Retro Re-release Roundup, week of April 21, 2022
I refuse to type the word "Un-Wii-sh'd".
Before you get to the meat of this week's roundup, take note of these two games that I elected not to mention in detail: Kikikaikai: Kuro Mantle no Nazo, the multi-language Japanese version of the game whose international release, Pocky & Rocky Reshrined, is still a couple months away, and the Glover remaster released on Steam, whose publisher is going all in on NFT nonsense and whose prior actions regarding other matters of commercial game reissues makes me not want to talk about them.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco
What's this? The sequel to Namco's monumentally successful fixed-screen shooter Galaga, originally developed and distributed in Japanese arcades by Namco in 1984, with certain Midway-distributed overseas versions retitled Galaga 3 in reference to its status as the successor to Galaxian and Galaga (don't think too hard about it), and a scant few ports produced for the PC-9821 and Commodore 64, with very sporadic reissues thereafter. Gaplus differentiates itself from its predecessor with full eight-way movement in the latter half of the screen, a variety of attack-altering ship transformations and several really, really arcade scoring tricks.
Why should I care? You might presume that a direct sequel to a game as popular as Galaga could only have fallen into obscurity due to being poorly made or unduly difficult, but that's not really the case: Gaplus happened to release at a precise moment in time when the home platforms of the day couldn't adequately recreate it, and it ran on relatively unique hardware that made it less likely to show up in emulation-based anthologies, but all of that is circumstantial to its actual quality.
Helpful tip: If you wondered why the recent Namco Museum Archives release touted its brand-new NES/Famicom conversion of Gaplus as something of equivalent importance to their Pac-Man CE demake, perhaps this write-up will help explain why — not only was it decades-late wish fulfilment for a very certain generation of arcade rat, it was also quite the technical feat, non-obvious as that may be.
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE EXPANSION PASS
Sega Genesis/Mega Drive April '22 Update: Shining Force II, Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball and Space Harrier II
What're these? A humble launch-title sequel to a classic pseudo-3D arcade shooting game, the more RPG-focused sequel to Climax/Sonic Software Planning's hit strategy-RPG and a hybridized, Sonic-themed pinball game rushed to market in order to fill the holiday gap created by the last-minute delays to Sonic 3.
Why should I care? Shining Force II remains one of the breezier SRPGs on the market and is especially well-suited to handheld play, and Sonic Spinball's an interesting concept that ought to be experienced, if not ever beaten or enjoyed (and it's not on the just-revealed Sonic Origins collection, either). Space Harrier II... okay, Japan got two launch titles and the other one was Super Thunder Blade, so they at least picked the lesser of two evils.
Useless fact: Sonic Spinball's options menu music is often cited as an example of the poor audio quality of Sega of America's GEMS sound driver, but that's not particularly fair: the vast majority of Spinball's music is far less harsh on the ears, and composer Howard Drossin's work in other games and with other drivers and sound sources suggests that he just really likes ugly guitar-esque sound banks. (Also, it ain't even that bad, ya palookas.)
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $19.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Shiravune
What's this? An all-ages localized remake of the seminal Japanese adult romance(ish) adventure game Dokyuuusei, originally developed by adult game artisans Elf and released for FM Towns, Sharp X68000 and DOS in 1992 and subsequently converted and heavily adapted for PC Engine, Saturn and other computer platforms; this remake keeps the same basic system and meatheaded premise as previous versions but adorns them with brand-new, full-HD visuals with a new art style, fully-voiced characters, an easy mode that shows all the hidden paramaters and more.
Why should I care? For as inane as much of the (deftly localized) dialogue might seem, people aren't exaggerating when they describe this game as an important figure in the evolution of Japanese adventure game: the advancements it made that took it away from an unabashed porn slideshow and towards something resembling an actual simulative interaction made it one of Japan's most successful original computer games at the time, and its console conversions and even-more-popular sequel managed to dovetail with the release of Konami's Tokimeki Memorial and help push the explosion of the subgenre into the mainstream, so it's nice to see it get global attention in one form or another.
