Retro Re-release Roundup, week of May 27, 2021
Atlus' last truly great RPG has been resurrected for the modern era.
This week's roundup is packed with curious releases that are sure to cater to all tastes, but I want to draw special attention to Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, not just because it's a remake of a sentimental favorite, or because it's the latest in an unprecedented deluge of Wonder Boy/Monster World games, but because the developers somehow managed to produce a polygonal remake of a pixel-art game that doesn't feel immediately and irrevocably wrong upon pressing a single button, and that's evidently way, way harder to do than it should be.
Task Force Harrier
- Platform: PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster
What's this? A military-themed vertically-scrolling shooting game, developed by NMK and distributed by UPL in arcades in 1989, with an arranged conversion produced for Sega Mega Drive by Treco in 1991; players control a Harrier fighter jet and attack enemies with a tried-and-true Xevious-style system of a standard aerial shot and a bomb-style shot for targeting ground-based enemies
Why should I care? You've always liked the look of NMK's super-stoic vertical shooters but were put off by their typically harsh difficulty; this game is, for the most part, pretty relaxed.
Useless fact: What can I tell ya, I got nothin'.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Konami
What's this? The little-played and never-ported sequel to Konami's hit multi-directional shooting game, originally released in arcades in 1984; this version ditches the time-hopping conceit of the original for a unified futuristic setting and adopts a dual-plane system with aerial enemies that can be destroyed with the main shot and ground-based enemies that can be destroyed with the new semi-tracking hyper missile attack.
Why should I care? This game's obscurity is in no way an indicator of its quality, nor its relation to the original: if you enjoyed the first one, you'll perhaps like this one just a little more.
Useless fact: There exists a Time Pilot '95, but it's less a genuine sequel and more an OG Time Pilot-themed minigame stashed away in a Super Famicom Goemon game.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $4.99
- Publisher: G-MODE
What's this? The second entry in G-Mode's popular series of Japanese feature phone RPGs, originally released in 2007, later remade for iOS and Android and reissued on Switch last year; this game directly follows the events of the original and adds convenient features like an in-game map and the ability to pause cutscenes, on top of refinements to the game's battle system. (Again, this release remains entirely in Japanese.)
Why should I care? I was able to find the time to play the first Cloudia in the intervening year between the Switch and Steam ports, but I've yet to play this one longer than fifteen minutes, so I can only echo the prevailing opinion that this is a larger and substantially more interesting game than its predecessor.
Helpful tip: Flyhight Cloudia 3's scheduled for release on Steam in just a few weeks.
- Platform:Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: ¥500
- Publisher: G-MODE / City Connection
What's this? An RPG designed for extremely short play sessions, released on the Jaleco Garesso feature phone subscription service in 2005; the player is fated to face the almighty demon king in one year of in-game time, and is tasked with training, gearing up and assembling a party from a wide array of potential recruits in order to prepare for, hasten and/or survive that climactic battle.
Why should I care? From the very commencement of the G-MODE Archives series, this has been one of the most-requested titles from Japanese players due to its abundance of branching events and outcomes, its inventive battle system and atypical focus on replayability, including speedrunning.
Useless fact: If this game strikes you as familiar for some inexplicable reason, it may be that you recognize the art style: the developer, Studio Runba, also made City Connection Rocket, which hit G-MODE Archives a little while back.
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE IS ACTUALLY OUT THIS WEEK, MY BAD
NSO May '21 update: Ninja JaJaMaru-kun (NES), Caveman Ninja: Joe & Mac (SNES), Magical Drop 2 (SNES), Spanky's Quest (SNES) & Super Baseball Simulator 1,000 (SNES) plus Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War (SFC) & Taiketsu!! Brass Knuckles (SFC)
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: included with the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service
- Publisher: Nintendo / City Connection / Culture Brain / G-MODE / Natsume
What're these? A cult-classic arcade-action game, the SNES adaptation of Data East's co-op caveman platformer and tarot-themed action-puzzle game, respectively; the more puzzle-y big brother to Natsume's fixed-screen action game, and the first SNES entry in a surprisingly long-running series of slightly-wackier-than-usual baseball games. (On the Japanese side, there's also the Japanese version of Doomsday Warriors, which hit the international NSO some months ago, as well as Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, ie FE4.)
Why should I care? The last few times I've had to answer this question, I've asserted that NSO's increasing assortment of oddball, lower-profile games is a great match for NSO's super-casual, low-commitment format and a perfect means by which to reappraise a lot of underappreciated games, but all y'all whining about Earthbound have won me over. Man, fuck all other video games.
Useless fact: NSO has an odd habit of dropping unlocalized Japanese puzzle games on international audiences, but they've gone even further with Magical Drop 2: the version released on NSO looks to be an authentic unreleased SNES localization from back in the day, separate to the recent fan-created localization that has been recently sold on reproduction cartridges and plug-and-play devices.
