Retro Re-release Roundup, week of January 23, 2020

Hollywood ninjas and galactic embezzlement, together once more.

The new year is well and truly in full swing, with the return of Sega Ages for 2020 and a generous smattering of other releases, including a long-overdue netcode for a game that sorely needed it — I mean, Terry Bogard deserves at least one game with decent netcode, and it ain't gonna be Smash.


XX Mission

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

What's this? A fairly conventional vertically-scrolling shooting game, developed and distributed in arcades by UPL in 1986 and featuring dual grounds and aerial shots, a timed powerup system and not a whole lot else.

Why should I care? You want to sample one of the few UPL games that isn't weird as all get-out and you're content to remember absolutely nothing about it once you're done.

Useless fact: UPL's eccentric designer Tsutomo Fujisawa allegedly conceived XX Mission as a deliberately basic and staid game, gambling that a subset of players would be looking for a simpler and more classic alternative to then-groundbreaking shooting games like Gradius.


Fantasy Zone

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

What's this? The adorable free-scrolling, coin-chasing shooting game starring Sega's one-time mascot Opa-Opa, originally released in arcades in 1986 and ported and reissued regularly since; this Sega Ages version serves as the culmination of M2's previous ports and features most of the big new additions from the 3D Classics version — the implementation of bosses from the Master System port, a persistent currency feature that lets you store money between games and unlock new features, on-screen displays like a base radar, and an alternate remixed mode starring Opa-Opa's brother Upa-Upa — as well as the time attack mode from the PS2 Sega Ages Fantasy Zone collection and a few other new features, like HD rumble, online leaderboards and replay sharing and the ability to switch between the Japanese and overseas ROMs.

Why should I care? Fantasy Zone remains a charming and accessible game and one that, for all its popularity, has rarely been mimicked or iterated on; moreover, this version has been specifically tuned to make clearing and replaying the game easier than ever, and the massive array of inherited enhancements rivals M2's own ShotTriggers releases which generally sell for five to ten times the price.

Useless fact: Fantasy Zone's catchy shop jingle has found its way into a ton of unaffiliated Sega games, including the arcade games Turbo Outrun and Hot Rod, the Mega Drive port of Super Hang-On, the Game Gear ports of GP Rider and G-LOC and, of course, the Dreamcast Sega love-fest SEGAGAGA.


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

What's this? The original arcade entry in Sega's popular series of ninja action games, released in 1987 and subsequently rearranged for Master System, PC Engine, Famicom and NES; along with the typical additions like ROM switch, in-game rewind, online leaderboards and replays and HD rumble, this version includes game-specific options like a stage select and dedicated buttons for melee and autofire, as well as a new "Ages Mode" which, in a nod to later console entries, features a white-clad Joe Musashi who dies in two hits instead of one and has permanently buffed attack power.

Why should I care? By Sega's own admission, the original Shinobi is a game that a lot of people enjoyed but never actually beat, something they strived to make possible with this version (not least of all by letting you use continues if you die in the final stage, which wasn't possible in arcades). Beyond that, the more stoic Rolling Thunder-esque experience of the original Shinobi remains a fun contrast to the flashier and more technical tack taken when the series moved to home platforms.

Useless fact: Shinobi and Fantasy Zone are the first Sega Ages Switch releases to feature the virtual cabinet display seen in the 3D Classics series, and the reference images for the overseas version of the Shinobi cabinet were acquired from Chicago's own Galloping Ghost arcade.


Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath HD

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $29.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants

What's this? The fourth game in the still-unfinished Oddworld pentalogy that began in 1998, originally released for the Xbox in 2005 and remastered for an ever-expanding number of platforms starting with the Playstation 3 in 2011; this entry largely eschews the puzzle-heavy focus of earlier games for a hybrid first/third-person action-adventure game with a western motif (as filtered through Oddworld's peculiar universe, anyhow).

Why should I care? You're someone who dodged any of the previous reissues due to your aversions to the clunky step-platformers of yore, or you just want to experience an inventive, ambitious and well-executed game that failed in its era for no other reason than being shackle to the wrong franchise on the wrong platform at the wrong time.

Helpful tip: Several of the previous Stranger's Wrath ports were admirably handled by a studio named Just Add Water but, to my knowledge, they are not involved with this particular port, and there's some evidence to suggest the Switch version may be derived from a mobile port handled by another studio... but don't quote me on any of this.

Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (North America, Europe)
  • Price: $39.99 or equivalent (digital) / $59.99 (limited edition physical)
  • Publisher: NIS America

What's this? The first half of a two-volume collection of arcade shooting game ports from the catalog of the defunct developer Psikyo, with the second volume due out in a few weeks; these ports have been released individually on the eShop over the last year or two and released as retail compilations in both Japan and Korea, and in all cases they're basically just no-frills bundles of the existing ports. (The retail package includes a collectors' slipcase, a three-disc CD soundtrack, some art cards and an artbook containing developer documents and illustrations, including details on unreleased games.)

Which games are included? The three mainline Strikers games Strikers 1945, 1945-II and 1999/1945-III — as well as the manic dragon-riding shooter Dragon Blaze, the baffling shooter/brawler hybrid Sol Divide and the polygonal omnidirectional chopper shooter Zero Gunner 2- (with the minus in the title meant to signify that the port was too hard to get right, so they gave up).

Why should I care? The Strikers games are classic no-bullshit military-themed shooters that carried the torch dropped by Raiden in the late-'90s and Dragon Blaze was Psikyo's swansong and the closest they ever came to bullet hell; the more you know or delve into these games, the more the inaccuracies of the ports and general lack of features might aggravate you, but their intrinsic quality is undeniable and one might hope the extra attention garnered by these collections might encourage the developers to address the more immediate issues like input lag.

Helpful tip: I've got two of 'em: one, the Australian/NZ release isn't due until next week, and two, the second "Bravo" volume will be out in just a few weeks.


Garou: Mark of the Wolves rollback netcode patch

Good news for anyone who owns or would like to own Garou on PS4 or Vita: developer Code Mystics has replaced their old, barely-useable netcode with the new, extremely functional rollback netcode seen most recently in their update for Samurai Shodown V Special! Better news for anyone who owns or would like to own Garou on PC: the previously-available version by DotEmu has been completely replaced by Code Mystics' version, sparking a brief glimmer of hope that their other Neogeo games might similarly be scrubbed from history someday.


Romancing SaGa 3, the Asian physical release for Switch

As is Square's wont, they're distributing yet another digital-only release on card in Asia, this one being the recent remaster of the 1995 Super Famicom RPG Romancing SaGa 3. SaGa games have been coming thick and fast over the last couple of months but we're not quite at the stage where western retail releases are plausible, so if you want this game on a card, importing may be your only option. (Needless to say, the game supports English, among several other languages.)


Sega Master System: A Visual Compendium by Bitmap Books

  • Price: £24.99 (soft cover + PDF) / £29.99 (hard cover  PDF)

Bitmap Books' latest work pays tribute to the visual design of the humble Sega Master System, with profiles on roughly 200 games and interviews and contributions from dozens of Master System developers, including a foreword from one-time Sega employee Mark Cerny. The book comes packaged in a lenticular slipcase and includes a set of 3D glasses, to complement some of the anamorphic 3D images included in the book.

Video Games Presentation Pack stamp sheet by the UK Royal Mail

  • Price: £14.25


Does mailing something with a Dizzy stamp count as mail tampering? It bloody well should, mate.