Retro Re-release Roundup, week of September 30, 2021
Shooting games galore, plus a Nintendo Direct catch-up.
As predicted, dear readers, last week's Nintendo Direct dumped quite a few new retro re-releases into the trough, including the hotly-anticipated Castlevania Advance Collection and the surprising addition of Namco to the Arcade Archives stable, so if you somehow missed all that news, consider yourself officially caught up... and, if you don't need catching up, then please entertain yourself with this crap-ton of shooting games.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Bandai-Namco
What's this? You know exactly what this is.
Why should I care? You know exactly why you should care.
Useless fact: This Arcade Archives version includes the option to use the original Japanese name sets for the ghosts, a feature missing from a surprising number of Pac-Man reissues.
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Taito
What's this? A brawler starring the pink-robed "typhoon gal" Yuki-chan on a mission to take out rival dojos, originally released in arcades in 1985 and reissued just once as part of Japan-only Taito Memories compilation for PlayStation 2 in 2007; players use a then-novel combination of directional attacks and button presses to defeat opponents with a variety of different moves including pro-wrestling-style throws and groin kicks, with movement restricted to a side-scrolling plane in outdoor stages and widened to faux-3D movement in the dojo stages.
Why should I care? While Typhoon Gal is as clunky as any primordial melee action game of this era, it compares very favorably to contemporaries like Yie Ar Kung Fu, and the breadth of character animation and overall presentation goes well beyond what you'd probably expect from a game this old — there's no doubt in my mind that, had this game received more attention in 1985, people today would be talking about Yuki-chan the way they talk about, like, Samus.
Useless fact: While official English-language paraphernalia exists for Typhoon Girl, the international version of the game itself is exceedingly rare, to the point that doubts remain over its existence. (Needless to say, this version solely features the Japanese ROM.)
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco-Bandai
What's this? Namco's massively influential vertically-scrolling sci-fi shooting game, originally released in arcades in 1982, with the North American version distributed by Atari, and subsequently ported and reissued at every possible opportunity; the game famously employs an aerial shot weapon and a ground-based bomb attack that needs to be fired in close proximity to ground enemies in order to successfully hit them,
Why should I care? Xevious has never received the veneration internationally that it continues to enjoy in Japan but there's no questioning its impact on the shooting game genre: from stage design to structure to enemy algorithms to aesthetic and everything in between, Xevious established the baseline for vertical shooting games, and even years after, many of the games released in its wake struggled to match its degree of craftsmanship. I'd rather play Star Force, but you do you.
Useless fact: Arcade Archives devs and frequent Namco collaborators Gotch have reissued this game so many times that they were able to pack this latest version with a ton of extremely granular options and toggles, including options that replicate the precise hitbox quirks of specific cabinet formats and a setting that allows you to simulate the effect of the game's logo being burnt into an arcade CRT due to spending all day in attract mode (and with several degrees of severity at that).
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: ¥500
- Publisher: G-MODE / CAVE
What's this? A "bullet-hell training app" based on the arcade shooting game Ketsui, originally developed and released by Cave for Japanese feature phones in 2007; this app recreates several bosses from the original arcade game and challenges the player to repeatedly clear them, gradually upping the difficulty in an attempt to grade the player on their danmaku proficiency.
Why should I care? Much like the DoDonPachi DaiOuJou-themed version of this app that was released a few months ago, this app, when compared to the more traditional Ketsui feature phone conversion, very clearly demonstrates how much difference a year of experience and a narrower focus could make when it came to accurately replicating a relatively demanding arcade game on a tellyphone.
Useless fact: This game's luxurious audio capacity ranges in the tens of kilobytes.
NEOGEO POCKET COLOR SELECTION
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $39.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: SNK
What's this? A compilation of ten emulated Neo Geo Pocket Color games, developed by long-time SNK partner Code Mystics; these games are equipped with local versus multiplayer where relevant and are enhanced with some basic screen options, button mapping, save states, a variety of Neo Geo Pocket-themed screen borders and a rewind feature, as well as 3D models of the original boxes and cartridges and scans of the original game manuals.
Which games are included? This collection includes nine of the ten games that were previously released on the Switch over the last year or so — SNK Gals Fighters, King of Fighters R-2, Samurai Shodown! 2, Fatal Fury: First Contact and The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny, Metal Slug 1st Mission, Metal Slug 2nd Mission, Dark Arms: Beast Buster and Big Tournament Golf (aka Neo Turf Masters) — as well as Crush Roller, the remake of the early-'80s ADK game Make Trax which is currently exclusive to the Steam version of this collection. These games default to color, but compatible games can also be played in greyscale, should you so desire; certain games offer local versus play, but broader link cable functionality is not supported.
Why should I care? You're looking for a concise overview of the strengths and selling points of SNK's short-lived challenger to the Game Boy Color, you want to experience a bunch of thoughtful adaptations of your favourite arcade games, or you're the one fanatic who's willing to re-buy this compilation just for Crush Roller. (If you were specifically hanging out for a certain crossover fighting game, keep scrolling.)
Helpful tip: It wasn't included with the Switch versions at launch but this Steam release offers an integer scaling display option from the jump, meaning you won't have to attempt to rid yourself of uneven pixels by adjusting the screen with the analog nub.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: SNK / Code Mystics
What's this? The sole handheld fighting game entry in SNK and Capcom's turn-of-the-millennium collaboration, originally developed and published by SNK for the Neo Geo Pocket Color at the very tail end of 1999; this game includes 26 playable Capcom and SNK characters (8 of whom must be unlocked) and allows for 1v1, 2v2 tag or 3v3 team play, with a bevy of single-player modes, unlockable special moves for each character and even an "olympic mode" packed with Capcom and SNK-themed minigames. (Two-player local multiplayer is available, but the link cable features that allowed the game to accrue points by linking to other NGPC and Dreamcast games have not been recreated.)
