Retro Re-release Roundup, week of April 13, 2023
Dig Dug, NetNavi and Martial Masters.
This week sees yet another Mega Man reissue anthology: this time, the hotly-anticipated Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collections, which seemed extremely unlikely a few years ago but now seem credibly positioned to outsell all the prior collections. One has to wonder... what's next? Does Capcom jump straight into a Star Force collection? Might they finally get around to another Classic-era collection of odds and ends? A brand-new game? Maybe even a Lege-yeah, okay, let's not even joke.
Dig Dug II
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco
What's this? The lesser-played sequel to Namco's golden age diggy-pumpy hit, originally developed and distributed in Japanese arcades in 1985, with an expanded conversion produced for Famicom/NES and more authentic reissues released seldomly from the mid-'00s onward. This game ditches the side-view perspective of the original for an overhead perspective: the player is tasked with destroying all the enemies on each island stage, both via their trusty inflate-o-pump but also by staking the ground in set spots in order to crack the ground and sink chunks of the island into the ocean, with big points for sinking sections with multiple enemies.
Why should I care? It would be dishonest to dismiss Dig Dug II's modest reputation as having been borne from an audience that was overly resistant to change — ya made a Dig Dug without digging, ya palookas — but I also think this is a game that a lot of people simply haven't played due to a surprising dearth of reissues, and one might be surprised at how familiar it feels despite the many ways it deviates from the original.
Useless fact: For whatever reason, Namco attempted a massively-multiplayer take on Dig Dug II back in the late-'00s, and it actually lasted a year before they pulled the plug.
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE EXPANSION PASS
Pokemon Stadium (Nintendo 64)
What's this? The first 3D rendition of the core Pokemon battle system, originally released in 2000; the game was originally designed and sold on its ability to interface with the first-generation Pokemon Game Boy games via the Transfer Pak peripheral, which allowed players to manage, trade and battle their 'mons in 3D and even play the game itself on their TV (and at faster speeds at that), but that functionality isn't present here, so what you're left with is a gauntlet of trainer battles fought using pre-set "rental" Pokemon, as well as a small assortment of multiplayer minigames.
Why should I care? You've maintained a healthy tolerance for the many idiosyncracies of the gen-1 battle system, and you're willing to accept a whole lot of cheating AI on top of everything else. Maybe you just wanna play that one Lickitung game, iunno.
Helpful: As of right now, Gengar's the best Pokemon.
- Platform: PlayStation 4+5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox (worldwide)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: ININ / Strictly Limited Games
What's this? An emulated reissue of an outlandish side-scrolling action game developed by the dormant Mitchell Corporation and distributed in arcades in 1996 under the name Cannon Dancer in Japan and Osman overseas, with no home ports or conversions until now; this Ratalaika-emulated version offers their well-trodden assortment of screen filters, rewind functionality and save states and allows you to play either version of the game via a standard mode, which allows the use of straight-up cheats as well as "enhancements" that allow for perks like altered mobility or invincibility during specific actions, or a challenge mode which disables the use of features like saving and rewinds (but still allows the use of enhancements, go figure).
Why should I care? Frankly, this package offers terrible value-for-money, not just compared to recent competing reissues like the superlative Assaults Suits Valken Declassified but even Ratalaika's own works, which have offered more games and/or more content and features for less. What it does offer, however, is the first widely-accessible, official means of experiencing a more direct successor to Capcom's Strider than the three other sequels that bear its name — this game was reluctantly made by the creator of Strider as a pastiche of his old game, and it maintains the breakneck pace, setpiece-sandwich storytelling and impressionistic visages that made Strider so memorable, and that its official followups all but ignored.
Helpful tip: The Strider creator would go on to make a second Strider-ish game many years later: Moon Diver, a PS360 download game that in actuality bore little resemblance to Strider beyond "action game, sometimes with sword guy", and was made with the full acknowledgement that the Strider comparison was a desperate grasp for attention.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $34.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Alfa System / Cosmo Machia
What's this? The second entry in a series of Japanese fantasy-themed bullet hell shooting games, originally developed by Alfa System and released in arcades in 2003, with subsequent ports for Sega Dreamcast, Xbox, GameCube, PlayStation 2 and PC, with a fresh remaster produced for PC by Cosmo Machia in 2021; this Switch version is based on that remaster, which notably adds a new extra-challenging arrange mode and a "Dramatic Change" mode that allows solo players to swap between characters on the fly and experience all the two-player dialogue on their own, and also offers Flip Grip-friendly vertical handheld options and online leaderboards. (This version also sports a fresh translation, with no option to use the notoriously odd original English script.)
