Retro Re-release Roundup, week of July 6, 2023

Name a better NES platformer, if you can.

...okay, so you've played Kid Kool. Name two, then.


Pole Position

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Hamster / Bandai-Namco

What's this? Namco's massively popular wheel-controlled pseudo-3D F1 racing game, originally released in arcades in 1982 in both sit-down and standard cabinets and quickly followed with a revision, titled Pole Position II, as well as ports to Atari 2600 and 5200, Super Cassette Vision and even a cartoon adaptation, with later conversions produced for Namco anthologies across PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, PlayStation 2, and Xbox 360. Players are tasked with choosing a circuit and running a qualifier which, if successful, will determine their initial starting placement in the grand prix, which requires them to race several laps while avoiding CPU rivals. (The Arcade Archives version does include a steering assist option, as well as support for racing wheel peripherals.)

Why should I care? Some of you might take a glance at this game and wonder what differentiates it from the zillion other line-scrolling, behind-the-car faux-3D racing games produced from the mid-'80s onwards, and I feel I should remind you that Pole Position did it first, and offered more nuanced (and arguably more aggravating) controls that the majority of the pretenders, even years later. 

Helpful tip: One of the chronic hurdles faced by Namco when reissuing Pole Position is the fact that the game was officially based on the real-world Fuji Speedway, both in terms of track design but also the sponsored billboards that adorn each circuit, which were approved by Fuji despite the fact that they were not at all authorized to do so; as with all the other reissues, the ACA version has replaced the original billboards with non-copyrighted versions, but Hamster actually shelled out to keep the Fuji Speedway license, making this the only version since the original arcade release to retain that license.


Idol Janshi Suchie-Pai

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
  • Price: ¥600
  • Publisher: G-MODE / City Connection

What's this? A mobile-exclusive entry in Jaleco's popular pervy arcade bishoujo mahjong series, originally released for Japanese feature phones in 2004; while this game doesn't offer a distinguishing subtitle, it's not a direct port or conversion of any o f the arcade or console games but a unique entry with its own story, albeit one that seems to draw heavily from existing assets.

Why should I care? You're not capable of being tittilated by anything rendered with more than 96 pixels in either direction.

Helpful tip: Alongside this release came a price hike for the previously-reissued Idol Janshi Suchie-pai: Milky no Yabou, which has gone from ¥500 to ¥800: put simply, when the reissue originally dropped, G-MODE had a policy of releasing everything at a uniform price of ¥500, irrespective of technical or licensing expenses, but that policy has since been relaxed and, well, this series bleeds money.


Gimmick! Special Edition

  • Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $14.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: City Connection / BitWave Games

What's this? An emulated reissue of Sunsoft's cult action game Gimmick!, originally released for the Famicom in 1992 (with an extremely small Scandinavian NES release the following year, as Mr. Gimmick) and augmented with a unique mapper chip that allowed for signficantly enhanced music and audio; this version, produced by Swedish studio BitWave games, comes equipped with optional quality-of-life features like savestates and rewind and offers online leaderboards, achievements, art and sound galleries and a speedrun mode with modern split time tracking displayed on the screen borders

Why should I care? Anyone who's ever performed even the most cursory deep-dive of the NES library understands exactly why this is a big deal: Gimmick not only represents the technical and audiovisual apotheosis of the commercial Famicom/NES library but its unique, multi-functioning star-toss mechanic allows for a level of finesse that continues to rival and even exceed that of contemporary side-view action games, and this reissue offers just enough features to ensure even less dedicated players will be able to soak in all the details at their own pace.

Helpful tip: The game's currently overpriced on PlayStation, but there's a price correction in the queue as of this writing, so it shouldn't be too long before it's fixed.

Richman 4 Fun

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $11.99 or equivalent each
  • Publisher: Softstar Entertainment

What's this? A modern remake of the fourth entry in the long-running Richman series of casual real-estate party boardgames, originally released for the Chinese-speaking PC market in 1998 by Taiwanese dev Softstar Entertainment, with an expansion released the following year and a fully-fledged remake, from which this Switch version is derived. Ever play Fortune/Itadaki Street? Momotaro Dentetsu? Uh, Billion Road? This game transparently jacks from all of 'em, but they all more-or-less remixed Monopoly, so it's hard to take umbrage.

