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

No laggin' on the Dragon.

This week's roundup comes with a question for you, dear readers: just how willing, and how often, do you go to the effort of buying or importing Japanese games? I ask because today's roundup includes the first release from a series of Japan-only reissues of Japan-only cellphones games that overwhelmingly require Japanese language skills and will almost assuredly never be localized, and yet I feel I'd be remiss not to mention them... but, does anyone actually intend to play them? Whatever, here's Double Dragon re-release #4444.


Plus Alpha

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

What's this? A cutesy vertically-scrolling shooter, developed and distributed in arcades by Jaleco  in 1989 but never ported anywhere until now; aside from the Mario 3-esque between-stage picture-  matching game, it's a consciously breezy and conventional shooting game: shoot, bomb, grab items and enjoy the playful atmosphere.

Why should I care? You're familiar with other cute Jaleco arcade games like Rodland and Soldam and want to play another game with the same tone and lineage, or you just want to play a cute-em-up that isn't deceptively, murderously difficult.

Useless fact: I lack the familiarity required to point out the precise location of these images but, according to recent interviews, one of Plus Alpha's artists hid several images and messages, including a drawing of idol Noriko Sakai, in the game's backgrounds in such a way that they were barely visible on the arcade CRT displays of the day but are distinctly visible on modern LCDs. See if you can spot them!


Flyhight Cloudia

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
  • Price: ¥500
  • Publisher: G-MODE

What's this? The first entry in a series of popular mobile fantasy RPGs from the pre-smartphone era, originally released via the Japanese docomo network in late 2004 and succeeded by sequels and remake until 2014; not only is this the first game in the series to be released on a home console, it's also the first release in the new "G-MODE Archives" label of pre-smartphone game reissues. (The feature set is very spartan: you can choose between a stretch-to-fit or framed display, with or without filter, and that's pretty much it.)

Why should I care? Frankly, I have no idea — I mean, it looks pretty in the way that so many mobile games did, and it's not an action game so I can imagine it was adequately playable even when it was shackled to a flip-phone — and given that it's entirely in Japanese, it's still only truly accessible to a small percentage of people outside of Japan, but as the first shot in a series that aims to put the spotlight on a massively popular and formative era of gaming that has largely been shunned, you should at least appreciate it from afar.

Useless fact: The music for the entire Flyhight Cloudia series was composed by Hikoshi Hashimoto, an erstwhile sound designer whose name you probably don't know but whose work you might recognize from 16-bit originals and conversions including Run Saber, Cosmic Carnage, the SNES versions of Dungeon Master, the Mega Drive and Game Gear versions of Battletoads and the Mega Drive Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie game, as well as the Sega-publisher super scaler arcade game A.B. Cop.


Double Dragon & Kunio-Kun Retro Brawler Bundle: The Stand-Alones

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (worldwide, sort of)
  • Price: $4.99 each or equivalent
  • Publisher: Arc System Works

What're these? Select games from the recent Double Dragon/Kunio-Kun collection, sold individually with all the same features as the versions found in the collection, most notably online multiplayer and, in most cases, "version-up" options that address basic issues like sprite flicker and slow down and also offer other specific per-game tweaks.

Which games are available? That'll depend on which store you're buying from: international storefronts have access to the seven classic NES games that were included on the collection — the Double Dragon trilogy, Renegade, Super Dodge Ball, River City Ransom and Crash 'n The Boys: Street Challenge — while Japanese storefronts have the eleven Kunio-kun Famicom games, with no NES games available in Japan and vice-versa. Additionally, the NES games, as well as the PS4 and XB1 Kunio-kun games, all dropped today, but the Kunio-kun Famicom games for Switch are rolling out one per week for the next couple months.

Why should I care? If you're specifically looking for the widely-celebrated Kunio-kun localizations from the Retro Brawler Bundle then you shouldn't care at all, because they remain exclusive to the collection; If you own an XB1 you should care because Arcsys didn't bother to release the full Retro Brawler Bundle on XB1 outside of Japan, and if you own a Switch or PS4 and don't really want anything but to play Double Dragon II again then you should definitely care because this fits the bill perfectly.

Helpful tip: If you're subscribed to Nintendo Switch Online you already have access to versions of Double Dragon I & II, Super Dodge Ball and River City Ransom with online play, and if you switch to the Japanese version of the NSO app you can play the arguably more interesting Famicom version of Double Dragon II which is not available as a standalone or within the Retro Brawler Bundle. Additionally, if you own an XB1 you can buy the Japanese version of the Retro Brawler Bundle from the Japanese Microsoft Store, but be warned: while the menu and frontend is fully localized, it does not include the new localizations of the Kunio-kun Famicom games as they're only included in the international version of the collection.


Chex Quest boxed games and vinyl from Limited Run Games

  • Format: physical PC game (CD and/or USB), vinyl LP
  • Price: $27.99 (vinyl) / $39.99 (standard game) / $149.99 (collectors edition)
  • Availability: on sale 10AM & 6PM Eastern, April 17

Hot(?) off the heels of the inexplicable Chex Quest HD remake announcement come a trio of physical releases for the original Doom-derived advergame, including a vinyl OST and a $150 collectors' pack which includes a replica of the game's one weapon-esque interactable implement. (Does this package include all three Chex Quest games, or just the one? They've all been free forever, but value's value.)


Hyrule Historia digital release

Good news for owners of this 2013 compendium on Zelda series lore: it's now available in a convenient digital format that'll allow you to keep it on-hand at all times. Better news for those of you who've never read Hyrule Historia: the series timeline contained within is just as inscrutable and contentious as it was eight years ago, so you can jump right into arguing about it like you were angry from the very beginning.

PLOK vinyl from Respawned Records (April 18)

  • Format: vinyl (2LP)
  • Price: TBA, but probably around $40
  • Availability: ETA early May

For a game with precisely one entry that hasn't been available for some 25 years, Plok gets a hell of a lot of merchandise... of course, when the music's this good, it's not a particularly hard sell. This vinyl comes with new gatefold art from the Pickford bros. and a separate remaster from the one used for the recent and prior cassette soundtrack release (like I said, Plok gets around).