Retro Re-release Roundup, week of July 13, 2023
Atelier's origins, available now for all the world to experience.
Here's one quick addition to top off this week's roundup: Operation Wolf Returns; First Mission VR, a Microids-developed 3D rail shooter take on Taito's classic arcade game Operation Wolf that was announced many moons ago for consoles, showed up for VR platforms out of nowhere today, may or may not come to standard platforms in the future and might not even be a complete game, and after watching the trailer, I am struggling to form a single opinion about it.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Koei-Tecmo
What's this? A horizontally-scrolling sci-fi shooting game, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Tecmo in 1991, with a sole reissue via the Xbox-exclusive Tecmo Classic Arcade compilation in 2005; Raiga offers a conventional trek through your usual assortment of turn-of-the-'90s space fortresses and alien locales, with your ship able to collect new primary and secondary weapons as well as auto-acting options and other powerups, as well as turn to face either left or right with the press of a button.
Why should I care? You're looking for something utterly familiar but well-crafted and (provided you don't power down) relatively frictionless, or you're a fan of Konami's Thunder Cross and you want to hear what the composer for that game was doing immediately prior to quitting Tecmo to join Konami — the compositions and soundscape are very similar, and a lot of the sound effects are nigh-identical.
Helpful tip: Hamster installed a secret sound test command for this reissue: on the title screen, press up, right, down, left, options (PS) or +/- (Switch) to play the soundtrack. (Ol' Metal Yuhki originally ripped off a commercial tune or two for this game, and I wonder if they were retained for this re-release...)
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: ¥800
- Publisher: G-MODE
What's this? The complete version of the second entry in a series of dragon-raising roguelike-esque RPGs, originally released for Japanese feature phones in 2005; this entry sees the player in control of the daughter of the hero from the first game and offers a very similar loop of entering randomly-generated fields, participating in turn-based battles and retrieving items that can be used to develop and raise the stats of your dragon companion.
Why should I care? Aside from the filesize-related enhancements that are typical of feature phone game sequels — a longer play time, better graphics, more dialog, etc — this game also allows your dragon to maintain its level gains rather than resetting at the start of every field or dungeon, so the capricious edge of the random generator is a lot less noticeable.
Helpful tip: There is at least one more conventional sequel in this series, and at least one more associated game beyond that, and I am being vague because I have not so much as seen either of them in action.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4+5, Xbox (worldwide)
- Price: $9.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: QUByte / Piko Interactive
What's this? An emulated reissue of the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive conversion of Spanish studio Dinamic Software's fantasy-themed sidescroller Risky Woods, originally developed for the Amiga in 1992 and ported to both Atari ST and MS-DOS; this version's presented with all the aplomb of a typical Qubyte reissue, which is to say that it has save states and not a lot else.
Why should I care? You want to sample a distinctly European variant of the Ghosts 'n Goblins/Castlevania-style horror fantasy action template, or you've tried any one of the computer versions and want to try again with a version that, via smart changes to the collectibles and upgrade path, brings the game from relentlessly unforgiving to merely moderately annoying — this game's considered a classic of the '90s Spanish action game library, and perhaps one of you will be able to identify why.
Helpful tip; The version of this game available on Steam and elsewhere is the not-very-good DOS version running in DOSbox, which I would suggest you do not bother with.
Atelier Marie Remake (but also the original game too)
- Platform: PlayStation 4+5 Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $49.99 or equivalent (standard) / $69.99 or equivalent (digital deluxe)
- Publisher: Koei-Tecmo
What's this? A remake of the very first entry in Gust's long-running alchemy-themed slice-of-life RPG series, originally released for the Sony PlayStation in Japan in 1997 and quickly given an enhanced port to Sega Saturn, which was then ported back to PlayStation (as Atelier Marie Plus), to Windows PC and, as part of a double-pack with its sequel, to Sega Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. This remake reimagines the game with full 3D graphics while maintaining the distinct proportions of the original so as to separate it from the current Atelier aesthetic; content-wise, it adds some additional events between characters and a new set of entry-level events meant to function as a tutorial of sorts, as well as smoother navigation and menus and a new "unlimited mode" that allows players to play at a slower pace if they so desire. What's more,the digital deluxe version offers, among other things, a direct port of the original Atelier Marie Plus, localized into English for the first time. (There's a DLC upgrade path from the standard version to the digital deluxe version, but I don't believe one can buy the original game on its own.)
Why should I care? The Atelier games, for a time, represented a divergent evolution of the "slow life" genre typified by games like Harvest Moon: the player is presented with a concrete window of time within which they will need to explore, craft and synthesize items and unlock and advance as many quests within that period as possible, with the expectation that they would play and replay the game over and over via new game plus to achieve new outcomes or challenge themselves to reach certain goals as quickly as possible. in a manner that's very gamey-game but also remarkably non-stressful and eminently hang-out-able — it's a unique approach that the more recent games don't follow to nearly the same degree, and one that'll be lucky to last ten hours on a single playthrough, which, in this current era of fifty anime-esque crafty-farmy-shoppy games being released every hour, might strike one as pleasantly brisk.
Useless fact: The Dreamcast two-pack that included Marie was notorious for accidentally containing a virus that, when placed in a PC, would infect your computer and destroy your BIOS on December 25.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Irem Collection Vol.2(PlayStation 4+5, Switch) collector's editions from Strictly Limited Games
- Price: €89.99 (single) / €159.99 (basic vol1~5 box) / €429.99 (collector's vol1~5 box)
- Availability: ETA February 20, 2024
SLG's finally announced the second volume in their five-volume series of game compilations from the not-quite-defunct game company Irem: a four-pack containing the arcade and Super Nintendo versions of the side-scrolling run-and-gun Gunforce, the arcade-only sequel Geo Storm/Gunforce II and the vertically-scrolling arcade shooting game Air Duel, all of which were designed by the second-generation Irem team that would later go on to create Nazca's wildly successful Metal Slug series. What's more, they expect it to be out and available in around six months from now, which for a publisher of this type is... optimistic.
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) soundtracks from Limited Run Games
- Price: $17.99 (CD, cassette), $31.99 (standard vinyl), $39.99 (green ooze vinyl, limited to 1000 copies)
- Availability: from July 14, 00:00 to August 13, 23:59 Eastern
You would be forgiven for missing this announcement among the many, many announcements made by Limited Run Games over the last day or so, but it's one that many people have been waiting on for decades, and one that's available for order pretty much right away: physical soundtrack releases for the TMNT NES game, the first in a line of TMNT game soundtrack releases scheduled to drop every month until March of next year. I'm a little shocked this first vinyl isn't pizza-themed, but there are eight more to come, so I'm sure it's but an eventuality.