Retro Re-release Roundup, week of July 4, 2024

Ninjas, former Satellaview exclusives and a NES NSO blowout.

Nintendo's celebrating this 4th of July in the most reverent manner possible: by gifting Americans and the world with a notoriously frustrating and confusing Famicom game, completely untranslated and devoid of cultural context. 


Ninja Emaki

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

What's this? A ninja-themed overhead run-and-gun action game, originally developed and distributed in arcades by Nichibutsi in 1986 and never ported or converted for home platforms until now; one or two players guide ninjas through free-scrolling vertical environments (and the occasional auto-scroller) on a quest to rescue a princess from an evil spirit army, with the collectible ninpo scrolls giving them access to eight powerful additional sub-attacks for a limited amount of time.

Why should I care? Nichibutsu made a handful of games in this format in quick succession, and I'd say this one's the smoothest and most casual of the bunch: you're frequently given access to a ton of very powerful attacks right off the back, and while the pace of the game is certainly on the more manic side, your controls and arsenal are definitely able to keep pace (which wasn't necessarily true of some of Nichibutsu's other run-and-guns).

Helpful tip: For whatever reason, this Arcade Archives version technically only offers the Japanese version of the game (Youma Ninpou Chou) and not the international version, despite bearing the international title; the Japanese version's significantly more challenging than the international version, ie moderately tough rather than a complete cakewalk.


Kawa no Nushi Tsuri 2

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
  • Price: ¥800
  • Publisher: G-MODE / Marvelous

What's this? The 2009 feature phone entry in the long-running Kawa no Nushi Tsuri series of fishing RPGs, which originally began on Famicom and were intermittently localised under the title Legend of the River King and promoted as an extension of the Harvest Moon series; this entry streamlines much of the between-fishing content for the sake of maximim time efficiency, but still offers a huge catalog of fish to catch and a handful of quasi-boss fish to aim for.

Why should I care? For one thing, this is the first representation this series has received on consoles since the 3DS Virtual Console releases of some of the Game Boy Color-era games a decade ago, so it's just nice to see that owner Marvelous hasn't sealed it away in the vault. The game itself is, frankly, missing a lot of the somewhat incongruous outside-of-fishing RPG elements that gave the series its identity, but if you just wanna fish, there's plenty of fishin' to be done, and the visuals are comparable to what you might've seen on DS at the time.

Useless... fact, maybe? The messaging around the precise nature of this game is mixed, but as far as I can surmise, this is not a remake of the Super Famicom game of the same name, but instead a numbered content update to the original Kawa no Nushi Tsuri phone game.


July '24 update: Cobra Triangle, Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Golf, Mach Rider, Solar Jetman, The Mystery of Atlantis and Urban Champion (NES), plus Famicom Mukashi Banashi: Shin Onigashima, Gomoku Narabe Renju and Mahjong (Famicom)

What're these? A large handful of classic-adjacent black box NES games, a pair of lesser-appreciated early Rareware joints and, for reasons that may forever be a mystery, the first-ever global release of Sunsoft's infamously slipshod would-be Super Mario killer, Atlantis no Nazo. (Japan's NSO app received a pair of Nintendo-published mahjong and go-variant games in place of the Rare titles, as well as both parts of the Famicom Disk System adventure game Shin Onigashima.)

Why should I care? Nintendo's takeaway from the NES Remix days was that there are two tiers of NES games — The Ones That Matter, and The Ones That Don;t — and the black-box games offered here fall squarely into the latter category, so while they're leaving it up to players to identify their entertaining elements on their own, low-fanfare reissues like these are probably going to be the only sanctioned avenues that'll be offered going forward. The two Rare aptly demonstrate that company's technical deftness and prepensity for finding variety in areas where others would keep things simple, and Atlantis no Nazo... well, they strictly promised to outdo Mario in terms of volume, and one can't claim they were unsuccessful.

Useless fact: Atlantis no Nazo vvery nearly made it to North America in its day... as an Activision-published, in-name-only sequel to Super Pitfall, of all games.


Cyber Citizen Shockman Zero

  • Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $6.99 or equivalent
  • Publisher: Ratalaika / Extreme

What's this? The fourth and final game in Masaya's mostly-Japan-exclusive Kaizou Chounin Shubibinman series of tokusatsu-inspired co-op sidescrollers, originally developed for the Super Famicom for a retail release in 1994 but ultimately reduced to a downloadable release via the Satellaview service in 1997, with a belated Super Famicom cartridge release produced by Columbus Circle in 2017; this reissue offers all of Ratalaika's usual enhancements (save states and rewind, control configs, screen filters, etc) as well as a brand-new English translation.

Why should I care? This game was made by a different team to the original trilogy and offers different protagonists, an updated aesthetic and yet another mechanical shift towards a slightly brawler-esque combat system, but, I wouldn't necessarily count that as a negative —those original games never quite settled on a mechanical identity and fluctuated wildly in terms of polish, difficulty and tone, so by comparison, Zero might be the most conventionally "good" action game of the bunch... not amazingly memorable, mind, but not sleepwalk-easy or barely-playable like some of the others.

Useless fact: Orders for a SNES cartridge version of Shockman Zero went on sale via Retro-Bit just last week, featuring a completely separate English translation to the one seen in this release.


Ninja Five-O (Switch, PS5, PS4, PC) physical versions via Limited Run Games

  • Price: $34.99 (standard) / $79.99 (collectors edition)
  • Availability: July 5, 10:00 to August 4 23:59 Eastern

Crafted by a tiny team of Konami veterans and shunted off to Hudson, this modest ninja action game instantly attained cult status among Game Boy Advance collectors and classic arcade-style action game connoisseurs upon its original 2003 release, and now Limited Run Games is not just reissuing it for the first time but also bringing it to home consoles as well. Do take note of the strategy guide included with the collector's edition: as you may have suspected, it's being put together by one of the game's earliest online champions, our own Jeremy Parish.