Retro Re-release Roundup, week of March 3, 2022
The Egret II Mini takes flight in Japan.
In a perfect world, I'd be gushing to you about how Taito's Egret II Mini has raised the bar for mini replica hardware and demonstrated how attention to detail and catering to aficionados leads to more interesting and more successful outcomes, but all I'm hearing from the people who already have their units is that Arkanoid's broken and they ain't happy. Oh well.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco
What's this? A fantasy-themed vertically-scrolling shooting game that puts the player in control of a multi-headed dragon, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Namco in 1987, with contemporary ports for PC Engine and various computers, as well as a remixed conversion for the NES in 1989 and inclusion on various compilations; this game borrows the aerial-shot, ground-targeted-bomb system established by the ever-influential Xevious but swaps the purposefully flat flying saucers motif for more elaborate and dynamic stages and bosses. (This release includes both the "old" and "new" versions, with the latter primarily offering a more mobile dragon; it also fixes certain potentially game-breaking bugs by default.)
Why should I care? Dragon Spirit is a very conventional game that's primarily remembered for its unique world and atmosphere, carried in large part by the phenomenal soundtrack by then-fledgling, now-legendary composer Shinji Hosoe, and for as many dragon-themed shooting games followed in its wake, I'd say this one's aged admirably. (it's also a game that was not designed with autofire in mind, so that functionality alone should go a long way towards taming what might otherwise be a fairly tough game.)
Helpful tips: Hamster hid a little easter egg on the title screen: if you press left(x7), up(x6), right(x5), it'll play a specific tune from the game that was included on official soundtrack releases and incorporated into certain home versions but went unused in the arcade game itself.
Egret II Mini (Japan)
- Price: ¥18,678 (Mini) / ¥32,978 (Mini+expansion set) / ¥49,478 (DX bundle) / ¥12,078 (expansion set) / ¥8,778 (stick) / ¥3,278 (pad)
- Publisher: Taito
What's this? A playable tabletop arcade machine modeled after Taito's widely-adopted, general-purpose Egret II arcade cabinet, designed and published by Taito in Japan this week, with an overseas release pending from ININ/Strictly Limited games. This system contains a beefy selection of games spanning the 2D era of Taito's arcade output and offers many of the expected features — a functional, true 4:3 LCD screen and on-unit controls, HDMI out, support for external controllers, save states, screen borders, a basic screen filter option and funky menu music from classic composers — and goes even further beyond with both horizontal and vertical HDMI output, a configurable stick that can be locked to 4- or 8-way movement and, most notably, the ability to painlessly swivel the screen on the unit itself to accommodate both horizontal and vertical games in tabletop mode. Taito's also offering an "Expansion Set" that includes an external controller equipped with both a paddle/spinner and a trackball, as well as a SD card full of additional games that can be accessed via the Mini's SD card slot and are only playable with that controller attached.
Which games are included? For the sake of legibility, you can find a full list of included games here, but the short answer is that the standard Mini includes 40 games spanning the late-'70s to the mid-'90s, including classics like Space Invaders, Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands Extra, Darius Gaiden, Elevator Action Returns, RayForce and Puzzle Bobble 2X, as well as games that were published but not developed by Taito (Kyukyoku Tiger, Tatsujin), licensed games (Lupin III) and even Dan-Ku-Ga, a complete but officially unreleased revision to the fighting game Kaiser Knuckle. The optional expansion set adds 10 games, accessible via SD slot, that were originally designed to be played with either a paddle/spinner or a trackball input device, including multiple Arkanoid games, Cameltry and Syvalion. (The Mini uses the Japanese ROMs for each game, and does offer dip-switch settings for every game.) Taito's hinted at further SD card expansion packs in the future, both from their own catalog and that of other companies, too.
Why should I care? Taito's sporadic approach to porting, publishing and reissuing the classic catalog outside of Japan has condemned a lot of very interesting and well-made games to a level of international obscurity that they don't deserve, so a product like this Mini — which is clearly attempting to supersede competing products via more novel and detail-oriented features, and whose selection of games is both well-considered and further-reaching than it necessarily has to be — should hopefully demonstrate why Taito's library can proudly stand side-by-side with that of Nintendo, Sega, SNK and whoever else has recently entered this arena. That said, the early hands-on reports aren't especially comforting, with a lot of talk about severe input lag (the precise nature of which has yet to be determined), as well as inaccuracies with the paddle/spinner emulation that render Arkanoid nigh-unplayable, so you may want to wait for follow-up reports from Taito about possible software updates before investing in what might end being an especially pricey paperweight (and one whose international release is even pricier at that).
Helpful tips: Tip one: this Mini does natively support the Mega Drive Mini and Astro City Mini controllers, as well as certain PS4 arcade sticks, so you might not need to throw down for a second controller. Tip two: Arkanoid and Arkanoid: Revenge of Doh were both substantially altered for these reissues, with quite a few stages across both games altered or replaced for reasons that aren't quite clear (and weren't advertised beforehand, to the extreme annoyance of Japanese customers). Tip three: the filter setting in the menu uses "ON" to designate no filter and "OFF" to designate that the filter is on — as backwards as this seems, this was apparently a deliberate choice by the directors and not an oversight.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide outside of Japan)
- Price: $19.99 or equivalent / $29.99 or equivalent (PS4 game+OST bundle)
- Availability: from January 14, 10AM Eastern to February 22, 23:59 Eastern
What's this? A powered-up remake of doujin veterans PlatineDispositif's "deathmatic action game", originally released for PC in 2004; this new home version features much-improved player control, new voice acting for the cast of characters, substantially remixed stage design, a store with helpful assist items and the replacement of the original BGM with all-new music, in both high-fidelity and 8-bit renditions. (There also exists a Vita version of this remake, but it's stranded in limbo in Japan due to the fact that Sony told the developers they couldn't be bothered to have someone add it to the store.)
Why should I care? Buried under the the cavalcade of jokes and references is an extremely serious side-scroller that takes obvious cues from the likes of Castlevania, and the revised handling of the remake drags the difficulty level out of the realm of raw masochism and back towards something that, when played on the standard difficulty setting, could be considered fair. (The additional difficulty options are practically new games unto themselves, so if you're up for the challenge, there's a lot more game on offer than one might initially presume.)
Useless fact: The title and many other odd names or turns of phrase present in this game are references to famous typos from the notoriously error-prone arcade-centric magazine Gamest, with "Zangyura" being an odd misprint of "Zangief"; Capcom's Capcom Fighting Jam team would eventually canonize "Zangyura" as the name of the female form given to Zangief during the duration of Darkstalkers character Demetri's gender-bending Midnight Bliss attack.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection (Switch, PS4) from Strictly Limited Games
- Price: 49.99€ (standard) / 99.99€ (collectors edition) 149.99€ (ultra collectors edition)
- Availability: from March 6, 00:00 CET
As most had suspected, the rather basic Wonder Boy Collection being released at retail by ININ Games is being supplanted by a much beefier, and much scarcer, collector-oriented package by Strictly Limited Games — not only do the various collectors' package include an absurd amount of tchotchkes but they significantly up the game count from a meager 4 games to a whopping 21: that is, the six main-line Wonder Boy/Monster World series games and many unbranded ports and permutations thereof. As with previous SLG joints, it seems the fuller collections won't be available digitally, so you'll have to act fast if you want to buy one of these (and then wait an absurd amount of time to receive it, but who's actually playing these games, right?)