Why should I care? Your appreciation for dense, content-packed and variety-filled shooting games doesn't live or die by the absurdity of their script, and you don't mind paying a near-100% markup to play on Switch vs. PC.
Helpful tip: This game is getting an international physical release from Red Art Games and associates later in the year; if you'd rather not wait, Konami's already released a multi-language physical version in Japan.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: IGS
What's this? An emulated collection of games produced for the Neo Geo-esque PolyGame Master arcade board, designed and sold by Taiwanese company IGS from the late-'90s to mid-'00s, none of which have been ported to home platforms or even widely distributed outside of Asia until now; this collection offers eight games with save states, button mapping and move lists, some extremely basic screen and audio settings and online leaderboards and/or multiplayer functionality for almost all titles.
Which games are included? This collection includes three games in the Three Kingdoms-themed brawler series Knights of Valour — Knights of Valour: Superheroes, Knights of Valour Plus and Knights of Valour 2 - Nine Dragons —, two games in the Journey to the West-themed brawler series Oriental Legend — Oriental Legend and Oriental Legend Special (now mistranslated as Oriental Legend Spooky), the wuxia-themed brawler The Gladiator, the very Capcom-esque martial arts fighting game Martial Masters and the extremely Metal Slug-esque run-and-gun Demon Front. All of these game are solely available in their English-language variants, and Demon Front and The Gladiator lack online functionality.
Why should I care? This collection showed up this morning with no warning and no fanfare, and one hopes it might also be patched and updated with similar immediacy: the screen options make it extremely difficult to attain the correct aspect ration, there's constant frame-skipping, the already-crunchy audio is even harsher than it ought to be and the netcode's unreliable to say the least, but at its heart is an assortment of games that arcade afficionados have been idly hoping would make their way home for the last two decades, and whose humble roots as derivative games produced for supposedly minor market belie some (and I stress, some) extremely respectable games with particularly striking animation that probably would've been globally popular had circumstances been just a little different.
Useless fact: There is one IGS-made PGM game that some of you non-arcade folk may have played back in the day: Spectral vs. Generation, a crossover fighting game based on Idea Factory IP which received internationally-released ports for the PlayStation 2 and PSP.
Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection & Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection 2
- Platform: PlayStation4, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $59.99 or equivalent (bundle), $39.99 or equivalent each (individual)
- Publisher: Capcom
What're these? Collections comprising all the core entries in Capcom's popular turn-of-the-millennium action-RPG reinvention of Mega Man, originally released for the Game Boy Advance; in addition to offering an optional HD filter, "buster MAX" assist option, an extensive art gallery and music player and a big ol Mega Man .EXE vtuber on the menu, voiced by the guy from the anime, these collections freshly incorporate features or content that were removed or otherwise unavailable to players outside of Japan, as well as allow players to exchange content or battle online (or locally on Switch) via robust casual and competitive online multiplayer functionality.
Which games are included? The first collection includes Battle Network, Battle Network 2 and both versions of Battle Network 3, whereas the second collection includes both versions of Battle Network 4, Battle Network 5 and Battle Network 6 — in case it's not clear, these games started doing Pokemon-esque dual-version releases after a while, but these collections aren't split along those particular lines. These specific versions are the original GBA games and do not incorporate any extra content or features from relevant DS versions, but they do newly incorporate or restore content and features that were not present in the international releases, like extensive eReader-exclusive content, or BN6's crossover content from Konami's Boktai series. Additionally, outside of select corrections for character names, the original and somequat questionable translations have not been altered.
Why should I care? There is an entire generation for whom Mega Man was, is and only is Battle Network; not only was this series genuinely successful in a big, mainstream way that matched and arguably surpassed even classic Mega Man, but we're currently living through a wave of indie developers who are specifically aping Battle Network, and coalitions of players using fan clients and other methods to run competitive Battle Network events for startlingly large audiences, and I suspect that the overlap between that audience and the Retronauts audience may not be large, so perhaps that ought to change.
Helpful tip: These collections do not feature cross-platform online functionality, so choose wisely!
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
Devil May Cry 2LP & 4LP sets from Laced Records
- Price: £33.00 (2LP) / £70.00 (4LP)
- Availability: ETA October 2023
How much DMC is too much? One record clearly isn't enough, so Laced Records is giving people options by offering both a two-record selection of curated tunes or a four-record set that covers the entire soundtrack. The 4LP set's available in standard black or limited-edition multi-color options, as seen above.