Retro Re-release Roundup, week of February 1, 2024
The first Persona game, remade at last.
Now that Like a Dragon's fully embraced its role as Persona-for-grown-ass-adults, I wonder if the lustre of real-deal Persona might've faded, if only a little... but then again, if Sega saw any real overlap between these games, they might not have priced them both at $70 and dropped them within days of each other, I guess.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Tecmo
What's this? A military-themed horizontally-scrolling shooting game for one or two players. with a unique dual-vehicle gimmick, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Tecmo in 1988 and converted for multiple European computers by The Sales Curve, with a Sammy-published NES version following soon thereafter; Silkworm's big hook is that one of the two control panels operates a helicopter, which can freely roam the screen and fire straight and angled shots and grounded bombs, while the other controls a jeep, which is bound to the ground but moves relatively quickly, has strong weapons that can be fired behind the vehicle and can jump at the press of a button. (The arcade version used the same peculiar stick-with-a-button-on-the-end setup as Ninja Gaiden, and as with that game, it maps to a controller just fine.)
Why should I care? Beyond the initial novelty of having two very distinct player-vehicles that can operate in tandem, the jeep is a particularly interesting antecedent to other more fleshed-out auto-scrolling run-and-gun games like Data East's Wolf Fang, and the secondary gameplay hook of determining whether to collect or destroy the orb pick-ups (in order to either gain a brief period of invincibility or deal massive damage to the entire screen, respectively) adds some juice to what might otherwise have been a fairly staid game. You might also just want to play the game that The Sales Curve chose to rip off via their own "original" game series, SWIV, which took the same helicopter/jeep gimmick but presented it via a vertically-scrolling overhead perspective.
Useless fact: Tecmo (under the dummy brand "Salio") was the only Japanese third-party publisher for Sega's Mark III hardware, and they only published two games for the system — conversions of the arcade games Rygar and Solomon's Key — before throwing in the towel, but a certain Sega-centric retailer claimed they were bringing Silkworm to the Mark III at some point, too, and it remains one of the bigger what-ifs among Mark III fanatics... not because the game itself is or was hotly demanded, mind, but out of sheer curiousity as to whether it ever actually existed.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PlayStation 4
- Price: $8.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Atari / Big Boat Interactive
What's this? A newly-wrapped reissue of Wildfire Studios and Apogee's virtual pinball game, originally released for PC in 1997 and reissued on Steam in the mid-'00s as part of an Apogee/3D Realms-themed bundle, only to be delisted due to licensing issues caused by the game's Duke Nukem-themed table; this new version includes 4 of the 5 original tables, plus the "Devil's Island" table which was originally cut from the game and later released as a standalone, and two brand-new tables themed around Atari's Centipede and Missile Command, presented here in non-DOSbox form with basic gamepad support.
Why should I care? From all accounts, this isn't an especially feature-rich or even perfunctory reissue — there are extremely conspicious presentation/display differences between the classic tables and the new ones, the gamepad support requires a baffling amount of massaging and it doesn't run particularly smoothly — and those who've experienced the suite of contemporary modern virtual pinball platforms might struggle to tolerate a take that, even by 1997 standards, was merely pretty okay, but on its own terms, it certainly retains some degree of charm... and who knows, those new tables might be fun, too.
Just to reiterate: the Duke Nukem table's gone, it's probably never coming back and there's currently no way to mod it into this version, but who's to say someone won't figure out how to implement it before long...
- Platform: PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox, PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $69.99 or equivalent
- Publisher: Sega / Atlus
What's this? An Unreal Engine 4-powered remake of Atlus' hybrid social sim/RPG Persona 3, originally released for PlayStation 2 in 2006 and later expanded via the Persona 3 FES revision/append disc and the PlayStation Portable version, Persona 3 Portable. This version overhauls all the game's character models and environments in full, contemporary 3D, with both the character designs and the revised UI given a makeover in the style of the recent-ish Persona 5, and also adds full voice acting for all social links, a multitude of new social activities and links for all male characters and other minor characters, many quality-of-life featured adopted from recent entries (a more useful map, explicit objective descriptions, faster/fastest travel, etc), new and newly-arranged music and alterations to the battle system, including the ability to switch between either the manual or CPU-controlled party actions from the previous versions of the game, as well as a new mechanic that's functionally similar to Persona 5's Baton Pass. among many other changes. (Two heads up: one, there's a bunch of pre-order-exclusive junk you can still nab as of this writing, which includes costumes and persona from recent games; and two, this is launching on Game Pass on Xbox, if that helps alleviate any concerns over that price point.)
Why should I care? The Persona formula as it is popularly known, and will forever remain, was cemented with this game, and while one could argue that trying so hard to contemporize the aesthetic has homogenized a game that might've held more modern appeal as a time capsule of adolescent Japanese mid-'00s chic, one might also charitably view this makeover as proof positive that this once-tiny series has officially ascended from cult darling to bona fide RPG heavy-hitter.
Helpful tip: For the many things added to this remake, they did not see fit to incorporate most of the major new content from the previous revisions of the game, with the optional female protagonist from Persona 3 Portable being the most glaring omission... but I have a hunch they're probably going to try to sell you this content down the line, if that makes you feel any better.
- Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
- Price: $7.79 (standalones) / $19.99 (bundle)
- Publisher: Bitwave
What's this? The latest batch of emulated reissues from the arcade shooting game catalog of prestigious developer Toaplan: 1985's popular helicopter shooting game Tiger Heli, 1991's low-key, vaguely-Hindu-themed vertical shooter Vimana, the 1992 overhead run-and-gun Fixeight and their shooting game swansong, 1992's Batsugun (complete with the 1994 revision Batsugun Special). As with Bitwave's previous reissues, these versions boast lightning-fast input response, online leaderboards, replay sharing, save states and rewind, assist/practice features and more.
Why should I care? Presuming these work as advertised, you're looking at two upper-tier Toaplan shooters (Tiger Heli, Batsugun), a game whose worst crime is not being as fun as Out Zone (Fixeight) and what might be the one Toaplan shooting game for which nobody can offer a single opinion (Vimana). Unfortunately, previous reissues have launched in a quite poor state and were never quire fixed to the degree that they ought have been, so if you go in blind, prepare to be burned.
Alternate Toaplan reissue watch: M2's reissued Tiger Heli on PS4 and Switch via the soon-to-be-localized Kyukyoku Tiger Heli compilation, and the Sega Saturn version of Batsugun (which includes Special) was given an enhanced reissue on Steam and consoles last year via City Connection as Batsugun Saturn Tribute Boosted.
UPDATES UPDATES UPDATES
Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters parity update for PC
Square-Enix has finally adapted the many, many changes made for the console versions of the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters back to the PC versions, with the major changes being options to use the original soundtrack, an alternate pixel font and a bevy of assist/cheat options. (The smartphone versions have also been patched with the assist toggles, as well as gamepad support, but not the soundtrack or font options.)
ROM HACKS & TRANSLATIONS
Linda³ Again (PlayStation) fan translation by Cargodin & Esperknight
Originally releasing at the tail end of the PC Engine CD's commercial life, this expanded PlayStation version of Alfa System and Shoji Masuda's nleakly absurd/absurdly bleak sci-fi "hunting RPG" Linda³ Again is now available to play in English, bar anything the modders may have missed (the patch is not-quite-final for a reason). Be sure to check the readme for a list of organizations whose causes align with the themes of the game, should you feel the desire to offer your support.