Retro Re-release Roundup, week of May 21, 2020
This week's roundup contains two belated and much-anticipated drops: the North American release of the TurboGrafx-16 Mini, delayed some months ago with little warning and no estimated time of arrival, and the arrival of Panel de Pon on Switch, which marks the first time Intelligent System's beloved Super Famicom puzzle game have been released overseas, uncut and unadorned with ultimately counterproductive reskins, since it originally released almost 25 years ago. Of course, there's no knowing whether Panel de Pon's '90s anime fairy aesthetic is one that'll catch on overseas, even now, but any identity that keeps the series from being relegated to Animal Crossing minigame status is one you ought to endorse.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / UPL
What's this? A peculiar maze game of sorts, developed and distributed in arcades by UPL in 1985. Players are challenged with destroying a certain number of "target boxes" in each stage to open the exit; player movement is dictated by the layouts of the walls a la Pac-Man, and shooting not only allows you to break through walls but can turn enemies into eggs that your ship can then use to reorient itself, which quickly becomes crucial to progress.
Why should I care? A lot of arcade games from this era were very clearly modeled after existing templates or even specific games, but Raiders 5 is, and I say this euphemistically, a true original.
Useless fact: Raiders 5 was the final UPL game developed by Westone co-founder Ryuichi Nishizawa, and it was made in just four months with no prior planning, using sprites salvaged from a pre-existing project.
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE
NSO May '20 update: Rygar (NES), Operation Logic Bomb & Wild Guns (SNES) and Panel de Pon (SFC)
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: included with the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service
- Publisher: City Connection, Koei-Tecmo, Natsume, Nintendo
What're these? One of the NES' earliest sidescrolling action-RPGs, a vaguely exploratory overhead run-and-gun from the team behind the early Game Boy hit Fortified Zone, a cult wild-west/sci-fi crosshair shooting game and, for the first time outside of Japan, the original version of the first entry in Nintendo's tile-matching puzzle game series, better recognized overseas as Tetris Attack. (Aside from the obvious audiovisual, naming and language changes, there are several other differences between Panel de Pon and Tetris Attack, the most noteworthy being Panel de Pon's lack of options menu and passwords for the single-player vs. mode, as well as a slightly faster but much less complex CPU behavior.)
Why should I care? Every comment under every trailer and news post is telling me that you shouldn't care about anything that isn't Donkey Kong Country or Super Mario RPG, so I guess this month's update was a complete waste of time. That said, Panel de Pon is a bona fide classic of the genre, Wild Guns is an excellently-crafted action game that remains peerless among its console generation (and a nice prelude to the recent, masterful remake), Operation Logic Bomb is a perfectly amiable, if unsophisticated, game that fits perfectly on a try-as-you-like service like NSO, and Rygar... well, Jeremy likes it.
Helpful tip: For reasons known only to the developers, Rygar does not feature any way to record your progress — not even a password feature! — so be sure to use those savestates. (It also features some famously inconsistent collision detection, so there's no shame in abusing the rewind feature, either.)
TurboGrafx-16 Mini (North America)
- Price: $99.99
- Publisher: Konami / Amazon
- Acailability: shipping May 22
What's this? Konami's delayed-at-the-last-second replica of Hudson & NEC's would-be competitor to the SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive; produced in collaboration with emulation gurus M2 and hardware stalwarts Hori, this system comes with two turbo-enabled controllers and offers almost 60 classic games that represent the full suite of the TurboGrafx'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 TurboExpress portable), a cute front-end and more than a few hidden easter eggs. (European shipments, as well as CoreGrafx Mini shipments, seem to still be 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". Two 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; and 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.
Why should I care? There's something fun about a "mini" console that's not actually small, for one. Beyond that inconvenient novelty, the TG16 Mini more thoroughly and comprehensively encapsulates the strengths and weaknesses of its respective software library than any other mini"console on the market, and the emulation quality is on par with M2's previous plug-and-play outings, which is to say, quite good. (Those controller cables are nice and long, too, which I could not be happier about.)
