Retro Re-release Roundup, week of February 20, 2020

Goodbye, free time.

If, by some fluke of nature, you have absolutely no interest in any of the 40-ish(!) games rolling out this week, know that there may be one more on the way that I haven't listed: Arcade Archives Vs. Mahjong, the Japanese Vs. System conversion of Nintendo's Famicom mahjong game that may or may not be coming west due to the fact that it's, well, a Japanese Vs. System conversion of a Famicom mahjong game, and if that doesn't get your motor running then nothing will.


NSO February '20 update: Pop'n Twinbee, Smash Tennis, Shadow of the Ninja & Eliminator Boat Duel

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: included with the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service
  • Publisher: Konami, Namco, Natsume, Piko Interactive

What're these? The best of the console-exclusive Twinbee games, the ultimate pick-up-and-play SNES tennis game, a cult-classic hardcore ninja action game (that you may know as Blue Shadow, or more obliquely as Ninja Gaiden Shadow on Game Boy) and a dual-perspective speedboat racing game from the barrel-scrapers at Piko Interactive. (Japan's NSO releases include the double-ups Breath of Fire II, Pop'n Twinbee and Crystalis, as well as Sunsoft's endearingly terrible Famicom game Atlantis no Nazo.)

Why should I care? You're not at all bothered by Nintendo's reticence to add their own games or the typical standbys to NSO and relish the opportunity to dive into some lesser-played genre standouts, of which three of these games qualify (and the other is, if nothing else, a harbinger of a whole lot more obscure detritus coming to NSO, which I'm sure a lot of you appreciate just as much as I do).

Helpful tip: Pop'n Twinbee was originally a PAL/Japan-only game and the ROM included on NSO is the PAL ROM, but it seems to be running at a genuine 60Hz (and not the 50Hz-with-frame-doubling seen on Wii U Virtual Console). Smash Tennis also uses a PAL ROM and while I haven't had the chance to test it, the NSO listing does not mention 60Hz as it does for Pop'n Twinbee, so proceed with caution. (To my knowledge, the NSO emulator still does not support the SNES multitap, so no four-player action, either.)


Puyo Puyo 2

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

What's this? Compile's falling-block juggernaut, originally released in arcades in 1994 and ported as far and as wide as possible; the Sega Ages Switch version is based on the arcade original and features online multiplayer and leaderboards, frontend translations for the Japanese character profiles and other text, a move-based rewind feature, an alternative single-player mode that lets you sequentially challenge every opponent in the game and visibility options that let you alter the shades and shapes of the individual puyo blobs, as well as M2's usual assortment of screen settings and other configs.

Why should I care? As it happens, my recent breakdown of the currently-available suite of Puyo Puyo games covers this topic in some detail but here's the tl;dr: Puyo Puyo 2 was and is the standard-bearer for competitive arcade-type puzzle games and even if you're content with other versions, this one deserves attention for finally implementing genuinely helpful accessibility settings for colorblind players, a feature that ought to have become standard years ago.

Useless fact: For as massive as Puyo Puyo 2 was in Japan, it had little to no presence elsewhere — its only overseas release before the era of commercial emulation was the Neo Geo Pocket Color version, released in 1999 with the English title of Puyo Pop.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

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

What's this? The beloved sequel to Sega's explosively popular Genesis platformer, originally released in 1992 and maintained on modern platforms into eternity; the Sega Ages version implements the Drop Dash move from Sonic Mania and maintains the extra accessibility options from more recent releases (the "ring keep" mode which starts you with 10 rings and allows you to keep half your rings when hit, and the Super Sonic mode which starts you with all emeralds and 50 rings from the get-go) and also features online challenge modes, HD rumble, save states, replays and screen settings — and, most prominently, it allows you to play as Knuckles, in a manner identical to locking Sonic 2 onto the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge.

Why should I care? As with the original Sonic, this is one of the few classic Sega games you might hope they'd give to somebody other than M2 — namely, the fanatics behind the  mobile ports produced a few years ago — but the package presented here is far from inadequate and offers a variety of fun twists on a classic game, including some that aren't available in any other version.

Useless fact: Sonic Team's methods for facilitating the lock-on component of Sonic 2 & Knuckles were a little more rudimentary than one might presume: the S&K cartridge contains a dedicated 256kb ROM chip with all the necessary game code for S2&K which becomes active when the Sonic 2 cartridge is detected, with relatively little code drawn from the original Sonic 2 ROM.


Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle

  • Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (worldwide outside of Japan)
  • Price: $39.99 or equivalent (bundle) / $24.99 or equivalent (individual)
  • Publisher: Sega

What's this? A remastered two-pack of the most fruitful PlatinumGames/Sega collaborations of the past decade: Bayonetta, the technical action combat game directed by original Devil May Cry director Hideki Kamiya, and Vanquish, a fusion of western-style cover shooting and more traditional hyperactive Japanese action directed by Resident Evil series creator Shinji Mikami; these remasters are derived from the PC ports of a year or so ago and offer no real additions or enhancements, but just being able to play them on a console, and a Sony console at that, at 4K and 60FPS is noteworthy in and of itself. (These console ports were handled by Armature Studios, for the curious.)

Why should I care? The Bayonetta series remains the only melee action series still able to offer a credible alternative to Devil May Cry and the original Bayonetta in particular is the evolutionary offshoot of the original DMC that the world was denied through corporate meddling and sheer happenstance, and Vanquish is an inimitable attempt to do for cover shooters what DMC did for 3D melee action games that comes agonizingly close to succeeding in its mission.

Helpful tip: Despite some ambiguous messaging in the months leading up to these releases, you can indeed buy them separately from your console's digital store.

Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $19.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Capcom

What's this? The recent HD remaster of the critically-acclaimed 2006 PS2 stylish action game, now available on Switch with some substantial new features that are, for now, exclusive to this port, including the "Free Style" mode which allows for on-the-fly switching of styles and weapons, as well as a local co-op mode for the game's challenge mode, Bloody Palace, that'll let you and a friend play together as Dante and Vergil.

Why should I care? Whether you're a a Nintendo stalwart who's completely unfamiliar with the Devil May Cry series, a newcomer who started with DMC5 or someone who wants another excuse to play the definitive melee action game of the 2000's, this release has you covered: it's the game that established the structure, intent and tone of the series that has been admirably, but not flawlessly, maintained across two sequels, and these Switch-exclusive improvement do a lot to address some of the areas in which DMC3SE was finally starting to show its age.

Helpful tip: If you have a NSO subscription, buying DMC3 should make you eligible for 50% discounts on both the original DMC, which you should absolutely own if you don't already, and DMC2 which isn't worth playing and one has to presume is beyond fixing.

Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide outside of Japan)
  • Price: $39.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Arc System Works

What're these? A compilation spanning the entire Famicom Kunio-kun library, with the NES Double Dragon trilogy thrown in for good measure, previously released in Japan in late 2018 as Kunio-kun: The World Classics Collection; this collection features emulated versions of 18 distinct ROMs all up, with package-wide achievements, game-specific emulation enhancements and online play available for all titles.

Which games are included? First off, you're getting the three NES Double Dragon games and the four Kunio-kun localizations originally produced for NES: Renegade, Super Dodge Ball, River City Ransom and Crash'n The Boys Street Challenge. Additionally, the collection includes the 11 Kunio-kun Famicom games, which have all been newly localized into English, most for the very first time; for the sake of brevity, I'll list them by their new localized titles: Nekketsu Renegade Kunio-kun, Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club, Downtown Nekketsu Story, Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club – Soccer Story, Downtown Nekketsu March Super-Awesome Field Day!, Downtown Special Kunio-kun’s Historical Period Drama!, Go-Go! Nekketsu Hockey Club Slip-and-Slide Madness, Surprise! Nekketsu New Records! The Distant Gold Medal, Nekketsu Fighting Legend, Kunio-kun’s Nekketsu Soccer League and Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes.

Why should I care? They translated eleven friggin' Famicom games, dudes — not all particularly wordy ones, mind, but whether you're a Super Dodge Ball fan who never touched any of the brawlers, a River City Ransom fan who never touched any of the sports games or a River City Girls newcomer who don't know nothin' about nobody, this collection offers a ton of games you probably aren't familiar with and will probably enjoy and is the obvious starting point for all things Kunio-kun.

Helpful tip: The Famicom Double Dragon games aren't on here in any shape or form, sadly. Famicom DD2's the best one!

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5+2.5 ReMIX & Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue

  • Platform: Xbox One (worldwide)
  • Price: $49.99 or equivalent (1.5+2.5) / $59.99 or equivalent (2.8)
  • Publisher: Square-Enix

What're these? The two series-spanning Kingdom Hearts remaster collections produced over the last several years for PlayStations 4 and 3, now on Xbox with achievements and 4K resolution support on Xbox One. (These releases are digital-only for now and for the foreseeable future.)

Which games are included? 1.5+2.5 includes the "final mix" versions of Kingdom Hearts 1, and Birth By Sleep as well as the card-based spinoff Re:Chain of Memories and video recaps of the games 358/2 Days and Re:coded, while 2.8 includes Dream Drop Distance, the playable vignette called 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage and a video recap of the Japanese browser game χ, subtitled Back Cover. (If none of that means anything to you, know that these two collections represent, or did at one point represent, everything one was expected to be familiar with before the release of Kingdom Hearts 3.)

Why should I care? I've been asking myself that same question for a long, long time, but I can't pretend I'm not happy for all the Xbox stalwarts who now have the choice of engaging or not engaging with any or all of this nonsense. I do hear KH2 is a relatively deep action game and I'm content to take peoples' word for it.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but... these two collections don't actually cover absolutely everything, and that the plot of the current mobile game was also key to the plot of Kingdom Hearts 3, right?

Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide outside of Asia)
  • Price: $39.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: NISA / City Connection / Zerodiv

What're these? The remaining six ports from defunct arcade developer Psikyo that were not collated on the Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha collection from a few weeks back, ; you're looking at the eShop versions slapped onto a game card, pretty much, but the physical collector's package ain't too shabby..

Which games are included? The beloved, whimsical vertical shooters Gunbird and Gunbird 2, plus the shooting/pinball/brick-breaker hybrid spinoff Gunbarich; Psikyo's first vertical arcade shooter, Samurai Aces/Sengoku Ace, and its horizontal followup Tengai/Sengoku Blade, as well as the somewhat dubious sequel Sengoku Blade, originally released for the PSP after Psikyo's death in the mid-'00s.

Why should I care? For one, Sengoku Cannon didn't ever leave the Japanese eShop, so if you want a non-import way to play that one game then this is it. Otherwise, you're looking at a handful of perfunctory ports of some well-made and challenging shooting games that aren't quite as core-oriented as those from the previous compilation.

Useless fact: The Sengoku Cannon testimonial quote published on Nintendo's eShop blog by the game's own developer says something to the effect of "yes, this game sucks but we can't just pretend it didn't happen". He's wrong and he should, but you have to respect his candour.


Langrisser I & II demo for Switch & PS4

It's been delayed a little but NISA's still bringing over the Langrisser I & II remake package; it'll be out next month, and you can try a demo from today that, assuming it's the same as the Japanese demo, will let you play through a few battles from each game, as well as sample both the modern and classic art styles. (If the name Langrisser doesn't quite ring a bell, try Warsong: same franchise, different name.)