Retro Re-release Roundup, week of April 20, 2023
The premier toyetic tactics series makes its long-awaited return.
One would struggle to not observe the vast gulf in fidelity between the two high-profile game conversions released this week: Square-Enix's console revisions of the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series, which boast such improvements as "we put the staff roll back in", and Nintendo's Advance Wars 1+2 remake, which has been reproduced with such attention to detail that they made sure to once again destroy the global release of the game by timing it to coincide with high-profile global military conflict.
Cosmo Gang The Video
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco
What's this? A vertically-oriented fixed-screen shooter for one or two players, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Namco in 1992 and ported to Super Famicom that same year, with a later emulated reissue released via the Japanese Wii Virtual Console service in 2009; this game is directly modeled on Namco's classic Galaxian/Galaga titles but presented with the characters and motifs of their popular electromechanical ticket game Cosmo Gangs, including a digital rendition of the original elemecha game as the Challenging Stage.
Why should I care? Cosmo Gang The Video was a game developed and released at the crest of arcade developer deliberately hearkening back to old works in order to attract lapsed players and re-establish the inherent fun of games that were already considered dated, and in that respect, it succeeds in giving Galaga a modern sheen with just enough new touches to keep it from feeling staid.
Useless fact: In yet another case of Japanese TV shows' cavalier attitude to copyrights, NHK's Shukan Kodomo News program regularly used music from Cosmo Gang The Video as segment intros.
Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jiken-tan Vol.11: Ane no Kabe
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: ¥800
- Publisher: G-MODE / And Joy
What's this: Kibukawa Ryousuke detective adventure the eleventh, originally released for Japanese feature phones by And Joy in the mid-'00s;the detectives visit a village to investigate a local legend about a girl who disappeared after building a wall to protect the people from a malevolent serpent, but as it turns out, her disappearance may not have been a self-sacrifice...
Why should I care? I'm multiple games behind, dudes. Sorry.
Helpful tip: I've mentioned this a few times recently and I figure it's worth repeating: this series was originally written and shepherded by Takanari Ishiyama, writer/producer of Square-Enix's recent surprise-hit adventure game Paranormasight, and it seems like the success of G-MODE's Kibukawa reissues played no small part in its success, at least in Japan. That said, Ishiyama tapped out of the series after ten volumes, so this volume and all subsequent volumes were written by different folk (and it seems G-MODE's implied they'll be reissuing every last one of 'em).
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE EXPANSION PASS
April '23 update: Flicky, Kid Chameleon, Pulseman & Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition (Sega Genesis / Mega Drive)
Read this before clocking the trailer: Pulseman has received some corrections to town down some of the original version's excessive flashing but even so, they may not have gone far enough, and even the trailer might be a little much for some of y'all, so take heed.
What's this? A port of one of Sega's more popular pre-Yu Suzuki arcade games, Sega Technical Institute's over-stuffed Mario-esque platformer, the confusingly-named conversion of the timeless Street Fighter II Turbo and a speedy action-platformer from Game Freak's pre-Pokemon days, which was originally exclusive to Japan and has only been made available globally once, via the Wii Virtual Console.
Why should I care? You know better than to complain about any version of SFII and you understand that virtual environments like these are optimal for playing Kid Chameleon and Pulseman: in the case of the former, you can use save states and rewind to clear the game before you die of old age, and in the case of the latter, you can use them to kludge your way through the game and see all the neat-looking parts without having to, y'know, play it.
Useless fact: By my count, the Switch currently offers thirteen different versions of Street Fighter II: aside from Ultra Street Fighter II, the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection contains six versions of the arcade game; Capcom Arcade Stadium has three versions, and Capcom Arcade Stadium 2 has one more; Capcom Fighting Collection also has one, and now NSO+ has one... and, given that there's a second Genesis version as well as a Game Boy Advance version, I wonder if that number might reach fifteen in the not-too-distant future.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide outside of Japan)
- Price: $59.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Nintendo
What's this? A two-in-one remake of the two Game Boy Advance entries in Nintendo and Intelligent Systems' long-running pretend-war tactics games, originally released globally in 2001 and 2003, respectively; developed by WayForward Technologies, Re-Boot Camp recreates both games in a new 3D engine with high-definition 2D character art, fully re-recorded music and occasional voice acting and animated cutscenes, with both games' single-player campaigns and content suite fully accounted for, as well as online functionality for the games' multiplayer and map editor modes. (This game was and is not currently scheduled for release in Japan; despite being a Japan-only series for many years, Nintendo has, for whatever reason, treated Advance Wars as a west-centric series since the GBA days.)
Why should I care? As I'm sure most are aware, this remake has been done and sitting on Nintendo's shelf for well over a year due to concerns about releasing a game with a Russian-coded invading force simultaneously to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, so irrespective of whether it's something you have interest in playing, one should be thankful that it hasn't been consigned to some vault somewhere. As for the remake itself, it is by all accounts an extremely faithful recreation of the addictive puzzle-box tactics games that became a surprise hit on GBA — believe it or not, Fire Emblem lived in the shadow of Advance Wars for a few years, at least outside of Japan, and AW's dormancy has as much to do with inter-branch politics as any perceived lack of interest from that older audience, so let's hope this remake re-establishes a continued presence for a series that never should have gone away (and has never been matched by any of its many imitators).
Helpful tip: Online multiplayer is strictly 1v1 with friends, and is not asynchronous: no random battles, no four-player option.
Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters I-VI
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $11.99 each or equivalent (FFI/II), $17.99 each or equivalent (FFIII/IV/V/VI), $74.99 each or equivalent (bundle)
- Publisher: Square-Enix
What's this? Console ports of the six classic Final Fantasy "pixel remasters" released on PC and smartphones over the last eighteen months or so, which boasted new pixel art redrawn and/or supervised by the original character artists, new reorchestrated music, modern UIs and quality-of-life features, bestiaries and galleries; these new console versions feature many advertised and unadvertised changes based on fan feedback, with some of the bigger additions being the option to switch to the original music, the option to use a new pixel-art font in place of the HD font, an option to completely disable the encounter rate and options to increase or decrease the rates of experience gain.
Why should I care? These new iterations add yet more confusion to the definition of a "remaster", as the later games in particular have been so heavily renovated as to render them firmly inauthentic, but irrespective of whether you'll like or appreciate every new interpretive flourish, they offer yet another twist on games you may or may not have played a dozen times already... and for whatever it's worth, they do seem to have made a lot of very granular changes that only the most perceptive fans would notice or complain about, so I suppose these versions aren't as cynical as they might seem. (That annoying omni-present judder seems to still be present, though...)
Helpful tip: The producer of the console versions has been non-commital about bringing these changes back to the smartphone/PC versions, so don't count on being able to benefit from the revisions made on the backs of your money.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Hammerin' Harry: Concrete Collection (NES cartridges) from Retro-Bit Publishing
- Price: $99.99 USD / €119.99 (collection) / $54.99 USD / €64.99 (individual games)
- Availability: orders close May 21
Irem's action game series Daiku no Gen-san had a rather spotty presence outside of Japan, with fewer than half of its games were released in English, but Retro-Bit is here to even the ledger just a little with Hammerin' Harry: Concrete Collection, a two-pack containing a cartridge reissue of the NES conversion of the original arcade game, originally released only in Europe, and a newly-localized cartridge run of the Famicom-only sequel; Limited Run Games is handling distribution in North America, and you can buy either game individually if you so prefer.