Retro Re-release Roundup, week of February 15, 2024

Lara Croft's classic visage returns for a new generation.

Plenty of top-shelf classics being re-released this week, eh? The classic Tomb Raider trilogy, the original entry in Falcom's globally-beloved action-RPG series, a trio of popular romance sims and... okay, Mario vs. Donkey Kong's probably a little lower on most peoples' rankings, but think of it as a necessary step on the ladder towards a brand new Donkey Kong '94 redux.


Master of Weapon

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

What's this? A vertically-scrolling sci-fi shooting game, originally developed and distributed in Japanese arcades by Taito in 1989, followed by a compromised Japan-only Mega Drive conversion in 1991 and a single emulated reissue via the PlayStation 2 Taito Memories line in 2007. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the player controls hero Yukiwo on a fight against a corrupted supercomputer that was built to rehabilitate the earth but has suddenly twisted to enslave humanity; Yukiwo's vehicle is equipped with a shot to take out aerial foes and an air-to-ground bomb for grounded enemies, not unlike that one Namco game you're all sick of hearing about.

Why should I care? Master of Weapon is by no means a shining star of the Taito shooting game library but it certainly has its charm: the detailed pixel art and attempts at three-dimensional visages could be seen as a precursor to the aesthetics of more fondly-remembered games like Gun Frontier or RayForce, and the music's so catchy that you might find it hard to believe that Zuntata themselves didn't write it. (If you want to enhance the experience even more, go into the options and use the dipswitch that changes the player-ship into the intended Akira-style bike.)

Helpful tip: This Arcade Archives reissues includes a toggle to disable the flickering effect on enemy bullets, and I strongly advise you to do so, unless you enjoy losing to attacks you can't see.


Ys (PC-8801)

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

What's this? The first entry in Nihon Falcom's signboard action-RPG series, originally developed for the PC-8801 microcomputer and quickly ported to the other microcomputers of the day, as well as the Famicom and the Sega Mark III/Master System, and subsequently remade many times over the ensuing decades, beginning with the popular Hudson-produced Ys Books I&II two-pack for Turbografx-CD/PC Engine CD and most recently adding Ysi I&II Chronicle+ on Steam. The player controls the adventuring swordsman Adol who, upon washing ashore on the cursed island of Esteria, is contacted by a fortuneteller and instructed to collect the six hidden books of Ys in order to stave off a great evil, which he achieves primarily by bumping into stuff from the correct angle. (In addition to a chapter select and the usual assortment of features and options, this EGG Console reissues also allows easy access to the hidden sound test, which not only contains the game's soundtrack but a substantial number of unused tunes across multiple chipsets.)

Why should I care? Falcom's statement of intent with Ys was to bridge into a new era of friendlier, less inconvenient and generally more manageable action-RPGs, and they certainly succeeded — compared to its contemporaries, Ys offered a gentle difficulty curve, snappy action combat with enemy and boss encounters that demand minimal grinding, a straightforward character growth system and relatively few obtuse systems or objectives, culminating in an experience that today's players, or those generally only used to console RPGs, will be able to enjoy with very little discomfort. On top of that, it also boasts the first major musical contributions of acclaimed composer Yuzo Koshiro, and you probably won't be surprised to learn that he was conjuring world-class tunes right out of the gate. (If you've only ever played this game via the remakes that pair it with Ys II, you might also be interested in playing the original on its own, if only to better understand just how clearly the two games are but halves of an intended whole, and how Falcom stretched out Ys' final dungeon in order to justify selling the front half of a game as a standalone.)

Language barrier? Quite possibly: this version's being reissued with precisely as much English text as it contained to begin with, which is to say, not a lot... certain menus will display options, item names, etc in English but character dialogue and other extensive text remains in Japanese, and if you've never played other versions of Ys before, being unable to read certain hints/directives may thwart your progress.


Mario vs. Donkey Kong

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch(worldwide)
  • Price: $49.99 / €49.99 / £39.99
  • Publisher: Nintendo

What's this? A remake of Nintendo Software Technology's puzzle-platformer successor to the 1994 Donkey Kong Game Boy game, originally developed for the Game Boy Advance anod published by Nintendo in 2004; in addition to modern visuals and audio, this version includes all the original stages and adds a co-operative two-player mode, a time trial mode, a casual difficulty toggle and two extra worlds at the end of the game for those who want an extra challenge.

Why should I care? You might have caught a glimpse of the Mini-Marios and immediately filed this game away with the half-dozen other Mario vs. Donkey Kong games which, while distinct from one another, all co-exist under the same broad Lemmings-esque unit-guiding puzzle-action game umbrella, and if you did, you might want to give this another look — just to re-emphasise, this game is a direct successor to Donkey Kong '94 and exists squarely in the action-platformer realm, with the player controlling Mario in real time and "solving" each stage through judicious application of his many acrobatic moves, with a very occasional dalliance into Mini-leading that maintains a focus on real-time navigation using Mario and does not outstay its welcome. Put another way, they're finally back to doing the thing people have wanted them to keep doing for the last twenty years.

