Retro Re-release Roundup, week of March 19, 2020
Unavoidable engine trouble.
For the lucky few, one big release awaits: the PC Engine Mini, an atypically ambitious and conspicuous celebration of the hardware legacy established by Hudson and pilfered by Konami and one that is, by most accounts, a thoroughly respectable showcase of a software library that, by circumstance or sheer bad luck, rarely receives its due. For those of us whose orders were tossed into the purgatory of COVID-19 delays, however, darkness awaits, and by that I mean playing DOOM 64 at default brightness. It's a dark game, y'see. I'm so tired.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / City Connection
What's this? A horizontally-scrolling shooting game starring a Macross-esque transforming robot, developed and distributed in arcades by Jaleco in 1984; the player's ship can transform at will between a grounded and relatively slow robot form and a high-speed but fuel-draining aircraft form, and balancing your time spent in each form is key to success.
Why should I care? Formation Z may or may not be the first shooting game to implement a charge shot, so while it hasn't aged particularly well, it at least deserves recognition for that small innovation.
Useless fact: The Z-DYNE MkII ship that appears in Jaleco's all-star shooting game Game Tengoku is canonically the successor to the "Ixpel" ship that appears in Formation Z.
ARCADE ARCHIVES NEOGEO
- Platform: PlayStation 4 (Europe)
- Price: €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Sunsoft
What's this? Sunsoft's second and final Neogeo fighting game, distributed in arcades in 1996; seven wacky and varied characters compete to attain the legendary wish-granting "Waku Waku Balls" in an affectionate over-the-top parody of mid-'90s anime, manga and videogames. (No, Arcade Archives Neogeo hasn't started up again; this game inexplicably skipped release on PS4 in Europe and they've just now caught up.)
Why should I care? While the roster is small at just seven playable characters, Waku Waku 7's vibrant, cartoonish style and highly individualised characters are quite unlike any other Neogeo fighting game, and the homages to everything from Yatterman to JoJo's Bizarre Adventure to My Neighbor Totoro are spot-on.
Useless fact: Inti Creates' recent Blaster Master Zero-2 is packed with Sunsoft homages, Waku Waku 7 among them: the character Tesset is an unmistakable visual reference to Waku Waku 7's Tesse.
PC Engine Mini... sort of
Publisher: Konami / Amazon
Availability: shipping now to people who preordered in Japan before March 5
What's this? Konami's answer to the S/NES Classic and Mega Drive/Genesis Mini, based on Husdon and NEC's classic-in-Japan PC Engine console released in 1987; produced in collaboration with emulation gurus M2 and hardware stalwarts Hori, this system comes with one controller and offers almost 60 classic games that represent the full suite of the PC Engine's many hardware upgrades, complete with four save states per game, a modest variety of screen settings (including an option to replicate the hideous first-gen LCD screen of the PC Engine GT portable), a cute front-end and more than a few hidden easter eggs. (All versions of the system and its accessories were supposed to release globally today but due to COVID-19, all but certain Japanese PCE Mini orders have been indefinitely postponed.)
Which games are included? For the sake of brevity I'll refer you to the list on the official website, but the short answer is "most of the good ones". Three points worth mentioning: firstly, everything listed as a TurboGrafx-16 game uses a US ROM and everything listed as a PC Engine game uses a Japanese ROM and will therefore probably (but not definitely) feature Japanese text; secondly, there are some slight differences in the lineups present on the PC Engine Mini vs. the TurboGrafx-16 or CoreGrafx Mini — the PC Engine Mini is missing Salamander but exclusively contains Tokimeki Memorial and Tengai Makyou II Manjimaru, and the version of Splatterhouse included also differs per system — but otherwise, everything is on every version of the Mini; thirdly, holding the select button while booting Soldier Blade, Fantasy Zone and Gradius will reveal some interesting and heretofore-unannounced extras.
