Retronaissance’s Most Anticipated Games of 2017

SNES Master KI

Well, 2016 is almost over, and while there were some great games released, I mainly just want this year to end and to focus on the future (or gaming’s future, anyway).  Thankfully, 2017 in gaming fills me with a sense of true optimism (as opposed to forced hope) that I haven’t had in a long time, lots of series that haven’t had an entry (or a satisfying entry) in years are returning and while Nintendo has a lot less representation on this list than my ones from previous years, things should Switch on that front very early in the year.  So, let’s hurry up and get our focus to the new year.  I’ve decided to handle games from previous lists that got hit by delays with a rule that games can only appear on my lists twice, so Zelda won’t be showing up this time.  Let’s get this started!

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10 Games I’d Like To See Re-Released #06: Konami

After a long stint of writing longer articles, I always like coming back to these wishlists. Sure, it’s little more than an exercise in greed, but they’re cathartic for me: it’s always nice to remember old games that I wish we could access in these modern times. For whatever reason, I’ve got a certain intuition that making these lists increases the chances of these games seeing the light of day once again.

As with last time, I’ve decided to moon over recent PC ports and announcements in these re-release articles, since my PC ports wishlist series has been put on hiatus for the time being. First off, we’ve seen two more Steam iterations of classic NeoGeo games readily available on Humble Store: The Last Blade came out at the end of August, while Shock Troopers 2nd Squad came out at the end of September. Both versions have added online multiplayer, as has become common with these re-releases. We’ve also seen the release of Cave’s classic shmup Dodonpachi Resurrection (which I mentioned in a previous list) on Steam this past month, courtesy of the good people at Degica. Nippon Ichi Software announced that it will be bringing the second Disgaea game (rechristened Disgaea 2 PC) to Steam early next year, with all the additional content available on the PSP – including some characters that were exclusive to the Japanese version. Finally, we’ve got some news from the good people at XSEED. Xanadu Next, a Falcom action-RPG, which was originally announced for Summer 2016 will finally be releasing on November 3rd. They also announced two new PC ports: Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! – a music-rhythm spinoff to the fanservice-laden brawler – will be hitting Windows PC on November 10th, while Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel, a fighting game crossovers starring female characters from various visual novels, will be hitting PC “this Winter” with additional features like additional victory animations, animated backgrounds and the ability to save Training Mode menu settings between sessions.

Once again, let’s go over my constraints for this series of articles. I’m going to be looking at games from the 6th generation of video games (Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox) and earlier, as games from later generations are still easy to get a hold of. To maintain focus, I’ll be looking at one company for each article and considering the fact that I live in North America, I’ll be focusing on games that haven’t seen a legitimate re-release in my own region – I’ll just ignore any talk of importing these games from Japan and Europe. Unfortunately, this means that games that have seen re-releases on services like Nintendo’s Virtual Console and Sony’s PlayStation Classics have technically already been re-released, regardless of their quality (or lack thereof) compared to a full-on remaster. The important thing is that they can be accessed by modern audiences, no matter the quality – sorry, Zone of the Enders. I’ll also discuss any possible improvements that could be made to the games with re-releases.

This time, we’ll be looking at Konami – a fitting choice, considering they made the Castlevania series, considering the time of year. Of course, these days I guess the truly terrifying thing about Konami is their status within the video game market. These days, they seem to be focusing more on farming out their intellectual properties to make Pachi-Slot machines. What few video games they’re still making are…at best, misguided. Things weren’t always this way though, and it’s safe to say that Konami still has plenty of games trapped in their vault that should be re-released. These are but merely 10 of them.

