.99 / €49.99
  • Publisher: Skybound Games / Beamdog / Bioware

What're these? The turn-of-the-century D&D-based RPGs that put Bioware on the map and established the "Infinity Engine" CRPG archetype that is widely mimicked to this day, originally remastered in 2013 for PC and smartphones and now further remastered for consoles with extensive navigation, UI and control tweaks tailored towards controllers, new difficulty options including a "story mode" for less committed players, the integration of all official expansion content for both games and additional brand-new content from remaster studio Beamdog that both augments and bridges the two titles. (These games are only available as a double-pack, you can't buy one or the other.)

Why should I care? Many would argue that none of the recent crop of Infinity Engine-inspired CRPGs have managed to capture the quality or atmosphere of the original Baldur's Gate games, and by playing them back-to-back you'll be able to observe the very conspicuous emergence of the narrative-heavy style that would become Bioware's trademark in the coming decades.

Helpful tip: The console versions of these remasters do not contain any of the multiplayer features, nor does the Switch version retail the touch interface that was devised for the smartphone versions.

Grandia HD Remaster

  • Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $19.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Gung-Ho / Game Arts

What's this? The first entry in Game Arts' late-'90s JRPG series, remastered to questionable effect for Switch earlier this year as part of a double-pack with the sequel and now released as a standalone for PC.

Why should I care? None of the technical issues that plagued the Switch version seemed to be fixed but hey, at least this version will let you manual replace all the hard-filtered graphical assets if you so desire.

Helpful tip: The PC version of Grandia II has also been patched to conform to the changes made for the Switch version, which include improved textures and more stable widescreen support.

Planescape: Torment & Icewind Dale Enhanced Editions 

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (worldwide)
  • Price: $49.99 / €49.99
  • Publisher: Skybound Games / Beamdog

What're these? Another pair of D&D-adjacent Infinity Engine CRPGs, these ones by the now-defunct Black Isle Studios, the predecessor to Obsidian Entertainment; once again, these remasters features massively-reworked, console-friendly controls, pathing and UI and, in the case of Icewind Dale, the inclusion of the official expansion pack. (Again, these games are only available as a double-pack, you can't buy one or the other.)

Why should I care? No fronting, I've never touched Icewind Dale and have played maybe half an hour of Planescape: Torment, so you probably have more to offer on the subject than I do. I know Torment is an extremely conversation-heavy game with comparatively little combat, if that's your thing.

Helpful tip: The two games in this pack are not narratively linked but were merely bundled for convenience and due to their shared heritage with Black Isle Studios; the Icewind Dale II source code has been lost and is presumed unrecoverable.

The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (North America)
  • Price: $29.99 (physical) / $19.99 (digital)
  • Publisher: ININ Games / Taito

What's this? A high-definition remaster of Natsume-Atari's 1994 sidescrolling SNES brawler The Ninja Warriors Again, itself a reimagining of Taito's classic robo-ninja arcade brawler The Ninja Warriors; the 2019 version includes all the content from the SNES game and adds new, high-fidelity graphics and audio, online time attack leaderboards, two-player local co-op, new moves for the three returning characters and two brand-new characters, the stretchy-limbed shortstack Yaksha and the behemoth war-machine Raiden. (The North American versions received a last-minute delay to October 15.)

Why should I care? The original SNES version was among the absolute deepest and most well-designed brawlers of its console generation and this remaster, developed by the same three-man team that made the original and reunited for 2017's Wild Guns Reloaded, boasts a level of craftsmanship that few modern dot-art remasters and revivals can match. (Much like Wild Guns Reloaded, it's also not an especially casual-friendly co-op game, so be warned.)

Helpful tip: The two new characters, as well as other features like the original arcade soundtrack, will need to be unlocked by beating the game multiple times with different characters.


Last Crown Warriors (Game Boy Color) demo by Light Games 

8-bit and musou, together at last! Real 8-bit, I mean. Okay, I guess Gauntlet kinda counts, but just go with me on this. (All due respect to Protect me Knight and Gotta Protectors, of course.)

Professor S and the Mysterious Labyrinth (Game Boy) by Pauli Kohberger 

If the recent Link's Awakening remake has whetted your appetite for quirky characters and ever-so-slightly-puzzly item quests, you're in luck: Pauli Kohberger's new game provides just that in authentic Game Boy fashion, and it's available for the price of your choosing. (It's also configured to play directly via the store page's browser, if you want a quick trial.)


Star Wars Episode 1 Racer (Nintendo 64) & Star Wars Racer Revenge (PS2-on-PS4) from Limited Run Games

  • Platform: Nintendo 64, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
  • Price: $44.99 to $89.99 (N64) / $29.99 to $74.99 (PS4)
  • Availability: 10AM & 6PM, October 18

They were bound to hit a good Star Wars game eventually, right?