Useless fact: The original Mario vs. Donkey Kong evolved out of Donkey Kong Plus, an announced but never-released remake of Donkey Kong '94 that would've heavily emphasised GameCube/Game Boy Advance connectivity and a level editor. As it happens, ROM-crawlers have uncovered a functional level editor within Mario vs. Donkey Kong GBA's data, and later Mario vs. Donkey Kong games released for DS and beyond leaned heavily on level creation and online content sharing... and yet, this version's just a big ol' box of levels.

Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side, Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side: 2nd Kiss & Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side: 3rd Story

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
  • Price: ¥5995 each
  • Publisher: Konami

What're these? Modern ports of the three original games in the girl-courts-boys spinoff of Konami's classic boy-courts-girls simulator, Tokimeki Memorial, which were originally released and/or ported across PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable from 2002 to 2012; these new ports are primarily based on the DS versions and have been reformatted for a single screen and feature higher-resolution images and uncompressed audio. (3rd Story also includes the additional content produced exclusively for its PSP port.)

Why should I care? One might see the word "spinoff" and immediately file these games away as different games borrowing the same branding, or as mere side-dishes to the "real" Tokimemo, but I can assure you that's not the case: these games are popular in their own right and kept the series alive when the mainline games were floundering, and and Konami recently revived Girls Side with a 4th entry that ended up being the best-selling otome game Japan's ever seen, so if you ever wanted to play any of these games and want a very convenient way to experience the entire classic sub-series without wiki-diving, this is it.

Language barrier? They're entirely in Japanese and not worth playing if you can't read anything so yeah, quite possibly.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered starring Lara Croft

  • Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam/Epic Store (worldwide)
  • Price: $29.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Crystal Dynamics / Aspyr

What's this? A remaster of the classic Tomb Raider trilogy, originally released for Sony PlayStation, PC, Mac and/or Sega Saturn from 1996 to 2000; produced by Aspyr, these remasters include all the content from all three games plus their little-played PC expansion packs and allow the player to seamlessly switch between a faithful 30FPS recreation of the original graphics and new high-fidelity visuals designed to evoke the look of Lara's '90s renders, as well as an option to switch between classic tank-style controls and an updated control scheme inspired by later games, a photo mode, new UI elements during boss fights, achievements and more.

Why should I care? At the rate things are devolving, this might be the last project that ships with Crystal Dynamics' name on it before Embracer shuts them down and sells the Tomb Raider brand for half a ham sandwich. In and of themselves, one might hope these remasters are able to effectively reorient the series' trajectory towards tactile environmental traversal and not gunplay or puzzles or involved narrative or any of the other ill-advised dalliances of the last decade or so, but I'm getting ahead of myself...

Helpful tip: For whatever reason, the PS5 version currently lacks a full platinum trophy set, but the PS4's trophy set is complete. (Is this a helpful tip? I mean, I guess the act of trophy/achievement-hunting is "retro", but are any of y'all still doing it?)


Death Crimson 2 (Dreamcast) translation patch by Derek Pascarella & co.

Ecole Software's inscrutable Japan-only Sega Saturn lightgun game Death Crimson is permanently cemented into the history of awful games and a monolith under which all commercial kusoge will be forced to dwell forevermore. Death Crimson 2 is... not, due to the all-too-common consequence of a creator trying too hard to lean into their accidental notoriety and ultimately producing something that's boring in all the regular ways a poorly-made game is typically boring, but this still-appreciated translation might hopefully bring us one step closer to a translation of the original. These patches have been optimised for both drive-sim loading and CD-R loading and offer multiple extras and tweaks, including a recreation of the former website and an activate-whenever cheat code. (Also note that this is not the same game released globally as Death Crimson OX: that game was a retooling of Death Crimson 2 as a straight arcade lightgun game and is lacking all the adventure-style elements and the vast majority of voice acting and what passes for plot.)


Gleylancer & Gynoug Combo Pack (PS5, PS4, Switch) via Limited Run Games

  • Price: $34.99
  • Availability: from February 16, 10AM Eastern to March 15, 23:59

Ratalaika's emulated reissues of these two cult Masaya-developed Mega Drive/Genesis shooting games are being bundled together in a rather unassuming physical release from LRG — it's been a while since I can recall seeing a LRG release without a collector's edition, come to think of it.


Casio Loopy replacement controller models by RetroGameRevival

Ever wanted to 3D-print your own transparent replacement case/buttons for your Casio Loopy controller? Yeah, I know, of course ya do.