Retro Re-release Roundup, week of December 19, 2019
Gosh, we've got some really nice games here.
The release schedule for new games has wound down for the holidays but the release schedule for old games remains as erratic as ever, with some truly unexpected games appearing out of the ether, most notably the Blade Runner adventure game that had been resigned to the annals of obscurity by its licensors, owners and even its creators until very recently, as well as a translation patch for a huge-in-Japan Sega Saturn game that fans have been waiting decades to play. Making times for new games is straightforward, but making time for old games is nigh-impossible.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Arc System Works
What's this? The second arcade pro-wrestling game from the pugilists at Technos Japan, distributed in arcades by Taito in 1985; one or two players take turns facing a half-dozen computer-controlled wrestlers with punches, kicks, running moves and turnbuckle work.
Why should I care? Not only was Mat Mania the first pro-wrestling game to really integrate moves and flourishes specific to the sport but it was also the first one that wasn't instantly awful to the touch, and it remains perfectly playable today.
Useless fact: Some of Mat Mania's wrestlers are pegged to make a comeback in the upcoming indie game Retromania Wrestling, a homage to the Technos arcade wrestlers of yore that was recently granted an official sanction by Arc System Works, owners of the Technos catalog.
ESP Ra.De Ψ (pronounced "ESP-raid-psy")
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (Japan)
- Price: ¥4500 (digital) / ¥6800 (physical) / ¥9800 (limited-edition)
- Publisher: M2 / Atlus / Cave
What's this? A verically-scrolling arcade shooter centered around psychic children waging a war against a criminal syndicate across near-future Tokyo, developed by bullet hell pioneers Cave and published by Atlus in arcades in 1998. This version, the first-ever home port, includes a arranged "arcade plus" mode with newly-written and recorded voice acting, HD illustrations and tweaked scoring systems, a new unlockable player-character, an optional arranged soundtrack by SuperSweep and an inexplicable "ESPer's Room" mode that lets players win items to customize a bedroom by playing tutorial-style missions, as well as the usual M2 ShotTriggers enhancements: gadgets that display useful or secret info on either side of the screen, a new "super easy" mode, a custom mode with a boatload of very specific game settings, a training-style challenge mode, a mode that clips your deaths for easy practice playback, online leaderboards, replay sharing and more. (First-print copies of the physical version include a strategy book, and there's also a limited-edition package and approximately eight thousand retailer-exclusive bonus items.0
Why should I care? For one, M2 managed to reissue a game that spent the last two decades in rights hell, so good on them. Beyond that, ESP Ra.De's angsty turn-of-the-millennium chic is bound to appeal to those who liked Atlus' own early Persona games, and the very tedious scoring oversights that hobbled the original game for many score-chasers have been fixed with this release, which should hopefully allow it to finally reach its full potential.
Helpful tip: While the game hasn't been announced for overseas release, this is the first ShotTriggers release to launch with localized English trophies on PS4, so read into that what you will. (Let me throw in a useless fact while I'm at it: this is a Christmas game, believe it or not.)
- Platform: PC via GOG (worldwide)
- Price: $9.99 or equivalent (10% off until January 2)
- Publisher: Westwood Studios / Alcon Interactive Group
What's this? A third-person point-and-click adventure game set in the universe of the 1987 Blade Runner film, originally developed by Westwood Studios and published on PC by Virgin Interactive in 1997; the notorious legal inscrutability of the Blade Runner license stymied efforts for a sequel and a re-release was considered impossible due to the disposal of graphical assets upon Westwood's sale to Electonic Arts in 2003, so this surprise release came completely out of left field.
Why should I care? As if successfully capturing the milieu of the movie isn't noteworthy in and of itself, the game's randomized and somewhat open-ended assignment of homan and replicant identities allows for the story to branch in innumerable ways, and the game's curious quasi-voxel rendering technology manages to be nostalgic without actually looking like anything else you're likely to have seen back in the day.
