Retro Re-release Roundup, week of March 31, 2022
Another dip in the Taito aquarium.
A warning, dear readers: this roundup is being published just as the clock ticks over to April Fools' Day in Japan, meaning you're about to be inundated by all manner of inane "jokes" from all your favorite game publishers and developers — like, for example, a subscription service that requires you to pay eighteen bucks a month for cloud-streamed PS3 games. Hilarious.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco
What's this? A side-view action game themed around a tokusatsu stage production, originally released in Japanese arcades by Namco in 1987 and converted for PC Engine in 1989, with later reissues for PlayStation and Wii Virtual Console and an extremely short-lived, WayForward-developed sequel released, and quickly delisted, for Macintosh and Nvidia Shield. The game stars the idol Wonder Momo as she plays the role of a transforming, world-saving superhero as part of a production for the "Namco Theater", so in addition to fighting off enemies during each scene and earning enough energy to transform, the player also has to be mindful of not bumping into the edges of the stage and guarding themselves from audience members with cameras who are desperate to get a snap of Momo's panties.
Why should I care? While the controls are a little unforgiving, even coming from the PC Engine version, Wonder Momo offers a very charming time capsule of several very geeky late-'80s Japanese trends and, while it was very out of place among Namco's output at the time, one could argue it was a direct catalyst for them broadening and diversifying their in-house style whose influence can be felt to this day.
Useless fact: This episode of Namco's underappreciated "Namco Museum of Art" web series not only offers a look at the illustrations produced for the arcade and PC Engine versions of Wonder Momo but also gives a brief glimpsed at an unreleased Wonder Momo RPG.
NEOGEO POCKET COLOR SELECTION
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: SNK / Code Mystics
What's this? An American-style pro wrestling game, released in Japan in 2000 but with a full English localisation on the cartridge, making it a popular import title for the Neo Geo Pocket faithful; players can take one of ten wrestlers (each one an obvious homage to a particular '00s-era wrestler) into an "IEW" story mode or one-off/tournament modes that include casket match and money-in-the-bank rule types, or fight against another player in the local versus mode.
Why should I care? If that trailer is giving you a Fire Pro Wrestling vibe, your instincts are on point: this game was developed by S-NEO, the studio behind many of the post-Human Fire Pro games, and whose personnel led the development of the recent Fire Pro Wrestling World... and, if that info means absolutely nothing to you, just know that it indicates that this game was the best handheld wrestling game in existence at the time of its release.
Useless fact: One of the unlockable characters can be accessed by beating the story mode but the other, the sole female wrestler Kei, was originally unlocked via time release, meaning you had to wait an entire month after initiating a save file for her to be playable; my presumption is that Code Mystics has made her easier to access in some way, but in the event that they didn't, you may just have to wait it out.
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE
NSO March '22 update: Earthworm Jim 2 (SNES), Dig Dug II (NES), Mappy Land (NES)
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: included with the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service
- Publisher: Nintendo / Bandai-Namco / Interplay
What're these? The sequel to a flash-in-the-pan mascot action game, the NES conversion of an obscure sequel to a beloved Namco arcade game and the first of two home-exclusive sequels to another. (In the place of Earthworm Jim 2, the Japanese NSO app received Bokujou Monogatari, the game released for SNES as Harvest Moon.)
Why should I care? A lot of people were concerned that the base NSO tier was going to be abandoned completely once the Expansion Pass was introduced, so let's at least be thankful that they're keeping up appearances — these certainly aren't bad games, after all. (I also can't help but wonder if someone made the conscious decision to deliver a trio of sequels to more in-demand games...)
Useless fact: While Dig Dug II and Mappy Land were included in the recent Namco Museum Archives compilations, they were not included in Namcot Collection, the pseudo-free Japanese equivalent, so one can surmise that their addition to NSO was a move by Namco to plug the gaps left by that collection for Japanese fans.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Taito / M2
What's this? A PC port of the first polygonal entry in Taito's venerated horizontal aqua-mecha shooting game series Darius, originally released in arcades in 1997 and ported to the PlayStation the following year, with a remaster produced last year for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Produced by reissue specialists M2, this release includes both authentic and slightly HD-ified versions of the original G-Darius and the never-ported "version 2" arcade revision, as well as an emulated version of the PlayStation port, and also features save states, a replay gallery, online leaderboards, a training mode, a boss/enemy bestiary, a wide selection of on-screen gadgets that display useful, usually-hidden data and other quality-of-life features. (Many of these features were not present in the PS4/Switch versions and were just added via a free update, but the PC version does retain some exclusive features like subwoofer support and an exhibition mode featuring widescreen remasters of select boss fights.)
Why should I care? Taito's deliberately confusing, piecemeal approach to reissing the Darius series over the last few years seems deliberately engineered to confuse and pressure all but the most fanatical of players, but this release of G-Darius HD is very easy to explain: it's an excellent modern port of a great game that was never quite done justice by previous home conversions, and this new PC version/content update adds virtually every feature one could want.
Helpful tip: Unlike the Japanese version, which was released physically as a two-pack with another Darius series port, the PS4/Switch versions of G-Darius HD were given standalone physical releases in the west, and I've seen them discounted recently for as low as $15, so keep an eye out.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
- Platform: PS4, Switch (North America, Europe)
- Price: $34.99 / €29.99 (game+manual) $69.99 / €59.99 (game+plush) / $79.99 / €69.99 (collectors edition) $109.99 / €99.99 (CE+plush)
- Availability: available now; collectors versions limited to ~1000 copies each
Tengo Project's upcoming sequel to the cult SNES yokai-themed overhead run-and-gun Pocky & Rocky is nearly upon us, and the more fanatical Kiki Kaikai fans may want to grab one of the various bundles now on offer—in addition to the collector's edition, which contains the usual assortment of trinkets, there's also a deluxe bundle that includes a plushie of ol' Rocky himself, and you can also just get the game and plushie without all the other assorted extras if you so desire. (The game is getting a standard physical release by other means, so you shouldn't need to go the boutique route if you just want the game and not the paraphernalia.)