Retro Re-release Roundup, week of July 27, 2023
Zelda's Oracle duology makes the long-overdue jump to Switch.
Now that the two Zelda Oracles have joined Link's Awakening on the NSO Game Boy app, only one question remains: where's Daikatana?
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Taito
What's this? A brawler with an extremely dubious save-the-animals motif, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Taito in 1991, with a conversion released for Sega Genesis/Mega Drive that same year and later emulated reissues as part of the PS2-era Taito Legends/Memories series, as well as the recent Egret II Mini; up to four players are tasked with thwarting a gang of poachers from killing and stealing endangered animals, which invariably means beating them up and/or exploding them into bloody chunks with any of the many weapons that litter each stage, while occasionally fighting alongside the animals you've helped liberate.
Why should I care? For one, this is the first time Growl has been reissued in its full, uncompromised form: the Genesis version was burdened with a small ROM and subsequently could not capture most of the bombast of the arcade original, the previous emulated versions were limited to 2 players and the Taito Legends/Memories version censored some of the more violent effects, but the Arcade Archives version offers the full, uncut game with access to the 4-player option. As for the game itself, it offers a kind of tongue-in-cheek dose of turn-of-the-'90s action movie machismo that was rare among Taito's output, and while it's hardly the deepest brawler of its era, the sheer level of pandemonium is worth experiencing at least once. (Genesis fans, note that the cave level in the original arcade version is very different and potentially a lot more frustrating than the version you may be used to.)
Useless fact: The very initial vision for this game was one of a more general wilderness adventure with burly hunters brutalizing humans and animals alike, but when Taito's American office and players reacted extremely negatively to the wanton animal abuse, the game's design was tweaked to instead focus on rescuing the animals and restricting the casual murder to the poachers, which nobody had a problem with.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: ¥800
- Publisher: G-MODE / And Joy
What's this? The third entry in Genki/And-Joy's Psycho Mystery series of paranormal mystery adventure games, which spanned roughly a dozen volumes, as well as radio dramas and e-books, from 2005 to 2007; this volume centers around the mystery of Yota Kougami, a reporter who wakes up deep in the mountains with no recollection of what they were doing or how they got there, and whose presence seems tied to a murder plot inside an old western-style mansion in the nearby town...
Why should I care? This is the first game in the series to reintroduce the protagonists from the previous entry (clairvoyant detective Haruka Mishima and her historian buddy Mamoru Aida) and further establish their interpersonal relationships, albeit in tertiary ways that don't necessarily dovetail with the plot of this specific volume.
Heavy-handed cultural reference: Kakure Kurishitans, the underground sect of closeted Japanese Catholics who hid their faith from the shogunate and continued to observe in secret for hundreds of years.
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE
July '23 update: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages & The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (Game Boy Color)
What're these? Two original, standalone Zelda games, built off the foundation of Link's Awakening by Capcom and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Color in 2001; these games not only released on the same day but were designed to interact via a password system that, upon completion of one game, allows the player to experience the second game as a direct continuation and climax of the plot and access several additional quests and items via password-exchange quests between games.
Why should I care? In my experience, there are a lot of people who still don't realize that Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons are distinct games with entirely unique worlds, dungeons, bosses and key items — this wasn't a Pokemon sales tactic, they really did drop two new Zelda games on the same day, and while you might find them a little lacking compared to Link's Awakening, they certainly do not suffer from a lack of ideas (many of which would directly resurface in the later games by this same personnel). As for which one to play first, the canon order, such as it exists, seems to be "Seasons first, then Ages" but it doesn't really matter, so long as you clear one game before starting the other (and if you truly want to experience everything, you'll probably end up playing both sequences anyhow).
Helpful tip: As far as I'm aware, the NSO versions of these games do not directly allow you to access the content that was originally only available to those playing on a Game Boy Advance — this content amounted to little more than a store that let you buy aceremonial I'm-playing-on-GBA ring, but that item is necessary for 100% completion, so if you absolutely need to get everything in the game, there are password generators online that you can use to spoof said ring into your collection.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $21.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Daewoo Media / CRT Games
What's this? An expanded remake of the NMK-developed, Jaleco-published multi-character exploratory arcade action game Psychic 5, originally released in 1987 and succeeded by a drastically-altered quasi-RPG conversion for Famicom titled Esper Boukentai; this remake, produced by the same Korean team of fans behind the recent Snow Bros. Special allows you to play the game in either the original vertical aspect ratio or in full widescreen, with a real-time toggle between modern and classic graphics, newly-arranged music by original composer Shinichi Sakamoto (Wonder Boy/Monster World series), a new simultaneous two-player mode, several alternate play modes including a time attack mode, a mirror mode and a new endless-scrolling tower mode, as well as an entirely new second half of the game starring a new cast of playable characters, with some undisclosed unlockable all-stars from the Jaleco pantheon to boot.