Useless fact: This actually came out last week but I forgot to mention it because it's friggin' Doukyuusei.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $19.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Aspyr / Krome Media
What's this? A rather basic modern port of Krome Studio's Wii version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the late-'00s cross-platform action game centered on the exploits of Darth Vader's long-decanonized apprentice Starkiller. Aside from the assumed upgrades like a resolution boost and improved performance, the big enhancement made to this version is the option to use standard button controls instead of the Wii's mandatory motion controls, should you not want to ever waggle anything ever again for as long as you live.
Why should I care? Speaking broadly, there are a ton of noteworthy game adaptations and conversions that have long been considered outside of the purview of commercial reissues for reasons of marketability or ease of porting, so one should applaud the fact that at least one of them has been salvaged from the dustbin of history. Speaking more specifically: the "real" version of the game, developed directly by LucasArts for PS360 and PC, is typically remembered as a barely-held-together physics engine showcase with a veneer of melee combat, whereas the Wii version is lauded by some for offering a more conventual melee action game experience and, for whatever reason, containing a lot of exclusive setpieces and details not found in the HD versions, including a two-player duel mode, so even those who didn't think much of the HD versions might be satiated by this one.
Useless fact: The Wii version of this game was itself the foundation for two other conversions: a PS2 version, which borrows the main campaign minus the duel mode or any other extras that the team couldn't or didn't want to port, and a PSP version which takes the PS2 version and adds its own exclusive side modes, distinct from those seen on Wii, in accordance with Sony's "don't make the PSP look like a PS2 dumping ground" policy.
ROM HACKS & TRANSLATIONS
Some of you may remember the original version of toruzz' Super Mario Land DX hack, an admirable effort to colorize the original Super Mario Land that took some contentious liberties with Mario's sprite, among other things — toruzz has returned with a new "2.0" version that makes several technical revisions and additions (including Luigi!) and, perhaps most crucially, offers the option to switch back to the traditional Mario sprite if you so prefer. (Incidentally, it also fixes a positional bug related to Mario's jumping that was partly to blame with the negative reception to the sprite edit featured in the first patch, so perhaps that new sprite might feel a little less unnatural this time around.)
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Battletoads vs. Double Dragon (NES) cartridge reprint from Retro-Bit
- Price: $59.99 / €64.99
- Availability: orders close May 22
The ultimate team-up of NES-era brawler mascots is getting an unlikely cartridge reissue courtesy of Retro-Bit Publishing, which includes a green transparent cartridge shell and an acrylic stand, among other goods; the release is being co-ordinated with a ton of different retailers and vendors, particularly in Europe, so check the full list for the one best situated to provide you a copy. (Retro-Bit's already confirmed a "16-bit" release for later, too...)
Zero Tolerance Collection (Switch/PS4) & Zero Tolerance Origins (Genesis/Mega Drive) from Strictly Limited Games
- Price: $34.99 / €29.99 (standard), $55.99 / €49.99 (collectors' edition), $55.99 / €49.99 (Origins Genesis/MD cartridge)
- Availability: from April 23, 15:00 Pacific time
Originally published by Accolade and developed by Technopop, Zero Tolerance is known not just for being perhaps the most playable of the surprising number of original first-person shooters produced for the Sega Genesis but one that also featured multiplayer via a special console-to-console link cable that was never used for any other game. After many years of being available for free online from one of the original creators, Zero Tolerance and its unreleased sequels — the allegedly-complete Zero Tolerance Underground and the definitely-incomplete Beyond Zero Tolerance — were acquired by a certain classic IP hoard of dubious repute and are being compiled into one package for modern consoles, and what's more, the original game (now dubbed Zero Tolerance Origins) is also getting a cartridge reissue in both Genesis and PAL Mega Drive variants. To my knowledge, none of these versions do anything to provide easier access to the multiplayer experience, but what can ya do.
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
Ace Attorney 20th Anniversary Limited Edition 6LP vinyl box set from Laced Records
- Price: £100.00
- Availability: ETA October 2022
Why buy the Ace Attorney games for the umpteenth time when you can instead buy their soundtracks on vinyl for the first time? Laced Records' anniversary box set is promising 121 remastered tunes from the six mainline entries in the series,across six gold LPs, with shipping estimated to begin in October.