Retro Re-release Roundup, week of October 12, 2023
The latest remake of Kunio & Riki's most beloved game gets the HD treatment.
For those who might be struggling to identify or distinguish between any of the many very similar-looking recent Kunio-kun/River City games, lemme make this real simple for ya: this is the best one, and it's also a remake of the one you played on NES, and not the ten others that you've probably never heard of.
Guttang Gottong / Loco-Motion
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Konami
What's this? A train-themed action/puzzle game, originally developed by Konami and distributed in arcades in several different configurations in 1982, including a version licensed to and manufactured by Sega and a North American version, titled Loco-Motive, distributed by Centuri, with conversions produced for several contemporaneous home computers and consoles, and a much later Game Boy version included as part of the Konami GB Collection series of compilation cartridges. Players are tasked with guiding an ever-moving train towards the various active stations by rearranging the segmented track in a manner akin to a sliding-tile puzzle, with the secondary aim of avoiding the dead-end X sections and the enemy trains that spawn from stations the player-train does not reach within the designated time limit.
Why should I care? This was a reasonably popular game in its day that, due to never receiving an authentic rhome eissue, has been most actively represented over the decades by the many clones and similar games that have been released over the last four decades, so it's nice that the original might be able to claim a little shine after all this time.
Useless fact: This game was very heavily inspired by a sliding-tile board game that had found mainstream success in Japan a year earlier: Tick Tock Bang Bang, an imported version of the America game Beat the Clock.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: $6.49 / €5.59 / £5.39
- Publisher: D4 Enterprise
What's this? A moody side-scrolling sci-fi adventure game, originally developed and published by Bothtec for the PC-8801 microcomputer in 1986 and subsequently converted for virtually every other Japan-exclusive microcomputer of the day, with a later, notoriously awful conversion for Famicom Disk System titled Relics: Ankoku Yousai. The player controls a mysterious spirit found within a mysterious ruin located under the sea, and is able to possess and utilise the abilities of defeated oppinents in order to further explore the ruins and piece together the mystery of who and where they are.
What's an "EGG Console"? The first in a series of single-purchase reissues of vintage Japanese computer games for Switch, positioned as a console spinoff of the decades-old PC subscription service Project EGG; the emulator suite for this first release offers save states, button configs, fast-forward/slow-mo settings, a cutscene gallery and scans of the original manual, and I imagine future EGG Console releases will largely adopt the same feature set. For this release, the menus and other front-end text are in English but the game and scanned contents are untranslated; maybe that'll change on a per-game basis, who knows.
Why should I care? Relics is primarily remembered for two reasons: one, Bothtec tried their darndest to produce a new port whenever a new computer would hit the market (and EGG has maintained that tradition by reissuing it as an early game for every one of their initiatives), and two, it's an extremely mysterious game packed with intentionally vague storytelling (most of which is communicated in English, strangely enough) and a variety of under-the-hood morality parameters that dictate the game's possible endings... in other words, it's one of those games whose incredibly clunky action can be forgiven by those intrigued enough to figure it out.
Useless fact: The opening and ending tunes were composed by the Japanese pop/rock band Crystal Kings, best known for performing the classic theme song to the original Hokuto no Ken anime.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Feral interactive
What's this? A three-pack containing ports of Relic Entertainment's acclaimed World War 2-themed real-time strategy game Company of Heroes and its two expansion packs, originally released on PC and Mac from 2006 to 2009 and more recently adapted for iOS and Android by Feral Interactive in 2020; these new ports are based on the smartphone versions, refactored for Switch with a controller-friendly interface. (Online multiplayer is scheduled for a later update, and will feature cross-play with the smartphone versions.)
Why should I care? Feral Interactive has both a solid track record of porting RTS/tactics games to mobile platforms and converting games to and from Switch, so I trust that they've produced thoghtful and technically sound conversions of these games for the platform and I'd welcome any of you to confirm or deny as much in the comments because I have zero experience with these games and can't really offer any particular insight otherwise.
