Retro Re-release Roundup, week of October 26, 2023

Hurt me more!

As my ol' grandmama used to say: the most precious alternative to nothin' is anythin', and well, I think the new Metal Cear collection certainly qualifies as anythin'.


Burning Force

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Hamster / Namco

What's this? A pseudo-3D sci-fi shooting game, originally developed and distributed in Japanese arcades by Namco in 1989 and converted for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis in 1990, with a single authentic reissue via the Japanese Wii Virtual Console in 2009. Players are tasked with guiding space cadet Hiromi Tengenji through a variety of stages, each broken into four areas: the first two areas see Hiromi piloting an airbike that's restricted to ground movement and acceleration/deceleration, save for the occasional ramp; the third sees Hiromi piloting a spacecraft with full two-axis movement in the pursuit of a large boss enemy, and the fourth serves as a bonus stage that challenges Hiromi to collect coloured orbs for bonus points.

Why should I care? Whle this game doesn't have quite the same level of verve as the competing Sega sprite-scaling games of the day, the anime gal chic really does do a lot of heavy lifting, and the opening stage BGM is one of the strongest bops presents in Namco's second-string arcade oeuvre.

Cheat code: On the Arcade Archives title screen, press left(x7), up(x6), right(x5) to play an unused tune that remained in the arcade ROM. (7-6-5 = na-mu-ko, ie Namco.)


Thexder (PC-8801mkIISR)

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
  • Price: $6.49 / ¥880
  • Publisher: D4 Enterprise / Game Arts

What's this? The sidescrolling transforming-mecha action game that put Game Arts on the map back in 1985; this game was originally developed for the PC-8801mkIISR computer hardware and subsequently ported to most of the competing Japanese computers of the day, as well as the Famicom, with several internationally-focused conversions produced for the likes of the Apple II, Amiga and PC and published by Sierra. Players are tasked with navigating large, eight-way-scrolling stages with the goal of destroying the generators in each stage and any enemies that cross their path; the player's mecha can transform from a plane, which can move and fire in eight directions, and a robot which can jump and fire a homing laser that will automatically hit any enemies in front of the mech in quick succession.

Why should I care? Putting aside the fact that this is one of a very small handful of Japanese computer games of this era that found any real traction outside of Japan, this is also bound to be one of the few action games from this general hardware spec that the average player might still be able to stomach nowadays — games that scrolled this quickly and smoothly were a rarity, and that raw technical novelty was enough to carry the game a long, long way.

Useless fact: The Mega Drive fantasy-action game Alisia Dragoon, which you may have recently played via the Nintendo Switch Online Genesis/Mega Drive app or the Genesis/Mega Drive Mini, is a mechanical successor to Thexder and its sequel, Fire Hawk, and began development as a conventional mecha followup before the change of theming.


Gregory Horror Show

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan), PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 / ¥800
  • Publisher: G-MODE

What's this? An adventure game based on the turn-of-the-millennium horror-tinged CG cartoon Gregory Horror Show, best remembered for its distinctive cubic character style, originally released for Japanese feature phones in the mid-'00s; this game sees the player controlling a lost soul with the aim of escaping the purgatorial Gregory House, which they can accomplish by possessing the house's various inhabitants in order to use their unique traits to solve the various puzzles and mysteries therein.

Why should I care? While most if not all of the original cartoon was dubbed in its day, I feel like this show might be better remembered overseas for the Capcom-made PS2 tie-in game, if at all, but a lot of Japanese Gregory-heads seem to think this game manages to catch the goofy horror tone of the show to the same degree as the console game, so this might be the companion game you never knew you wanted.

Useless fact: This reissue is part of a broader Gregory Horror Show revival that included a recently-crowdfunded action-RPG for PC.

Midnight Horror School

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan), PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 / ¥800
  • Publisher: G-MODE

What's this? An adventure game based on a Japan-only cutesy-horror CG cartoon by the creator of Gregory Horrow Show themed around a school attended by the souls of lost or discarded human obects, originally released for Japanese feature phones by G-MODE in the mid-'00s; players control the double-ended pencil Hicky and are able to assemble three-character parties with various other students in order to solve mysteries and hopefully discover their "wonder", the unique trait that might help them transcend from mere junk to something alluring to humankind.

Why should I care? I mean, this might be the first you're hearing of this show, and I certainly can't front like I've ever seen a certain episode, but my understanding is that it might as well be a direct extension of Gregory Horror Show, so if you end up digging that, there's a lil' somethin' extra waiting in the wings when you're done.

Useless fact: I got nothin' on this one, sorry.


October '23 update: Mario Party 3 (Nintendo 64, out October 27)

What're these? The third Mario Party game, believe it or not, which was originally released for the Nintendo 64 in Japan in 2000 and elsewhere in 2001, with this NSO release being its first-ever reissue; on top of new boards, items and 70 new minigames, this game offers the exclusive Duel Mode, a 1v1 mode with unique maps and an original rule set that revolves around claiming spaces on the board and maintaining a healthy coin supply in order to hire mercenary partner characters that will attack and/or defend against the rival player as you pass them on the board.

