Retro Re-release Roundup, week of March 2, 2023
Namco's arcade roll-em-up flew so that Star Fox could... um, fly.
Eagle-eyed viewers might notice that this week's roundup is primarily buoyed by games that came out last week, either due to those game shadow-dropping after the roundup went live or due to the simple fact that the pandemic has punched roughly eight hundred holes into my brain, but if that's what it takes to clear the runway for Pocky & Rocky Reshrined, I see no reason to be upset.
Sky Kid DX
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco
What's this? An upgraded revision of Namco's right-to-left horizontal biplane shooter, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Namco in 1986; while the original was ported to Famicom/NES, Game Boy and Epoch Super Cassette Vision and regularly reissued in arcade since since the PlayStation days, the DX version has seen comparatively few reissues, with the most recent being on the Namco Museum Virtual Arcade for Xbox 360. This version retains all the key points of the original — having to collect bombs and destroy designated targets in order to progress, shooting in different directions based on the angle of your plane, a dedicated loop-de-loop button for evasive manoeuvres and score play, waggling out of a tailspin to recover from potential death — but augmented with new touches owing to a switch to newer hardware, including enhanced FM audio, extra stages and enemies and touched-up background visuals.
Why should I care? The original game offered a fun assortment of non-traditional mechanics and a surprisingly deep array of scoring systems for a game that presents itself as a casual experience, and the deluxe version supersedes the original in every meaningful way.
Helpful tip: Uncharacteristically for Arcade Archives, this release has launched with a lot of very hard-to-avoid crash bugs on both platforms, so you may want to hold out for a few weeks until Hamster's patched all the issues.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Natsume-Atari
What's this? A Sonic Mania-esque remix-cum-sequen of the Japanese folklore-themed overhead run-and-gun action game Pocky & Rocky, originally developed by Natsume (now Natsume-Atari) for Super Famicom/SNES in 1992 under license from Taito and now remade by a small team of core developers from Natsume's heyday; this new version boasts completely redrawn pixel art and remastered audio on top of multiple additional playable characters, new mechanics and new levels and bosses that very quickly diverge from the source material.
Why should I care? This is the third revival project from Natsume's "Tengo Project", following Wild Guns Reloaded and The Ninja Warriors Once Again, and they're batting three for three: the original game was a cult favorite on SNES and a genre highlight even today, and this new version is as authentic and reverent a comeback of any classic 16-game you might care to name, and one that reflects the self-assuredness of a handful of old action game artistans who haven't lost a step.
Helpful tip: The one failing of Tengo Project's games is that they tend to be weirdly hostile to casual couch co-op, and Reshrined is no exception: the game is divided into a story mode, which is single-player-only and requires multiple clears to unlock all the characters, and a free mode that allows for co-op but requires all the stages and characters be unlocked via story mode... but, if you want to jump into a co-op session from the rip, enter ←(x4)→(×4) ←→←→←→←→ on the mode select screen to unlock the free mode.
VALIS: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide outside of Japan)
- Price: $44.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Edia
What's this? A second collection of games from Nihon Telenet's seminal anime-girl action game series, Valis, which was crowdfunded by the current Telenet catalog owner Edia last year; this collection offers emulated versions of the fourth and final mainline title, the 1991 PC Engine CD game Valis IV, alongside the super-deformed Mega Drive game SD Valis (a remix of sorts of Valis II) and the MSX and Mega Drive versions of the original Valis, presented here with basic save/load, button config and screen settings, as well as a music player, cutscene viewer, translated manuals and new subtitle options where relevant. (The original collection was also available piecemeal, but as of right now, this one's all-or-nothing with no option to buy any of the games individually.)
Why should I care? If you didn't play and really enjoy the first collection, you probably shouldn't: this is a series whose historical importance is undercut by its extremely uneven quality, and we're now talking about a collection of games that didn't make the cut the first time around, so... y'know. (The Mega Drive emulation's not great, either, but when is it ever?)
Useless fact: SD Valis is labeled as Syd of Valis, the title given to the Genesis version by somebody who couldn't make sense of the "SD" part of the original title, but the versions of the game presented here is the original Japanese version with overlaid subtitles, rather than the genuine Genesis version. How do they differ, you might ask? The Genesis version had a different title screen and referred to Yuko as "Syd", and that's pretty much it — it didn't even translate all of the text.
PATCHES & UPDATES
Resident Evil 5 (Steam) de-suckening patch
The long-neglected Steam version of Resident Evil 5 has been patched out of nowhere to remove all remaining vestiges of Games for Windows Live functionality, and with this patch come some long, long-awaited editions like the reintroduction of local co-op functionality and ultrawide resolution settings that allow both players's screens to span the full width of the screed during splitscreen play. Only took 'em thirteen years!
Tetris: The Grand Master (PS4/Switch via Arcade Archives) patch
Hamster's TGM reissue launched at the end of last year with some annoying graphical corruption issues that were patched in short order, and now they've gotten around to cleaning up a lot of the less critical issues related to rare memory leaks and online leaderboard quirks... and, given that this patch required a reset of the online rankings, you may want to take this opportunity to claim or reclaim a spot while you can.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
moon (Nintendo Switch) physical editions from Limited Run Games
- Price: $34.99 (Switch) / $44.99 (GBC)
- Availability: orders end April 2
...wait, didn't they already do one of these? Two of 'em, even? Whatever, any opportunity to grab another copy of proto-Chulip is a welcome one.
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
Journey to Silius / Hebereke - Uforia: The Saga vinyl LP from Ship to Shore & Black Screen Records
- Price: $25 / €28,00
- Availability: ETA Q3 2023
I'm seeing double! Four great Sunsoft NES soundtracks!