Retro Re-release Roundup, week of October 27, 2022
Sega's popular mini console gets a meaner, uglier, cooler brother.
The centerpiece of today's roundup — the release of the Genesis/Mega Drive Mini 2, a collection of some of the more obscure and discriminating cuts of the Sega 16-bit console library — comes with a sad denouement: the unit's staff roll contained the first public announcement of the passing of veteran game developer Rieko Kodama, creator of and contributor to Phantasy Star, Skies of Arcadia, Alex Kidd, Sonic the Hedgehog and many other Sega games spanning almost four decades.. May she rest in peace.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco
What's this? A light-hearted shooting game for one or two players, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Namco in 1988, with a scaled-down conversion released for Turbografx-16 in 1989 and a more authentic port included on the PlayStation compilation Namco Museum vol.4 in 1997, as well as a Japanese Wii Virtual Console Arcade reissue in 2009; players control a genius scientist and/or his trusty assistant on a mission to rescue his transmogrifying invention "Ordyne" (and his fiance!) from an evil mastermind, which they achieve by shootin' stuff with a shot/bomb setup (kinda like Fantasy Zone!), buying items and upgrades from the occasional shop (also like Fantasy Zone!) and, as befitting a showcase game for the then-new System II arcade hardware, a whole bunch of sprite scaling and rotation (unlike Fantasy Zone, and to Fantasy Zone's detriment),
Why should I care? Ordyne is arguably the best of Namco's surprisingly short number of horizontally-scrolling shooting games, and the difficulty is relaxed enough for players of all skill levels to enjoy the copious amounts of unnecessary background rotation. (It's also the birthplace of Miyuki-chan, the shopkeeper whose cameos in other Namco games far outweigh any of Ordyne's less peripheral characters.)
Helpful tip: Pressing left(x7), down(x6), right(x5) on the main menu will play BGM from an unused stage, and pressing left(x7), up(x6), right(x5) will play BGM from an unused boss battle.
- Price: $99.99 / £109.99 / €109.99 / ¥9,980
- Publisher: Sega of Japan / Amazon
What's this? A sequel to Sega and M2's successful 2019 plug-and-play, featuring over 60 new games, including 20 games for the Sega CD/Mega CD expansion system, many of which have never been reissued by Sega or anyone else, as well as a handful new and unreleased conversions and oddities nobody could have predicted, running via a more-or-less identical emulation suite to that of the original Mini. Due to pandemic-related constraints, this system has been manufactured in far smaller quantities than the original Mini, with sales exclusive to Amazon and processed from Japan, so supply is relatively limited. (Japan-exclusive accessories include an ornamental "Mega Drive Tower Mini 2" and a ¥20,000 replica of an analogue flight stick originally produced for the Sharp X68000 computer, compatible with select arcade conversions, as well as support for specific models of USB hub and mouse for multi-tap and Mega Mouse compatibility.)
Which games are included? As with the previous Genesis/Mega Drive Mini, the Japanese and international Mini 2 units feature different lineups, with roughly 40% of the games being unique to one version or the other (and, due to licensing/language issues, substantially more Mega CD games on the Japanese unit than on the international unit: 20 vs. 12). A list of all the games would be completely illegible, so I suggest you check the above links for full lists of each system's library, but allow me to mention the "bonus" games: a brand-new port of the original arcade Fantasy Zone by the same amateur dev as the OG Mini's Darius port! An authentic unreleased conversion of the X68000 puzzle game Star Mobile! Brand-new, M2 produced ports of the obscure early-'80s Sega arcade games Sanrin San-chan and Super Locomotive! A genuine unreleased and unannounced game by Sonic series producer Takashi Iizuka! A brand-new, versus-only back-port of the Saturn-based arcade puzzler Puyo Puyo Sun with additional game rules! A 2022 revision of the Japanese quiz game Party Quiz Mega Q AND a Sega-themed remix! A remake of Space Harrier II AND a brand-new Space Harrier port, both built to "Sega Mark V" spec, an imaginary-but-plausible version of the Mega Drive with genuine sprite scaling! (As with the OG Mini, switching the language settings on your unit will allow you access to different region ROMs for that unit's games, but switching your Genesis Mini to Japanese won't magically give you all the Japan-exclusive games, nor will every game on the Japanese unit be guaranteed to include an English-language variant of every game, with the Lunar games and Popful Mail being glaring omissions.
Why should I care? Given that the pandemic took everything but a direct, literal follow-up to the Genesis/Mega Drive Mini off the table, Sega & M2 took the correct approach with the Mini 2: instead of trying and failing to assemble another lineup of well-rounded, critically-acclaimed, accessible games for newcomers and veterans alike, they instead narrowed their focus to including more obscure, tougher and weirder games for all the Sega sickos out there, and while there remains a gap between the depths of the Japanese model's library and that of the international version, particularly on the Sega CD front, they've nonetheless managed to pack in a ton of heavily-requested games that never made it to Virtual Console, Nintendo Switch Online or any of the million Genesis compilations, as well as several "bonus" games that, in the best possible way, defy explanation.
Helpful tip: Firstly, the Mini 2's compatible with all the same controllers as the OG Mini; secondly, the Mini 2 requires a slightly beefier power supply (5V/2.0A) than that of the OG Mini, which may or may not be included with your model depending on region, so do your research.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Taito
What's this? The latest (and presumably final) release in Taito and Pyramid's ever-more-confusing Dariusburst series, which originated on PlayStation Portable in 2009 and made its way to arcades via a 32:9 cabinet, smartphones, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and Nintendo Switch; this release exclusively repackages all the console-centric, 16:9-optimized content from the 2015 PC/PS4/Vita release Dariusburst Chronicle Saviors and adds some new features like online leaderboards and HD rumble, as well as some (but not all!) of the guest ships previously sold as additional DLC.
Why should I care? Essentially, this release and the Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX+ release from a few months back are two halves of the same whole: while DBACEX+ was an authentic arcade port with tweaks for arcade purists, CS Core is intended specifically for those who want to steadily progress through hundreds of stages over a longer period, with an aspect ratio that doesn't leave most of the screen unfilled and some additional content to encapsulate the furthest depths of Darius series lore. Of course, you could buy Chronicle Saviors on PC or PS4 and get both "halves" of the game with largely the same content, save for some additions that a new player probably wouldn't even notice, let alone appreciate, but that's not an option availble to everybody, I suppose.
Helpful tip: Chronicle Saviors' nine additional DLC ships, borrowed from Capcom, Cave and Raizing, are not included in CS Core and will not be made available down the line, presumably due to originally being produced by an external contractor.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Valis Collection (Sega Genesis/Mega Drive) cartridge reissues from Retro-Bit
- Price:: $144.99 / €169.99 (box set) / $49.99 / €64.99
- Availability: open pre-order until November 27
Alongside the recent digital Valis collections comes this three-pack of Genesis/Mega Drive Valis reprints: the remake of the original Valis, the MD version of Valis III and the absurdly-renamed super-deformed remix of Valis II, Syd of Valis; these Casltemania-manufactured carts are available from Retro-Bit and specific regional vendors, including Limited Run Games and Strictly Limited Games, with a portion of the proceeds of each sale going to the non-profit Video Game History Foundation.