Retro Re-release Roundup, week of November 16, 2023
The granddaddy of button-tappy JRPGs returns for a new generation.
I suppose it might just be a continuation of Nintendo's typical tactic of flooding their late-life hardware with safe remakes, but I do wonder precisely what prompted them to pull Super Mario RPG out of the vault... the success of Mario & Rabbids, perhaps? Let's go ahead and say yes.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Taito
What's this? A 1v1 gladiatorial dinosaur combat game, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Taito in 1992 and reissued on home consoles via the Taito MemoriesI PlayStation 2 compilation series and the recent Taito Milestones 2 compilation for Nintendo Switch. Set in a word where tribes of human coexist with dinosaurs, players are tasked with championing one of six dinosaurs through a gauntlet of bombastic battles against rival dinosaurs inside man-made arenas, interspersed with occasional, wildly divergent bonus stages.
Why should I care? Whether you're playing this solo or against another human, no part of this game functions like one might want or expect a fighting game to function; the anti-capitalist rampage fantasies come completely out of nowhere, the sudden-death mechanic is unlike anything else in the genre and the pachycephalosaurus' battle cry might be the single most infuriating sound effect ever features in a video game... in other words, this terrible game is actually kinda amazing.
Useless fact: This game was the brainchild of Takatsuna Senba, a former animator on features like Gundam: Char's Counterattack and director of Taito's cult shooting games Gun Frontier and Metal Black; these three games are considered part of a loose trilogy but Dino Rex doesn't share any real, direct ties to those other two games beyond the typical detailed graphics and cinematic flair that typified Senba's output.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan), PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $17.99 / ¥1800
- Publisher: G-MODE / Atlus
What's this? A 2007 feature phone gaiden in Atlus' Majin Tensei series, a Megami Tensei strategy-RPG side-series whose main titles include two games for Super Famicom game and a third game for Sega Saturn titled Ronde, none of which have ever left Japan; this game slots in between the two SFC games and lifts most of its mechanics and visuals directly from the first game.
Why should I care? You might be surprised by just how much of the original games' essence was replicated on phones, and how naturally this game slots in between the originals: if you dug those, you'll assuredly dig this one. (If you haven't played the originals, know that they've both received fan translations; perhaps this phone game will soon receive the same attention.)
Helpful tip: This game got a sequel, and if this reissue sells as well as the previous Atlus feature phone reissues, I'm sure it'll follow suit within six months from now.
- Price: $129.99 or equivalent (system), $39.99 (CX30+ paddle controller bundle), $24.99 or equivalent (CX40+ joystick)
- Publisher: Atari
What's this? A modern system-on-a-chip replica of the Atari 2600, produced and published directly by the latest incarnation of Atari; this system recreates the classic form factor and wood-panel aesthetic of the original Atari 2600 and maintains near-total compatibility with all existing Atari 2600 and Atari 7800 cartridges, as well as DB9 connector inputs for cross-compatibility with authentic controllers, while boasting modern touches like HD output via HDMI and a wider cartridge slot to facilitate easier cart-swapping. The system comes with one replica CX40 joystick, with individual extra joysticks and/or replica CX30+ paddle controllers sold separately.
Which games are included? The system comes with a 10-game cartridge that includes Adventure, Combat, Dodge 'Em, Haunted House, Maze Craze, Missile Command, RealSports Volleyball, Surround, Video Pinball and Yars' Revenge, and the optional paddle controller bundle includes a 4-game cartridges that contains Breakout, Canyon Bomber, Night Driver, and Video Olympics. (Atari's also selling new individual cartridges for an enhanced version of Berserk, as well as a 2600 conversion of their recent modern game Mr. Run and Jump.)
Why should I care? This isn't a product for somebody who wants a comprehensive, no-nonsense snapshot of the classic Atari console library, nor does it painstakingly recreate every nuance of the original circuitry with unyielding accuracy: if you have a bunch of old Atari cartridges lying around and want a way to play 'em on a modern TV, this'll do the job, and if you don't, it probably won't have a lot to offer.
Helpful tip: Atari has been issuing deluxe physical cartridge versions of many of their older games, as well as newer products like an enhanced revision of Berserk and a 2600 conversion of their recent modern game Mr. Run and Jump.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $9.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Ziggurat
What's this? An ambitious sandbox FPS set in the wilderness of a not-so-fictional South American country, originally developed by Ukranian studio Deep Shadows for PC in 2005 and released as Xenus in local territories, with a global release published by Atari and a loose sequel, Xenus II / White Gold: War in Paradise, released in 2008; as far as I'm aware, this is a fairly raw dump of one of the earlier builds of the original game with little to no alterations.
Why should I care? Imagine Far Cry 3 meets Stalker or EYE Divine Cybermancy, made on one-tenth the budget and years too early... and I really do mean "imagine", because even after installing the many, many mods and semi-official patches, you may struggle to ever get this game running.
Helpful tip: This patch guide and this link to the final official build, Xenus Gold, should get you started on the track to modding this game, but I'm not even sure these mods will work out of the gate with the Steam version, individually or collectively.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $59.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Nintendo
What's this? An ArtePiazza-developed remake of Super Mario RPG, the Super Mario-themed RPG for Super Nintendo jointly produced by Nintendo and Square in 1996 that laid the foundation for the last 25+ years of Mario RPGs; this version recreate the original's distinctive pre-rendered graphics in full real-time 3D and adds optional difficulty settings, additional battle mechanics including triple-techs, a newly-arranged soundtrack with the option to use the original tunes, challenging boss rematches and more.
Why should I care? You're sick of waiting for Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood to show up on NSO, I guess.
Helpful(?) tip: By most accounts, the added snappiness of this version, combined with faster loading and transitions between screens and battles, mean that this version of the game might end up being an even shorter clear than the already-brisk original, despite including additional content. That's a plus, right>
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $19.99 or equivalent (standard) / $29.99 or equivalent (deluxe edition)
What's this? A port of the final entry in KOF's "Ash Crimson Saga", originally released in arcades by SNK in late 2010 and subsequently ported to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, smartphones and PC; this new version is based on the final PC build, which contains all the arcade-revision and paid DLC content as standard, and boasts a revamped online multiplayer suite that includes rollback netcode, online lobbies and a spectator mode. (The deluxe edition includes a digital art book and soundtracks, which are provided as a separate application.)
Why should I care? KOFXIII was, is and will remain SNK's last high-definition 2D fighting game and as such, one might presume its legacy within the fighting game community was cemented, but terrible netcode put a ceiling on the game when it was new and that ceiling has only gotten lower with time, so this new version should finally elevate the game to the heights it ought to have reached... or, at the very least, allow people to credibly play the game in 2023 and beyond.
Helpful tip: Yes, Mai's in this one — the "no Mai, no buy" furore was for the game before this one.
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
- Price: $30.00 / €32,00
- Availability:ETA Q1 2024
M2's original retro Contra game may have disappeared from circulation with the death of WiiWare but Manabu Namiki's arcade-style arrangements from the obscure corners of the classic catalogue are alive and well, thanks to this new vinyl release from Ship to Shore; this release is available on both blue/purple swirl vinyl and blue/purple/magenta splatter vinyl and features jacket art by Drew Wise and liner notes by Gaming Intelligence Agency's Jeremy Parish. (Also features: a legitimate composer credit, a basic courtesy that seemed destined to never return. Maybe Konami is back after all...)