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox, PC via Steam" (Japan)
- Price: free to download, 10-game packs for $14.99 each or equivalent
- Publisher: Capcom
What's this? The 32-game collection of pre-CPS, CPS-1 and CPS-2 Capcom arcade games that was released exclusively on Switch earlier this year; the games are presented via a virtual, customizable 3D arcade front-end and are endowed with save states, online leaderboards, extensive button mapping options, various screen and scanline settings, a rewind feature and game speed settings, dip switches, Japanese/English ROM toggles for most games, among other features. (New to this latest version are two optional $1 enhancements: a pack of screen borders, and an invincibility toggle that doesn't quite work as it should.)
Which games are included? The free download includes 1943, and Ghosts 'n Goblins can be acquired by buying the complete bundle or as an individual purchase (currently 50% off on Xbox, or free with PlayStation Plus). Beyond that, the current library is as follows:
- Pack 1: Dawn of the Arcade (’84 – ’88): Vulgus, Pirate Ship Higemaru, Commando, Section Z, Tatakai no Banka (Trojan), Legendary Wings, Bionic Commando, Forgotten Worlds & Ghouls 'n Ghosts
- Pack 2: Arcade Revolution (’89 – ’92): Strider, Dynasty Wars, Final Fight, 1941, Senjou no Ookami II (Mercs), Mega Twins, Carrier Air Wing, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, Captain Commando & VARTH
- Pack 3: Arcade Evolution (’92 – ’01): Warriors of Fate, Street Fighter II': Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Powered Gear (Armored Warriors), Cyberbots, 19XX, Battle Circuit, 1944: The Loop Master, Giga Wing & Progear
(There will be additional games added in the future, but precise titles have not yet been announced.)
Why should I care? For as ubiquitous as Capcom's '90s-era arcade catalog may seem, there are quite a few sought-after games available as part of pack #3 in particular, as well as a lot of games that have not been reissued in their authentic arcade form in over fifteen years, so despite some overlap with certain other recent Capcom compilations, this collection offers plenty of games worth acquainting or reacquainting yourself with, and the shift from Switch to not-Switch does alleviate some of the technical issues that you may have been concerned about (particularly on PC, where you can negate a lot of the performance-altering wrapper nonsense).
Helpful tip: The Switch version was patched alongside the release of these other versions, and most of the poorly-performing games do run significantly better after the update.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC via Steam(worldwide)
- Price: $49.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Atlus
What's this? A remaster Atlus' third main-line Shin Megami Tensei game, originally released on PlayStation 2 in 2003 and lauded by many for its unique dark cel-shaded visuals, innovative "Press Turn" battle system, ideological "reason" alignment system and extremely challenging difficulty; this version features a modest visual bump alongside full voice acting, all the additional content from the final Japan-only "Maniax Chronicle" revision, retranslated text, improved camera controls, optional easier difficulties and adjustments to the random skill inheritance system and a more replay-friendly save system. (Paid DLC features include BGM from previous games, grind-friendly dungeons and the re-implementation of the eternal character cameo meme, Dante from the Devil May Cry series.)
Why should I care? Nocturne was and remains a singularly bleak entry in the Megami Tensei series and one that serves as a perfect standalone entry for both SMT neophytes and those working backwards from sister series Persona — especially now that it's much, much easier — and while the visuals haven't necessarily received the enhancements one might have expected, the game honestly didn't need a ton of touching up.
Helpful tip: For whatever reason, the Steam version defaults to the vanilla version of Nocturne, and the Maniax Chronicle revision content has to be downloaded separately as free DLC.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $34.99 or equivalent (digital) / $39.99 or equivalent (physical) / €99.99 EUR (collectors) / €179.99 EUR (mega collectors)
- Publisher: ININ / Artdink Studios
What's this? A polygonal remake of Westone's 1994 Sega Mega Drive action-platformer Monster World IV, the final, boy-less game in the Wonder Boy/Monster World series and one that was released exclusively in Japan until its digital localization in 2012 and recent reissue on the Genesis Mini. This remake was overseen by several members of the original development team and features Japanese voice acting, newly-arranged/orchestrated music and a very obvious 2.5D visual overhaul, as well as several subtle mechanical tweaks like the abolition of save points for a save-anywhere system, an increased amount of collectible upgrade items and the ability to revisit completed areas. (An emulated version of the original Monster World IV is also included with physical copies of the game: the Switch version includes it on the card, whereas the PS4 version provides it as a separate download.)
Why should I care? If you've never played Monster World IV then this is a perfectly fine way to experience an underexposed gem of its era: it's a largely faithful adaptation of the original game that makes a lot of small, sensible tweaks to streamline the experience, and it's one of a small handful of 2.5D remakes of 2D games that one might feel handles better than the original. If you're a fan of the original then it's a little harder to recommend, as it's faithful to the point of redundancy, and one might not see the value in exchanging top-tier pixel art for more modest polygonal graphics.
Helpful tip: Press up, down, up, down, left, left, right, right on the title screen to unlock the classic Mega Drive soundtrack, should you so desire.