Retro Re-release Roundup, week of January 26, 2023
GoldenEye's back, exactly how you wanted it.
I cannot state with any degree of certainty that forcing me to write about The NewZealand Story on Australia Day constitutes a hate crime but absolutely no part of me feels good about what has transpired here.
The NewZealand Story
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Taito
What's this? A sprawling action-platformer starring the national bird of New Zealand, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Taito in 1988 and blessed with a plethora of home conversions, including several European microcomputers (most notably the extremely well-circulated Amiga port), a handful of Japanese computer ports and conversions for NES, Sega Master System and PC Engine and Sega Mega Drive, with later emulated reissues on PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable. Players control the kiwi Tiki on a quest to rescue his girlfriend and pals from the captivity of an evil leopard seal; Tiki needs to retrieve one of his buddies, whose location is displayed on an on-screen minimap, from within each ot the open, maze-like stages, with traversal aided by several aerial vehicles that can be found or commandeered in each stage.
Why should I care? This game was built atop a cancelled reboot of the old needle-threading action game Crazy Balloon, and when viewed through that lens, it makes a lot more sense — it's less a wandrous platformer and more of a don't-touch-the-traps maze game that just happens to star a little bird what jumps on stuff, so play it with that in mind and you might be more tolerant of some of the difficulty spikes.
Helpful tip: There were several different revisions of The New Zealand Story released in arcades, with varying amounts of distribution per region; atypically, the ACA version just includes the one ROM, but it's the version you're most likely to have played, directly or via one of the home versions... unless you're most familiar with the Mega Drive version, which for whatever reason is based on a pre-release version of the game that underwent several changes before the first official release.
COMING TO A CONSOLE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE NEAR YOU
Goldeneye 007 (Nintendo 64)
- Platform: Nintendo Switch via Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pass, Xbox via Xbox Game Pass
- Publisher: Nintendo / Microsoft / MGM / whoever else has a finger in the pie
What's this? An emulated reissue of the Rare-developed, Nintendo-published first-person shooter based on the 1994 007 film GoldenEye that sold a zillion Nintendo 64 consoles way back in 1997, which has been the subject of several purported remakes and extremely dubious tie-ins, some released and some not, but never officially reissued until now. This version is being distributed via the platform holder's respective N64 emulator suites — Nintendo's NSO emulator and Xbox's emulator created for Rare Replay — and the feature suites and differences are commensurate with those emulators: Xbox gets 4K resolution support and achievements, and Nintendo gets online play (with same-region friends).
Why should I care? First of all, the all-but-complete remaster that many people wanted and everybody knew was in the works has leaked and is out there, so there's no need to pine for what could've been: if that's the version you want, it won't take you long to find it. As for the version now before us — a ROM in an emulator that, as of right now, may or may not be up to the task of accurately replicating the game, depending on platform — it's a flaccid way to reintroduce a game that first established home consoles as a credible venue for first-person shooters and whet the mainstream appetite for multiplayer deathmatch, but it'll probably be entirely adequate for the purposes of showing your kids for the five minutes it takes for you to run out of strained Fortnite comparisons, and that's all I imagine most people will want it for, anyway.
Helpful tip: Owning a copy of Rare Replay on Xbox will entitle you to a free standalone Goldeneye download that does not require Game Pass, but for whatever reason, this offer doesn't seem to apply to physical copies of Rare Replay, only digital ones.
- Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $69.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
What's this? A next-gen remake of Electronic Arts and Visceral Games' 2008 sci-fi action-horror game Dead Space, originally released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC and spawning two sequels and several other spinoffs and ancillary media; this remake, helmed by Canadian studio and Star Wars Battlefront contributor EA Motive, looks to stay broadly faithful to the original while adding the requite audiovisual overhaul, the restoration of cut areas and an increased freedom to backtrack and a completely rewritten script with full voice action for player-character Isaac, among other more subtle changes.
Why should I care? I don't know that you should... I mean, didn't The Calista Protocol just give people everything they could possibly want?
Helpful tip: If you pre-purchase on Steam, which you can still do for the next several hours, you'll get Dead Space 2 for free.