Why should I care? Psychic 5 was the bigger, more complex and much trippier successor to Bomb Jack and, had it been as widely proliferated around the world as it was in Korea, it would undoubtedly have fostered the same cult fanbase. As for the remake itself, it seems CRT Games adusted to the feedback from their last remake and endeavored to allow players to play the game in a more authentic form if they so choose, without forcing them to stick with the new graphics or play additions, and those who do want new content and features are being given everything they could possibly want: new ways to play the classic content, a ton of new content and the kind of fanservice that's designed with the knowledge that only a select few people will even notice it, let alone appreciate it.
Helpful tip: For whatever reason, the free demo for this game is only available in Japan right now, and I've not seen any indication that it'll be released elsewhere.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $13.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Softstar
What's this? An enhanced port of the fourth mainline entry in the decades-old and extremely popular Chinese-language fantasy RPG series Xuan-Yuan Jian, originally developed and published in Chinese-speaking teritories by Taiwanese developer Softstar in 1999; this Steam version offers a first-ever English localization and some other modest quality-of-life enhancements which include widescreen support, a new UI with higher-res assets, modern controller support and the implentation of extra scenario content and balance adjustments derived from a recent smartphone version.
Why should I care? Speaking broadly, this entry is still considered the high watermark of the mainline series to this very day, as well as a safe starting point for those not intimately familiar with the basic underpinnings of Chinese history and fantasy fiction standards, owing to the fact that it's more of a globetrotting game. Speaking specifically to this port: well, it seems like they did the absolute bare minimum to repackage a 25-year old PC game, and that the localization is just barely adequate, but for many, I suspect "adequate" will probably do just fine. Be prepared to do a little math, that's all I'll say.
Helpful tip: There may or may not be a Switch version in the works, too — the developer hasn't brought it up in a while, but the presumption is that it's still happening.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $24.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Sting
What's this? A high-definition remaster of Sting's card-centric tactical RPG Yggdra Union, originally developed for the Game Boy Advance and published globally by Atlus in 2008, with an enhanced version produced for PlayStation Portable in 2008; this Switch port, originally released in Japan in 2020, is based on a remaster of the PSP version produced for smartphones in 2019. In addition to high-definition visuals, this version offers Japanese and English voice acting, several different soundtrack options,, many quality-of-life features including auto-saves and save-anywhere, continues, a conversation log, an easy mode, rewind and battle speed adjustments, as well as several full-on cheat options that allow you to toggle or alter certain game systems and a very detailed manual.
Why should I care? You're someone who bounced off either of the original versions back when they were knew and therefore recognize the necessity of this port's many, many ways to sand the game's difficulty into a blunt nub; conversely, the current market of extremely forgiving Japanese tactical RPGs has left you craving a very dense game with very little superfluous decision-making, but not one that forces you to agonize over always needing to divine the one optional choice in order to stave off failure.
Helpful tip: The Steam version, which has been in early access for the last six months or so, has the exact same feature set as the Switch version, and it should be out of early access now that the Switch version is available worldwide.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Castlevania Advance Collection (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox) physical edition from Limited Run Games
- Price: $34.99 (standard edition) / $64.99 (classic edition) / $174.99 (ultimate)
- Availability: from July 28, 00:00 to September 10, 23:59 Eastern
Why would a collection of Game Boy Advance Castlevania games, of which there were three, offer four different cover options, you ask? Why, it's because this collection also includes the Super Nintendo game Castlevania: Dracula X for no particular reason. Of course, one upside to that oddball inclusion is that it gave the folks at LRG an excuse to add a poster featuring Akihiro Yamada's Dracula XX/Castlevania: Vampire's Kiss superlative box art into the ultimate edition package. (Retronauts' own chief Castleroider Jeremy Parish contributed hand-drawn maps from the GBA games, too.)
Parasol Stars: The Story of Bubble Bobble III (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4,PlayStation 5) physical editions from Strictly Limited Games
- Price: €29.99 (standard) / €49.99 (collectors edition)
- Availability: from July 30, 00:00 CET
If you're a little confused about this release then you're not alone: announced with little buildup, this seems to offer an emulated reissue of the original TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine of Taito's Parasol Stars, a fixed-screen action game with some very tenuous Bubble Bobble branding... and, that's it? I mean, it's a fine game and all, but are they not even throwing in any of the other versions (NES, Game Boy, Amiga, etc)? One of the trailers teases the inclusion of the never-ported arcade/mobile game Spica Adventure, even, but that's currently nowhere to be seen, either. Buy now, question later, I suppose...