Retro Re-release Roundup, week of April 11, 2024

Shooters galore, plus an alternate take on a cult action-RPG.

Today's global release of the ever-so-slightly-remixed MSX2 version of Dragon Slayer IV (aka Legacy of the Wizard) should be news enough to late-'80s action-RPG or metroidvania afficionados, but it's also exciting for another, broader reason: it's EGG Console's first MSX reissue, which means this series is cleared to release an even wider array of classic computer games, including a large handful that global audiences won't need a walkthrough to beat.


VS. Super Xevious: Gump no Nazo (Mystery of Gump)

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

What's this? A rare console-to-arcade Nintendo VS. System conversion of Namco's Famicom-exclusive sequel to their port of the hit vertically-scrolling shooting game Xevious, originally released in 1986 and never released for home consoles until now. Gump no Nazo took the familiar enemies, air-shot, ground-bomb mechanics and scoring tricks of the original and laid them atop a new, puzzle-heavy format that imposed the player to endure or meet various strict and opaque conditions, beyond simply shooting and dodging, in order to clear each stage; the arcade conversion is extremely similar to the Famicom original (available via Namco Museum Archives VOL.2, by the way) but with a few tweaks to make the initial difficulty even tougher and to cut back on the number of loops.

Why should I care? Gump no Nazo was the most notable entry in a short-lived wave of games attempting to marry prototypical adventure/RPG elements to the shooting game format, and while none of them were especially well-received nor influential, I do think this one at least maintained the basic feel and tempo of shooting and dodging, so if you ever wanted to experience the precise moment when the spectre of Tower of Druaga made itself unwelcome, this might be the game to try.

Helpful tip: This isn't the Super Xevious arcade game you might have played on certain other Namco compilations — that one is a bona fide revision to the authentic arcade version of Xevious, based on a Europe-only version tuned for high turnover.


Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family (MSX2)

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

What's this? Dragon Slayer the fourth, originally developed and published near-simultaneously for the MSX2 computer and Famicom in Japan in mid-1987, with a standard MSX conversion released later that year and a NES version, retitled Legacy of the Wizard, published in North America by Broderbund in 1989; players are tasked wth piloting the five members of the titular Drasle Family (that's "dra-slay", as in "Dragon Slayer") through a labyrinthine dungeon with the goal of collecting the magic crowns necessary for accessing the final boss, a task that requires one to utilize the unique abilities and properties of each character in order to fully explore the dungeon, find and buy various magic items and generally partake in compact, simple action-platforming.

Why should I care? Jeremy recently put together a video on Legacy of the Wizard that should sell you on its basic appeal, so allow me to speak to the specifics of the MSX2 version: while it necessarily adopts the flip-screen method of scrolling so common on computers of the day, the action feels in no way compromised by the lack of screen scrolling, and this particular version rearranges the positions and acquisition methods of key items and alters the design of certain sections of the dungeon in ways that many consider to be an improvement on the Famicom version, so whether you're a fan of the NES version or a first-timer, this is a fine a place to start as any. (It also boasts a few tunes not heard in the FC/NES version, and the button config screen has instructions on accessing the secret sound test.)

Language barrier? You might need to rely on save states instead of the native hiragana-based password system, but you should otherwise be good.


April '24 update: "Amazing Hebereke" (Sugoi Hebereke), Super R-Type & Wrecking Crew '98 (SNES/SFC) plus Battletoads in Battlemaniacs and Marvelous: Mouhitotsu no Takarajima

What're these? The SNES-exclusive remix of R-Type 2, the first global release for Nintendo's Super Famicom remake-plus-sequel to Wrecking Crew and another global debut for the four-player party brawler set in the world of Hebereke/Ufouria. (Along with Super R-Type and Wrecking Crew '98, the Japanese NSO app also got the SNES/SFC Battletoads game, which has been on the global app for a little while, as well as Marvelous: Mouhitotsu no Takarajima, a Zelda-esque overhead action-adventure game directed by a fledgling Eiji Aonuma.)

Why should I care? You just bought Ufouria 2 or Hebereke Enjoy Edition and had no idea there were so many other games with these characters, you want to observe how Wrecking Crew fares as a '90's-era competitve action-puzzle game or you've been waiting for what might be the most accessible entry point for a notoriously tough or rigid classic shooting game series.

Useless fact: Most players aren't going to naturally pick up on this during casual play but, for whatever reason, many of Super R-Type's tunes are way, way longer than they need to be... from memory, the song that plays on the continue screen takes something like sixteen minutes to loop.


Toaplan Arcade Shoot'em'up Collection Vol.4

  • Platform: PC via Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 (standalones) / $19.99 (bundle) / $69.99 (Vol.1~4 bundle)
  • Publisher: Bitwave

What're these? The fourth and final batch of Bitwave-produced reissues from the shooting game portion of the arcade library of the defunct developer Toaplan: the 1989 WWII-themed military shooter Twin Hawk (Daisenpuu), the notoriously brutal 1992 sequel to their popular sci-fi shooter, Truxton II (Tatsujin Ou), :the wackier 1992 mecha-ish vertical shooting game Dogyuun!! and 1993's proto-danmaku Grind Stormer (V-V). These emulated ports offer Bitwave's standard suite of features and enhancements, which include minimal input delay, online leaderboards, replay sharing, save states and rewind, assist/practice features and more.

Why should I care? Mosf of these games are among the more popular releases in Toaplan's late-era arcade run and have not been blessed with credible home versions before now... and, on a purely casual level, I think there are a lot of people out there who loved Truxton and still don't know that it got a sequel, so it's nice to think that basic info might reach the people it ought to reach (and nicer still to think of all the people it's going to grind under its heel, if you're as uncharitable as I can sometimes be). That said, these ports have all launched with chronic technical issues that aren't always fully addressed and this batch might be the worst of the bunch, so as always, proceed with caution.

Helpful tip: Truxton and Truxton II are both confirmed to be getting M2-produced console ports sometime this century, and the original developer (under the new banner of Tatsujin) recently announced a brand new PS5 sequel, Tatsujin/Truxton Extreme.


Rose and Camellia Collection (Switch) via Limited Run Games

  • Price: $34.99 (standard) / $69.99 (collectors edition)
  • Availability: from April 12, 10AM Eastern to May 11, 23:59

Recently salvaged from the Flash scrap-heap by original developers NIGORO, this Wayforward-enhanced collection takes the cult mid-'00s slap-fight browser game series and adds English voice acting, an animated intro and vocal themes, multiple control methods including motion and touch controls and a few new games exclusive to the Switch release.