Retro Re-release Roundup, week of December 7
Jak and Daxter, comin' atcha.
As the year winds down and big game releases mometarily cease, it behooves publishers to trickle out a few legacy offerings to tide things over. Case in point: Sony's PS2-on-PS4 bundle of Naughty Dog's Jak and Daxter trilogy-plus-one, and Nintendo's... uh... hmm.
ARCADE ARCHIVES NEO GEO
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster
What's this? A co-op action game starring a pair of inexplicably stretchy-limbed treasure hunters, developed and released by SNK in 1994.
Why should I care? Top Hunter features an odd mix of influences that put it somewhere between Fatal Fury, Joe & Mac and Metal Slug; it's not quite a brawler, not quite a platformer and not quite a run-and-gun, but it's very easy to grasp and the difficulty level is quite relaxed.
Useless fact: Top Hunter never got a sequel but Roddy and Cathy have made small cameos in a few King of Fighters games, most prominently as spectators in KOF97's China stage.
PLAYSTATION 2 CLASSICS ON PLAYSTATION 4
- Platform: Playstation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $39.99 / €39.99 / £32.99 (bundle), $14.99 / €14.99 / £11.99 (individual games)
- Publisher: Naughty Dog / Sony Computer Entertainment
What's this? A collection of four PS2-era Jak and Daxter games -- Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak II, Jak 3 and the racing spinoff Jak & Daxter X -- with minor enhancements like an upscaled 1080p resolution and trophy support, available individually or as a bundle. (Just to be clear, these are the original PS2 versions running via emulation and are not derived from the remastered PS3 collection of the same name.)
Why should I care? Each of these games provides a curious snapshot of a genre in limbo and while the series has never been unpopular or unfashionable, the re-emergence of 3D platformers into the gaming zeitgeist has provided an opportunity to re-evaluate them with a fresh perspective.
Word of warning: By all reports, the European versions of these games (Jak II in particular) suffer from horrendous emulation issues that have rendered them nigh-unplayable, so maybe wait a little while and hope Sony's diligent about patching them.
VIRTUAL CONSOLE (WII U)
- Platform: PC Engine (Europe)
- Price: €5.99 / £5.39
- Publisher: Konami
What's this? A port of Konami's Gradius-adjacent 1986 arcade scrolling shooter; this game was overhauled, remixed and renamed (Life Force!) several times upon release in North America and reintroduction into Japan but the PC Engine version is mostly derived from the original arcade game.
Why should I care? The PC Engine version of Salamander is a shrewd remix of an excellent arcade game that arguably bests the original in some respects (the hit detection's much better, for one) and there are enough differences and tweaks on display to justify a look from Life Force diehards, especially those most familiar with the NES port of Life Force.
System breakdown: Two-player co-op? Yes! Gradius-style upgrade bars? Nope, upgrades are directly dropped by enemies. Freaky Life Force-esque bio-horror? Nope, not really. Instant respawn on death? Nope, Gradius-style checkpoints, a quirk specific to this port.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.99
- Publisher: Zerodiv
What's this? A comical vertically-scrolling shooter, developed and published in arcades by shooting game veterans Psikyo in 1994; this port includes some of the additional content added for previous home ports, as well as Switch-specific features like vertical display support in handheld mode.
Why should I care? Gunbird's relatively mild difficulty and focus on character interactions sets it apart from other Psikyo shooters like the Strikers series, and the Switch port doesn't seem to be plagued with any of the visual deficiencies or embarrassing marketing changes of previous international releases.
Useless fact: Gunbird's antagonistic trio are an obvious parody of the Doronbo Gang from the classicYatterman and Time Bokan anime series but Psikyo went the extra mile by hiring the Doronbo Gang's voice actors to voice their knock-offs in the Sega Saturn and Playstation ports, and it seems those voices have been retained for the Switch port, at least in Japan.
SALES & MISCELLANEA
- Format: Playstation 4
- Price: $29.99 (standard, 2 per customer), $54.99 (collector's edition, 1 per customer)
- Delivery: "early January"
Neither Double Dragon IV nor River City Melee are going to make anyone's best-of-2017 lists, to put it politely, but Limited Run Games is giving Technos fanatics a chance to grab both of these downloadable titles in disc format, complete with original NES-style cover art. As per usual, they're releasing both a standard disc/case/manual/reversible cover release and a deluxe collector's edition that includes a soundtrack CD, poster, NES-style game sleeve and NES-style cardboard box. Both games will go on sale from December 8, 10AM Eastern time.
- Format: SNES cartridge (4,500 x "Ryu Headband Red", 1000 x "Blanka Green")
- Price: $100 (but it's sold out!)
Those of you who heard the latest podcast episode about the collectors' bubble don't need to be told that the original Street Fighter II SNES game is one of the rarest and most elusive cartridges on the market, so in that regard, it's easy to understand why fans of retro obscurities were thrilled at the prospect of being able to finally pick up an officially-licensed reprint at well below market prices. Unfortunately, iam8bit's 5,500-print run sold out almost immediately, so you and I will probably never get another shot at experiencing this niche curio for ourselves, but it's nice to dream.