Why should I care? This is the third game in the series to hit Switch over the last year or so, and while I don't know that the remake itself is especially well-liked — mostly due to the modern visuals, which are very boilerplate mobile — the original Richman 4 is considered the pinnacle of the series and all the subsequent games either borrowed heavily from it or were pilloried for straying too far from the formula it established, so if you ever try one of these games, I suppose one might as well start with this one.

Helpful tip: Both the multi-language smartphone version and the Chinese-language-only Steam version are apparently prone to freezing and/or crashing... will the Switch version fare any better?

Trouble Witches Final! Episode 01: Daughters of Amalgam

  • Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: ¥5720
  • Publisher: Rocket Engine / Studio Siesta

What's this? A new, ultimate version of Studio Siesta's long-running witch-themed horizontal shooting game Trouble Witches, initially released as a doujin game for PCs in Japan in 2007 and sequentially ported and revised for arcades, Xbox 360 and a more formal global PC release via Steam; this "final" version remakes all the stages in full polygonal 3D, offers new character art and voices for each character, adds new super-easy and super-hard modes and contains and amalgamates all of the many modes, options and extra content (minus the Cotton cameo) from all the various versions of the game, with even more characters planned for the future. (This game's launching with an English language option and I presume this game will get a formal global release in due time, but it hasn't yet been announced.)

Why should I care? There was a time where Trouble Witches had been informally anointed the successor to the classic witch shooting series Cotton, and while I think those claims have waned dramatically now that Cotton's returned with a nigh-unescapable deluge of reissues, remasters and new games, those whose nostalgic preferences are rooted in this millennium might have more fondness for the particulars of Trouble Witches' thoroughly '00s-doujin-era aesthetic, which persists even after many, many upgrades.

Useless fact: Despite the subtitle, there is no Episode 2, nor has it so much as been hinted at in... over a decade, I think?


Madou Monogatari 1 (PC-98) translation by Yuvi & SnowyAria

As the profile of the Puyo Puyo series continues to grow outside of Japan, so does the profile of its erstwhile parent series, the dungeon-crawling RPG Madou Monogatari, with several Madou games translated over the last year or two and at least one version of all the mainline games accounted for, including several version of Madou Monogatari 1... so, what makes this version novel, you ask? Well, due to the developers' misjudgement of the preferences of the PC-98 market, the developers at Compile decided to alter the usually-all-cutesy aesthetic to something more detailed and serious, with the majority of the enemies undergoing drastic design changes and a lot of events altered to be more horrific or just plain grisly; it's an odd series footnote, and now it's one you can experience for yourself.


Taito Milestones 1&2 (Nintendo Switch) bundles from ININ/Strictly Limited Games

  • Price: €69.99 (bundle) / €109.99 (collectors' edition bundle) / €39.99 (bundle upgrade)
  • Availability: ETA Q3 2023

The second Arcade Archives-powered Taito Milestones collection is due out at the end of August, and the early reaction seems far more positive for this latest volume — so much so that ININ and SLG are hoping peoples' excitement for volume 2 will convince them to bundle it with a copy of volume 1, and maybe they will. There's no particular price advantage by doing so, as far as I can tell, but if you want that collectors edition for the first volume, this might be your last shot.


NEOGEO Wireless Controller by 8bitdo

  • Price:$34.99
  • Delivery: mid-late August

Yes, this is the one with the clicky microswitches! It's compatible with Windows PC, Android, Neogeo Mini and anything else that works with 8bitdo's other bluetooth controllers, presumably, and includes a few modern additions like bumpers and turbo functionality. This controller's available in classic black or one of four King of Fighters '97-themed variants featuring either Kyo Kusanagi, Iori Yagami, Terry Bogard or Mai Shiranui, and will ship from August 15.