Retro Re-release Roundup, week of November 12, 2020

Move aside, Miles Morales.

I know you're all busy messing about with online orders or playing... Tetris?, but should you want something new-old for Switch, and specifically something that's of no value whatsoever if you can't read the language, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention two Japanese releases before today's roundup: a port of the original Saturn version of Sting's opaque first-person roguelike Baroque, and an emulated collection of games from the long-running Pokemon-like RPG series Medarot (a.k.a. Medabots), which is naturally split into two versions for maximum pocket-gouging. 


Gradius II / Vulcan Venture

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Hamster / Konami

What's this? The first formal arcade sequel to Konami's mega-hit space shooter, originally released in arcades in 1988 and later converted and ported to many platforms Famicom, PC Engine CD, Sega Saturn, PlayStation and PSP; this straightforward sequel added prettier graphics and sound, badder bosses and a variety of different upgrade loadouts for the player to experiment with. 

Why should I care? This is many peoples' favorite Gradius game, and with good reason: it's a very fair and eminently beatable game that shows the series near its creative peak, before it descended into an ouroboros of self-reference.

Helpful tipGradius II was included in Konami's Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection but the specific version was limited by region — in other words, the English version only contains Vulcan Venture whereas the Japanese version only contains Gradius II —  whereas this reissue offers both versions. EDIT: strike that, Gradius II was one of the beneficiaries of the later patch that added Japanese ROM versions of select games due to fan outcry. (The primary mechanical difference is the not-especially-useful continue function present in Vulcan Venture.)


Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros

  • Price: $49.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Availability: until March 31, 2021

What's this? A Super Mario-themed replica of the original Game & Watch Ball device, produced as one of several Super Mario 35th Anniversary products; this device uses a rechargable battery charged via USB-C and contains the original Super Mario Bros., the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 (a.k.a Lost Levels), a Mario-themed recreation of the original Ball LCD game and a clock feature packed with Super Mario easter eggs.

Why should I care? You haven't been able to nail down an order for a XSX or PS5 but you absolutely have to buy somethin'.

Helpful tip: Due to a software error, the subtitles to the "Mario Drawing Song" featured as part of the digital clock app will show an incorrect language if the system's set to French, Italian, German or Spanish, but you can manually select the correct subtitles as the tune is playing.


Demon's Souls (remake)

  • Platform: PlayStation 5 (North America, Oceania)
  • Price: $69.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

What's this? A console-launch remake of From Software's beguiling and iconoclastic PS3 action-RPG, originally published by Sony in Japan in 2009 and internationally by Atlus USA and Bandai-Namco due to intense grassroots demand; this remake, helmed by Texan port studio Bluepoint Games in collaboration with SIE Japan and an international assortment of outsourced studios, promises the same world design, enemy behavior and challenge of the original with a few mechanical tweaks (like a new subset of enhancing items called Grains and a rebalancing of the encumbrance values of healing grass) while adding a smattering of new items and gear, a photo mode and a variety of visual filters, significantly faster load times, new and revoiced dialog with most of the original cast, a new orchestral version of the soundtrack and an unmistakably new and polished interpretation of the game's visuals, running at 30FPS in true 4K or 60FPS in supersampled 4K.

Why should I care? The original Demon's Souls beget a massively successful subgenre, spurred a cultural re-evaluation of the experiential value of a game's mechanical challenge and how that intersects with notions of accessibility and contemporaneous RPG precepts and turned From Software into a highly sought-after development partner, but Sony won't currently let you play that game on your shiny new toy, so you'll have to make do with this American ICO Box Art re-do... and, I mean, it's probably not unfun.

Useless fact: This has nothing to do with this game but I'd just like to let people know that Bloodborne still can't break 30FPS on PS5 via backwards compatibility, and that a Bloodborne remaster may well have been a safer choice than a questionable reinterpretation of Demon's Souls, but I'm quite aware that nobody's asking for my take.

XIII (remake)

  • Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Macintosh (worldwide)
  • Price: $39.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Microids / PlayMagic

What's this? A remake of a stylish cel-shaded first-persian shooter based on a series of Belgian graphic novels, originally developed and released by Ubisoft for PlayStation 2, Gamecube, Xbox and PC in 2003; this version, developed by PlayMagic and published by Microids with seeminly no input from or affiliation with Ubisoft... is a thing that now exists.

Why should I care? Well, they ditched the original version's art style and most of the other comic-esque visual accents for no discernible reason, they bogged down the already-tepid gameplay with nonsense like a weapon limit and they completely broke most of the animations, physics AI and audio, but they did keep most of the original voice acting, so I suppose the remake has been sculpted to match the tone of David Duchovny's performance.

Helpful tipThe original XIII is still available on Steam for a few bucks, and these mods bring it up to modern standards. Conversely, the Switch version of this remake will be out next year sometime, or possibly never.


More Atomiswave-to-Dreamcast conversions

Last week's Metal Slug 6 Dreamcast conversion has kicked off a wave of Atomiswave-to-Dreamcast conversions, which now include the likes of The King of Fighters XI, Samurai Shodown 6 and Neogeo Battle Coliseum. What's more, these conversions are slowly being made available in .CDI format, meaning players can burn and play the games from CD-R (with some unavoidable additional load times) in the event that their system is not modded with an optical drive emulator or other external loading device. Again, this is an evolving process and your results may vary, but we're inching closer to home versions of never-before-ported games like Dolphin Blue and The Rumble Fish 2, so look sharp.


Art of Fighting Anthology (PS2 Classics on PS4) from Limited Run Games

  • Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Macintosh (worldwide)
  • Price: $29.99 (standard) / $59.99 (collectors' edition)
  • Availability: from 10AM & 6PM Eastern, November 13

Wait, didn't this come out already? No? Well, you know the drill: nice package, not an especially enjoyable play experience, compounded by the fact that the Art of Fighting series is certainly no KOF... or Samsho... or World Heroes.. y'know what, you get my drift.