Why should I care? I'd love to offer an up-to-date hands-on appraisal but unfortunately, like many of you, I don't have mine yet and won't anytime soon. What I can say is that Konami seems to have defied expectations by producing something that demonstrates they actually give a damn about their legacy: they've amassed a wide-ranging and exciting collection of first- and third-party games (including many that were added as a direct response to fan feedback) that accurately and lovingly reflect the strengths and evolution of the PC Engine/TurboGrafx library, and while the presentation and feature suite is obviously derivative of competing products, pointing M2 at something and telling them "do that again, only a little better" was clearly the correct course of action. Barring any unforeseeable issues, and putting to one side the bizarre inclusion of a few untranslated, text-crucial games like Snatcher, I feel confident in ranking the PC Engine Mini alongside the very best of the current plug-and-play revival.
Accessory check: The extra controllers with turbo function, USB replica multi-tap (required to play games like Bomberman with a full 5 players) and official AC USB adapter have all been delayed until April 30, but never fear: the PC Engine Mini seems to natively support Hori-made Switch controllers, and you can get away with any generic USB AC adapter or just plug straight into a spare USB slot on your TV. (The TurboGrafx-16 and CoreGrafx Mini come with a turbo controller by default, incidentally.)
DOOM 64 (March 20)
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $4.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: id Software / Nightdive Studios
What's this? An original and somewhat obscure classic Doom game featuring new graphics and music, an ever-so-slightly enhanced 2.5D engine with new lighting effects and an advanced scripting engine, an exclusive hidden weapon and 32 all-new maps, originally developed and published by Midway for the Nintendo 64 in 1997 and never officially re-released until now; this remaster is based on the unofficial Doom64EX conversion of several years ago and adds support for 120FPS and beyond, gyro assist on PS4 and Switch and keyboard/mouse controls on PC and Xbox, reduced input lag and some extra brightness settings over the notoriously dark N64 original, as well as some brand-new end-game content.
Why should I care? There's a subset of Doom maniacs (including the developers of the new Doom games) who've long considered Doom 64 "the real Doom 3" and while I think that's overly dismissive of the actual Doom 3, not to mention an overstatement of Doom 64's quality, it's definitely a solid game with a tense atmosphere totally unlike its forebears, and certainly one that deserves to finally be recognized as an original game and not dismissed offhand as an enhanced port.
Useless fact: If you pre-ordered Doom Eternal you'll get a copy of Doom 64 for free, in case you hadn't noticed.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
- Platform: PC (physical disc)
- Price: $24.99 each (standard), $64.99 each (collectors' edition)
- Availability: from 10AM & 6PM Eastern on Friday, March 20
Action figure-style blister packs, old-school PC boxes, you know the deal... or at least, I hope you do, because I know nothing worth knowing about Star Wars and I will never be able to keep on top of the lineage of this inscrutably-subtitled subseries, so if you don't know then we're all screwed.
MUSIC & SOUNDTRACKS
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening Original Soundtrack Box from Columbia Japan
- Format: CD (4-disc)
- Price: ￥4,950
The title says it all: all the tunes from the recent Switch remake and all the tunes from the original Game Boy versions, plus the vocal version of the "Ballad of the Wind Fish" used in the classic Japanese commercial, collected in one box set spanning 4 CDs, (The box sleeve pictured in the trailer is a first-print variant, in case you need an incentive to grab a copy right away.)
DISCOUNTS & DEALS
- Platform: PC via Humble Store, Steam
- Price: pay-what-you-want, highest tier $20
- Availability: ends early April
A buck cold'll get ya Mega Man Legacy Collection, beating the average will get ya Mega Man X Legacy Collection and going up to $20'll get Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, not to mention a ton of more recent games including Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, the Resident Evil Revelations duology, Mega Man 11 and that one Dead Rising game everybody already forgot about.
- Platform: .mp3, FLAC via Bandcamp
- Price: pay-what-you-want on select albums until early April
In solidarity with those currently self-quarantining, Brave Wave has reduced the price of their original (non-soundtrack) albums to pay-what-you-want for the next few weeks, including works by Keiji Yamagishi (Ninja Gaiden), Manami Matsumae (Mega Man), Saori Kobayashi (Panzer Dragoon) and more. (If you do intend to purchase any of these albums, or indeed any music at all on Bandcamp, I recommend waiting until Friday, as Bandcamp's waiving their revenue share on that day only.)