Retro Re-release Roundup, week of November 30, 2023
The classic Arkham trilogy makes its way to the Nintendo ecosystem.
This week's roundup is hardly hurting for content but I figure I ought to throw in one more fringe mention off the top: five years after its last update, the 2013 Killer Instinct revival game has been granted one more balance patch, in addition to resolution upgrades on PC and newer Xbox hardware, as well as matchmaking fixes. Pevious versions and permutations of the old paid game have been rolled into one build (minus the classic KI games and documentary material, for ratings reasons) titled Anniversary Edition, and owning previous versions of the game should give you a free upgrade path to the new build. (The free version still exists, just as it always has.)
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Taito
What's this? A vertically scrolling military-vs-aliens shooting game, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Taito in 1986, with a Japan-only conversion for MSX2 and emulated reissues via the PlayStation 2 Taito Memories compilation and the recent Egret II Mini; this game borrows liberally from the oft-imitated aerial/ground enemy mix as codified by Xevious, but with the unique wrinkle that the specific formation of the option-esque aircrafts collected by the player, which can be adjusted with a button press, determine the precise nature of their shot type and ability to hit either grounded or aerial foes.
Why should I care? You're looking for a relatively straightforward shootng game that'll offer you a birds-eye tour of pixel-art renditions of most of Tokyo's most famous landmarks circa '86, and you can tolerate a game that expects you to take on fast enemies with a slow ship. (One landmark missing from this version of the game: the rendition of Tokyo Disneyland, which Taito voluntarily edited out of most revisions of the game for fear of legal action from Disney.)
Useless fact: The pre-release verson of this game featured music by Hisayoshi "OGR" Ogura, composers of classics like Darius and The Ninja Warriors, but their tunes were ultimately replaced by tunes from an anonymous outsourced composer due to inter-office politics; OGR contents that those tunes were among the best they ever wrote, and some of those tunes were repurposed in multiple ways, including by being played at OGR's own wedding.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
- Price: ¥800
- Publisher: G-MODE / Atlus
What's this? A 2006 feature phone take on Data East's classic arcade game BurgerTime the tried-and-true patty-walking mechanics return, but slightly prettier and with an added longer-term goal of assembling as many different permutations of a burger as possible in order to fill out your menu list.
Why should I care? It's been a minute since G-MODE offered a game without an immediate language barrier, I guess.
Helpful tip: This marks the fifth BurgerTime game to hit Switch, following the arcade original, the brand-new BurgerTime Party, the Game Boy version and the now-delisted arcade sequel, Super BurgerTime.
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE EXPANSION PASS
November '23 update: Jet Force Gemini (Nintendo 64)
What's this? An exploratory third-person shooter with a peculiar not-quite-anime aesthetic, originally developed by Rare and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64 in 1999, with an emulated reissue for modern Xbox hardware via the Rare Replay compilation; players are tasked with blastiong hordes of ant-like enemies across multiple non-linear areas, rescuing native aliens and swapping between multiple playable characters in order to fully navigate each stage. (Japan's also getting their version of this game, titled Star Twins, as well as Goldeneye, which had been MIA in Japan for months.)
Why should I care? This might be a game you simply need to try for yourself: the control scheme as envisaged for the N64 controller was extremely divisive and Code Mystic's multiple attempts to reconfigure them for modern controllers were never able to fully ameliorate peoples' discomfort with the basics of aiming and mobility, and I shudder to think how they might or might not function here... but, assuming you can tolerate 'em, and that you have an added tolerance for Rare's more punitive collectathon tendencies, you'll definitely find yourself with plenty to sink your teeth into (including a wide suite of side-games and multiplayer modes, because Rare's N64 games offered value for money, if nothing else).
Helpful tip: Due to ratings issues, Star Twins and Goldeneye's Japanese releases can only be played via a separate 18+-only version of the NSO N64 app.
Batman: Arkham Trilogy
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, (worldwide)
- Price: $59.99 or equivalent (trilogy) / $19.99 or equivalent (individual games)
- Publisher: Warner Bros.
What's this? A collection of ports of the three Rocksteady Studios-made games in the Batman Arkham action-adventure series: 2009's Xbox 360/PS title Batman: Arkham Asylum, 2011's Batman: Arkham City and the 2015 next-gen capstone Batman: Arkham Knight. These version were ported to Switch by Tune Me Up Games from the original Unreal Engine 3 codebase and are not related to the more recent, heavily-criticized Return to Arkham remasters; aside from boasting the inclusion of all DLC for each game, you're essentially getting straight, no-frills ports, save for an additional skin based on the recent Robert Pattinson movie. (I don't know if the "all DLC!' claim covers things like Arkham Knights' PS4-exclusive content, or City's Wii U-exclusive gimmicks, but I suspect those won't be present.)
Why should I care? Forget comic book games, or licensed games in general—the first two games in particular remain among the most critically-acclaimed games of all time, and presented a template for 3D action games that continues to be emulated by big-budget mainstream games to this day, so it's not just nice that they're back and in a form that should potentially do them more justice than their last versions, but that they're now available to those people who've never left Nintendo's ecosystem and therefore never played the originals, nor most of their many, many imitators. Maybe you played City on Wii U, iunno.