Helpful tip: There are several game-specific easter eggs that can be triggered by holding Select before booting a game on the main menu; these range from System Card error screens to the activation of unwieldy cheat codes to the addition of brand-new "near arcade" hacks of Fantasy Zone, Gradius and Salamander that were modified by M2, in some cases quite thoroughly, to better resemble the original arcade games from which they were derived. Additionally, Force Gear and Twinbee Returns — two shooting games hidden inside Tokimeki Memorial that were playable as standalones on the PC Engine Mini — are also present on the TurboGrafx Mini, albeit with a different unlock routine: press Select twice before booting Salamander to access Force Gear, or three times to access Twinbee Returns.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (North America, Europe)
- Price: $19.99 (20% off until May 28)
- Publisher: Cyan Worlds
What's this? A Unity-based remaster of realMyst, the 2000 3D remake of the gazillion-selling CDROM adventure game Myst; this Masterpiece Edition has itself been significantly overhauled since its initial release on PC in 2014 and features a true 3D world with modern and dynamic lighting and other effects, all the "ages" from previous versions of Myst and the option to traverse the world in true 3D or with a more classic point-and-click interface, complete with a toggle for the original prerendered 2D stills.
Why should I care? The line between immersion and tedium, especially with regards to adventure games of this vintage, can be perilously think, so graphical refreshes like this one seem like a necessity for a game like Myst, even though they can't possibly make the same impact as the original.
Helpful tip: This version maintains most of the touch-based interface options from the smartphone versions while adding a lot of new controller and UI options, including a few that have been specifically optimized for the hybrid touch+buttons setup of an undocked Switch, so navigating the world should be comfortable no matter your setup.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $9.99 or equivalent (10% off until May 27)
- Publisher: City Connection / Zerodiv
What's this? A vertically-scrolling shooting game set in a fantastical near-future version of the Sengoku era, developed as the maiden work of '90s arcade stalwarts Psikyo and released in 1993, with home versions for PlayStation 2 and Switch; as per usual, this version is based on the recent Switch port and features the addition of remappable controls and online leaderboards.
Why should I care? It may look a little crude compared to subsequent Psikyo games but all the elements that typify their shooting game output are present: namely, lots of playable ships, randomized stage order, easy-to-understand game systems and lethally precise enemy fire.
Useless fact: Psikyo was formed and staffed by disgruntled former members of the studio Video System and as such, Sengoku Ace plays and feels almost identically to the team's final game at Video System, Aero Fighters/Sonic Wings.
ROM HACKS & TRANSLATIONS
The SA-1 coprocessor code that underpinned recent enhancement patches for Gradius III and Contra III is being adopted by more and more modders, with the latest application being a patch for Capcom's sidescrolling masterpiece Mega Man X. Personally, MMX's slowdown strikes me as more charming than impeding, but for those who want to at least experience the game running at peak performance, now's your chance. (As with other SA-1 enhancement patches, this is playable on real hardware using flashcarts that support the SA-1 chip, such as SD2SNES,)
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match (PS2 Classics on PS4) standard & collectors' editions by Limited Run Games
- Platform: PlayStation 4 (PS2 Classics)
- Price: $29.99 (standard) / $59.99 (collectors edition)
- Availability: from 10AM & 6PM Eastern on Friday, May 22
The latest PS2 Classics reissue to grace Limited Run Games' Neogeo-style shockbox is KOF98 Ultimate Match, a 10th anniversary remaster of their classic arcade game that adds several alternate, returning and newly-playable characters, a third character groove, optional 3D backgrounds and many other balance changes and additions; as with all these SNK PS2 Classics releases, they're best played elsewhere (and in this particular instance, you'd be even better served by the later revision, Final Edition) but I'm sure you know the drill by now.
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
The King of Fighters '98: The Definitive Soundtrack by Brave Wave Music
- Format: CD, vinyl (2LP)
- Price: $17.99 (CD) / $27.99 (standard vinyl) / $47.99 (gold vinyl)
- Availability: from 10AM Eastern on Friday, May 22
For some, the battle between KOF97 and KOF98 will never be settled, but I think most can agree KOF98 offers the superior listening experience, mostly on account of it featuring, like, music. Brave Wave has remastered said music for CD and vinyl under the supervision of SNK's "sound orchestra" including composer Hideki Asanaka (aka SHA-V), and it's the first of a whole ton of SNK soundtrack releases in the pipe, so brace yourselves.