Retro Re-release Roundup, week of January 18, 2024

Cing's blue-ocean mystery adventure series is reborn on Switch.

For as glad as I am to see a game like Another Code — a point-and-click adventure game overshadowed by other adventure games that were more immediately appealing to the core audience that determined which games remained a topic of conversation and which didn't — not only given a second chance but afforded a full remake, I have to say, I'm most impressed by the subtitle, Recollection. I mean, it's not the most layered title in the world, but there's a little more to it that's specific to these remakes that really makes it work.


Super Contra

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

What's this? The bigger and more bombastic sequel to Konami's hit action-movie-esque run-and-gun action game, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Konami in late 1987/early 1988; the significantly reworked Famicom/NES conversion, released internationally as Super C and/or Probotector II, ultimately reached more people, but the arcade version saw an attempt at a faithful port for Amiga and IBM PC, as well as emulated reissues on Xbox 360 and as part of the recent Contra Anniversary Collection. This game broadly retains the form of the original, including the distinctive use of a vertical screen for a horizontally-scrolling game, while adding features like weapon power-ups that stack for extra firepower, the ability to modify the height of your jump using up/down on the joystick and replacing the previous game's pseudo-3D stages with vertically-scrolling overhead stages in the vein of Ikari Warriors or Commando.

Why should I care? You're someone who wants to experience Contra at its absolute toughest: this game's combination of frustratingly tanky and agile enemies, somewhat variable enemy patterns and overly-fiddly controls make it significantly more difficult than even the hardest modes of the other, later home Contra games, with a starkly different sense of game balance than the NES titles people might be most familiar with.

Helpful tip: Aside from offering more accurate aspect ratio settings, this version of Super Contra differs from the one found in Contra Anniversary Collection in one important aspect: the intro voices, which were removed from the previous reissue due to ambiguity over rights, have been reinstated for the ACA version.


Märchen Veil (PC-8801mkIISR)

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide... well, maybe; definitely Japan)
  • Price: $6.49 / ¥880
  • Publisher: D4 Enterprise / System Sacom

What's this? An overhead action-RPG with a cute fairytale-esque storybook theme, originally developed and published  by System Sacom in 1985  for the PC-8801 series of microcomputers, with ports quickly produced for the PC-98, Sharp X1, MSX series and, a little later, a reworked conversion for the Famicom Disk System published and co-produced by Sunsoft. The player controls a prince on a quest to return to their betrothed princess after being banished to a wasteland and cursed with the form of a satyr-esue monster; in between the action stages, which task the player with attacking and dodging enemies via projectile-heavy combat, navigating treacherous terrain and uncovering hidden items and upgrades (including floppy disks required to activate save points), the player is presented with lengthy illustrated story introductions via a format dubbed "novelware".

Why should I care? You're not only able to read the story chapters (which remain untranslated and are presented entirely in katakana) but you're willing to endure some really choppy action in order to get to 'em, and you're comfortable knowing that the story doesn't neatly resolve by the end — they made this game knowing there'd be a second one following it up soon after.

Useless fact: Märchen Veil 's programmer and designer, Yukio Horimoto, would go on to make a few other games with a similarly cute/fairytale-coded aesthetic, including the very similar Wave Jack FCDS action-adventure Kieta Princess and the cult NES/Famicom Zelda II homage, Battle of Olympus (Ai no Densetsu), which features a few enemy/character designs that could've come straight out of this game.


Toudou Ryuunosuke Tantei Nikki vol.4: Aen no Hakobune ~Souma-tei Renzoku Satsujin Jiken~

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
  • Price: ¥1200
  • Publisher: G-MODE / Althi

What's this? The fourth entry in a Taisho-era detective mystery series originally developed by Japanese adventure game pioneers Riverhillsoft for Japanese microcomputers, and the second entry originally developed and released for Japanese feature phones. In the neglected basement of a cliffside mansion attached to a hospital, the bloodied corpse of a military doctor is discovered; the authorities ruled the death as a suicide, but there could be more to this story...

Why should I care? As always, it's hard to recommend or evaluate a mystery novel game that you haven't played, but now seems like a perfect time to once again mention that this series was kicked off by Rika Suzuki, future president of Cing and writer/designer of the Another Code series.

Helpful tip: G-MODE's began providing hints/walkthroughs for these mystery games, so if you get stuck, take a look.


