Retro Re-release Roundup, week of September 14, 2023
Baten Kaitos sunk with the Gamecube; will it soar with the Switch?
Namco's been on the remaster kick for a few years now, and most of the previous remasters have carried the implicit weight of their respective franchises and the promise that they might make a return to prominence if a potential audience emerges... but in this case, I feel confident in stating that Baten Kaitos ain't goin' nowhere, so enjoy these remasters and keep your expectations very, very low.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Konami
What's this? An oblique-perspective run-and-gun themed around quashing a prison uprising, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Konami in 1986 and ported to European microcomputers, with a sole emulated reissue via the Xbox 360 Game Room; in addition to shooting the hordes of deceptively nimble prisoners via eight-way aiming, players are also tasked with rescuing civilians who may reward them with additional weapons, which include typical law-enforcement armaments like bazookas and tear gas. (The overseas version of the game also boasts the same charmingly antiquated speech synthesis featured in other games like Twinbee and Salamander.)
Why should I care? This beltscroller-esque style of run-and-gun was something that Konami felt compelled to return to a few times, including via their Aliens and Bucky O'Hare arcade adaptations, so you may want to try this game just to experience the genesis of this particular format, and to get a grip on just how vastly improved those later iterations were over this extremely punishing prototype.
Useless fact: Hamster has elected to add a white shirt to the naked ladies that occasionally appear, but they don't seem to have done anything to alter the scoring item that's blatantly just Batman.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: ¥1800
- Publisher: G-MODE / Atlus
What's this? A 3D dungeon crawler interquel that bridges the original Persona and Persona 2, originally developed and distributed on Japanese feature phones by Atlus in 2006; this game retains the basic battle system, graphics, characters and signature demon-fusing and persona-training systems of the original Persona, it uniquely features randomly-generated dungeons with a harsh penalty for party wipeouts, as well as a system for synthesising items and gear.
Why should I care? At the time of its release, this game was heralded as one of the most finely-constructed and value-laden phone RPGs on the market, and while I suspect that reputation was inflated by people desparate to convince themselves that they were playing something integral to the series' lore and not just a glorified tower-climber, the little I've played does suggest they did an admirable job of recreating the mechanics and volume of the source material.
Helpful tip: This game's also coming to Steam, and will be released by the end of the month (and will remain untranslated).
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $49.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Bandai-Namco / Nintendo
What's this? A remastered double-pack of Monolith & tri-Crescendo's deck-based RPG series Baten Kaitos, originally developed exclusively for the Nintendo Gamecube and published worldwide by Nintendo in 2003 and exclusively in North America and Japan in 2006, respectively; these first-ever reissues offer higher-detail character and enemy models, upscaled backgrounds and UI, widescreen support, a revamped inventory system, quality-of-life modifiers for elements like game speed and encounter rate, an auto-save function, new game+ and new game- and more. (The voices are Japanese-only, with no original or new English dub option.)
Why should I care? The Gamecube was a system whose audience was desperately demanding large-scale RPGs that could compare favourably to and compete with the likes of Final Fantasy, but the game Monolith chose to deliver was at odds with those demands: the battle system was obtuse and often glacially slow, and Masato Kato's scenario was thought be some to be excessively heady or hard to follow. Now, divorced from the expectations of a generation of console warriors who've hopefully broadened their palate, this series is due for wider acclaim — not just because the audience might be better-prepared for something less conventional, or because the remasters help sand the edges off the game's weaker points, but because the the lesser-played sequel not only addresses many of the oft-cited shortcomings of the battle system but also seems to exist to explain and patch holes in the first game's plot, and I think a lot of people who never bothered with the sequel would well-served if they chose to do so now.
Useless fact: You might get the impression that these remasters include an English dub based off the spoken English dialog featured in the opening cutscene, but that's not the case: for whatever reason, the opening cutscene to the Japanese version has always been dubbed in English, so it's not an oversight of the remaster but a faithful presentation of the Japanese dub. As for why the original English dubs are not included in the remasters, I present two theories: one, the new character models include lip flaps that they don't want to match to the dub, and two, the first game's English dub was terrrrrrrrrrible.
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan (Game Boy) soundtrac from Limited Run Games
- Price: $14.99 (cassette) / $17.99 (CD) / $31.99 (black vinyl) / $39.99 (green ooze vinyl)
- Availability: from 10:00, September 15 to 23:59, October 15 (eastern
LRG's TMNT soundtrack series continues with a vinyl/CD/cassette soundtrack for Fall of the Foot Clan, Konami's first TMNT Game Boy title; I can't say I remember a single tune from that particular game but I have absolutely no problem believing it might be soundtrack-worthy, what with it being a late-'80s Konami game and all... plus, those early TMNT games all sound like off-brand Parodius, anyhow. It really took 'em a while to get TMNT, huh?