Retro Re-release Roundup, week of April 7, 2022
The Chrono remaster fans have been waiting for, paired up with Chrono Cross.
As a heads-up, I should mention two games that I elected not to include in this week's roundup: Knights in the Nightmare, a Japan-only Switch remaster of a game that most would struggle to comprehend in English, let alone without a translation, and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, because I'm not entirely sure whether it's truly a collection of remakes or merely a new take on the original source material. You tell me, I guess.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco
What's this? A side-scrolling action game based specifically on the Hannah-Barbera cartoon incarnation of Pac-Man, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Namco in 1984 and converted for various platforms including the Famicom, Turbografx-16, Atari Lynx and various microcomputers, as well as reissues for platforms including PlayStation, iOS and the last-generation Pac-Man Museum; the player controls Pac-Man on various "trips" to escort a fairy back to its magical home, a feat that requires Pac-Man to traverse relatively sprawling side-scrolling stages, dodge ghosts in various guises and hunt for various secrets via a slightly unusual three-button, no-stick control scheme.
Why should I care? You want to try the game that walked so that the likes of Super Mario Bros. could run, and you want to experience the peculiar fun of controlling a player-character in a now-codified genre using a control scheme adjacent to that of a button-mashing sports game — or, you've tried it that way and want to try it again with the option to move with a d-pad. (It's also worth mentioning that this game's included in next month's Pac-Man Museum+ compilation, in case you'd rather not double-dip.)
Useless fact: This reissue features many, mostly minor, visual edits, but one big conspicuous change is that the designs and colors of Pac-Man's family have been altered to more closely resemble Namco's modern incarnation of Pac-Man's family and less like Ms. Pac-Man and co., characters that have recently been embroiled in a legal dispute with AtGames.
Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $19.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Square-Enix
What's this? A remaster of Square's divisive follow-up to the beloved SNES JRPG Chrono Trigger, originally released for the Sony PlayStation in 2000; this version allows the player to select either the original visuals or an updated graphics mode with HD character models, AI-upscaled environments, modern fonts and redrawn character portraits by original illustrator Nobuteru Yuuki, as well as a jukebox for the game's acclaimed soundtrack, select new tunes and arrangements from composer Yasunori Mitsuda and certain New Game+ enhancements made available by default. Additionally, this remaster also includes Radical Dreamers, a narrative experience released exclusively for the Japanese Satellaview download service and never reissued until now, complete with a full localization.
Why should I care? As a remaster, early ports suggest it leaves a lot to be desired: the AI-upscaled assets vary wildly in quality, and the original iffy performance hasn't dramatically improved and may in fact be worse depending on platform and/or current patch; as a direct continuation of the journey of the characters introduced in Chrono Trigger, one would probably come away unsatisfied... but, as a curious excursion into the fringes of the Chrono world and a large handful of weirdoes, it seems poised for reappraisal (especially after people see the new surprised revealed to those who clear both Cross and Radical Dreamers).
Useless fact: This is yet another Square remaster that's getting an exclusive physical Switch release in Asia, complete with English text, so if you want that box, get to importin'.
- Platform::PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $26.99 / €22.99 / £20.69
- Publisher: Qute
What's this? A manic vertical shooter with a throwback "flying saucer" sci-fi aesthetic, originally developed by hobbyist-turned-pro dev team Qute for the Xbox 360 and released exclusively in Japan in 2011, with a PC version released worldwide in 2015; as with the recent Switch port, this port boasts a few little perks like the elimination of mid-stage loading screens and the addition of an option for a remastered soundtrack option alongside the original and arranged music, and it once again includes ports of the main developer's award-winning Wonderswan homebrew games Judgment Silversword and Cardinal Sins — included as part of the standard X360 package, but segregated from the PC port as additional purchases — alongside the main game.
Why should I care? Eschatos was one of the most exciting original shooting game releases of its generation and time has been extremely kind to it — it's dynamic, relentlessly paced and not at all afraid to take advantage of its polygonal makeup via dramatic camerawork or occasional and (mostly) unobtrusive changes in perspective, and the game design subsumes a lot of the more modern shooting game conventions into a more classic style of game, while also featuring a selection of varied play modes and a gradual series of unlockables to reward players for persevering, not to mention a phenomenal retro soundtrack by Yousuke Yasui (who you might know as the guy who composed that one insane chiptune for a DS English training game that seems to buzz every other month). Those Wonderswan games are no throwaways, either.
Useless fact: To my immediate recollection, this release constitutes the first time any original WonderSwan content has been reissued in any form on PS4.
- Platform::Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $24.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Forever Entertainment / MegaPixel Studio
What's this? A remake of Sega's classic zombie-themed lightgun game, originally developed for the Model 2 arcade board and released in 1996, with ports to PC and Sega Saturn; this remake, produced by the same team behind the recent Panzer Dragoon remake, sports entirely new modern visuals, newly-arranged music, re-recorded voice acting, alternates modes like a horde mode and a mode with a modern scoring system, all underpinned by a modest assortment of controller configurations that combine the analog stick and the gyroscope to approximate operating a lightgun.
Why should I care? For all of its many shortcomings, the Panzer Dragoon was eventually transformed from an embarrassment to an adequate mechanical approximation of the original game via numerous patches, so I'm going to be charitable and presume that the many complaints I'm already hearing regarding limited control options, technical performance and visual quality will eventually be resolved via updates or simply shifting to higher-spec hardware in the future, even if the fundamental quandary of playing a lightgun game with anything but a lightgun isn't ever going to be solved.
Useless fact: This same publisher/studio is still on the hook for remakes and/or revivals of The House of the Dead 2, Panzer Dragoon Zwei, Fear Effect, Front Mission 1st, Front Mission 2nd, Shadowgate, Magical Drop and Night Slashers, in case you haven't been keeping track.
Kaze no Klonoa: Moonlight Museum (Wonderswan) English translation by Raccoon Sam
Fresh off the recent translation of the final handheld Klonoa game, Klonoa Heroes, comes a new English translation patch for Kaze no Klonoa: Moonlight Museum, the greyscale puzzle-platformer produced for Bandai's Wonderswan hardware that served as the foundation for the later, internationally-released Game Boy Advance entries. The occasional vertically-oriented section loses a little outside of the context of actually physically turning the hardware, of course, but if any readership's readily equipped to play this translation on an actual Wonderswan, I figure it's probably this one.
Yumimi Mix Remix (Sega Saturn) English translation by supper
Originally produced for the Mega CD, the ever-so-slightly-enhanced Sega Saturn version of Game Arts and Izumi Takemoto's "interactive comic" — a rather modest descriptor for what's essentially a multi-branching anime OVA — has been subtitled in English, a feat worthy of particular acclaim for the fact that the game basically didn't support subtitles at all before this translation project. (Other enhancements include the ability to automatically skip certain scenes for the sake of quicker replays and the ability to remove Japanese honorifics from the subtitles.)