Retro Re-release Roundup, week of October 5, 2023
Front Mission's never-localized sequel leaves Japan for the first time.
If you're wondering why there are multiple Darius releases today, lemme fill you in: a couple years back, Taito decided to turn October 7, the anniversary of Darius' unveiling at a Japanese arcade trade show, into a commemorative anniversary for the series, and so they try to at least drop one or two smaller releases on that day if they can, which in this case include a game they just released as part of a compilation this month, as well as an Amazon Prime pre-order bonus game that they could've sold years ago if they really wanted to. They're also discounting the other games available on various storefronts; a lot of those sales aren't active overseas, but you may want to go to the Japanese Switch eShop and grab Sagaia (Game Boy), which is not only another Amazon Prime game that showed up for sale after years of waiting but is just ¥100 for the next few days.
Darius II (3-screen)
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Taito
What's this?The rare 3-screen variant of the second entry in Taito's beloved horizontal shooting game series, Darius, originally released in Japanese arcades in 1989 as a conversion kit for existing Darius/Ninja Warriors cabinets and recently reissued on Switch just a month ago as part of the Taito Milestones 2 compilation, from which this release is derived; this version contains adjustments and tweaks to stage design and boss patterns to better accommodate the ultra-wide playfield but is, for the most part, a faithful conversion of the more common 2-screen version. (This version is not present on the Darius Cozmic Collection, which offers several variants of the 2-screen game but no 3-screen version.)
Why should I care? While it's a more grueling game (especially in this ultra-wide form), Darius II fully exemplifies all the elements that came to define the series but were not as pronounced the first time around: detailed graphics and occasionally surreal production, drawn-out boss fights with massive aquatic-themed mecha and atmospheric, progressive music courtesy of Hisayoshi Ogura that defied the trends of the time and solidified the series' identity.
Helpful tip: While the contract between Taito and Hamster does not specifically restrict them to any particular version of Darius II, the 2- and 3-screen versions run on different hardware and the work required to port them is tantamount to porting an entire second game, so in the event that Hamster does put out the standard version, it probably won't come as a freebie with this one.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: ¥1200
- Publisher: G-MODE / Althi
What's this? The third entry in a Taisho-era detective mystery series originally developed by Japanese adventure game pioneers Riverhillsoft for Japanese microcomputers, and the first entry originally developed and released for Japanese feature phones; set on Ryugashima island, Ryuunosuke and his friend investigate a mysterious letter sent to a wealthy resident that seems to be the first action in the reenactment of a local legend that also includes a string of murders...
Why should I care? I suppose one of you might conceivably be a big fan of the orginal computer games that wasn't aware of and hasn't played the feature phone sequels.
Helpful tip: There are six more games and five gaidens after this one and, to my knowledge, they're all feature phone originals, just like this one.
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: ¥660
- Publisher: Taito
What's this? An emulated version of the homebrew Sega Mega Drive port of the original Darius, originally released via the Genesis/Mega Drive Mini and later given an enhanced "extra" release for physical cartridges and as a limited-time promo item with certain versions of the Darius Cozmic Collection; this version offers enhanced audio and several other tweaks over the Mini version, including more exacting conversions of the Old, New and Extra revisions of the arcade game, buffs to the easy-mode ship option, a continue function and more. (Much like the Sagaia Game Boy promo item standalone, it doesn't seem like this game is being released overseas, but I'd love to be wrong.)
Why should I care? Putting aside the novelty "what-if" nature of the port, this is a genuinely credible version of Darius that deftly incorporates adjustments and content from multiple other versions across arcade and consoles, and one that I could see a lot of people preferring over the arcade original. (It's also nice that people can actually just buy it now. More of this, Taito.)
Useless fact: Due to Sega's protocol about what they can and can't legally license and/or endorse, the emulated version of Darius MD constitutes an official Mega Drive release, but the version issued on physical cartridge does not.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $34.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Forever Entertainment
What's this? As the name suggests: a remake of the second game in Square-Enix's mecha-focused tactical military strategy-RPG series, Front Mission, which was originally released for the PlayStation in 1997, exclusively in Japan; this remake represents the first official localized release of the game and, in addition to newly-modeled 3D visuals, offers additional difficulty settings, the option to use either the original music or remastered tunes, an option for free camera movement, reduced load times, faster battle animations and more.
Why should I care? Even compared to its sequels, Front Mission 2 is a particularly systemically-dense game that was especially excruciating on original hardware due to overbearing load times, so if nothing else, this remake promises a way to experience this game at a far less glacial pace than even some off-hardware options; moreover, given that the original version already used polygonal graphics, one would think this remake would fare better than the previous one on the visual front, on account of the fact that Forever could, and hopefully did, just mimic the original animations one-to-one... but, y'all tell me.
Helpful tip: It seems that a pre-release build was accidentally made available at launch, so if you buy this right away and notice any egregious technical issues, make sure you're up to date with a version 1.0.0. or later.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Assault Suits Valken (SNES) physical cartridge run by Retro-Bit
- Price: $79.99 / €89.99 (collectors edition) / $79.99 / €89.99 (deluxe edition)
- Availability: orders close November 5; ETA Q1 2024
Following the critically-acclaimed Assault Suits Valken DECLASSIFIED Switch release from earlier this year comes this SNES version of the game originally released, in redacted form, as Cybernator — and specifically, this cartridge version uses a second, entirely different localization to the DECLASSIFIED version, and seems to instead be based off the old Aeon Genesis fan translation. Curious...