Retro Re-release Roundup, week of September 20, 2018

Lightening strikes again!

This week has seen the release of quite a few excellent reissues from different developers spanning many different genres and while it may be difficult to settle on which ones are worth your time, let us all agree on this: Yoshi need never leave the vault again. 


Vs. Excitebike (September 21)

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide?)
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Nintendo

What's this? An arcade conversion of Miyahon's Famicom motocross racing game, released as one of the marquee titles for the Vs. System arcade machine in 1984; this version removes the track editor and restructures the game around a methodical progression through new and returning tracks, with additions like a difficulty selector and truck-jumping bonus stages.

Why should I care? It might end up being the only version of Excitebike on Switch that you can just, like, buy.

Helpful tip: This Vs. Excitebike isn't the same game as the Vs. Excitebike that hit the Wii U Virtual Console a few years ago — that's the Famicom Disk System version, which contains all the content from this one and then some.


Cyber Lip

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

What's this? A run-and-gun sidescroller from the early days of the Neo Geo, developed and published by SNK in 1991; one or two players can blast their way through an army of androids and the occasional not-Giger monstrosity in order to take out a rogue computer that's threatening humanity (or is it?).

Why should I care? Cyber-Lip is one of the few SNK-made Neo Geo games that hasn't been reissued to death, and if you unfocus your eyes you can probably delude yourself into believing you're playing Contra III for a little while.

Helpful tip: Don't fuss over the choice of elevator at the end of each stage — you have a 50/50 shot of being dropped into a random event stage no matter which elevator you choose at any point.


Nintendo Switch Online NES Rollout

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
  • Publisher: Nintendo and pals

What's this? Nintendo's successor to the Virtual Console and their incentive to get you to pay a subscription fee for a dubious online service; for as long as you're subbed, you'll have access to a modest selection of NES titles with online multiplayer and, perhaps at some point in the very distant future, button mapping.

Which titles are included? Lookee here.

Why should I care? I mean, you do want to keep playing Splatoon with your friends, right? Looking forward to Smash, maybe? 

Helpful tip: Not only can you spend your gold My Nintendo coins on the cost of the sub, you can also gain access to both the NES and Famicom libraries with one subscription if you happen to have both US and Japanese accounts registered, so that's somethin'.


Sonic the Hedgehog

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £5.99
  • Publisher: Sega / M2

What's this? Sega's gazillion-selling Mario-killer, back again with the usual de rigueur enhancements (spin dash, level select, ring keeper mode, etc) and some new touches including the implementation of the Drop Dash move introduced in Sonic Mania and the inclusion of an obscure arcade-arranged version of the game made for the Mega Play arcade system, as well as challenge modes with online leaderboards.

Why should I care? As bewildering as it is that the Christian Whitehead remaster has been overlooked once again, M2's take on the original Sonic game is an admirable effort in its own right and one that offers genuinely new content compared to the thousand other reissues of the game.

Useless fact: Aside from the sound effect, the implementation of the Drop Dash was conducted at assembly code level within the original Sonic ROM and could feasibly work on real Mega Drive hardware.

Thunder Force IV a.k.a. Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
  • Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £5.99
  • Publisher: Sega / M2

What's this? The final Mega Drve entry in Technosoft's much-loved series of aggressive scrolling shooters, now under the ownership of Sega and re-released here for the first time since the Thunder Force Gold Pack 2 compilation for Sega Saturn; the Sega Ages version includes all the bonus features from the Saturn port, which include a low-difficulty mode and the option to play the game with the ship and weapons from Thunder Force III, as well as online leaderboards and some very specific options concerning game speed and PCM sample playback. (I don't know why the US version has that name, or why it's spelled that way, or why we continue to let it slide.)

Why should I care? Thunder Force IV is arguably the best console-exclusive shooting game of its era and definitely the one that's most quintissentially "Mega Drive": it's fast, varied, technically advanced, very over-the-top, has a fun mid-game twist and is packed with more ridiculous FM metal guitar than any other game on the system. (It's also uncharacteristically tough for a Thunder Force game, but this particular version allows you to lower the difficulty to something more in line with TFIII or TFV.)

Helpful tip: While it might seem like turning off the slowdown ("Reduce processing delay") should be a natural first course of action, there are certain sections and boss patterns that were balanced with slowdown in mind and could potentially become very tricky when played at full speed, so feel free to play under whichever conditions you prefer.


Capcom Beat'Em Up Bundle

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One (worldwide), PC via Steam (last-minute delay, new date TBA)
  • Price: $19.99 / €19.99 / £15.99
  • Publisher: Capcom

What's this? An out-of-nowhere compilation of seven Capcom arcade brawlers - 1989's Final Fight, 1991's Captain Commando, The King of Dragons and Knights of the Round, 1992's Warriors of Fate, 1994's Armored Warriors and 1997's Battle Circuit - complete with GGPO-powered online play for each title, region and dipswitch settings, an art gallery and not a lot else. (The collection is digital-only for now but a physical PS4/Switch version is being released in Japan alongside a wide selection of collectors' packages.)

Why should I care? You're looking for a solid, no-frills collection of good-to-great beat-em-ups that chronicles the evolution of the genre and includes a few games that never left the arcades, and you don't mind that the netplay barely works.

Useless fact: Capcom's final arcade brawler, Battle Circuit, is an off-the-wall game full of strange characters and experimental mechanics, but it was originally even weirder; according the behind-the-scenes documents published at the time of release, Battle Circuit was originally intended to be a maniacal racing game somewhat inspired by Wacky Races, before being shelved and retooled as a more market-friendly action game.


Death Crimson Soundtracks release

  • Format: CD
  • Price:  ¥2,700
  • Availability: ships November 14

The Japan-only Sega Saturn lightgun game Death Crimson has stood tall among the kusoge pantheon for over two decades and, like all good kusoge, a certain degree of unironic reverence has emerged for the game's oddly alluring prog-rock soundtrack, composed by professional accordionist and extremely good-natured dude Kunitaka Watanabe and now remastered from the source with higher-quality samples, outtakes and new tracks written in the spirit of that legendary game. It's hard music to like, but easy music to love.

Thunder Force III & IV figma set

  • Format: figma double-pack
  • Price: ¥12,800
  • Availability: ships March 2019

To coincide with the resurrection of the series via Sega Ages, FREEing is adding a pair of Thunder Force figma to their Shooting Game Hitstorica line: namely, TFIII's Styx and TFIV's Rynex ships. The double-pack includes poseable pedestals and rotating CLAW options for each ship, with orders opening from midday September 21, Japan time.