Retro Re-release Roundup, week of April 6, 2023
Another Vanillaware oddity re-emerges in HD.
To those who observe, may you enjoy the long weekend festivities, but do not lose sight of the true meaning of this sacred period: the martyrdom and pending resurrection of Tommy Tallarico.
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Allumer
What's this? An extremely familiar-looking horizonta/ sci-fi shooting game, originally developed by Allumer and distributed in arcades by Taito in 1991; players fly an R-Type-esque spacecraft through R-Type-esque stages on a mission to destroy a bunch of R-Type-esque biomechanical monstrosities, with the aid of a pair of arm-shaped appendages attached to the top and bottom of the ship that undulate with the movement of the ship and can fire angled aim shots and block enemy bullets (unlike R-Type, but not entirely unlike sister game X-Multiply.)
Why should I care? This game is a huge R-Type ripoff — the devs knew it, the media knew it, even R-Type devs Irem themselves joked about it — and not one made with the finesse required to ensure its extremely finicky, memorization-heavy style of game design doesn't dip into tedium, but the spot-the-difference metagame is amusing and, to, their credit, they did at least mimic Irem's pixel art style with a reasonable degree of competency.
Useless fact: Future shooting game maestro Manabu Namiki worked on Rezon as a young part-timer, not as a composer or sound designer but as a pixel artist; he'd later be fired from Allumer due to a dispute over their notoriously inadequate sound driver (which, as you may notice if you pick up Rezon, is bugged to only play extremely short loops of music, among other issues).
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Jaoan)
- Price: ¥800
- Publisher: G-MODE
What's this? A turn-based RPG centred around finding and equipping various powerful, partner-summoning gems, originally developed and distributed for Japanese feature phones by G-MODE in 2005; the player-character Dino lives in a floating city held aloft by the power of twelve mysterious gems, but when those gems suddenly scatter to the surface world below, Dino is forced to travel to the surface world to collect them, and confront his ingrained falsehoods about the lives of those below.
Why should I care? The impression I've been given from people who played this game back in the day is that it was one of the signboard games for a more advanced wave of bigger, more sophisticated and sensibly-designed mobile RPGs, and what little I've experienced so far definitely suggests that to be true.
Useless fact: This is yet another early work from Okasana Koda, creator of the highly-acclaimed Sepas Channel and the upcoming indie game OU — it seems G-MODE's consciously trying to reissue his early works right now.
GrimGrimoire Once More
- Platform: PlayStation 4+5, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $49.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: NIS America / Vanillaware
What's this? A remaster of Vanillaware's magic-school-themed side-view real-time strategy game, originally released by Nippon Ichi Software for the PlayStation 2 in 2007; this new version features enhanced visuals and a newly-optimized widescreen playfield, a fast-forward function, re-recorded voices, mid-battle saves, new skill trees and tide-turning "giant spells", unlockable art/lore galleries and more.
Why should I care? The original GrimGrimoire felt a little half-baked — yes, they satisfactorily realized the essence of PC RTS play on a side-view map with controller commands, but to what end? — and this version hasn't received nearly the overhaul afforded to Odin Sphere a few years ago, but the extra layer of familiar customization is appreciated and the fast-forward option helps paper over the saminess of a lot of the content. If nothing else, those of you who genuinely looked forward to the not-talky parts of 13 Sentinels might get a kick out of it.
Helpful tip: There is a demo, and I strongly suggest you try it out rather than go in blind.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $14.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Liron Barzilai
What's this? An interactive FMV mystery adventure, originally released to wide success on DOS and CD-i in 1993, with later ports for Mac, Windows and smartphones; this version is based on the more recent 25th-anniversary reissues and sports optional upscaled video, toggles for different soundtrack versions, auto-saves, the ability to skip scenes, newly-optimized movement controls and new voice acting and subtitles, including voices in English, French, Russian and German.
Why should I care? In recent years, a lot of ;90s FMV games have been reissued for the sake of pure kitsch (and/or shifting Saturn-style longboxes, I'm guessing) but The 7th Guest is a game whose enduring cultural cache is mostly sincere, and one whose foreboding atmosphere is almost enhanced by the abundance of extremely-dated CG environments.
Useless fact: This release is more-or-less coinciding with the game's 30th anniversary. Ain't that sweet?
UPDATES & DLC
TMNT Cowabunga Collection update
This week's TMNT Cowabunga Collection update adds a long-requested feature — online play for TMNT III: The Manhattan Project (NES) — alongside another smattering of archival images, including art directly from Kevin Eastman himself. Will the non-SNES versions of Tournament Fighters also receive online multiplayer at any point? Is that something people even want? (The collection's discounted right now, too.)
HACKS & HOMEBREW
Holy Diver (Famicom) button inputs correction patch by Equides
Irem's cult Famicom heavy-metal fantasy action game never quite measured up to the Castlevania series for one big reason: it was burdened with spotty input detection that regularly ate button inputs and foisted an unacceptable level of inconsistency onto what was already an extremely demanding game... but now, thanks to this patch, those input issues have largely been fixed, letting people enjoy the game the way they should've enjoyed it some thirty-five years ago.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Steel Empire Chronicles (PS4, Switch) and Steel Empire (Genesis/Mega Drive) & Over Horizon (NTSC/PAL NES) cartridge reissues from Strictly Limited Games
- Price: €33.61 (Chronicles) / €50.41 (Chronicles LE) / €42.01 (Genesis/MD/NES carts)
- Availability: from April 19, 00:00 CET; limited to 3000/2000 copies (Switch) / 1300/700 copies (PS4) / 800/500 copies (NTSC/PAL cartridges)
Despite its modest availability back in the day, Hot B's horizontal steampunk shooting game Steel Empire has received new conversions and adaptations with surprising regularity, spanning Game Boy Advance, 3DS, PC and now modern consoles, but the Genesis/Mega Drive original has never resurfaced... until now, with this Mebius/ININ collection that includes the MD original alongside the altered GBA adaptation, the modern HD version (itself based more on the GBA version than the original) and, for no particular reason, Hot B's even lesser-played Famicom/NES-but-only-in-Germany shooter Over Horizon, all in one package. What's more, they're also reissuing both Steel Empire and Over Horizon on authentic cartridges, compliant with your old hardware of facsimile thereof.
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
Virtua Fighter vinyl 2LP from Cartridge Thunder
- Price: $42 (blue/black) / $44 (virtua splatter)
- Availability: ETA July 2023
Sega's groundbreaking 3D fighting game series Virtua Fighter is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and one of the many planned collectibles is this new double-LP vinyl soundtrack containing both the original arcade tunes and the Sega Saturn arranges, complete with liner notes from Champion Boxing designer Yu Suzuki (but not the actual composers, Takayuki Nakamura and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi...)