Castlevania Bloodlines (GEN)

This would have to be my number one choice, the game that I figured was the biggest missed opportunity for the original iteration of the Virtual Console. We saw the other two major 16-bit era Castlevanias hit the Wii’s Virtual Console: Super Castlevania IV for the SNES and Dracula X: Rondo of Blood for the PC Engine-CD, as well as the SNES’s inferior copy of the latter. Of those three games, Bloodlines was always my favorite: Eric LeCarde’s unique playstyle was a fun contrast to the traditional Belmont style of John Morris. The gameplay was akin to those of the NES games, albeit with improvements. I think one of my favorite parts was the fact that this Castlevania managed to take place outside of Castlevania’s general setting of Transylvania, with Morris and LeCarde travelling to Greece, France, Italy, Germany and England.

I personally feel like each of those three major 16-bit Castlevanias had a strength unique to itself: Super Castlevania IV dropped the stiff controls of the older games and had the best control of the series. Rondo of Blood focused on secrets, with multiple paths, alternate stages and even a hidden character. Bloodlines, however, I felt had the best level design: long sprawling stages, with deviating paths suited for each of its playable characters and unique design gimmicks for each stage. Hopefully, we’ll see it return someday.

Potential Improvements: I’d honestly be fine with just a straight port on this one, though at this point, it will probably be difficult. The modern iterations of the Virtual Console no longer support Sega Genesis and the only platform capable of doing straight emulations of Genesis games is SEGA MegaDrive & Genesis Classics on Steam, which currently has no officially supported third-party titles.

If we did get an enhanced port, I’d love to hear a rearranged version of the classic Bloodlines soundtrack, so long as the classic Genesis FM synth returns as an option. Likewise, the ability to choose between the Japanese and Western balancing would be appreciated.

Rocket Knight Adventures/Sparkster/Rocket Knight Adventures 2 (GEN/SNES)

Despite being considered a cult classic these days, the Rocket Knight franchise was a victim of its times. Released at that point in time where Sonic the Hedgehog had kicked off the “platformer starring an animal mascot with attitude” trend, the original Rocket Knight Adventures was generally considered to have been cut from the same cloth as such gaming losers as Bubsy Bobcat, Awesome Possum and Aero the Acro-Bat. Anyone who looked past the superficial similarities, however, was rewarded with one of the best games the Genesis had to offer. While the original was my personal favorite, the other two games were also great – better than the mediocre 2010 reboot on 7th generation consoles.

Potential Improvements: Once again, I’d be perfectly fine with a straight re-release in this game’s case, especially given the aforementioned reboot, which rubbed me the wrong way. While Sparkster for the SNES is still within the realm of possibility for re-release via the Virtual Console, the Genesis games have less readily available means for legal emulation.

Contra: Hard Corps (GEN)

Last Genesis game, I swear. While most people are fond of the Super Nintendo’s Contra III: The Alien Wars, I had more of a soft spot for the Genesis’s Hard Corps. Taking place in a futuristic dystopia, with robotic soldiers and gun-toting werewolves, Hard Corps ditched the more contemporary setting and in my opinion, it benefitted from it. I’m still surprised that a few years back, it managed to get a sequel: Hard Corps Uprising, developed by the good people at Arc System Works, no less!

Potential Improvements: I was generally more of a fan of the Japanese version of this game, which allowed the characters to take multiple hits before dying, as opposed to being one-hit wonders like the Western versions and earlier games in the series, so the ability to choose between those two versions would be great. Likewise, as with all Contra games of that era, the European version was rebranded as Probotector, replacing the organic protagonists with robotic counterparts, so it would awesome to see both themes in the same release – albeit with the proper framerate, as opposed to the slower one associated with European releases of that era.

Sunset Riders (Arcade)

One part Rush’n Attack, two parts Contra – Sunset Riders is one of those games that were so popular, you would have guessed that they would have gotten a sequel, but somehow they just didn’t. Utilizing the same style of two-plane stages seen in games like Shinobi and Rolling Thunder, Sunset Riders was effectively one of the more interesting games Konami released in the arcades. Since we’ve already seen a re-release of the SNES version, I thought it would be interesting to see the original Arcade version make a comeback as well.

