Retro Re-release Roundup, week of January 25, 2024

Justice for Apollo?

There's undoubtedly something for everyone in this week's roundup, and by that I mean you should never turn down any excuse to play or replay Hitman Blood Money.


Rainbow Islands

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

What's this? The extremely loose sequel to Taito's hit Bubble Bobbleoriginally developed by Taito and distributed in arcades by Taito and Romstar in 1987, with the revision Rainbow Islands Extra hitting arcades in early 1988; the original versions was ported to a plethora of contemporary platforms, with the Extra version receiving a few ports of its own, with the last reissue of the authentic arcade versions coming via the recent Egret II Mini plug-and-play, and before then, the Taito Memories series for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable. In this game, the stars of Bubble Bobble (now in human form) must save the Rainbow Islands by traversing 32 vertically-ascending stages with the help of their rainbow attack, a versatile move that can be used to bridge gaps, collect items from afar and dispose of enemies in a few different ways. (The Arcade Archives reissue includes both the original and Extra versions, as well as some neat extra toggles for things like improved input response, auto-inputting the game's secret codes on game boot and a visible display for the spawn sectors of the all-important diamond drops, which can be turned on/off in real time with a button press.)

Why should I care? For as commendable as most of Rainbow Islands' many, many ports were in their day, none of them managed to fully capture both the playability and the many secrets of the authentic arcade version, so finally having this version available again on contemporary platforms — and with several quality-of-life features at that — should hopefully allow y'all to not only reacquaint yourselves with a Taito classic but fully explore its many hidden depths, minus some of the guesswork.

Helpful tip: Rainbow Islands' original main BGM, which heavily cribbed from Wizard of Oz's "Over the Rainbow", has been altered or otherwise censored in a variety of different ways over the last 30+ years, and this version is no exception: for this release, ez-Zuntata composer Yukiharu Urita adapted the legally-distinct soundalike BGM from Taito's NES version for the YM2151 sound chip of the arcade version, producing what should hopefully be a lasting and acceptable compromise.


Yokai Tantei Chima Chima (PC-8801)

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $6.49 / ¥880
  • Publisher: D4 Enterprise / Bothtec

What's this? An arcade-style top-down action game with a sp0o0o0oky motif, originally developed by hobbyist devs Alex Bros. and published as one of the winning entries in a programming contest held by fledgling publisher Bothtec in 1984; the original version was produced for Sony's SMC-777 microcomputer, with ports to Sharp X1, Fujitsu FM-7, MSX (published in Europe as Chima Chima Private Eye) and PC-6601 and PC-8801. The player is tasked with saving an idol kidnapped by monsters, which is achieved through the use of a projectile that can be manually steered around the stage and remotely detonated, causing a Bomberman-esque cross explosion, with the caveat that steering your projectile will also move your character, forcing you to make sure you don't accidentally trap or kill your character while trying to aim an attack.

Why should I care? Of all the versions they could've published, it's a shame they picked this specific version — it does have some added mechanics, but the movement is much choppier than almost every other version — but the performance is just competent enough to allow the simple arcade-y mechanics to shine, while they last.

Useless fact: This game lets you toggle between a "Japanese version" and a "Western version", which changes the sprite set to Japanese-style graves and yokai or western-style tombstones and monsters, respectively; the game itself plays exactly the same, so go ahead and pick whichever version you find most appealing.


Jaleco Super Tennis ~Heroines Cup~

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
  • Price: ¥800
  • Publisher: G-MODE / City Connection

What's this? A tennis game featuring prominent female characters from Jaleco's then-current feature phone series, originally released for Japanese phones ivia the Jaleco Garesso service in 2007; in addition to the tournament mode, which sees you facing off against a variety of characters in the pursuit of unlockable art of the various heroines, there's also a challenge mode with high-score minigames, as well as unique special shots for each playable character.

Why should I care? You have a morbid fascination for "all-star" games with a certifiable lack of all-star power.

Helpful tip: Of the three playable characters, only one is currently represented via G-MODE Archives: City Connection's Clarice, and given that she's sporting her '00s cellphone-era design, you might not even recognise her. (There are opponents from certain other games you may have played via G-MODE Archives, like the RPG Maou ga Ochiru Hi .


Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PlayStation 4
  • Price: $49.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Capcom

What's this? A remaster of games 4, 5, 6 in the mainline Ace Attorney Trilogy of contradiction-deducing lawyer adventure games, ostensibly centred on Apollo Justice, apprentice of the now ex-attorney Pheonix Wright; in addition to including high-definition, single-screen remasters of each game and relevant DLC, they also offer extras like a sound test with remastered music and select orchestral tracks, a gallery with developer documents and art, including a promotional anime, and an animation viewer that lets players mess with all the many character emotes. (The collection is getting a physical Switch release in North America and Japan, and a physical PlayStation 5 version in Japan.)

Why should I care? In their day, this second trilogy was paradoxically burdened by its new protagonist while also criticised for essentially sidelining them in their own series, and playing these games back-to-back might make that sidelining a little more obvious, the writing mostly maintained the quality and tone of the original trilogy (save for the uncharacteristic but not-unengaging cynicisym of Apollo Justice) and the series' ever-more-steep descent into full Japanifornian absurdity is a fun ride.

