Retro Re-release Roundup, week of January 16, 2020

Killer bees on the swarm.

2020 is now in full swing and the weekly releases have started to fill out again, with two big games worth highlighting: a brutal, merciless gauntlet of death and failure, and a Japanese Wizardry game.


Bells & Whistles (Detana!! TwinBee) 

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

What's this? The second arcade entry in Konami's cutesy shooting game series, originally released in 1991 and later ported to PC Engine, PlayStation and Saturn; Detana!! TwinBee maintains the basic bell-juggling, shot-and-bomb system from the arcade original and adds a few wrinkles like a charge shot and co-op attacks for two players, as well as a new Miyazaki-inspired aesthetic with anime-style character designs and interstitials by artist Shuzilow.HA.

Why should I care? Detana!! TwinBee established the aesthetic that came to define the TwinBee series, with gorgeous art that impressed in 1991 and still looks great now; just don't be fooled into thinking the game will be nearly as easy as the graphics might have you believe.

Useless fact: Bells & Whistles is the official English title for Detana!! TwinBee but it received such limited distribution outside of Japan that you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who recognizes the name.


TRANTOR: The Last Startrooper 

  • Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $6.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Mirrorsoft / Probe Software

What's this? A sci-fi run-and-gun developed by Probe Software for the European microcomputers of 1987; to my knowledge, the ZX Spectrum was the lead platform, and this particular reissue is based on an externally-produced MS-DOS port running in DOSbox.

Why should I care? I haven't the foggiest... TRANTOR's a cool name, I guess.

Useless fact: Two of the three developers on TRANTOR ended up contributing to much bigger and dare I say better projects, most notably programming wunderkind, Earthworm Jim co-creator and current zillionaire Dave Perry.

Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls

  • Platform: PC via Steam, Humble Bundle (worldwide)
  • Price: $14.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: XEED / Acquire

What's this? One of the many, many Japan-endemic entries in the classic dungeon-crawling Wizardry franchise, originally released for PlayStation 3, Vita and iOS in late 2009; this particular game was the first salvo in an initiative called "Wizardry Renaissance" which sought to rejuvenate the series in Japan, and it prominently featured monster designs by long-time Japanese Wizardry artist Jun Suemi and music contributions from SaGa/Culdcept series composer Kenji Ito.

Why should I care? By my recollection, Labyrinth of Lost Souls is a game that even Wizardry maniacs consider to be unforgiving and antiquated in many respects, primarily with regards to the user interface, but I suspect a lot of Retronauts readers are specifically looking for games most would consider unforgiving or antiquated.

Helpful tip: This release was due out over six months ago and from the looks of things, it clearly wasn't ready to launch even now, so proceed with caution.


Doom 1 & 2: The De-suckening Patch

Well I'll be, Bethesda's recent, bafflingly slapdash multi-platform ports of Doom and Doom 2 have been largely fixed: they run much, much better (and now at 60FPS), they crash far less, they display at the correct aspect ratio, the sound effects are less inaccurate and they've been augmented with now console-friendly features like quick-save and quick-load buttons, quick weapon switching, a new split-screen HUD and the addition of several official megaWADs (the two Final Doom sets plus the recent SIGIL) with the promise of more on the way. (They're also rolling out these ports on, should you need a quick and easy local split-screen option for PC.)


VVVVVVinyl by Magnus "SoulEye" Palsson

  • Format: vinyl (1LP picture disc)
  • Price: $28 or equivalent
  • Availability: earliest shipping ETA of late February

VVVVVV is a decade old, and to celebrate, composer Magnus Palsson is selling the soundtrack on vinyl for the first time. Check out the gatefold on his bandcamp page, if nothing else, it's quite slick.