Retro Re-release Roundup, week of August 24, 2023
Four more Toaplan arcade classics make their way to PC.
Damn, are even the vintage game publishers terrified of going head-to-head with the Armored Core revival? I mean, they should be; I just didn't figure them to be so attentive.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco
What's this? Amulti-directional scrolling space shooter, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Namco in 1981, with several ports produced for both Japanese and European computer systems, most notably a heavily arranged version for Sharp X68000 by Dempa Micomsoft, with more authentic reissues released on PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, Xbox 360 and Wii Virtual Console; players are tasked with tracking down and destroying all the enemy bases within each free-scrolling stage via the use of a side-of-screen radar not dissimilar to that of the earlier maze game, Rally X; the player ship fires shots from both the front and back in order to fend off enemies from all directions, and the radar system will change from green to yellow to red as an indication of the enemy fleet's current threat level, complete with sampled-speech audio warnings. (The Arcade Archives version includes both the OLD and NEW ROM revisions; the NEW version adds autofire, changes some of the scoring systems and keeps the game from glitching out should the player pass 255 stages, among other changes.)
Why should I care? You're looking for a relatively easy and intuitive shooting game that successfully adopted some of the map-learning elements from the maze games that preceded it, and one that might've had a longer and more pronounced legacy had it come to the consoles of the day (and if the console "sequels" that followed bore more of a resemblance to the original).
Useless fact: Some of the enemy explosion sprites seem to contain the katakana characters for "katana" — this was allegedly a nod by one of the developers to the Suzuki Katana motorbike he owned at the time.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $7.79 / €7.79 each, $19.99 / €19.99 bundled
- Publisher: Bitwave Games / Tatsujin
What're these? The second batch of emulated arcade games from the defunct shooting game specialists Toaplan, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Taito from 1986 to 1989 and subsequently ported for various European computers, the NES and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive; these versions boast ultra-low input latency, practice and mirror modes, save states, online leaderboards, rewind features, easy modes and more.
Why should I care? Despite being released in such a brief window of time, each title ably represents a different facet of shooting game design and Toaplan's relationship with their audience: ya got a game replete with gimmicks and secrets, a straight-ahead military shooting game that wrote the book for many of the genre games that followed, a foray into horizontally-scrolling shooting with a more puzzle-laden design and the ultra-punishing return to the military shooter that scared away the more casual audience. As for these ports, the previous batch launched in a terrible state and were eventually patched into a state of adequacy; my hope is that they'll launch in a better state this time, but that's a gamble you'll have to make for yourself.
Helpful tip: Fire Shark, Flying Shark and Hellfire have all been recently reissued on PlayStation 4 and Switch in Japan as part of the M2-produced HishouSame!Same!Same! and Zero Fire compilations, which contain both the arcade and various console ports of their respective games. Furthermore, Hellfire is present on the Genesis Mini 2 and Slap Fight is present on the Mega Drive Mini, and the developer of the Mega Drive version of Slap Fight has announced a new version for modern platforms dubbed Slap Fight 3671, but that version seems stuck in development limbo for the time being.