Why should I care? I cannot claim to have scrutinised the duel mode in any particular detail when I last played it some fifteen years ago, but I remember it being a fun twist on the usual format and was always surprised that it never made a return. I also remember some of the standard 4-player minigames being absolute nonsense, but what else is new...

Helpful tip: 1080 Snowboarding is the only N64 game still pending from Nintendo's list of confirmed NSO titles... outside of Japan, at least; for whatever reason, they still haven't gotten Goldeneye, and it seems like they might not be getting their equivalent to Harvest Moon 64, either.


Metal Gear Solid Master Collection vol.1

  • Platform: PlayStation 4+5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $19.99 or equivalent (MGS1/2/3 standalones) / $59.99 or equivalent (complete bundle with bonus games)
  • Publisher: Konami

What're these? Re-releases of the first three mainline games in Konami's lauded tactical espionage series, Metal Gear Solid, along with several bonus games from 2D Metal Gear era and supplemental art and music collections; the original PlayStation game and associated revisions are presented here in emulated form with a few enhancements like a virtual memory card feature that includes save data from other Konami games, whereas the subsequent 3D games are direct ports of the HD remasters produced in 2011, with some minor corrections to certain graphical effects. (The PlayStation and NES games were handled by M2, whereas MGS2 & 3 and the MSX games were handled by Rocket Studio.)

Which games are included? The Master Collection version of the original Metal Gear Solid includes not only the original game and all its regional variants but also the Japan-only revision Metal Gear Solid Integral, the VR Missions expansion pack and the original MSX games Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, whereas the Master Collection versions of Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3 contain single versions of each games with region options, which conform to the 2011 HD Remaster versions. Additionally, buying the complete bundle will net you two exclusive bonus games: the NES/Famicom versions of Metal Gear and the non-canonical NES-only sequel, Snake's Revenge.

Why should I care? As fresh reissues of some of the most beloved console games in history, these are perfunctory at best and inadequate at worst: MGS2 & 3 in particular have not received so much as a resolution bump, and the Switch version of MGS2 now runs at half the framerate of the original game; they've done just barely more than necessary to bring these games to contemporary platforms... and yet, here they are, accessible to a ton of new players for what may very well be the first time, and I certainly wouldn't dissuade anyone from trying these versions, even in lieu of other options. (Be sure to play the 3D games in order, and if you really wanna have your mind blown, play Metal Gear 2 MSX right before Metal Gear Solid.

Helpful tip: Physical Switch buyers, beware: the physical version of this collection only contains the 2D games on the game card, apparently, with all the 3D games and supplemental material requiring a separate download.

Visco Collection

  • Platform: PlayStation 4+5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $19.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: QuByte Interactive

What's this? An emulated compilation of seven Neogeo games from the catalogue of the erstwhile Japanese developer Visco, now in the hands of French homebrew studio JoshProd; powered by QuByte Interactive, this collection offers online multiplayer for applicable games, as well as some basic screen settings and save state functionality.

Which games are included? This collection includes the horizontal sci-fi shooting game Andro Dunos, the silly vertical shooting game Captain Tomoday, the horizontally-scrolling samurai action game Ganryu, the soccer game Goal!Goal!Goal!, the overhead racing game Neo Drift Out and the two Windjammers-esque competitive ball-tossing games Battle Flip Shot and Bang Bead.

Why should I care? Qubyte's output typically vacillates between pretty okay (Breakers Collection, which is also anchored around Visco Neogeo games) to absolute dreck (most Qubyte Classics) and it's hard to say where this collection might fall: the indication right now is that they may have just slapped these games into their Breakers Collection wrapper and called it a day, so it might at least be serviceable, but the very small amount of footage they've show makes it hard to say. As for the games themselves... I mean, I like Band Bead and Neo Drift Out okay, but most of these games wouldn't be seen on the average list of top-100 Neogeo games; Visco struck gold with Breakers, but never again.

Useless fact: Both Andro Dunos and Ganryu have received modern sequels in recent years, and Andro Dunos 2 defied all expectations by being quite good.


Wizardry: The Five Ordeals ($39.99 or equivalent)

After a year or so in early access and some behind-the-scenes legal issues that have seen the scenario editor spun off into an external browser app, this remaster of the final Wizardry Gaiden title, originally released for PC in Japan in 2006, is not only content- and release-complete but also offers two brand-new scenarios by fan modders turned industry pros, conversions of the previous two Wizardry Gaiden titles for the new engine and the conversion (but not translation) of the 200-odd custom scenarios produced for the original Japanese release. Whether you were newly introduced to the world of Wizardry via Digital Eclipse's recent remake or you're a veteran who never dived into the Japanese side of the Wiz family tree, this release will provide you with all the classic dungeon-crawling you could possibly need, and then some.


Punky Circus (Neogeo AES, Neogeo CD) physical versions by PixelHeart/JoshProd

  • Price: 399,90€ (AES) / 29,90€ (CD)
  • ETA: November 3

Here's one Visco Neogeo game that didn't make it to the Visco Collection, and that you'd be forgiven for knowing nothing about: Punky Circus, a license-dodging reskin of Neo Mr. Do that replaces Mr. Do with a generic, copyright-friendly clown. Despite being a totally made-up thing that never released in this form anywhere in the world, you can grab this release in either an English or Japanese variant.