Retro Re-release Roundup, week of May 25, 2023
City Connection boosts their line of Saturn reissues.
This week's varied assortment of classic reissues is accompanied by a few retro games and sequels that you might appreciate: Puzzle Bobble Everybubble, the first conventional, non-branded home Puzzle Bobble game since 2011; Star Gagnant, an off-brand Star Soldier clone crowdfunded and supervised by beloved Hudson button-masher Meijin Takahashi, and Shinobi non Grata, a "hyper-retro" homage to all your favorite classic ninja games that plays like any one of your favorite modern NES throwback games.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco
What's this? The sequel to Namco's influential spy-themed sidescrolling action game, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Namco in 1991, with a widely-played Sega Mega Drive/Genesis adaptation released in 1991/2; this game follows the same format and play mechanics as the original but offers more stylish visuals and setpieces due to the jump to newer hardware, as well as a simultaneous two-player option, with player 1 controlling the femme fatale Leila and player 2 controlling the player-character from the first game, Albatross. (This version offers both the Japanese and very difficult international ROM, and also includes a setting for P1 to use the P2 character,)
Why should I care? The original Rolling Thunder is a game many people admired but struggled to actually play, so Rolling Thunder 2 represents an opportunity to play a more refined and less aggravating take on the same format: the controls are tighter, jumping's not quite as rigid, enemies don't damage the player on contact, and so on. Ayako Saso's music (which includes tunes that have found a second life in Taiko no Tatsujin) is also standout, and the original arcade game contains quite a few tunes that didn't make the jump to the home version.
Namco Museum watch: Yep, Rolling Thunder 2's there, but this version plays better. (The home version's also present on the recent Genesis/Mega Drive Mini 2.)
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE EXPANSION PASS
May '23 update: Super Mario Advance, Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2 and Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3 (Game Boy Advance)
What're these? Just as the titles state, they're the Game Boy Advance ports of the NES game Super Mario Bros. 2/USA and the SNES games Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island, respectively; each game sports an avoidably cropped viewing area and altered palettes optimized for the original GBA's screen, with the core games altered in many drastic and subtle ways that differ from game to game but broadly include an increased use of voice samples, more user-friendly save systems, new and altered cinematics and, in the case of Yoshi's Island, new exclusive unlockable stages. (Each one of these games also includes the same Mario Bros. remake.)
Why should I care? There are going to be millions of people for whom these are the definitive versions, and they deserves to have their desires met. Do they listen to this podcast or read this page? I have my doubts.
Helpful tip: You can play Mario Bros. online, don't forget.
Batsugun Saturn Tribute Boosted
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox (Japan)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: City Connection / Toaplan
What's this? An emulated reissue of the Sega Saturn port of Toaplan's final arcade shooting game Batsugun, originally developed and distributed in Japanese arcades in 1993, with a revision planned for the following year and released somewhat ambiguously into arcades; both versions were included in the Saturn port. This is the first "Boosted" release in City Connection's S-Tribute line and as such, it offers some more specific features and enhancement on top of the standard emulator functionality (save states, fast-forward/rewind, speed settings, button mapping, etc), which include a brand-new arranged soundtrack and the option to set tunes from any of the four included soundtracks per-stage, a basic practice mode, screen options that attempt to better replicate the full resolution of the original arcade game, an extended score counter for the leaderboards and more.
Why should I care? Batsugun represents not only the swansong of a storied arcade developer but also an evolutionary link between their traditional style of shooting game and the bullet hell style that its developers would cultivate at studios like Cave, and this reissue attempts to present the game with a little more reverence and thoughtfulness than the relatively unadorned releases that precede it. As for the ever-present concerns about input lag, the original Saturn port was not especially laggy, so even with the unavoidable input delay added by the emulator, my presumption is that the amount of delay will remain within the limits of tolerability... but, I mean, I haven't played it, so what do I know?
Helpful tip; As has become typical of City Connection releases, the digital console versions of Batsugun Saturn Tribute Boosted, which were available for pre-purchase on various storefronts as recently as yesterday, have disappeared in the face of an impending limited-print physical release, so digital purchasers may be waiting a while until the game is available in their region on their platform of choice (or, yknow, just import; it's already localized.)
