Retro Re-release Roundup, week of November 2, 2023
Star Ocean: The Second Story returns for the third time.
One other release that didn't quite make the roundup: FX Unit Yuki: Henshin Engine, a port of a homebrew game that originated on TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine, and one that I hope is at least okay because that system remains woefully under-represented in the homebrew space and a high-profile release would do it a world of good.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Athena
What's this? A vertically-scrolling shooting game, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Athena in 1993 and never reissued until today. The Japanese and international variants of this game offer significantly different methods of play, with the Japanese version using a traditional two-button, shot-and-bomb game system with pickups for weapon switching, whereas the international version used a six-button control panel that offered free access to every shot/bomb type via dedicated buttons; both versions are included with this release.
Why should I care? Whichever version you might choose to play, you'll ultimately be getting a well-crafted but very conventional game in the Toaplan/Raiden vein that's very obviously drawing from Tatsujin/Truxton in particular... but considering how many other games tried and failed at this particular style, it's worth acknowledging the ones that pulled it off.
Useless fact: While this game never received a direct, bonafide sequel, it was given a nod in Athena's shooting game maker software Dezaemon via the sample game "Daioh Gale", and unofficially succeeded by Shienryu, a 1997 arcade game made by some of the original developers for another company, which saw ports for the Sega Saturn, PlayStation (released globally as Gekioh: Shooting King) and, as a double-pack with a low-budget polygonal sequel, on PlayStation 2 (under the international title Steel Dragon EX).
Psycho Mystery Series vol.5: Cold Rain
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: $7.99 / ¥800
- Publisher: G-MODE
What's this? The fifth entry in Genki/And-Joy's Psycho Mystery series of paranormal mystery adventure games, which spanned roughly a dozen volumes, as well as radio dramas and e-books, from 2005 to 2007; clairvoyant detective Haruka Mishima investigates the discovery of a multilated body made to look like a doll, a crime that relates to the final case her detective father ever took, six years ago......
Why should I care? This volume allegedly offer the biggest gut-punch of the series, and introduces certain long-running threads that will not be resolved until the very last game.
Heavy-handed reference: I've not seen enough to know how specific it gets, but there's a lot of Christian imagery centred on ash.
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE
October '23 update: Devil World (Famicom), Mystery of Murasame Castle (Famicom Disk System) and Castlevania Legends (Game Boy)
What're these? The Shigeru Miyamoto-designed dot-eater deemed too blasphemous for North Americans almost four decades ago, the Japan-only overhead samurai action game that made its international debut on the 3DS Virtual Console and the third of three Game Boy Castlevania games (and one of the very few entries officially stricken from canon).
Why should I care? Murasame's a snappy action game with a little more bite than one might expect of a Nintendo game of this vintage; Castlevania Legends is a game that's missing from the recent Castlevania Anniversary Collection and one that was feared to never leave the vault, and Devil World... might have been more valuable as a punchline, honestly, but it's nice that so many of you now have an official way to discover just how little you've been missing.
Useless fact: NOA was so terrified of Devil World for so long that references to the games were dummied out of certain Smash Bros. games in North America.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $11.99 or equivalent
- Publisher:The Behemoth
What's this? The run-and-gun browser game that put Newgrounds on the map back in 2003, originally developed by The Behemoth and later converted for PlayStation 2, Xbox, Gamecube and Game Boy Advance, with a more faithful port produced for Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade service in 2007; this new remaster bumps the framerate to 60FPS and adds rotating leaderboards but aims to stay true to the original Flash game's look, feel and content suite.
Why should I care? You spent any time in computer class in the mid-'00s.
Helpful tip: This remaster is coming alongside a new and very modern sequel, Alien Homonid Invasion, which you can grab individually or as a two-pack.
Radiant Silvergun (for real this time)
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $19.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Live Wire / Treasure
What's this? A long-awaited PC version of Treasure's cult vertically-scrolling shooting game, originally released in arcades and quickly ported to the Sega Saturn exclusively in Japan in 1998, with a high-definition remaster produced for the Xbox 360 in 2011 and ported to Switch last year; much like the Switch version, the PC version is yet another port of the HD remaster and conforms to all the changes and enhancements added to the X360 version, which include touched-up visuals, online leaderboards and replay sharing, a fully-fledged training mode and an arrange mode themed after Radiant Silvergun's successor, Ikaruga, and adds a few little features like a toggle for a display ratio closer to the original Saturn release.
