Review: IREM Collection VOL. 1


Gorden Bennett. These just keep on coming, don't they? These re-releases, I mean. And, of course, that's the exact opposite of a bad thing. Yet the appearance of IREM Collection VOL. 1 speaks to an exhausting trend in contemporary retrogaming, which I will now bemoan for approximately 400 words.

See... IREM Collection VOL. 1 puts me at something of an impasse, as I need to contradict my previously expressed standards in order to try and explain why I'm somewhat dissatisfied with it. In the past, I have maintained that retro games should retain their value; complaints about - to use somewhat dated examples - Mega Man Legacy Collection only having six games, or Super Mario Bros. 3 for 3DS Virtual Console being overpriced at £5.49 - these would drive me to distraction, alongside the common usage of "rom" as a pejorative; they're just roms on a disc, or they're just rom dumps, as if the games themselves weren't distinct, weren't worthy of being regarded as anything besides the manner in which they are delivered. In short, it has been a bugbear of mine to criticise re-releases on the basis of price, if there's an effort there to present the game as it is, as it should be received, as a complete entity worthy of scrutiny regardless of its age. But IREM Collection VOL. stretches my tolerance.

The problem is that VOL. 1, there. That promise of more to come. What's on this collection, anyway? Three games, total, priced at £19.99. Image Fight, Image Fight 2 and X-Multiply. A trinity of shoot-'em-ups, covering arcade, PC Engine CD and NES. It's a decent little spread, but the fact there are four more volumes announced - with their contents known up to VOL. 3, it seems as though the compilation has been rather artificially split up when it could have been a full-priced venture that included all 15 of the games. Doesn't that seem more reasonable to you as a consumer than paying £99.95 for the same content?

It is presented well enough. The menu music is great and it's clearly delineated which version of which game you're going to be playing. There are cheats and a rewind feature for the babies among us, as well as customisable controls, borders and such. There is no concept art or context for any of the included games, but they're quite simplistic regardless. Image Fight and its horrible sequel, however, are far from easy. And I mean far, as in the first few enemy waves could ruin you if you don't get your head down. These games are rough, particularly the second one which seems so difficult that it actively wasn't fun for me.

X-Multiply, thankfully, is a lot more enjoyable with its Salamander aping "inside the body" aesthetic, and it plays like a faster-paced R-Type. A pleasant new feature added to all the games is the ability to control your drone/tentacle things (your "options" if you Gradius like I Gradius) with the right analogue stick. Of course, this is absolutely cheating, and the option not to use it is present, but these games are so aggressively difficult that it goes a little way towards evening the terrifying odds.

It behooves me to be as reasonable as I can with IREM Collection VOL. 1; you could always just buy the collections you want and ignore the others, but I fear the publisher is very much playing on the whole FOMO thing with its release of a slipcase to hold all five volumes - which, of course, are sold separately. While I do see it as rather excessive and a little exploitative, the fact is the first collection is, in itself, not bad at all. I don't personally love the included games but it's nice and thorough in including what I understand to be every version of every title. One for fans, I suppose. I'll wait for VOL. 2 and Gunforce.