Akai Ito HD Remaster & Aoi Shiro HD Remaster
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $11.99 each or equivalent
What're these? HD versions of a pair of visual novel mystery games with a heavy Japanese horror bent, originally developed and published by Success, exclusively in Japan; the first game was released for PlayStation 2 in 2004, with the sequel released in 2008 and ported to PC in 2009, with a handful of manga and drama CDs produced for each game. Aside from higher-resolution visuals, these versions sport the original voice acting, as well as the additional content from the PC version of Aoi Shiro and, for the first time, localization into multiple languages including English.
Why should I care? This series became a cult hit for Success, not just due to its tone and overabundance of dark endings but also for being one of the first commercial console games to harness the trends and tastes of early-'00s PC visual novels, particularly the "yuri/girls love" subculture, so it has a historical prominence that puts it beyond the five other visual novels released and/or localized every week. The translation seems... legible.
Useless fact: You may or may not recognize Akai Ito star Uzuki Senba from her appearance in the recent obscure crossover fighter Umihara Kawase BaZooKa!
Puzzle Bobble / Bust-A-Move ("16-bit Console Version")
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: ININ Games / Taito
What's this? A Ratalaika-emulated reissue of the SNES+Super Famicom versions of Taito's eternal bubble-shooting puzzle game Puzzle Bobble / Bust-A-Move, originally released in arcades in 1994 and home platforms from 1995; these versions come equipped with all the typical accoutrements including save states, screen settings and button remapping.
Why should I care? Again, there are people out there for whom the SNES port is their sentimental favorite, and why should they be denied their port of choice? (The rest of you may want to check out either of the two Arcade Archives Neogeo versions, or the Puzzle Bobble 2X&3 Saturn Tribute pack, or the Taito-made Touhou Spell Bubble game, or the brand-new Puzzle Bobble Everybubble which came out a day ago and has a free online multiplayer demo for the next few weeks, or any one of the ten thousand bobble shooters released each week.)
Helpful tipL This SNES reissue is a for-sale version of a game that was being given away as a promotional bonus: it's a limited-time early-purchase bonus in Japan, and exclusive to Strictly Limited Games' physical version elsewhere (or it was, until they decided to just let people buy it).
ROM HACKS & HOMEBREW
Mega Mah: The Sequel Wars - Episode Red (Sega Genesis/Mega Drive) release by Woodfrog
This is no ROM hack: this fan-made follow-up to Mega Man: The Wily Wars promises to completely recreate the Mega Man 4/5/6 trilogy from scratch on Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, and this new ROM release, which offers the full remake of Mega Man 4 with additional playable characters, two different music options and the full suite of MM4/5/6 gear suggests they may very well over-deliver on their very hefty promises.
PLAY A THING ON YOUR THING
Castlevania: The Arcade, dumped and patched
Konami's 2008 arcade light gun game Castlevania: The Arcade is known by some as "that one game where you kill things with a gun that's also a whip", and by fewer still as "that one game with a Tokimeki Memorial gag ending where you murder Dracula under the tree", but the number of people who've actually played it, especially outside of Japan, must be exceedingly small. All that is about to change, however, as recent weeks have seen the game not only dumped but modified to accept new control inputs for the light gun functionality, which include mouse and Wiimote support — check the above video for details, and search archive.org for an alternative source for the game files if the provided link mysteriously disappears.
DISCOUNTS & DEALS
Arcade Archives first-ever Namco sale (PS4/Switch)
In celebration of Arcade Archives releasing its 50th Namco game, they're selling ten Namco games at 30% off until June 8: Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, Mappy, Xevious, Genpei Toumaden, Yokai Douchuki, Gaplus, Dragon Spirit, Dragon Buster and The Legend of Valkyrie (get that one!). Also on sale, but less exciting as they go on sale every other month: ten Arcade Archives Neogeo titles, including SamSho IV, King of Fighters '97, Metal Slug 3, 2020 Super Baseball, Real Bout Fatal Fury Special, Art of Fighting 2, Zed Blade, Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy, NAM-1975 and Aero Fighters 3 (get that one too!).
Fallout: New Vegas - Ultimate Edition free on Epic Games Store until June 1