Helpful tip: Perhaps the most crucial step on the path to reissuing Blade Runner was the recent official support from the long-established adventure game emulator ScummVM, and buying the game using the provided link ensures a portion of the profits flows back to the people who handled the technical efforts behind the preservation of this game and countless others.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (North America, Europe)
- Price: $6.99 / €5.99 / £5.39
- Publisher: RakeInGrass
What's this? A horizontal "euroshmup" for PC by Czech studio Rake in Grass, originally released in 2004 and continually upgraded and tweaked for at least a decade afterwards; this Switch port is the game's first outing on consoles and as far as I can tell, it's a straight conversion of the game as it currently exists on Steam, including all the content from the expansion Jets'n'Guns Gold.
Why should I care? You're looking for a shooting game with an obscene amount of content that draws from the lineage of computer games like Tyrian 2000, Xenon 2: Megablast and Raptor: Call of the Shadows, instead of the ruthless Japanese arcade shooters I blather on about every week.
News to me: Jets'n'Guns 2 has been in early access for a year. I had no clue!
IOS & ANDROID
- Price: $19.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Square-Enix
Square really, really wants people to play this game, and now that people are slowly but surely acclimatizing to the peculiarities of Akitoshi Kawazu's oeuvre, maybe they'll bite. (These are straightforward ports adjusted for touch controls, with no in-app purchases or microtransactions of any kind.)
- Price: free with in-app purchases
- Publisher: Mobirix
Remember that one recent Psikyo shooting game port that was so inaccurate that the developer threw up their hands and branded it as a "minus version" to keep people off their backs? No? Well, here's a mobile version with microtransactions. Enjoy!
MINI CONSOLES & PLUG-AND-PLAYS
Good news for anyone who picked up the Neogeo Arcade Pro: the talk of "hidden" games has been borne out, with SNK distributing unlock keys for two extra games, free of charge. Incidentally, those two games matched with the datamined list found at launch, so you can expect to unlock a full 20 games when all is said and done — or, to put it another way, you'll have doubled the built-in software library, as well as diversified the picking from "only fighting games" to "mostly fighting games".
ROM HACKS & TRANSLATIONS
For a company with such an international audience, Sega's Sakura Wars series is somewhat atypical: the series reached explosive success in Japan its day and remains one of their most high-profile franchises, with a reboot game just released on PS4 to strong sales, and yet almost none of the games in the long-running series made their way overseas. Now, after years of work, fans have finally translated the original Sakura Wars title for Sega Saturn, allowing curious fans to experience the origins of the franchise, or just play the game they remember from the import magazines of decades past.
PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Final Fantasy VII / VIII Remastered (Asian twin-pack)
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Asia, multi-language)
- Price: $59.99 or equivalent
- Availability: scarce, apparently
Would you believe these are the first physical releases of either game since the PS and PC ports of twenty years ago? And on a Nintendo system, no less, delivered via a storage medium some classify as a cartridge. (The usual import sellers seemed to underestimate demand, so you may have to search a little for a store that still has copies in stock.)
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: €99 or equivalent
- Availability: ships Q1 2020
...okay, so this is actually a limited-edition package for the Switch port of the newest Samurai Shodown game that includes an emulated version of the second NGPC game on a second card, but I think I lead with the most pertinent info for most of y'all. (Samsho! 2 was emulated by Code Mystics, by the by, and is otherwise being given out as a digital pre-order bonus, with no word on the standalone availability of it or any potential future NGPC reissues.)
MUSIC & SOUNDTRACKS
SaGa series digital soundtrack blowout
If you're one of the many people who've tried and failed to grasp the Akitoshi Kawazu oeuvre, you can at the very least enjoy the SaGa series' flawless catalogue of music, which was recently added to Spotify, Apple Music and several other music distribution platforms, with over 20 soundtracks covering almost every original game and remake plus several arrange albums. (Exact availability may vary by region.)