Helpful tip: Despite being derived from smartphone/iPad conversions, this collection is solely optimized for button controls and does not offer a touchscreen-based interface or control option.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $19.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Atooi
What's this? A fresh HD port of Renegade Kid's grisly first-person survival horror game, originally developed for the Nintendo DS and published by Gamecock in 2007, with an enhanced port produced and self-published for the Nintendo 3DS eShop in 2015; this new port is mostly identical to the 3DS version, with the primary new addition being an altered control scheme configured for a traditional dual-analogue FPS control schene, as opposed to the stylus-based touchscreen aiming/camera movement of the previous versions.
Why should I care? Dementium is a game that garnered cult acclaim on the DS for being one of a small handful of successful harder-edged games on DS, as well as one that pushed technical and design boundaries for the hardware; consequently, the game's inherent flaws become harder to ignore as it strays further from its original platform, but it deserves commemoration for being a game that at least tried when many of its contemporaries did not.
Useless fact: A HD version of the sequel, Dementium 2, has been available on PC for the last decade: it's a very slapdash port produced by another studio after the IP changed hands and was not well-regarded by players nor the original developers, so I wouldn't count on that specific version showing up on Switch.
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $24.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Arc System Works
What's this? A HD-ified, console-friendly port of the 2016 3DS remake of Technos' classic open-world delinquent brawler River City Ransom, originally released on NES in 1990 and ported and/or remade for the likes of the Sharp X68000, PC Engine CD and Game Boy Advance; the 3DS version offered many drastic changes including hybrid 2D/3D visuals, a more involved time-based schedule, a vastly expanded story and alternate campaigns with other characters, and this new port goes even further with a new UI, rebalanced character moves and economy, an additional alternate scenario, a new localization, expansions to the Double Dragon-themed 1v1 side-game Double Dragon Duel and two-player online multiplayer functionality.
Why should I care? While this is an extremely liberal take on River City Ransom that some might prefer to think of as a completely separate game, it's arguably the single most refined and content-rich of the many, many Kunio-kun/River City games produced by Arc System Works over the last decade and the safest introductory point to the Arc era of Kunio-kun, and this HD port looks to have taken some of the quality-of-life additions from more recent games that should ideally remove some of the friction on the RPG side. (I have zero clue whether the netcode's any good, but here's hoping.)
Helpful tip: The Steam version looks to be a trash fire right now, primarily due to a framerate bug that makes controller and keyboard inputs nigh-unresponsive, so hold tight and hope that they fix it sometime within the next month.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Irem Collection Volume 3 (Switch, PS4, PS5) physical versions by Strictly Limited Games
- Price: €34.99 (limited edition) / €89.99 (collectors edition)
- Availability: limited to 4000/1500/1500 copies (LE) / 2000/999/999 copies (CE); ETA Q2 2024
The just-announced third volume of SLG's pledged five-volume set of emulated Irem games is upon us, promising the arcade & PC Engine versions of Mr. Heli and the arcade versons of Dragon Breed and Mystic Riders. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say y'all ain't getting R-Type, so try to appreciate these games for what they are, 'kay?
Jurassic Park (SNES, NES, Game Boy) physical cartridge reissues by Limited Run Games
- Price: $64.99 (standard edition) / $99.99 (deluxe edition)
- Availability: from October 12, 10:00 to November 12, 23:59 (Eastern)
For those not satisfied with the upcoming Jurassic Park Classic Games Collection, Limited Run Games is also producing amber-tinted cartridge reissues of these classic games for their original hardware, starting with the NES, SNES and Game Boy versions of Jurassic Park. (The SNES and Game Boy version of Jurassic Park 2 are planned for the near future, but I wouldn't expect cartridge versions of the Genesis games that were recently pledged for the modern collection... that said, I'm wrong, like, all the time)