The House of the Dead (remake)
- Platform: PlayStation 5 (worldwide)
- Price: $24.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Forever Entertainment
What's this? Forever Entertainment's recent remake of Sega's classic 1997 arcade lightgun game, The House of the Dead, which launched on Switch last year and swiftly made its way to PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox consoles and has now appeared natively on PlayStation 5; much like the updated Xbox Series X version, this version boasts visual/performance boosts that put it somewhere in the vicinity of the PC version, as well as gyro aiming via DualSense. (This version's supposed to be free to owners of the PS4 version, but as always, actually redeeming your free version is beholden to the whims of Sony, so you may just have to wait it out.)
Why should I care? This port's apparently non-functional at the moment, so perhaps you shouldn't... but, if and when it's playable in an optimized state, the essential qualities of the original game are solid enough that even the most unflattering of reinterpretations can't fully diminish how fun it was and remains.
Helpful tip: The PS4 version additionally supports PSVR Aim and PS Move controllers, but neither seem to be supported by the PS5 version, nor do they function correctly in backwards-compatibility mode.
Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 & 5 (worldwide)
- Price: $49.99 / €49.99 / £44.99
- Publisher: ININ / Bliss Brain
What's this? The digital version of the deluxe edition of ININ and Ratalaika's classic Wonder Boy/Monster World, whose stripped-down counterpart was released last year to a rather meek reception; this version contains all of the mainline titles and several ports and variants thereof, with an extended art and game map gallery and Ratalaika's usual suite of screen settings and filters (including a no-border option), save states, rewind, button mapping (more on that below) and dipswitch settings for the arcade titles.
Which games are included? This collection includes 21 ROMs total: the arcade, SG-1000, Master System, Mark III and JP/EN Game Gear versions of Wonder Boy; the JP/EN arcade, Master System and Mark III versions of Wonder Boy in Monster Land; the Master System, "Mark III" and JP/EN Game Gear versions of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap; the arcade and Mega Drive versions of Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair; the JP Mega Drive, Genesis & Master System versions of Wonder Boy in Monster World and, finally, the original Japanese version and official 2012 translation of Monster World IV.
Why should I care? One might presume that the modern resurgence in interest around Wonder Boy/Monster World, spearheaded by Lizardcube's superlative Dragon's Trap remake and followed by a succession of remakes and sequels, would have driven somebody to offer a comprehensive, one-stop package that would allow newcomers to experience the breadth of the somewhat confusing series in a simple and straightforward manner... and now that ININ's done milking collectors and duping the uninitiated, they've finally delivered on what seemed like a fairly straightforward ask. Good games, these.
Helpful tip: For whatever reason, both the precursor to this collection and this collection default to custom, one-action-per-button control schemes that fundamentally alter the way many of the games play; the other collection did not let you change them, but this version does allow you to play with authentic controls by going into the gameplay section of the options menu and enabling classic controls. (Why isn't this setting in the controls menu?)
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Powerslave: Exhumed (PlayStation 4, Switch) & Powerslave (PC) physical editions from Limited Run Games
- Price: $34.99 (standard) / $59.99 (PC collectors edition) / $64.99 (classic editions)
- Availability: orders end February 26; ETA spring 2023
After years of teasing and murky legal negotiations, Lobotomy Software's forward-thinking exploratory FPS Powerslave: Exhumed received a long-awaited remaster lfor consoles and PC last year, and now it's returning to the physical console realm in both standard and totally-not-Saturn variants... and what's more, the original PC companion game, which shares assets with the console-centric main game but runs on a completely different engine with entirely different levels and a more conventional, linear game design, is getting a collectors' box set for PC. Can you dig it? That's an early-AM exhumation joke, folks.
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
Rusty (PC-98) 2LP vinyl soundtracks from Very OK Vinyl & pals
- Price: $43 or equivalent
- Availability: ETA February
Many of you may not be directly familiar with Rusty, a ribald side-scrolling action game released exclusively for the Japanese PC-98 computer and best known internationally via some rather strained comparisons to Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, but that shouldn't stop you from investigating its extremely polished Castlevania-esque soundtrack by FM prodigies Kenichi Arakawa, Masahiro Kajihara and Ryu Takami. This 2LP vinyl set is available in black, "rusty" red & splatter variants from a wide spread of regional distros: Ship to Shore (US), Very OK Vinyl (Canada), ChipFreq (UK), Black Screen Records (Europe) and BEEP Shop (Japan).