Retro Re-release Roundup, week of January 12, 2023
Fighting games' greatest shoto returns to the world stage.
As y'all can see, the classic reissues are once again flowing to your platform of choice, and the year's kicked off with a banger: Breakers Collection, a long-in-the-making re-release of one of the Neo Geo's small handful of non-SNK fighting games, and a test run for the Japan/Mexico co-developed tag fighter Rage of the Dragons, which may or may not be out by the end of the year. Viva 2023, the year of scraping the jar.
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Koei-Tecmo
What's this? A first-person turret shooter, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Tekhan (later Tecmo, currently Koei-Tecmo) in 1983, with a port produced for MSX computers in 1984 and emulated reissues for PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2005; players are tasked with using a 360-degree rotating turret to destroy 32 advancing tanks per stage, with the on-screen radar and sound cues alerting the player to the movements of the incoming tanks and other enemies.
Why should I care? The pseudo-3D landscapes and broader audiovisual suite are mighty impressive for their vintage, and ACA's de rigueur caravan modes help to bring a little more focus and immediacy to what can sometimes feel like a rather staid experience.
Useless fact: Senjyo's relatively high sales in the arcade but relatively poor income and long play times pushed Tekhan to rush out a more casual and immediate game as a replacement ROM for existing Senjyo boards — that game was Star Force, and it was arguably the most influential and successful game Tecmo ever produced.
Classics Catalog update, January '23: Hot Shots Golf 2 (PS), Star Wars: Demolition (PS), Syphon Filter 3 (PS3)
What're these? The second entry in the popular Sony golf series now known internationally as Everybody's Golf, the Star Wars franchise's contribution to the short-lived vehicular combat fad and the Syphon Filter threequel crammed onto the original PlayStation in order to help squeeze one more big holiday season out of it before the PlayStation 2 really took over.
Why should I care? You're paying hundreds of dollars a year for this service, so one would hope you care about whether or not they remember to release games for it. Regardless, all three of these games exemplify the sorts of interesting curios that ought to exist on subscription services like these: no, you probably wouldn't ever go out of your way to specifically play them, but that's kinda the point.
Useless fact: Hot Shots Golf 2 was the first Hot Shots game developed by Clap Hanz, after original developer Camelot parted ways with Sony; whether they did this due to their insistence on adding Gex to the sequel has not been confirmed.
- Platform: PlayStation 4+5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $19.99 or equivalent (digital) / €29.99 (standard physical edition) / €59.99 (collectors edition
- Publisher: QuByte Interactive / Visco
What's this? A two-pack containing the 1996 Neo Geo fighting game Breakers and its 1998 revision, Breakers Revenge, originally developed and published by the erstwhile Visco; this collection adds cross-platform online play with GGPO netcode, a new King of Fighters-esque team battle mode, a training mode with hitbox display and other amenities, various screen filters and display settings, an art gallery and more.
Why should I care? First off, I should emphasize that the team behind these ports is not the same one that regularly cranks out "QuByte Classics" releases: in other words, they actually did a halfway-decent job. As for the games themselves, this isn't much of a collection, really — the two games are 95% identical and you'll never play the original — but Breakers Revenge has long been heralded as an unsung low-calorie gem by fighting game crate-diggers and Fightcade rats, and this launch presents the greatest opportunity to test your mettle against a player base that hasn't been labbing Sho for two decades.
Helpful tip: For whatever reason, cross-play is disabled by default, so if you're ever struggling to find games online, make sure it's turned on.
Dragon Blaze, Gunbarichand Zero Gunner 2-
- Platform: Xbox (worldwide)
- Price: $9.99 each or equivalent
- Publisher: City Connection
What're these? The first three Xbox ports from City Connection's catalogue of Psikyo arcade games; all three of these games were originally released at the turn of the millennium, with Zero Gunner 2 making it to Dreamcast and Dragon Blaze making it to PlayStation 2, and have been ported and re-ported multiple times over the last few years across Switch, PlayStation 4 and PC, with these Xbox ports being announced well over a year ago. (These ports offer basic screen options, button configs, difficulty settings and online leaderboards.)
Why should I care? It's nice to see at least one publisher remember that the Xbox ecosystem has an ingrained community of willing (or, perhaps, lapsed) shooting game fans... and yes, they deserve better ports than the perfunctory-to-inadequate offerings produced by City Connection and Zerodiv, but if these ports lead anyone to alternate methods of playing and enjoying a catalogue of near-universal genre classics, then I suppose I can shut my yap. (For what it's worth, Dragon Blaze's port teeters on the edge of acceptability!)
Helpful tip: Zero Gunner 2- is so named for the fact that the developers of the port essentially recreated the game by eye and are fully aware that it's not the least bit accurate to the original, and rather than fix or even shelve it, they simply tacked a minus onto the name and threw their hands up. They did at least patch it to the point where all the enemy models no longer blink out of existence the moment you fire a bullet, so that's somethin'.
ROM HACKS & FAN TRANSLATIONS
Sakura Wars 2 (Sega Saturn) demo translation
The team behind recent Saturn translation patch projects like Bulk Slash, Grandia and the original Sakura Wars has publicly announced their intentions to translate Sakura Wars 2 in a very direct way: namely, by releasing a patch for the original demo, released a few months before the full game. Look forward to the full release sometime in 20XX!
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
LOOM (PC) collectors' edition from Limited Run Games
- Price: $74.99
- Availability: open pre-order from January 13, 10:00 Eastern until February 26, 23:59 Eastern
Equal parts beloved for its breezy fairytale-esque narrative and pilloried for a dearth of challenge or interactivity, Brian Moriaty's LOOM remains one of the more singular entries in the LucasArts oeuvre, and one whose fandom seems almost entirely divorced from that of the typical SCUMM game. Will that fandom check for this box set?