Why should I care? This is unquestionably the most enjoyable and most robust of SNK's impressive roster of Neo Geo Pocket fighting games and arguably the most festive of any of the SNK/Capcom crossover games, and it's not something people necessarily expected to ever be reissued due to some unspoken but inferred issues between the two companies — if you only ever buy one of these games, make it this one.
Helpful tip: Code Mystics have made a few tweaks to expedite the game's original, rather tedious content unlock system, but if you rather skip it entirely and have everything unlocked from the get-go, grab this handy save file.
- Platform::PlayStation 4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $19.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Konami / M2
What's this? A 4-pack containing the Game Boy Advance Castlevania trilogy (which are all metroidvanias) and, for no particular reason, Castlevania: Dracula X for Super Nintendo (a compromised conversion of the traditional Castlevania game Rondo of Blood), developed by emulation specialists M2; this collection offers button mapping, save states, a rewind option, replay saving, an art gallery, bestiary and sound test as well as regional ROM variants and some specific per-game "gadgets" that offer visual overlays for useful info like enemy item drops.
Why should I care? You're looking to play an undisputed genre masterpiece (Aria of Sorrow) and a couple other games that, garish GBA-optimized graphics (Harmony of Dissonance) and overwhelming clunkiness (Circle of the Moon) aside, retain a certain amount of charm and, thanks to the enhancements offered by this collection, are less frustrating than ever before.
Helpful tip: Not only to the majority of the original games' old glitches work, but because enemy drop RNG is calculated upon the final blow dealt to an enemy, you can abuse the rewind feature to effortlessly farm for items or drops that might otherwise be excruciatingly slow to collect, depending on the specific drop or even the game in question.
Cotton Guardian Force Saturn Tribute
- Platform::PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $17.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: City Connection
What're these? Unity-wrapped emulated versions of three arcade shooting games originally developed and released for the Sega Saturn by the Japanese studio Success: the peculiar horizontal game Cotton 2, the more traditional revision Cotton Boomerang and the somewhat obscure vertical tank shooter Guardian Force, produced by frequent legacy publisher City Connection. Each game offers save states, rewind and slo-mo, various screen settings and online leaderboards; the menus and front-end can be displayed in English but the games themselves remain untranslated. (These games were released as a physical compilation in Japan, and that compilation will be made available outside of Japan in the not-too-distant future, but for the time being, these games are standalone digital-only releases.)
Why should I care? Putting aside the fact that none of these games have been ported in over two decades and that their exiting ports all command massive prices, they also represent a long-awaited foray into larger-scale commercial reissues of Saturn-based games, so if for no other reason, pay them attention so that releases like these can cease being such a novelty. As for the games themselves, all three are worthy of consideration, with Cotton 2's reliance on fighting game-style move commands and the unique focus of sealing and tossing enemies over traditional shooting making it perhaps the most exciting and progressive of the bunch... so it's a shame that the modest input lag imposed by the emulation pushes these notoriously lag-laden games into the realm of unplayability, but one would hope they'll be patched before long.
Helpful tip: The performance of these emulators may or may not be tied to the language settings of your device, so try setting your system to Japanese and see if it makes an appreciable difference.
- Platform::PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide outside of Japan)
- Price: $24.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: ININ / Taito / M2
What's this? A HD-compliant port of the final classic entry in Taito's venerable series of horizontally-scrolling, fish-motif shooting games, originally released in arcades and for PlayStation in 1997 and subsequently ported to PlayStation 2, PC and, most recently, as part of the Darius Cozmic Revelation two-pack; this version can be played in HD with certain high-poly assets or at its original resolution, and includes new features like M2's customary "gadget" info displays, a Pokedex-style "capture log" that tracks all the in-game enemies caught via the game's signature capture ball system, as well as boasting precise replication of the exact game speed of the arcade version, including slowdown. (Standalone physical versions are coming later next month.)
Why should I care? G-Darius was the series' first foray into 3D and one that had a very obvious and direct influence on the modern Dariusburst series, not least of all via its very distinctive and dramatic beam-dueling system, and it didn't require a whole lot of touching up in order to look good today. (It's also the final game in the series to feature a soundtrack composed primarily by classic Zuntata member Hisayoshi Ogura, and as is typical of OGR's work, it's a banger.)
Helpful tip: While there's still no ETA beyond "this year, probably", there's a patch scheduled for G-Darius HD that'll add, among other things, the "ver.2" revision of G-Darius that has never received a home port, as well as a beginner mode for the standard G-Darius.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Wild Guns Reloaded (PS4/Switch) special editions & Wild Guns (SNES) cartridge reissue from Strictly Limited Games
- Price: €29.99 (Reloaded standard editions) / €69.99 (Reloaded collector's edition) / €49.99 (SNES cart)
- Availability: from 00:00 CET, October 3
I'm sure anyone who's familiar with Natsume-Atari's superb crosshair-shooting remaster has already picked up one of the multiple physical versions released over the last few years, but for those who haven't, or who only recently became acquainted with the game via the original's inclusion on Nintendo Switch Online, Strictly Limited Games is offering both new physical revisions of the remaster but also new cartridge reissues of the original and quite scarce SNES version, in both NTSC and PAL variants.