Potential Improvements: Online multiplayer, the usual round of graphical filters and an adjustable amount of credits, leading to multiple “difficulty settings”. Basically, a similar release as the old Simpsons and X-Men arcade games from last-gen.

Kid Dracula (FC/GB)

Kid Dracula’s an interesting concept. Effectively a more comedic take on the Castlevania franchise, the Kid Dracula duology puts players in the role of Kid Dracula, Dracula’s child (who may or may not grow up to be Alucard of Symphony of the Night fame), as he tries to retake his rightful throne from the demon Galamoth. We only saw the release of the second game for Game Boy outside of Japan, but having both games re-released would be great.

Potential Improvements: If they manage to get the first game re-released, I’d love it if Konami were to completely translate the game – sure, the story’s not important, but small details like that are important to me. Other than that, straight emulations would be appreciated.

Contra (NES)

I’m still in shock that this game hasn’t seen a straight re-release (outside of course as a bonus in Contra 4 on the Nintendo DS), but considering that game’s long out of print, I think it fits with this list. Like I’ve said in previous articles, the original Contra is probably one of the three games that most shaped my gaming tastes overall. I just find it weird that Super C got re-releases on both Wii and Wii U, while the original – the more famous of the two NES releases – hasn’t seen anything in a long time.

Potential Improvements: I guess it would be interesting if they included both the NES and the arcade versions of the original Contra together: that would be an interesting contrast. Both arcade Contras were re-released last generation via Konami Classics on Xbox 360, but aren’t available on modern platforms. Likewise, it’d be cool to see a release with the previously mentioned Probotector reskin released in Europe – again, at the proper framerate.

Vampire Killer (MSX)

I’ve always been somewhat interested in this game, despite never having the opportunity to do so. This was the very first revamp of the original Castlevania – but while most of the future versions maintained the same basic gameplay concept while rearranging the stage designs and locales, Vampire Killer totally reimagined it. Many people consider Simon’s Quest to be the original prototype for what would eventually be called the “Metroidvanias”, but Vampire Killer for the MSX has it beat. In this iteration of Simon Belmont’s first adventure, players are tasked with exploring Castlevania, looking for various keys and items to progress, allowing the stages to progress in far less linear fashions.

Potential Improvements: Just a straight port would be fine, though honestly if they decided to give it the “Castlevania Chronicles” treatment with revamped graphics and a remade soundtrack, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

Snatcher (Sega CD)

Possibly the second most famous game associated with Hideo Kojima – sorry again, Zone of the Enders – Snatcher was an early example of a visual novel more than a standard point-and-click adventure game of its era. However, its storyline was so engrossing to many that it would eventually become a cult classic. There have been multiple releases of this game across various platforms, starting with Japanese computers PC-88 and the MSX2 and later released on the original PlayStation and Sega Saturn. However, the only official English release of the game was the Sega CD version.

Potential Improvements: Once again, the main concept that comes to mind would be to include every iteration of Snatcher – preferably with brand new translations, just like Rondo of Blood had in Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles. It would also be great if the MSX2 game SD Snatcher – meant to be both a slight reboot and conclusion to the original release of the game (which ended on an annoying cliffhanger) – were also included. SD Snatcher reimagined the visual novel as a cutesy RPG, with variations on the original game’s plot, a welcome lack of random battles and a unique battle system.

Mystical Ninja: Starring Goemon/Goemon’s Great Adventure (N64)

I’m still kind of baffled by the Goemon series. Referred to as “Ganbare Goemon” in Japan and “Mystical Ninja” elsewhere, there have been a literal truckload of releases due to its extreme popularity but very few have seen released outside of Japan. North America got a game for the Super Nintendo, one for the Game Boy (Europe lucked out with a second!) and two N64 games. Considering we’ve already seen re-releases for the other games in the series via the Virtual Console, it’s only fair that we also receive the remaining games already available in English, right?

