The Tower of Druaga’s co-op sequel hits Arcade Archives.
Oh c’mon, Sony.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Namco
What’s this? The ambitious sequel to the formative arcade action-RPG Tower of Druaga, originally released in Japanese arcades in 1986, with contemporary ports produced for various Japanese microcomputers and a decade-late, internationally-released console port as part of the PlayStation compilation Namco Museum Vol.4. Set immediately after the events of the original game, The Return of Ishtar places the player/s in control of both the rescued princess Ki, controlled with the P1-side stick and two buttons, who can cast a wide variety of magic spells to attack, defend, assist or manipulate her surroundings but will die in a single hit, and the warrior Gilgamesh, controlled solely via the P2-side stick, who can physically attack enemies via Ys-esque bump combat (at the expense of a certain amount of HP) and reflect spells with his shield; characters gain experience and level up, and both their level-ups and place in the 127-room tower can be recorded and resumed via a password system, never-before-seen in arcades and seldom seen since.
Why should I care? The Tower of Druaga is a game that I’ve long felt is never going to get over with international fans — you really had to be there, basically, and if you’re not a middle-aged Japanese dude you probably weren’t there — but Ishtar might actually stand a tiny, tiny chance of finding an audience: the visuals aren’t nearly as primitive, the non-linearity of the game’s many optional rooms and more RPG-esque item and level-up systems give the player slightly more latitude to intuit how to progress, rather than tripping over opaque solutions, and the Arcade Archives version adds a buttload of extra options to display the game’s many hidden parameters and explain all the spells and room gimmicks in exhaustive detail, which eliminates a lot of the tedious guesswork.
Helpful tip: Ki’s experience-based gains, which are essential to clearing the game, only go into effect after a game over, so the game cannot be cleared naturally on a single credit; for that reason, this version includes both a 1-coin high score mode, which starts the player with all abilities, and a 2-coin high score mode for an authentic challenge.
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE EXPANSION PASS
NSO September ’22 update: Beyond Oasis / Story of Thor, Alisia Dragoon, Earthworm Jim
- Platform: Nintendo Switch (worldwide)
- Price: included with the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pass subscription service
- Publisher: Sega, Game Arts, Interplay
What’re these? Sega and Ancient’s anime-Arabian overhead action-RPG, Game Arts’ idiosyncratic lock-shot fantasy-action sidescroller and Shiny Entertainment’s original, lavishly-animated successor to the Aladdin throne, made available to NSO+ subscribers just after last week’s update. (Japan got all the same games, which may be a first for Mega Drive titles… or maybe not, I’m going off the top here.)
Why should I care? Alisia Dragoon’s an extremely expensive aftermarket game and one of the most-requested digital Genesis reissues since the Virtual Console days, Beyond Oasis is a constantly-reissued but surprisingly under-played game that might someday get its due, and playing or paying for Earthworm Jim in 2022 isn’t going to put any money in the pockets of that one annoying bigot who worked on the original game and whose name isn’t worth mentioning.
Helpful tip: The game-specific settings menu will allow you to play the Korean, Spanish, French or German version of Beyond Oasis/Story of Thor, if you’d so prefer.
RESOLVED RATINGS ISSUE SCREW-UP
Radiant Silvergun, back up on the North American Switch eShop
Last week’s surprise Switch release of Treasure’s cult arcade/Saturn shooting game Radiant Silvergun was almost immediately dampened when the game was pulled from the North American eShop with no explanation… as it turns out, publisher Live Wire accidentally pushed it out with an incorrect ESRB rating, but that error has been rectified and it’s once again available for purchase (and will soon be patched to address certain audio issues).
ONE STEP FORWARD, HOW MANY STEPS BACK?
Syphon Filter 2 (PlayStation Premium) NTSC update for PAL-region subscribers
Sony’s recent reissue initiative for their classic PlayStation catalog has come under fire for, among many other reasons, lumbering players and Europe and other PAL-region countries with 50Hz versions of games, with no way to swap or play them at their (usually) intended 60Hz refresh rate, and after months of inactivity, they’ve made this one game available in both NTSC and PAL variants… but the emulation’s broken and makes the NTSC version run slower than it should, and neither version supports analog controls, and the audio gets all goofy if you try to rewind. Peachy. (The NTSC option will only be made available for select games in future, by the way.)
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
Cannon Dancer – Osman (PS5/PS4/Switch) physical run from Strictly Limited Games
- Price: €29.99 (standard edition) / €69.99 (collectors edition)
- Availability: standard version limited to 4000 copies (Switch) / 1500 copies (PS5, PS4); collectors edition limited to 2000 copies (Switch) / 750 copies (PS5, PS4)
This year’s TGS saw the announcement of a surprising multitude of obscure vintage game reissues, with one of the more unexpected games being Cannon Dancer/Osman, the never-ported Mitchell Corporation-developed arcade action known by aficionados as a direct descendent of Capcom’s original arcade Strider game — it’s coming to consoles in early 2023 via the ININ/SLG/Ratalaika tag-team, and you can order a physical copy now, in either standard or collectors edition packages. (Note the material book included in the collectors edition, which is set to contain a wealth of illustrations and design sketches from the game’s talented artists/designers, including Strider creator Koichi Yotsui.)
Enclave HD(PS5/PS4/Switch) physical run from Limited Run Games
- Price: $34.99 (standard edition) / $84.99 (collectors edition)
- Availability: open pre-order from September 23, 10:00 Eastern until September October 23, 23:59 Eastern
Despite a relative lack of demand, Starbreeze’s under-played Xbox third-person action-RPG can’t seem to stay down: it managed to sneak onto the Wii at the tail end of that console’s life and was quietly (re)published on PC and Mac in the years since, and now new owner Ziggurat has remastered it for current consoles. Will it finally find an audience this time around?
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
Gimmick! (Famicom) vinyl & cassette soundtracks from Ship to Shore PhonoCo. & pals
- Price: $12 (cassette) / $30 (vinyl)
- Availability: ETA Q1 2023
Despite only being released outside of Japan in truncated form and in extremely limited quantities, the FME-7 sountrack to Sunsoft’s Famicom swansong Gimmick! managed to find an international audience and even received an official international CD soundtrack release a few years ago via iam8bit , and now that City Connection’s announced a console/PC reissue for early next year, Ship to Shore’s produced a new soundtrack for vinyl & cassette featuring new art and an interview with composer Masashi Kageyama. As is typical with Ship to Shore releases, each of their regional vendors offers a different vinyl color: StS offers green, Light in the Attic has an exclusive clear variant and UK vendor Black Screen Records is offering a green/orange splatter version.