Retro Re-release Roundup, week of December 5, 2019
Star Ocean, the threedux.
Today's roundup is a truly eclectic one, featuring games across genres, eras, continents and the most contentious and inscrutable of differentiators: pricing schemes.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Konami
What's this? The first game in Konami's popular series of cutesy vertically-scrolling shooting games, released in arcades in 1985; one or two players can use two different shot types to take out air- and ground-based enemies, juggle bells in order to cycle through various powerups or align their ships for powerful team attacks. (The Arcade Archives release includes both the ROM version and the Konami Bubble System version, and from memory they're basically identical save for the nostalgic bubble system warm-up jingle.)
Why should I care? The level of cuteness on display is fairly tame compared to later entries but the simple shooting foundation is rock-solid and, as was Twinbee tradition, the challenge level is much higher than you might expect from such a bubbly game.
Useless fact: When Xevious designer Masanobu Endou was asked whether he saw Twinbee as a Xevious ripoff, he replied that he considered Xevious a vertical ripoff of Konami's earlier shooting game Scramble, so I suppose it was tit-for-tat.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $4.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Clopas LLC
What's this? A redux of Scott Adams' (no, not the Dilbert guy) 1978 interactive fiction game, complete with modern graphics and a new, more natural text parser constructed around Adams' new "Conversational Adventure" format.
Why should I care? Adventureland was among the very first commercially-released PC games and literally the first adventure game of this type developed and released for microcomputers rather than mainframes, and for that alone it deserves your acknowledgment.
Helpful tip: This is an early access release so it's still missing a few things, notably sound.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $9.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Ed Del Castillo
What's this? A critically-acclaimed real-time strategy game release during the genre's absolute peak, 2001; developed by Liquid Entertainment and helmed by the producer of several classic Command & Conquer games, Battle Realms set itself apart from the pack via its east-Asian fantasy setting and a more naturalistic approach to unit recruitment and advancement: animals need to be trained before they can be mounted, soldiers need to train at specific locations in order to upgrade, etc. (This early access release contains the base game and the sole expansion, Winter of the Wolf, with basic support for higher resolutions and Steam integration.)
Why should I care? You're looking to discover one of the many original and detail-oriented RTS games that were completely and unfairly wiped from mainstream consciousness by the release of Warcraft 3.
Useless fact: Battle Realms is apocryphally remembered by some as the game that caused Blizzard to delay and overhaul Warcraft 3, and many still insist the final game bears more than a faint resemblance to Battle Realms.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android (worldwide)
- Price: $49.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Beamdog / Skybound Games
What's this? Bioware's 3D successor to the D&D RPG toolkit pioneered by Baldur's Gate, originally released on PC in 2002 and remastered in 2017 with a new graphics renderer, the resurrection of dead multiplayer servers and other improvements, some fan-sourced; much like the PC remaster, the console version includes all the official expansion content, as well as controller support and the official, formerly-paid "modules" (custom campaigns) for free download.
Why should I care? To many, Neverwinter Nights remains the most versatile and flexible approximation of the tabletop experience to the digital medium and one of the last beacons of small-scale social multiplayer gaming, with decentralized user-made persistent worlds still running to this day, and even just the small fraction of existing content available for the console version is more than enough to keep one engrossed for hundreds of hours.
Helpful tip: A few notes on the technical side: online cross-play works for everything but PS4, which is missing both cross-play and persistent worlds, and the XB1 version won't have online features at all until 2020. Custom player-made modules are not supported outside of the PC version.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $20.99 / £16.99
- Publisher: Square-Enix
What's this? An HD port of the 2008 PSP remake of Tri-Ace's Super Famicom 1996 sci-fi action RPG Star Ocean; the PSP version famously adopted a mix of pre-rendered and 3D environments and a more contemporary style for the game's character illustrations but this version replaces the previous portraits with ones more in line with the SFC original, and also features a double-speed setting for the overworld, readjusted difficulty and three voice settings: an English dub, a the Japanese dub produced in 2008 and the voices from the SFC game, complete with newly-recorded lines from the original VA where necessary.
Why should I care? I haven't played either version of the remake but my recollection of the original is that it's more Tales-y and less sci-fi than those familiar with the sequels may expect, and the reviews for this new version make it sound like it's too old-school for many peoples' tastes, but perhaps not yours.
Useless fact: The most recent Star Ocean game, a mobile game subtitled Anamnesis, shut down just last month after roughly a year of operation, and as is typical for a post-2010 Star Ocean sequel, nobody seemed to notice either way.
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
- Format: 2XLP, CD
- Price: $38 each (vinyl), $16 each (CD)
- Availability: ships late April 2020
Nihon Falcom's classic Ys soundtracks were among the first big wave of commercial video game vinyl in the late '80s and now, over 30 years later, they've been remastered and made available for overseas audiences via Streaming Arrow Games. Each soundtrack contains the original PC-88 tunes with a smattering of conversions and arranges from other versions and is available in standard- and limited-variant vinyl as well as CD, with delivery planned for April of next year.