Helpful tip: The physical card only contains Asylum, so you'll have to download the other two games in order to play 'em (and you may not even be able to play Asylum without an additional download, but don't quote me on that.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Waycoder / Daewon Media
What's this? A remake of a fantasy RPG themed around Chinese martial arts, originally developed by Compile and released for Windows PC in 1997 via their Compile Disk Station magazine/cover-disk, both in Japan and also Korea via the short-lived Compile Korea co-venture; this new version, produced by Korean studio Waycoder, boasts redrawn graphics with substantially more elaborate battle animations, newly-arranged music, some minor quality-of-life adjustments and bug fixes and some additional post-game chapters, the contents of which have been kept under wraps. (The publisher hasn't put out a single English-language trailer but rest assured, it has been translated.)
Why should I care? Gensei Suikoden is a game that, through abundant distribution and word-of-mouth, became something of a cultural touchstone for a certain generation of Korean gamers, and this remake might hopefully allow the game to receive the same amount of love (or, at least, any love at all) from the rest of the world. As for whether it would appeal to the average international player in 2023, as opposed to a Korean teenager in a turn-of-the-century computer lab: a lot of the appeal of the game comes from a combination of it being a brisk game (in the ballpark of 4~6 hours) and one with an abundance of hidden conditions and branching routes that lead to dramatically different endings and outcomes for each playthrough, which not only facilitate replayability but also helped to foster all sorts of just-barely-credible rumours about what secrets did or didn't exist to be uncovered, and I have no doubt that a short-form, high-replay JPRG is going to have a specific appeal for a while bunch of older folk in particular.
Useless fact: The "Suikoden" part of the title is a pun: it's written with kanji that translates to "Legend of the Drunken Tiger", rather than the famous classic Chinese novel, or the Konami RPG of the same name.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Limited Run Games / Sunsoft
What's this? An emulated reissue of Sunsoft's atmospheric Game Boy sidescroller, originally released in Japan in 1992 and Europe in 1993, with a re-release in those territories via the 3DS Virtual Console; this deluxe version, developed by Limited Run Games' Carbon Engine team and supervised by original director Yuichi Ueda, contains both the original Game Boy game and a newly-colorized Game Boy Color version, alongside a collection of developer documents and interview materials, a music player with classic and newly-arranged tunes and more.
Why should I care? ...aside from the fact that it's never seen an official release in North America and that the original cartridges are extremely pricey, you mean? Well, Trip World is often lumped together with Sunsoft's similarly rare and visually-dense Famicom/NES side-scroller, Gimmick!, but I don't think that comparison really holds up, and that's not necessarily a bad thing: where Gimmick! is a somewhat technical action game whose visuals might belie a steep learning curve, Trip World is an exceedingly simple game, almost to a fault, that gives players the freedom to luxuriate and poke at the edges of the world as they see fit, and this package should ideally work to enhance and enshrine the game's peculiar charm.
Helpful tip: PC and PlayStation 4/5 versions are in the works, but aren't out right now; additionally, LRG put out a physical GBC cartridge of the new colorized build a little while ago, but I suppose it's too late to grab one of those for a reasonable price.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $29.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Nightdive Studios
What's this? A remaster of the third mainline entry in Iguana Entertainment/Acclaim Studio Austin's popular Nintendo 64 first-person shooter series, Turok; unlike the recent remasters of the previous games, Nightdive Studios has seen fit to significantly and manually rework Turok 3's models and textures, while offering a suite of modern post-processing effects, game tweaks, quality-of-life features and rendering upgrades up to 4K and 120FPS depending on platform, plus an editor and modding suite on PC. (Not present: the game's original multiplayer modes, and unlike their other remasters, they didn't see fit to replace it with new modes, either.)
Why should I care? The original Turok 3 saw the series lurching desparately in the direction of Half-Life but, owing to Acclaim's rushed development schedule and the hard limits of the N64, it couldn't really deliver the immersive, guided experience it was trying to provide, so one might hope that this new take is able to sand the many rough edges off a game that had the potential to be great but had to settle for "occasionally okay".
Useless fact: One of the big cutting-floor features from the original release was campaign co-op with distinct branching routes for each character, and it had been long speculated that the relatively long wait for this remaster was due to Nightdive's desire to implement that feature... oh well.
ROM HACKS & TRANSLATIONS
Shinsetsu Samurai Spirits Bushido Retsuden (Neo Geo CD) translation patch by Price of Reason & co.
The original developers don't like it and Japanese players really didn't like it, but that has never stopped the rest of the world for being desparely curious about the Samurai Shodown RPG release in various semi-connected states across Neo Geo CD, Sega Saturn and PlayStation, and now the least-compromised version has been fully translated into English, with the addition of content and features from other versions, optional balance adjustments and more. Temper your expectations, folks.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Eliminate Down (Sega Mega Drive) cartridge reissues from Retro-Bit & co.
- Price: $54.99 / €69,99
- Availability: orders end January 2, ETA q2 2024
Originally released only in Japan and South Korea, the technically-impressive horizontal Mega Drive shooting game Eliminate Down, originally developer by obscure and long-defunct studio Aprinet, has long commanded some of the absolute highest after-market prices of any Genesis/Mega Drive games, so one might hope this Retro-Bit cartridge reissue might help to get the game into the hands of scores of people who'd rather not mortgage their house in order to own a copy. This new version boasts a lenticular slipcover and green cartridge shell, with a newly-translated manual that contains a never-before-publushed cheat code for those who might need it. Be sure to check the above link for availability in your region, as you may have to play hot potato with multiple different vendors depending on location.