Potential Improvements: Straight ports seem like the best way to go on this one. I can’t think of anything to add, unless Konami decides to do a massive Goemon collection with all new translations of the Japan-exclusive titles. That seems outside the scope of something they’d be willing to do though, so let’s just stick to hoping for straight-up Virtual Console releases.

Getsu Fuuma Den (FC)

Another game of interest to me, Getsu Fuuma Den is effectively the Murasame no Nazo to Castlevania’s Legend of Zelda: a similar game concept that looked like a great deal of fun but was strictly released in Japan due to fears that cultural differences would lead to poor sales. The game thrust players into the role of warrior Getsu Fuma on his quest to recover the three Pulse Blades to avenge the death of his brothers and defeat the evil demon lord Ryuukotsuki, who escaped hell and took over the Earth. The game relies on an overhead map system, not unlike Super Mario Bros. 3, but the action stages themselves effectively play like a more action-packed NES Castlevania game. They’re short, but there are many more of them and a certain level of exploration on the overworld is necessary to beat this game.

Potential Improvements: Bare minimum, I’d want just a full English translation. Of course, if Konami wanted to get on my good side, they would do a full-on remaster, like Castlevania Chronicles or The Dracula X Chronicles. Best of all, they could still include the original Famicom version (with that aforementioned translation) as a bonus unlockable.

As usual, before I wrap this up, I’d like to mention some honorable mentions. First, there’s the Parodius series – as much as I would have loved to have put these on the main list, there are just too many of them to choose from, so I’d probably just want a full-on collection of every game in the series. Next, Castlevania Legends for the original Game Boy. Most people tend to prefer Belmont’s Revenge when talking about early portable CVs, but I think we can all agree that Legends deserved a re-release way before the abysmal Adventure. Finally, there’s Pop’n Twinbee: Rainbow Bell Adventures for the Super Nintendo. A fairly standard Konami platformer, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – just not good enough to make the main list. Likewise, I’d like to give a shout-out to the Bonk’s Adventure, Bomberman and Bloody Roar series: while they’re technically Hudson Soft properties, Konami owns their vast library of IPs, which is a crying shame.

I guess in the end, this was probably the most bittersweet of these lists I’ve had to write. Konami’s currently in a bad place right now: if not in terms of finances (they still seem to be in a good place there, at least for the moment), then definitely in terms of corporate climate. Proclaiming that they were ditching the video game market in favor of pachinko machines and mobile games (before immediately backpedaling), abusing their employees and effectively becoming so much of a super-villain, I’m sure it would make the heads of Activision, EA and Ubisoft blush like schoolgirls. Konami still holds the rights to many series I like, so their recovery would be in my best interest. Unfortunately, at this point it just feels like the only way for these old games to survive is by burning Konami to the ground.

The Next Level: Selling Sega Bit by Bit (Part 2)

Last week, I discussed the still very real possibility that Sega could end up on the auction block like THQ and Midway before it and tried to determine the best homes for a dozen of its franchises, both popular and obscure. This week, it’s gonna be more of the same: 12 Sega franchises and what companies would be the best fits for them.

Starting off this week’s assortment, Sega’s famous horror lightgun arcade smash, House of the Dead. The answer for this one’s obvious: Namco Bandai is still making Time Crisis games for both consoles and arcades to this day, and aside from Sega, they’re the only major Japanese publisher with a stake in the genre to this day. My secondary choice was gonna be Activision, which would cause the series to suffer like G did? So I did a little research for companies that had made some recent lightgun rail shooters, sure Capcom had those Resident Evil spinoffs, but then I saw a name that perked up my ears: Castlevania: The Arcade. That’s right, Konami actually made a lightgun (light-whip) game a few years back.