January '24 update: Golden Sun & Golden Sun: The Lost Age (Game Boy Advance)

What're these? The first and second halves of a fantasy RPG developed by original Shining Force devs Camelot Software Planning for Nintendo and published for the Game Boy Advance in 2001 and 2003, respectively, with relatively recent reissues via the Wii U Virtual Console; these games; set in a world of magic that is poised to be plunged into chaos upon the unsealing of the forgotten art of alchemy, these games are personified by their mixture of traditional turn-based, random-encounter combat and Zelda-esque overworld puzzles and dungeons, as well as the Djinn, powerful equippable beings that, once defeated, can be equipped to change and modify the classses and elemental affinities of your party members, as well as grant them new abilities.(Rejoice, EU folk: if you use the PAL NSO app, you'll get all the non-English ROMs, too.)

Why should I care? Golden Sun saw wide critical acclaim at the time of its release, and it wasn't a mere result of being one of the few original high-profile RPGs on a system littered with ports, or due to its association with Nintendo: it was a meaty, confident, ambitious game with visuals and audio that far exceeded anything seen on a handheld system until that point (and, unfortunately, are done a disservice by being blown up onto a huge screen) and whose biggest crime was simply being split into two games, but you're being given both of 'em at once, so make the most of it. (The game's other big flaw — excruciatingly repetitive and inane dialog that scrolls slowly and is padded with constant gesticulating from each and every character present in a given scene — seems destined to remain for all time... if any game needed a fast-forward, it's this one.)

Helpful tip: These games allowed you to transfer your data from the first game to the second, either via link cable or via a password system of varying degrees of complexity that famously spanned as many as 260 characters; the NSO version does retain link cable functionality and as such can allow you to transfer your progress without using the password system, but it seems it'll only work using the standard online link cable functionality, ie you can only transfer using two different Switches and two different user accounts, and there's no way to do it all on one account and/or one Switch.


Rally Cross (PlayStation) andStar Wars: The Phantom Menace (PlayStation) plus Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, Legend of Mana and Secret of Mana (PlayStation 4+5)

What're these? An action-adventure tie-in to Star Wars Episode One, a rally game I defy anyone to claim they've ever heard of, as well as Digital Eclipse's 2D Street Fighter arcade anthology, M2's recent remaster of the best Mana game, and the not-that-recent-anymore polygonal remake of the most overrated Mana game.

Why should I care? Look, it's nice that Sony's at least filling this subscription tier with recent vintage reissues in lieu of giving people actual PS games, and for as much as I genuinely appreciate that they're not beelining for the same played-out classics with every legacy initiative, I do have to ask: if these games are they only ones they care to offer, why'd they even bother? Is this a conscious effort to taint peoples' nostalgia for PlayStation so as to lessen their obligation to maintain their own legacy?

Helpful tip: For those wondering about overlap between Street Fighter 30th and other recent Capcom arcade compilations: Capcom Arcade Stadium offers SF2, Turbo and Super Turbo; while Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium offers Alpha 1, 2 and 3, and both 2nd Stadium and Capcom Fighting Collection include the  2003 all-in-one Hyper SF2 which is not present on SF30. Put another way: SF30th's the only modern place to play the original Street Fighter, SF2:CE, SSF2 or any version of SF3 (aside from when they show up in the game hub in SF6, I guess.)


Another Code: Recollection

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide, out January 19)
  • Price: $59.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Nintendo

What's this? A full remake of Cing and Nintendo's point-and-click adventure game series Another Code, which originally consisted ot two games: the original Nintendo DS entry Another Code: Two Memories (renamed Trace Memory in North America) and the Japan/PAL-exclusive follow-up for Wii, Another Code R. Produced by Arc System Works, the new home of original director/character designer/art director Taisuke Kanasaki, these versions fully remake the two games in a unified, fully-3D third-person perspective and offer a new hint/guide system, voice acting, new and remastered music and significant additions, changes and alterations to both the puzzles (many of which were very specific to the hardware features of their former platforms) and the scenario, including some tweaks said to be based on unused content from the development of the original games.

Why should I care? Another Code was originally conceived as part of a large and remarkably earnest push by Nintendo to both re-restablish the adventure game genre in the mainstream and to broaden the types of stories and characters typically explored within this subgenre; in that respect, it's somewhat understandable that the series was deemed of lesser import that the grittier and more conventionally game-y Hotel Dusk, made by the same developers, but it deserves credit for ultimately helping usher in a bigger established market for mystery adventure games of all stripes, and one would imagine that more sedate games with young-adult tones like Another Code won't at all struggle to find a wide audience that'll sing their praises nowadays. Of course, I'm sure many of you liked 'em well enough back then, too, and you might be glad to know that these are far from straight remakes, and that they're as close as you might get to a new game without actually being a new game.

