Retro Re-release Roundup: week of April 15, 2021

Embark on a new(ish) frontier.

This week's marquee release, the long-overdue final cut of Square's divisive PS RPG SaGa Frontier, is not only the seventh game in the SaGa series but the eighth SaGa game currently in circulation outside of Japan, which is a massive step up from the zero SaGa games in circulation just a couple of years ago, especially considering that almost all of them had to be localized anew. (For those not counting along at home, these include the original three Game Boy SaGa games, the remasters of Romancing SaGa 2 and 3, the new mainline game SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions and the mobile game Romancing SaGa Re:Universe.)


Frisky Tom

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

What's this? A slightly puzzle-y climbing action game, developed by Jorudan and distributed in arcades by Nichibutsu in 1981 and ported and converted across many platforms including Game Boy, Super Famicom, PlayStation and PlayStation 3;; the player controls the plumber Tom in a mission to maintain the fittings on a long pipe in order to drain water from an unsuspecting lady's bathtub while being harassed by mice who may remove or steal fittings from the pipe, directly attack the player or even plant bombs to explode your water tank. (The Arcade Archives version contains two of the game's many revisions, and the behavior of the mice differs quite substantially between versions.)

Why should I care? Frisky Tom's a game that might have been just a little too involved for the arcades of its day and one that benefits greatly from being shifted to a home environment, and it holds up admirably for a game of such an early vintage.

Useless fact: While the devs saw fit to change the game's original title of Peeping Tom to Frisky Tom, the game itself didn't change a lot, with the earlier versions featuring more salacious imagery of the bathing lady between scenes; the response to this game was allegedly what drove Nichibutsu to take the pioneering steps into digital strip mahjong.


Majyokko Princess

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

What's this? A side-view action-puzzler starring an RPG end-boss looking to reclaim their tower from the heroes, originally released for Japanese feature phones in 2007; being that the player-character has been depowered, they're forced to drop blocks and place traps in order to depose the occupiers, and by recovering orbs and treasure within each stage, their army will gradually be restored.

Why should I care? Majyokko Princess is, in many ways, an ideal entry-level pick among G-MODE Archives titles: the original game was charming and well-optimized for the technical and input restraints of the phones of the day, and it's one that doesn't pose a significant language barrier.

Useless fact: Ixill, the primary developer of this game, continues to produce pixel art and other visual and game design for mobile games and other projects to this day, including a lot of the default graphics for the RPG Maker series. They also sell pixel-art socks, if those are something up your alley.


SaGa Frontier Remastered

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, iOS, Android, PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $24.99 / €24.99 / £19.99
  • Publisher: Square-Enix

What's this? SaGa the seventh, originally released for the PlayStation in late 1997 in Japan and 1998 elsewhere; this was the first home console SaGa game to be released internationally and one that's remembered, however fondly, for its open-ended "free scenario" structure and unique, disparate character scenarios, complex battle system and stylistically-rich soundtrack by Kenji Ito. This remaster features a new HD UI and AI-upscaled HD graphics, new and freshly-translated in-game info on the game's many items and skills, a comprehensive scenario log, many new supplemental features including speed toggles for battles and exploration, an added battle escape feature and a new game+ mode and, most prominently, the restoration and implementation of a substantial amount of the original game's famously scrapped and unfinished content, including a swathe of sidequests and an additional eigth scenario featuring an obviously-cut playable protagonist, Fuse.

Why should I care? SaGa Frontier is an ambitious, engaging and inventive RPG that's begging to be discovered by the uninitiated and deserves to be re-evaluated by those original players who were non-plussed a quarter-decade ago, not just because the remaster has made the game more complete and far less opaque but simply because a lot of people will find it easier to swallow now that it's removed from the context of being "Square's follow-up to Final Fantasy VII". (It also seems to be following the mysterious trend of SaGa being the only Square-Enix series receiving consistently solid remasters.)

Useless fact: Fuse's scenario as seen in this remaster is neither a direct adaptation of writer/director Akitoshi Kawazu's original plans nor an adaptation of the scenario originally published outside of the game by author Benny Matsuyama, but an amalgamation of both.


Star Wars Republic Commando

  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC (worldwide)
  • Price: $29.99 (standard) / $89.99 (collector's edition)
  • Availability: from 10AM Eastern, April 16

Thankfully, the production lead-in means Aspyr could ideally give these ports the updates they deserve before committing them to physical media, because good lord could they use them. (The PC version includes an installer on USB, for the curious.)


Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's Legendary CEO by Hobonichi (English Edition)

  • Format: hardcover
  • Price: $24.99 RRP

Contrary to popular reports, this book is not an anthology of Iwata Asks interviews — it is, in fact, a collection of quotes from the late Satoru Iwata that seek to outline and elucidate his philosophies as a developer and CEO of Nintendo and his personal contributions to their software legacy, edited by Hobonichi (the publishing company owned by MOTHER series creator Shigesato Itoi) and sourced primarily but not entirely from his interview series. Even so, it's a compelling read with some post-commentary from some of his industry friends including Shigeru Miyamoto, and this English release is just one of the many additional translations rolling out across the world from this month, so keep an eye out if English isn't your native language.