Next up, another oldie-but-goodie, Sega’s Genesis beat-’em-up classic, Streets of Rage. Now, you’re probably thinking the choice for this one is obvious: “Give it to Capcom, because blah blah blah Final Fight.” Well, I’m going off the beaten path with this one and giving it to an unlikely contender: SNK Playmore. SNK has quite the predigree of arcade beat-’em-ups in their past, games like Mutation Nation, the Sengoku series and even a few weird experiments in the genre like the first-person brawler The Super Spy (featuring the first appearance of SNK villain supreme, Geese Howard!) and the beat-’em-up/one-on-one fighting game hybrid Street Smart. Seeing SNK tackle a genre that isn’t a fighting game or Metal Slug again would be a fantastic treat and getting a fourth, actual factual Streets of Rage is pretty high on my Sega wishlist. Otherwise, yeah, give it to Konami or Capcom, I guess. Either one would probably just end up sitting on the franchise anyway.

Samba de Amigo, like Space Channel 5, was another of Sega’s rhythm game experiments, however this one focused heavily on motion-control through the maraca peripherals that were available both in the original arcade version and the Dreamcast home port. Considering the Wii got a port of Samba de Amigo itself that utilized the Wii Remote and Nunchuk add-on to accurately recreate the arcade experience, Nintendo is the clear choice. The fact that they themselves have a rhythm series that’s equally as wacky as Samba (Rhythm Heaven) is just icing on the cake. Likewise, Namco Bandai still makes Taiko Drum Master games, so they’d be an equally valid choice, especially if it did better in arcades than on consoles.

Then there’s OutRun, an unconventional arcade-style racer that focuses on completing an extended course with multiple branching paths within a time limit rather than beating out CPU-controlled drivers. It’s also one of my all-time favorite Sega franchises and I was especially happy to see it get a shout-out in the recent Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed. Not too many companies really focus on arcade-style racers these days, as most have moved onto racing sims, so the only obvious answer here would be Namco Bandai, who still put out a damn good Ridge Racer every once in a while. Second place goes to Ubisoft, as they currently publish the Trackmania games.

Jet Set Radio was one of those games that didn’t really get a fair shake when it first came out, but became a beloved cult classic down the line. Released when the Dreamcast was on the very precipice of disaster at the hands of Sony’s Playstation 2, Jet Set Radio (or Jet Grind Radio, as it was once titled in North America) is one of those rare 3D games that manages to avoid showing its age even today, due in part to its cel-shaded graphical style. The gameplay emulated the popular Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, but managed to expand on it to the point where JSR felt like a complete different game. After all, what other game can you think of where you can destroy tanks and helicopters by tagging them with graffiti? Personally, I’d give it to Ubisoft, considering both their work on Shaun White’s Skateboarding (proving they could get the skating mechanics right) and the Rayman series (proving that they’d likely keep the unique graphical style of the series. The only other company I think could do Jet Set Radio justice would be Nintendo.

Speaking of cult classics from the Dreamcast era, Shenmue is perhaps the prototypical example of the problems regarding the AAA industry today. Despite being the 4th best selling title overall on the Dreamcast, Shenmue fell short of earning back its immense budget. Still, there are many who wait for another entry in the series, even after the second game also failed to perform well outside of niche audiences. Having said that, I’d say that Atlus would be the best choice for the franchise. Both due to the fact that they’ve made a few games with similar mechanics to the series (Catherine comes to mind for me personally and I’ve heard the same regarding their Persona series) and because they tend to also do well with regards to niche audiences. My other choice is an extremely unorthodox one: Telltale Games. Considering the fact that Shenmue’s gameplay is not so far removed from point-and-click adventure games and its storyline is considered one of the main draws of the series, Telltale just seems like an interesting choice for a sequel, especially if they reunite the original creative team for a Shenmue III.

Valkyria Chronicles is another one of Sega’s more niche titles, at least as far as non-Japanese audiences go. An interesting take on the strategy RPG genre, where you shift into a third-person shooter-style segment during each party member’s turn. Consider the game’s unique take on the genre, I think that Atlus would probably be the best company to take on this one, due to its unique take on the genre and its popularity in Japan. After all, Atlus has even handled third-person shooters in the past (God Mode). If not them, then Nippon Ichi Software would probably be a good choice, considering their experience with the strategy-RPG genre.

