Retro Re-release Roundup, week of October 8, 2020
Different size, same battery life.
Monochrome pocket Tetris and the color-laden but dubiously visible Game Gear, vying for attention once more... what year is it, again?
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Sunsoft
What's this? A predictably Arabian-themed four-screen action game, developed and distributed by Sun Denshi in arcades in 1983 and remixed as Super Arabian for the Famicom the following year; seven jars marked A-R-A-B-I-A-N are scattered across each screen, and the player is challenged to collect them all, in order or not, to advance each stage in search of a kidnapped princess. (The three As in A-R-A-B-I-A-N are not specifically sequenced, so you can choose when to collect each one.)
Why should I care? Arabian's relatively painless controls and relaxed difficulty make it a good choice for those who want to revisit something in the post-Donkey Kong milieu without tearing their hair out.
Useless fact: The original arcade version's music drew from a small selection of classical compositions which seem to have been replaced for this reissue, despite supposedly being in the public domain as of 2020.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: ¥500
- Publisher: G-MODE
What's this? One of the many mobile versions of Data East's popular tarot-themed action-puzzle game, adapted by Matrix Software and published by G-MODE across various Japanese phone services from 2004 to 2007; this version includes the both the versus ladder and the solo mode, as well as online leaderboards.
Why should I care? One should never turn their nose up at any version of Magical Drop. even a choppy and relatively unresponsive version. (Reminder: the authentic arcade versions of Magical Drop II and III have been available on Arcade Archives for a minute.)
Useless fact: Magical Drop DX was the first Magical Drop game produced by G-MODE after their acquisition of the bulk of the Data East catalog in the early '00s.
REPLICA/PLUG & PLAY HARDWARE
- Price: ¥4.950 each / ¥19,920 "Complete Set (4-pack + Big Window Micro)
- Publisher: Sega
What's this? A tiny, functional replica Game Gear that comes pre-installed with four games, produced exclusively for the Japanese market by the core team responsible for the Genesis/Mega Drive Mini and the emulation specialists at M2; the system includes a LCD screen, a monaural speaker and a stereo headphone jack and can be powered by USB-C and/or two AAA batteries (approximate battery life: 3 hours), with a software suite that includes 4 save states and two newly-written, Game Gear-compliant menu music from M2's Chibi-Tech and former Westone composer Shinichi Sakamoto. (The 4-unit collectors' bundle also includes a "Big Window Micro", a micro-sized version of the Game Gear screen magnifier.)
Which games are included? The Game Gear Micro is being released in four different colors, with unique games per color, which are as follows: the black version features Sonic the Hedgehog, Puyo Puyo 2, Outrun and Royal Stone; the blue version features Sonic & Tails (Sonic Chaos), Gunstar Heroes, Sylvan Tale and Baku Baku Animal; the yellow version features Shining Force Gaiden, Shining Force Gaiden II, Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict and Nazo Puyo: Arle no Roux; and the red version features Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible, Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible Special, GG Shinobi and Columns. Being that this is a Japan-exclusive product, all the games use Japanese ROMs with no option to switch languages/versions; additionally, the Game Gear Micro does not support link cable functionality, so the versions of the games included on the Micro are not playable in multiplayer. (A certain store-exclusive collectors' bundle includes a non-functional Micro in smoke gray; additionally, M2 is publishing their own white Micro as part of the limited-edition package for their upcoming Aleste Collection, but that won't be out until the end of the year.)
Why should I care? You understand and appreciate that the intent behind the Game Gear Micro was to create a commemorative, collectible toy-like item that also happens to be playable, and one where the novelty of the gimmick is meant to supersede playability or breadth of software. (Sega's newly-appointed classic hardware producer has confirmed that a genuine follow-up to the Genesis/Mega Drive Mini is in the works, buoyed in part by the unexpectedly large demand for Game Gear Micro, so if this particular product isn't for you, don't take it as a sign that they aren't ever going to offer something more to your tastes.)
Helpful tip: On top of miscellaneous bugfixes, M2 has prepared several other enhancements for select games across the Micro lineups, including "easy-type" versions of the Last Bible games with boosted experience/currency rates, simplified cheat code inputs for Sonic & Tails and Puyo Puyo 2 and a default anti-flicker setting for Gunstar Heroes that can be disabled via hidden command. Additionally, they've included a pre-release attract roll demo for Gunstar Heroes that can also be viewed by holding ↑ while booting the game from the main menu..
- Price: ¥1650
- Publisher: Gametech
What's this? An LCD keychain Tetris game, released in Japan by the controller manufacturer Gametech; the system comes in six colors — clear, clear blue, clear black, clear pink, yellow & gray — and features a black-and-white display and a battery that holds approximately one hour of juice, charged via micro-USB (cable sold separately), with the game itself featuring a 12x8 well, the ubiquitous marathon, 20-line and ultra modes and, in a baffling move for a system with one rotation button, support for t-spins.
Why should I care? You spend a lot of time on public transport, you don't own a Game Boy and the year is 1997.
Useless fact: While the Tetris Mini's software has been revamped to be relatively compliant with The Tetris Company's modern Tetris guidelines, the hardware itself is a throwback to the Tetris Jr. keychain toys that first launched in 1995.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (North America, Europe)
- Price: $14.99 / €14.99 / £12.99
- Publisher: THQ Nordic
What's this? A remastered two-pack of JoWood's 2003 puzzle-adventure game, originally released near-exclusively in Europe for PC, Xbox, Gamecube and later DS, iOS and Android, and its PC-exclusive 2004 sequel; players control a reality TV star whose goal is to covertly prank and torment his neighbor for the sake of ratings.
Why should I care? I genuinely have no idea — I had never heard of these "beloved childhood gems" until now, so if anyone has pleasant memories, or indeed any memories at all, of these games, I'm all ears.
Helpful tip: THQ Nordic still hasn't done a damn thing about the executives who decided to rep their company on a white nationalist, pro-child abuse message board, and you'd shouldn't ever let them forget it, even if by simply not buying their games (and yes, I know that's easier said then done when it comes to a company acquiring fifty catalogs a week).
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
The Bitmap Brothers: Odyssey LP from Read Only Memory
- Format: vinyl LP
- Price: €27.00
- Availability: ships February 2021
This companion piece to ROMvg's book on the legendary British developer The Bitmap Brothers contains a curated selection of the more popular and influential tunes from across the Brothers catalog, including several tunes from the Speedball, Xenon and Chaos Engine series, including Bomb the Bass' influential tune "Megablast" which has influenced developers as far afield as Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Orders are scheduled to begin shipping in February of next year.