Why should I care? You're one of those big Radiant Silvergun fans who's looking forward to finally playing Radiant Silvergun for the first time... or maybe you genuinely just want to try a game that spent much of its life being extremely difficult to play on PC and anywhere else, and one that represents both a pillar of Saturn-specific visual craftsmanship and a much denser and micromanage-y set of intertwined systems that remain distinct from, but congruent with, those of the much-sleeker Ikaruga.
Helpful/sobering tip: This port was produced and published by Live Wire and not by Treasure themselves, so it doesn't indicate any sort of grand return on Treasure's part, not does it even suggest that more of their games will be ported in the near future — Treasure as a company in 2023 is basically only able to license out their old games to others, and they only retain the rights to a very small handul of their old works.
- Platform: PlayStation 4+5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $49.99 / 49.99€ / £39.99
- Publisher: Square-Enix
What's this? A remake of the second entry in tri-Ace and Enix's (now Square-Enix's) long-running sci-fi action-RPG series Star Ocean, originally released worldwide for the Sony PlayStation in 1999 and remastered for the PlayStation Portable in 2008; this remake reconstructs the world in full polygonal 3D while retaining the 2D pixel art of the original game in a manner not dissimilar to the "2DHD" stylings of other recent Square-Enix RPGs like Octopath Traveler and offers full English and Japanese voice acting, arranged and original music from veteran composer Motoi Sakuraba, the choice of new, classic or PSP character portraits, broadened options and accessibility settings and a revised battle system that uses symbol encounters rather than random battles and integrates new tag/summon mechanics, including a plethora of cameo summons from all sorts of places...
Why should I care? Star Ocean is a seres that seems to have been in free-fall since the release of the much-hyped and extremely divisive Star Ocean 3, with subsequent games given successively smaller budgets and released to less and less fanfare, and there's a very good reason they've decided to remake this game in particular: it's the game that really put the series on the map, and one that arguably established it above its sister series Tales overseas, and the one that more recent games have explicitly modeled themselves after in order to bring back longtime fans, so if anything is ever going to drag people in, or back, to the series, it'll be this game. As for the remake itself, I certainly applaud their boldness in pushing the "2DHD" look to such extremes, and I suspect that the increased snappiness of the battle system will make an already-breezy game even more amenable to quick clears and re-clears.
Helpful tip: There's a demo! I didn't know there was a demo! I should play the demo.
ROM HACKS & HOMEBREW
Boku no Natsuyasumi 2 (PlayStation 2) translation patch by Hilltop Works
Hot on the heels of this Japan-only series' first (indirect) foray overseas via the Crayon Shin-chan-themed Shin-chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation, as well as the hit open-world successor game Natsumon that was just released in Japan, comes the first translation of a game from Kaz Ayabe's formative series of vacation vignettes, Boku no Natsuyasumi. This patch will work on real hardware, but you'll need to check the readme for some specific tweaks if you intend to play in high-res mode via emulation.
While Compile's Master System port of the classic Irem shooter R-TYPE was certainly admirable, fans have long wondered why the oft-ported game skipped the more capable Genesis/Mega Drive, especially given that the series had graced both the Turbografx-16/PC Engine and the SNES... and now, a small group of fans are not only working to make this long-requested port a reality but are adding new features like an arranged soundtrack and playable ships from other games, as well as the implementation of original content from the Amiga and Master System versions. This demo contains three stages and functions on authentic hardware, and it'll be done... um, when they've finished making it.
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers (Game Boy) soundtrack via Limited Run Games
- Price: $14.99 (cassette) / $17.99 (CD) / $31.99 (standard vinyl) / $39.99 (green ooze vinyl)
- Availability: from November 3, 10:00 to December 3, 23:59 Eastern
Fair play to LRG for consistently producing all these TMNT soundtracks but I really wonder if anyone has the constitution to listen to soundtrack after soundtrack of peppy Turtle chiptunes without going completely insane... even vintage Konami could only do so much.
Adamantium Rage (SNES) soundtrack by Dylan Beale & Sneaker Social Club
- Price: $9.99 / £10 (digital), $31.99 / £25 (2LP vinyl)
- ETA: vinyl ships from November 10
Recently reappraised for its surprising antecedence to the UK grime sound, Dylan Beale's score to the SNES version of a certain comic character game has been given an official soundtrack release by hardcore club label Sneaker Social Club. No, the comic company's not involved; no, we needn't tip them off.