Retro Re-release Roundup, week of June 1, 2023
Stratums, Shantae, SHODAN and so much more.
This has to be the most varied and bumper-packed week of retro reissues in quite a while, doesn't it? Why all of these publishers decided to drop the same week as Diablo 4 and Street Fighter 6, I really don't know.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Arika
What's this? The second and final revision of the second game in Arika's high-intensity sub-series of arcade Tetris games, originally developed for Psikyo arcade hardware and distributed in Japanese arcades in 2000, with a PlayStation 2 port and other home reiusses thwarted by licensing complications until now; this version expands on the original TGM by offering a higher skill ceiling and a more nuanced grading system, a "sonic drop" action similar to the modern hard drop, a variety of immediately-accessible play modes including an entry-level mode and a max-intensity "T.A.Death" mode, as well as an expanded two-player versus mode and a new doubles co-op mode.
Why should I care? Aside from this being the first-ever home version of a long-requested game, and one whose success is necessarly to allow the license holder to permit the production of a new entry, TGM2+ is arguably the most essential entry in the TGM trilogy, as the additions like sonic drop might make the acclimation period easier than the relatively staid original, while the new grading system enforces rigorous play without delving into the byzantine as some feel TGM3 did. It's also the entry you might remember going viral, like, fifteen years ago.
Helpful tip; Like its predecessor, TGM2 has cheat codes for extra modes/options, which you can find listed here. There are also versus-specific codes: hold start on each controller when entering versus to disable items, and additionally hold A+B on each controller while entering versus mode to enable the garbage-free "cement mode", typically seen in Japanese tournament play.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan), PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 or equivalent
- 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 story starts off with the seemingly-small mystery of an elementary schooler's attempt to deliver a letter to a friend who was home sick from school, but turns out to be far more complicated than it seems...
Why should I care? You're not seven games behind like I am.
Useless fact: From memory, this is the first simultaneous Switch/PC release for G-MODE Archives. Good for them.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $39.99 or equivalent (individual games) / $79.99 (bundle)
What're these? HD remasters of the first three entries in Atlus' hardcore retro first-person dungeon-crawling RPG series, Etrian Odyssey, originally released for the Nintendo DS between 2007 and 2010, with "Untold" remakes of the first two games released for the Nintendo 3DS in the early 2010's. These remasters are based on the original, non-Untold versions and offer high-resolution portrait and enemy art (including new additional character portraits for each class), remasters of Yuzo Koshiro's acclaimed FM-synth soundtracks (along with brand-new tunes in place of specific recycled tunes within the original games), comfortability features like on-the-fly difficulty switching, more forgiving saving and lower requirements for character re-spec, and a suite of additions to the game's map mechanics (formerly centered on the 3/DS touchscreen), which now include several degrees of automapping functionality, as well as interface options that include mouse functionality and support for the Switch's touchscreen when played in handheld mode. (The games are being sold individually or as a discounted bundle; there's an Asian physical release with English support if you'd like a physical copy. Purchasing before June 14 will allow you to claim a free DLC pack for Atlus collaboration class portraits themed around games like Persona and Shin Megami Tensei.)
Why should I care? Ever since the 3DS entered its twilight phase, people have speculated about how Etrian Odyssey, a series so defined by its use of the dual-screen format and always-accessible touchscreen functionality, might possibly reconfigure itself for a life beyond Nintendo's clamshell... and the fact is that the jump to more traditional platforms has not led to any sort of radical or novel reinvention of the format — they kinda just let you stick the map on the main screen, with the ability to let it handle basically everything on its own, and I suspect most players might find that the experience hasn't necessarily been compromised to the degree one might imagine it would be. For those with no attachment to or familiarity with the originals, know that you're getting a trio of challenging and confidently-made dungeon crawlers that paid homage to both the classic western PCRPGs of the '80s and their more obscure Japanese computer descendents of the '90s while spawning a whole new wave of imitators of their own, while also reinvigorating the career of one of gaming's finest composers.
If you can only pick one... I'd say pick Etrian Odyssey III: it's the most well-balanced and feature-laden of the original trilogy, without any of the odd experimentation of the second game, and is both the most expensive in its original format and the only one to never get an Untold version, which means no quibbling about remade features that aren't present here. (EOIII's music is almost uniformly rock-based tunes, so some may prefer the more varied soundscapes of the earlier two games.)