Helpful tip: There's a demoand you can transfer your progress to the full game.

Legend of Grimrock

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $14.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Almost Human

What's this? The first-ever console port of Finnish indie studio Almost Human's real-time grid-based first-person dungeon-crawling RPG, originally released for PC in 2012 and iOS in 2015; this version seems to be a very direct port with no real changes or touch-ups, save for controller support (which may require you to download a patch or two in order to fix some basic button-mapping errors, mind).

Why should I care? Upon its initial release, Grimrock served as both a rallying cry for the re-emergence of old-school first-person dungeon-crawlers on big commercial PC platforms, as well as the re-assertion of the distinct subset of dungeon crawlers with real-time combat as typified by Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder, as distinct from the very old-school Wizardry-influenced dungeon crawlers coming out of Japan that had found a niche on handhelds; as of right now, it's a little hard to go back to after the sequel, and it's not the most controller-friendly game you'll ever play, but if you want something a little different, and a lot more European, than the recent Wizardry remake or the Etrian Odysset remasters or what have you, then this is still one of the very finest examples of this particular style of game.

Helpful tip: Almost Human has suggested that this release was basically a tech test for the Switch that they deemed worthy of commercial release, and that they don't have any plans to port the sequel.

VALIS: The Fantasm Soldier Collection II

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide outside of Japan)
  • Price: $54.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Edia

What's this? The third (and, allegedly, final) emulated collection of games from Nippon Telenet's influential anime-inspired action game series, Valis, which was crowdfunded by rights holder Edia last year and release in Japan a few months ago, and is now avaialble internationally without so much as a heads-up. This collection includes five odds and ends from across Japanese microcomputers and home console; each game is presented with English subtitles where appropriate and enhanced with save states, button configs and screen settings, translated manuals and galleries for music and cutscenes, as well as the inclusion of a roughly three-minute anime produced as promotional material for the Famicom game (and directed by a young Hideaki Anno).

Which games are included? This collection includes the original PC-8801 of the first Valis, the Famicom remix of the first Valis, the MSX2 version of Valis II, which differs substantially from the previously-reissued console version of the same name; the Mega Drive version of Valis III and the Super Famicom game Super Valis IV (which you might know from its recent appearance on Nintendo Switch online).

Why should I care? I really didn't think Edia could or would put people on the hook for three separate collections (and each more expensive than the last at that) but full credit, people seem to want every last morsel of Valis content they can provide, and provide they have. Now, whether these barrel-scrapings will have any specific appeal to anybody who isn't two collections deep and hardwired to grab the third sight unseen, I'm not so sure: if you're of the belief that any Valis game is inherently interesting then sure, worse versions of games present on the previous collections might have some sort of draw.

Useless fact: This collection has a higher age rating due to a brief moment of nudity in one of the games, which has been censored via a large and extremely inelegant white rectangle.


Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked (Switch, PS4, PS5) physical release, soundtracks & merch via Limited Run Games

  • Price: $34.99 (standard) / $64.99 (collectors edition), $134.99 (ultimate edition), $59.99 (3LP vinyl), $14.99 (cassette)
  • Availability: from January 19, 10AM Eastern to February 18, 23:59

In case you missed it, the unthinkable has happened: LRG has somehow talked Konami into finally, finally dragging the three classic Rocket Knight games — the Genesis/Mega Drive Rocket Knight Adventures, the SNES follow-up Sparkster and the Genesis/Mega Drive sequel Rocket Knight Adventures 2, all made by different teams — out of the vault and onto modern platforms via an impending Carbon Engine-powered emulated collection, and with that comes the customary physical collection in standard, big and real-big variants with all sorts of extras. (Note the comic: that's a reprint of the Rocket Knight comic featured in the Sonic the Comic books published in the UK by Fleetway; the ownership rights to Fleetway's catalog and Sonic the Comic in particular have been murky for many years and just getting this reprinted came with some strict stipulations, so it's a bigger deal than it may seem.) Also going on sale is a range of merchandise, including a full soundtrack on 3LP vinyl, a best-of cassette soundtrack and a gosh-darned Sparkster plushie..