Helpful tip: Dual Destinies' DLC case is chronologically positioned between the second and third cases of the main game, so you should play it directly after the second case rather than saving it for the post-game. (Spirit of Justice's DLC can and should be played after the main game.)

Chip's Challenge

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $2.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Pixel Games UK

What's this? An emulated reissue of the original version of Chuck Sommerville and Epyx's overhead puzzle game, produced as a launch title for the Atari Lynx in 1989 and various European computers soon thereafter, as well as a cancelled NES port, with a Microsoft-produced version released for Windows in 1992 to gradual cult acclaim; this version offers the Lynx version pretty much as-is, with the addition of save states and some basic screen filters.

Why should I care? You're looking for a tile-based puzzle game that leans a little heavier in the action/real-time direction than the typical Sokoban-like, and you don't mind playing the postage-stamp Lynx version over the relatively recent remaster produced for Steam.

Useless fact: In addition to the licensed remaster and sequel for PC, Chuck Sommerville not only produced an unlicensed followup named Chuck's Challenge but also reskinned that game as a Ben 10 tie-in for Cartoon Network.

Cosmic Fantasy Collection

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $49.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Edia

What's this? An emulated collection containing the first two games in Nippon Telenet and veteran animator Kazuhiro Ochi's lighhearted RPG series, Cosmic Fantasy, the second of which was localized for release on Turbografx-CD in North America in 1992; this collection was crowdfunded by catalog owners Edia in 2022 and offers save states, button configs, some basic screen options, scanned/translated manuals and music/cutscene galleries, on top of brand-new localizations for both games. (Ignore some of the unsubstantiated accusations you may have come across: these new localizations were not produced via machine translation or AI.)

Why should I care? Even in their day, these games were very transparently built around the novelty of the anime-style cutscenes and voice acting, with the RPG component being uninteresting at best and frustratingly half-baked at worst, butwe just so happen to be living in an era where nostalgia for this specific era of anime-influenced media is at a peak, so if there was ever a time when you might be most able to stomach these games, it's probably now.

In case you missed it: Limited Run Games is taking orders for physical versions of Cosmic Fantasy Collection until February 11, and the standard version's actually a little cheaper than this digital release.

Hitman: Blood Money - Reprisal

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $29.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Feral Interactive

What's this? An enhanced port of the fourth entry in IO Interactive's series of assassin simulators, originally released for PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox and Xbox 360 in 2006 and further reissued as part of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 Hitman HD CollectionI and the 4K-compliant Hitman HD Enhanced Collection for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One; this Switch version, produced by Feral Interactive, is more-or-less based on the PC version with a few gameplay enhancements, including an implementation of the Instincts mode seen in newer Hitman games, a new minimap, optional gyro aiming and assist features like auto-aim and auto-reload.

Why should I care? Some might be tempted to say it's hard to go back to older Hitman games after World of Assassination, but the truth is that most of the early games weren't much good to begin with... except this one, and it's remarkable just how much of the foundation of the newer games is just "Blood Money but bigger.

Helpful tip: This specific port is part of a family with recent iOS/Android versions released a month or two back, hence some of the assist features — they're specifically intended for touchscreen controls.

Legend of Steel Empire

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $29.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: ININ Games

What's this? The latest re-release of a steampunk-themed horizontal shooting game developed by Hot-B and originally released for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis in 1992, later remade for the Game Boy Advance in 2004 and further remade for the 3DS in 2014 and PC in 2017; this Switch release purports to offer some changes over the PC version but as far as I can tell, it's exactly the same — that is, it offers the redrawn graphics of the GBA/3DS versions in a HD-friendly display, with revised difficulty settings and other minor touches.

Why should I care? Steel Empire, in all its forms, is a uniquely cinematic and beginner-friendly game with an ever-so-thin veneer of RPG progression and a unique aesthetic, and while I don't know that I'd recommend this remake over the original (or the PC version, commonly available for pennies), I'm sure there's an audience for more vintage games in this genre that aren't engineered to tear one's head off.

Helpful tip: This game's getting a physical release on both Switch and PS4, which is not to be confused with Strictly Limited Games' Steel Empire Chronicles, a two-pack containing this remake and an emulated collection containing the original Mega Drive and GBA versions of Steel Empire alongside a NES shooter by the same dev called Over Horizon; the emulated portion of that release will also be made available digitally in the near future.


Exact Perfect Collection (SD card expansion), , ¥ 12,100

Zuiki's X68000Z mini replica finally has its first big paid software expansion: Exact Perfect Collection, a four-pack containing the shooting game Naious, the wire-swinging mecha action game Aquales, the action-RPG Etoile Princesse and the proto-Jumping Flash 3D platformer Geograph Seal (all of which could be sideloaded but y'know, this is official). You'll need to download a firmware update from Zuiki's login-only board in order to run these games, so keep that in mind.


El Shaddai HD Remaster (Switch) physical release via Limited Run Games

  • Price: $39.99 (standard) / $69.99 (collectors edition)
  • Availability: from January 26, 10AM Eastern to February 25, 23:59

El Shaddai's creator seems pretty pleased with this remaster: they allegedly managed to get it running at 60FPS in handheld mode, at a higher resolution and with lower loading times, and while I haven't checked the just-released Japanese version to test it myself, I'm willing to take them on their word that they gave it their all. (It doesn't help that the original game was not the most performant piece of software in the world, and thus it's not hard to believe that improvements might be made on more modern hardware.)