- Platform: PlayStation 4 & 5 (worldwide)
- Price: $9.99 or equivalent
- Publisher:WayForward Technologies
What's this? An emulated reissue of the original entry in WayForward's hair-whipping action-adventure sidescroller series Shantae, originally released in extremely limited quantities for Game Boy Color in 2002, reissued via the 3DS Virtual Console in 2013 and more recently for the Nintendo Switch in 2021; this new PlayStation version runs on the same Limited Run Games-programmed emulator as the Switch version and offers an identical feature set, which includes save states, screen settings, control configs, a gallery and quick access to certain content that was originally only accessible by playing the original cartridge on Game Boy Advance hardware.
Why should I care? You'd like to revisit the days when Shantae was a scrappy underdog known only to a select few, rather than the nigh-ubiquitous, Smash-cameoing indie mainstay it eventually became, and you're willing to stomach a lot of design deficiencies — many a direct consequence of being a GBC game, many not — that kept an audiovisual showpiece from being a true masterpiece.
Useless fact: Shantae's GBA-exclusive features were merely toggled by the presence of GBA hardware and did not require the GBA's increased power to function — in fact, they could be enabled on GBC by entering a code patterned after WayForward's old office phone number.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $39.99 / €39.99 / £34.99
- Publisher:Nightdive Studios / Prime Matter
What's this? A full remake of Looking Glass Studio's influential cyberpunk FPS adventure, System Shock, originally released for PC in 1994 and followed by an Irrational Games-developed sequel in 1999, both of which were repackaged for modern PCs in the mid-2010's; this remake, crowdfunded by Nightdive Studios in 2015, aims to faithfully recreate the atmosphere and tactile multi-approach stages of the original through the lens of a new, fully-3D Unreal framework with updates to the inventory systems and UI, a distinct pixel-heavy retro visual style and new performances from the original voice actor of the memorable AI, SHODAN. (Console ports are in the works, but without a hard ETA.)
Why should I care? To be honest, I didn't realize this remake was actually out until just now — this project was delayed and rebooted so many times that it seemed destined never to be released, so the very fact that it somehow made it out into the world is noteworthy in and of itself. Thankfully, the final product is also reported to be extremely faithful to the tone and structure of the original, to a degree that some seem to think is being too reverent to a game that could use a little more refinement, but whatever the case, System Shock is a foundational immersive sim that still has something unique to modern audiences whose only reference points are Bioshock, pre-crisis Arkane games or that new Zelda game. (There is a demo, and it has been updated to final-build spec.)
Useless fact; For whatever reason, the rights to System Shock 3 and beyond have been acquired by Tencent, so don't expect a brand-new game from the remake team.
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Bandai-Namco
What's this? A remaster of the second game in Namco's cult junk-trampling rolling action game series Katamary Damacy, originally released for PlayStation 2 in 2005; in addition to overhauled visuals and UI, this version also offers enhancements like an optional timerless 'eternal mode" and a selfie photo feature, as well as a suite of five brand-new stages that allower players to control a young King. (This version also offers a 25-song Katamari series BGM pack as paid DLC, as well as character costumes that are available as part of deluxe bundles or early-purchase bonuses.)
Why should I care? This was the second and final Katamari game helmed by creator Keita Takahashi, who famously did not want to make a sequel and has not been particularly happy to see the series milked so heavily in the years following his departure from Namco, and the game itself presents a lot of on-the-nose commentary about the nature of fanservice and giving people what they want... which you can, of course, completely ignore if you just wanna roll stuff up.
Helpful tip; As with most other recent Namco remasters, you're looking at 4K/60FPS on current-gen consoles & PC, 1080p/60FPS on PS4/XB1 and 1080p/~720p/30FPS on Switch, but it should also be noted that the Switch version of the first Katamari remaster suffered from signficant input delay that, to my knowledge, was never sufficiently addressed, so keep that in mind before blindly going in on this one.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
The Three Stooges (Game Boy Advance, NES) physical cartridge reissues from Limited Run Games
- Price: $49.99 (GBA) / $59.99 (NES)
- Availability: open pre-order from June 2 10:00 Eastern until July 1, 23:59 Eastern
I would never be so dismissive as to suggest these are products without an audience, but... like, is there any demand for either of these games? Forget demand, even: does anyone have a single concrete memory of either of them?