There’s also Sega’s unique puzzle game: Chu Chu Rocket. Considering the fact that this was actually ported to the Game Boy Advance as a launch title, I’d be quite alright giving this to Nintendo. They would likely keep it on eShop, which would actually probably be a smart business tactic, considering the simplicity of the game’s overall design. I’d also consider Atlus to be a valid choice, considering their history with unorthodox puzzle games like the aforementioned Catherine and Rock of Ages.

Virtual On, while generally called an action game, is probably the best example of what I’ve come to call “arena fighters”. Think of it as the precursor to Anarchy Reigns, only with a custom arcade cabinet to boot. As such, my first choice would be Platinum Games. The problem is, I don’t really have a follow-up. Capcom used to make good arena fighters, like the Power Stone games and Spawn: In the Demon’s Hand. Konami made Castlevania Judgment, which in spite of its hideous character designs, was actually a pretty decent one. But considering the similarities between the recent Dragon Ball Z and Naruto fighting games with arena fighters, not to mention how close the Soul Calibur games are to them, maybe Namco Bandai would be the best secondary choice. At the very least, Namdai (Banco?) getting the rights would mean that Temjin and Fei-Yen would likely show up in the Super Robot Wars games a lot more often.
After Burner was Sega’s take on the combat flight simulator genre, only with good old fashioned 1980’s arcade flair thrown to give the game some fun factor. Recently it’s seen a resurgance, having been referenced in games like Bayonetta and the aforementioned All-Stars Racing Transformed (as a stage and one-third of a vehicle!). I can’t really think of many companies that still do games in that genre, aside from Namco Bandai, with their Ace Combat series. Otherwise, I’d just give it to Nintendo, because I can’t really think of anyone else who’d take it.

Then you’ve got the Super Monkey Ball series, another cult-classic Sega series, involving tiny monkeys in hamster balls running to the end of an obstacle course in order to get some bananas. The easy answer here is Nintendo: this game totally sounds like something the Big N would make. Hell, we might even see a Donkey Kong Country x Super Monkey Ball game. Atlus seems like a fair choice too, considering that they published the extremely similar Rock of Ages.

Rounding out this article’s list is Skies of Arcadia, one of Sega’s RPGs from the Dreamcast era. Considering it also showed up on the Gamecube, I’d just give it to Nintendo. They could use a couple more traditional JRPGs, right? I’d just as well avoid seeing Skies of Arcadia becoming another victim of Square-Enix’s IP hoarding, so Atlus seems like the only other logical choice.

Before we wrap things up, I’d like to discuss the fates of a few honorable mentions. First off, Sega’s original mascot, Alex Kidd should probably just go to Nintendo. Then there’s Columns, Sega’s first major attempt at a Tetris-style puzzle game, give that to Q Entertainment. Seaman was Sega’s attempt at a virtual pet style game, Microsoft seems like the best choice, considering I can’t think of a franchise that would be more Kinect-friendly. Shining Force was Sega’s first major success in the strategy-RPG genre, so give that to Nippon Ichi Software, as they make a great deal of SRPGs and would probably jump at having such a (comparitively) big name. Give Vectorman to Platinum Games, because they turned some heads in the third-person shooter genre with Vanquish. Finally, I’d give both Total War and Football Manager to Valve, considering they sell like gangbusters on Steam.

I guess if this two-part article has taught me anything, it’s that perhaps, Sega is greater than the sum of its parts, or rather its franchises. That’s probably the reason why, the last time they were in dire financial straits, Sammy Corporation just bought out the entire company, rather than simply taking on franchises that were considered the most important. Hopefully, should Sega fall once again, history will repeat itself in that case and all of Sega’s IPs will be kept together.