Retro Re-release Roundup, week of July 19, 2018

A long-forgotten arcade curio flies out of the vault.

I cannot state with all certainty that Sky Skipper will roll out worldwide this week but I strongly suspect it will, in which case: great! It's a peculiar footnote in Nintendo's arcade legacy that certain arcade collectors have spent decades investigating and it's cool to think they might finally get some closure... and if we're all lucky it'll also be, y'know, fun.


City Connection

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 / 6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Hamster / Clarice Games

What's this? A sideways maze game published in arcades by Jaleco in 1985; players control a globe-trotting, boy-crazed girl named Clarice as she drives an ever-moving car around horizontally-looping stages, hurling oil cans at police and wantonly painting every bare surface in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Namco's Mappy and very reminiscent of Sega's Flicky.

Why should I care? Negotiating Clarice's unwieldy vehicle across every tier of a stage is engaging in short bursts, and there's a lot more content here than in the Clarice-less home versions you might be familiar with.

Useless fact:  The green-haired girl that can be seen staring off into the horizon at the bottom of the London stage is almost certainly meant to be Urusei Yatsura protagonist Lum, a character Jaleco hoped to use for their later arcade game Momoko 120% but whose license could only be secured for the later Famicom port... but then again, we can't see her face, so it could be anyone, right?

Sky Skipper (July 20)

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan, probably worldwide)
  • Price: ¥823, probably $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Hamster / Nintendo

What's this? An extremely obscure biplane shooting arcade game that was developed by Nintendo in 1981, barely released to market in Japan and never released to market in the US; the version presented here was dumped from one of the few remaining boards produced for the game's US location test and constitutes the game's first official release in over 30 years. (For a more detailed overview of the game's resurrection, I suggest watching this clip taken from Nintendo's E3 Treehouse presentation with NOA veteran Don James.)

Why should I care? It's by far the deepest cut of Nintendo's recent and surprising run of authorized vault-scraping and while I can't vouch for the game's intrinsic interestingness — I've never played it, but the fact that it never made it to market suggests it's not great — I'll always applaud anyone who takes a proactive step to keep a gaming curiousity from rotting away in a warehouse.

Useless fact: Despite being buried by Nintendo proper, a licensed Sky Skipper port made an inexplicable appearance on the Atari 2600 in 1983, published by Parker Brothers.


League Bowling

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 / 6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Hamster

What's this? Another early-wave Neo Geo sports title, this one focused on God's chosen sport and features cartoony characters, lightning-fast pacing and the option for a couple of alternate rule sets that can lead to crazy blowouts. 

Why should I care? You're looking for a pick-up-and-play, button-based bowling game to play with friends and don't care that it doesn't give you much to do on your own.

Helpful tip:  League Bowling was one of the very few titles to support the Neo Geo link cable for 4-player matches across linked cabinets; that feature is not present here, but you can play 4-player matches with a single copy of the game by having players roll two at a time, so you're not missing anything by grabbing the Arcade Archives version.


Tempest 4000

  • Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC via Steam (worldwide, except for Russia, Australia and anywhere else that required extra effort)
  • Price: $19.99 (PC), $29.99 / €29.99 / £24.99 (PS4/XB1)
  • Publisher: the shambling corpse of Atari

What's this? Not a brand new Tempest game but an enhanced port of Llamasoft's Tempest-in-all-but-name Vita title TxK, now under the official Tempest banner at the insistence of Atari's legal department; this version features support for 4K resolutions, a rebalanced (read: steeper) difficulty curve, a massive increase in Space Giraffe-esque pixel vomit and a new-old soundtrack with music from the Jaguar and CD versions of Tempest 2000 (and, apparently, support for VR headsets that Atari requested they remove because they can't help but ruin a good thing).

Why should I care? Jeff Minter's been making and remaking this game for over twenty years and he's gotten pretty good at it. (A word of warning: the extra $10 on the console price evidently covered all the QA they were forced to do, and which the PC version clearly didn't get.)

Useless fact: The CD versions of Tempest 2000 featured arrangements of several tunes that were cut from the original Jaguar version due to a lack of cartridge space, but those original Jaguar files were retained by Llamasoft and included as part of the Tempest 4000 soundtrack,making the original MOD-tracker soundtrack available in uncut form for the first time. 


Gradius vinyl from ShipToShore Phono Co. 

  • Format: vinyl LP
  • Price: $22
  • Availability; orders start from July 20

ShipToShore's spree of Konami Kukeiha Club vinyl returns to tried-and-true territory with a release containing music from two versions of the legendary Gradius — not the arcade soundtrack, curiously, but the soundtrack from the Famicom version and a version of the MSX soundtrack that was rearranged for Konami's SCC+ wavetable audio enhancement cartridge. The package includes liner notes by acclaimed Castleroider Jeremy Parish and the first part of a three-panel panoramic cover illustration by Ian Wilding that's designed to match with the upcoming Gradius II and III records.