Retro Re-release Roundup, week of June 13, 2024

Konami's classic high-octane mascot action games finally return to the spotlight.

I'm sure many of you are all presentation'd out, but allow me to inform you of one more upcoming announcement stream that may whet your appetite: Yacht Club Games Presents, a video presentation scheduled for June 14, 11:30 Pacific time that'll mark the tenth anniversary of their hit retro sidescroller, Shovel Knight. Yes, that game's entering the Retronauts age bracket! Hollow Knight's closer to that threshold than you might think, too...


VS. Star Luster

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

What's this?  The Vs. System arcade conversion of Namco's pseudo-3D space combat game, originally released for the Famicom in 1985 and later reissued for various iterations of the Japanese Virtual Console, as an unlockable bonus game in the Japanese version of the Nintendo-published Star Fox Assault and as part of the recent Namcot Collection for Switch, in addition to an enhanced remix for the Sharp X68000 computer and a polygonal remake as part of the Namco Anthology series for PlayStation. The game tasks players with defending the galaxy from an invading force, which requires them to not only engage in first-person pseudo-3D dogfights with enemy fleets but to monitor and survey the galaxy,via in the in-game radar, for the movements and actions of enemy formations, which move in real time and will attack bases and planets if not intercepted, while also managing the fuel reserves and shields of one's own ship. (The VS. System version is virtually identical to the FC version save for tighter restrictions on refueling and the removal of some infinite patterns, as far as I'm aware.)

Why should I care? You want to experience a classic Namcot game that's very, very different from the immediate, pop-styled action games that typified their '80s output — it's less Xevious and way, way more Atari's Star Raider.

Useless fact: Namco reused the dogfighting system in this game for sections of their Famicom-exclusive Star Wars game, with the main portions of the game bearing a shocking mechanical and design similarity to Sega's Alex Kidd in Miracle World.


Sorcerian (PC-8801mkIISR)

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

What's this? The fifth game in Falcom's Dragon Slayer series of action-RPGs, originally released for PC-8801 series computers in Japan in late 1987 and subsequently ported to most of the competing Japanese microcomputers of the day, with an internationally-produced IBM version released by Sierra and Japan-only console adaptations produced by Sega for the Mega Drive and Victor for the PC Engine CD, respectively, as well as later remakes for mobile phones, Sega Dreamcast and Windows. This game tasks the player with guiding a four-person party of custom-made characters through side-scrolling dungeons in order to complete the game's 15 self-contained quests, all the while acquiring the items, currency and experience required to maximise the many voluminous character customization systems, which include tertiary non-combat occupations, a vast array of crafted potions and magic spells accessible via enchanted gear. (Sorcerian was famous for, and sold around, the ability to be expanded with additional quest packs sold by Falcom and other third-party developers, but this release only contains the base content and not any of the expansion scenarios or the core enhancement disk.)

Why should I care? Sorcerian's moment-to-moment action and dungeon design might feel like they've taken a step or two back from Dragon Slayer IV/Legacy of the Wizard, but it's not really aiming in that same arcade-esque direction: this game seeks to emulate the experience of growing and developing your characters in a tabletop role-playing game over successive campaigns, and it's not difficult to draw parallels between this game's massive hodgepodge of over-engineered character growth systems and contemporary character-centric fantasy action-RPGs like Dragon's Dogma... and, if you like what's here, I don't doubt that at least some of the Falcom-made expansion content will show up before long, too.

Language barrier? Some of the basic menu nouns are in English, but the majority of the menu categories, items, magic and other nouns and in-game text/dialogue are in Japanese, and you're probably going to hit a roadblock pretty quickly if you can't read anything.


Rocket Knight Adventures: Re-Sparked

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC vvia Steam (worldwide)
  • Price: $29.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher:Limited Run Games / Konami

What's this? A collection containing emulated versions of the three classic titles in Konami's short-lived series of '90s mascot action games: the 1993 Sega Genesis/Mega Drive game Rocket Knight Adventures, the 1994 SNES follow-up Sparkster and the completely different but similarly-named 1994 Genesis/Mega Drive game Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2. This Limited Run Games-produced collection presents all three games with a save state per game, rewind functionality and various screen filters and settings, as well as boss rush modes for each game, a slowdown reduction toggle for SNES Sparkster, a modest art gallery of scanned materials, sound galleries and a brand-new animated intro. (Do note that the collection completely lacks button mapping, and that includes the native button config options that might've existed in the original ROMs.)

Why should I care? The history and popular perception of the post-Sonic mascot action game boom has been dominated by trashy, easily-mocked games for which most affection is and was only ever ironic, and one might largely attribute this outcome to the fact that Konami has regularly dodged every single opportunity to reintroduce these popular, expertly-crafted and critically-acclaimed games to the public consciousness for the last two decades... but they're here now, so you might want to take this opportunity to introduce yourself or newer generations to one of the watermarks of '90s sidescrolling action, plus a couple of sequels that are also pretty okay. (As for the collection itself, it's... okay; some of these Carbon Engine releases have been inexcusably bad, but this one's aight.)

Helpful tip: Limited Run Games' deluxe physical edition package includes a physical reprint of the classic Sparkster comic that ran in the UK Sonic the Comic books — notably, this is the frst instance of anything from Sonic the Comic ever being officially reissued, and it an't got jack to do with Sonic.

Space Invaders 90

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
  • Price: ¥;660
  • Publisher: Taito

What's this? An emulated reissue of one of the many '90s remakes of Taito's seminal fixed-screen shooting game Space Invaders, originally released for the Sega Mega Drive in Japan in 1990 and for the Sega Genesis in 1991 as Space Invaders 91;. This version of the game was originally only available in Japan, as an Amazon-specific pre-order bonus for the Switch version of Space Invaders Invincible Collection that could only be acquired during a very brief window of time; as such, it's essentially just a ROM in an emulator with little in the way of additional functionality. (M2 handled the emulation, by the by.)

Why should I care? Noriyuki Iwadare did the music, and for one of his very first joints, he did alright!

Helpful tip; There remains one major preorder-gimmick Taito reissue that has yet to be made available to the general public: Final Bubble Bobble, the expanded Sega Master System/Mark III version of Bubble Bobble that was given away as a Japanese Amazon Prime Day bonus for Bubbke Bobble 4 Friends.


The Story of Thor (Beyond Oasis) 2LP vinyl soundtrack by Wayo Records

  • Price: €45.60
  • Availability: ETA September

Yuzo Koshir's challenging orchestral score to Ancient's cartoon-style action-RPG The Story of Thor is rarely mentioned in the same breath as his other acclaimed Mega Drive scores like Streets of Rage or Revenge of Shinobi, but just as the reputation of the game itself has slowly grown after successive inclusions in collections and packages like the Genesis Mini, so too might the game's music with this deluxe vinyl soundtrack from Wayo Records. This soundtrack offers newly-captured audio on two gold vinyl LPs and boasts new and reprinted illustrations by original artist/design Hitoshi Ariga and a 12-page booklet with commentary from the game's developers, and they're offering a shikishi signed by Yuzo Koshiro as a first-print bonus item.