Retro Re-release Roundup, week of March 7, 2024

The most important FPS series of the 2000s makes its long-awaited console debut.

Yeah, I said it. Sorry, Vivisector.


Tank Battalion

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

What's this? An overhead fixed-screen tank shooter, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Namco in 1980, with contemporary ports to the MSX and Sord M5 computers, as well as a Japan-only Windows 95 port in 1997. Players control a yellow tank with the aim of destroying a certain number of the blue tanks that roam each map; the walls that litter each stage can be destroyed by tank projectiles, and if a tank happens to destroy the base at the bottom of the screen, it's an instant game over for the player.

Why should I care? If that description strikes you as extremely similar to that of Namco's popular and endlessly-bootlegged NES/Famicom/Game Boy game Battle City, you're not mistaken: that game, and a large handful of others from various Japanese and western developers, were directly derivative of Tank Battalion, so you might want to take this opportunity to sample their inspiration.

Useless fact: The final mainline game in this series, Tank Force, hit Arcade Archives last year, but there's one other arcade entry that probably won't ever be reissued: Mini Battalion, a very basic approximation of Tank Battalion developed for an extremely basic PCB and included with empty arcade cabinets in order to circumvent electronic trade law, similar to Sega's Dottori-kun.


Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jiken-tan Vol.14: Rasen no Hitsugi Satsujin Jiken

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan), PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: G-MODE / And Joy

What's this? Volume fourteen of And Joy's (formerly Genki Mobile) series of popular detective mystery adventure games, originally released for smartphones across 4 episodes in 2010 and presented here in one package; in this volume, various members of the Kibukawa Detective Agency investigate separate cases involving the poisoning of high-ranking business executives and a series of bank robberies, respectively; could they be connected...?

Why should I care? I keep tellin' y'all I'm volumes behind, and I'm still not caught up, so I've got nothin' for this one.

Useless fact: This is G-MODE's 99th Archives release... might they have something special lined up for #100?


S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: The Legends of the Zone Trilogy

  • Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (worldwide)
  • Price: $39.99 or equivalent (trilogy) / $19.99 or equivalent (individual games)
  • Publisher: GSC Game World

What's this? An out-of-nowhere series console ports of GSC Game World's oppressive alt-history post-Chernobyl FPS trilogy, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., originally released on PC from 2007 to 2008; these first-ever console ports, produced by reputable support studio Mataboo, largely maintain the look, feel and content of the original PC versions but are now configured for gamepad, with a modest amount of big fixes and adjustments to certain visual elements like lighting and shadows.

Why should I care? S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s enduring cult appeal comes not only from its grim setting (inspired by the classic Russian sci-fi novel Roadside Picnic and subsequent film adaptations) and hard vaccilations from survival-horror to RPG to something approximating setpiece action within a core framework of immersive sim, but also its status as a digital coelacanth that exemplifies how so many game formats — open-world, survival shooter, action-RPG — existed and may have even thrived before their codification by AAA studios that morphed them all into eighteen slightly different flavours of nigh-identical gumbo. I hear they even run well and fix some of the long-standing glitches from the PC versions that have persisted even after years of mods, and if that's true, I'd almost suggest you pick them up for the sole purpose of rewarding Mataboo for achieving the impossible. (You can maybe skip the second game, Clear Sky, if you're short on time or motivation, but I wouldn't be too picky about optimal play order: start with Shadow of Chernobyl and play 'em in sequence, as the later games would probably pass for DLC campaigns nowadays.)

Helpful tip: There's a content warning at the beginning of these ports that addresses the team's decision to leave the game's content unchanged, irrespective of their current opinions on it or how it might come across in today's climate—they're not just referring to some of the vulgar voice clips, which I understand to be particularly obscene in their native language, but also the characterizations of the Russian and Ukranians forces, which are in no way reflective of the real-world circumstances of those countries today or the teams' opinions on either country or military force.

Top Racer Collection

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox, PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $19.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Qubyte Interactive

What's this? An emulated collection containing the three Super Nintendo entries in the series formerly known as Top Gear — Top Gear, Top Gear 2 & Top Gear 3000 — which were derived from Magnetic Fields' Amiga-borne Lotus racing game series and produced by Gremlin Graphics from 1992 to 1995; this collection offers online multiplayer for all games, as well as save states, various screen settings, filters and borders, quick access to time attack and custom modes, unlockable cheat codes, box art/manual galleries and a "new" game called Top Racer Crossroads, which is essentially just a hack of the first game with new cars that tie it to the recent Top Gear homage racer Horizon Chase.

Why should I care? I cannot speak to the quality of this particular collection — and, given the extreme unreliability of Qubyte's emulated output, I strongly hesitate to recommend it sight-unseen — but I can say that the original games were among the premier home-exclusive line-scrolling racing games of their day and have been hotly demanded for services such as Virtual Console and Nintendo Switch Online, so their appearance on modern consoles has been a long time coming.

Helpful tip: Series composer Barry Leitch not only homaged their own works when writing for Horizon Chase but also stuck some direct arranges of some Top Gear tunes in the game, so if any of the music from this collection, or even just this trailer, strike you as overly familiar, you might have heard them before without knowing it.


Spica Adventure (PS5, Switch) physical versions & bundles via Strictly Limited Games

  • Price: €34.99 (standalone) / €59.99 (Parasol Stars bundle)
  • Availability: ETA August

Borne on mobile phones and adapted for the Type X arcade board, Taito's mid-'00s action platformer Spica Adventure has been the exclusive privilege of a select few Japanese players for the better part of twenty years, but international players will finally get to try it on consoles later this year, complete with a new localization and online leaderboards. In addition to the standard release, SLG's also selling a bundle with the physical version of their emulated reissue of the PC Engine fixed-screen action game Parasol Stars, a Taito game with no real connection to Spica Adventure beyond them both featuring protagonists with umbrellas, but they had to try.