Rising Fun: Dawn for Japanese Games

The second half of the 80s and entirety of the 90s were a golden age for Japanese games.  From the moment Super Mario Bros. revived the American console industry, Japanese games absolutely dominated consoles.  While there were some exceptions, the vast, vast majority of good console games came from Japan during the third, fourth, and fifth generations.  Even the most prominent exceptions were made by western developers that were working with Japanese companies: Naughty Dog, Insomniac, and of course Rare.  Things started to change in the sixth generation, games like Halo, Grand Theft Auto 3, and the rising Tony Hawk series were critical and commercial successes, something very few western console games had achieved before that point.  Japanese games were probably still bigger or at least equal at that point, but it definitely wasn’t the absurd level of domination they previously held.  This was, of course, a good thing: there’s no reason for one country to dominate the way Japan did at one point.

 

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And thus Japan conquered console gaming overnight.

 

In the seventh and eighth generations, however, things started to become unbalanced in the other direction.  Several Japanese companies went into slumps at the same time, while western mega-publishers increased their dominance.  This led to an attitude in the 2010s that Japan was becoming irrelevant to the gaming industry.  I was not happy about this, but it would be fair to ask why when I was fine with how things were in the 90s.  Well, I have a few reasons.  For one, there was a fair amount of nationalistic gloating, treating this as “revenge” and calling the Japanese gaming industry a failure for not being able to match the combined output of two continents.  There’s also the fact that the fading Japanese companies had made so many great games in the past, and losing something is a lot more painful than never having it to begin with.  And while this may be too subjective and in the moment to use as a reason, I would much rather have 90s Capcom, Konami, and Squaresoft as the dominant publishers instead of companies like EA, Ubisoft, and Activision.  I’m not saying we need to go back to Japanese dominance, but all game producing regions making great games is the optimal situation and always will be.  I just want Japanese games to make a comeback for their own sake.

 

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Market Combat Evolving.

 

That seems to be what’s happening.  After many years of turmoil, Japanese-developed games are making a substantial comeback in 2017, in both the released and upcoming categories.  This year we’ve already seen Resident Evil 7, Yakuza 0, Gravity Rush 2, Nier Automata, Nioh, and Persona 5; quality releases that have mostly seen a good deal of commercial success and attention from the gaming community.  Looking ahead, we have Sonic Forces, Tekken 7, Tokyo Xanadu, Ys VIII, and Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite as some promising 2017 releases.   Compared to the past few years, this is a huge upturn in quality Japanese games.

Going beyond a simple games list, many of these games represent once mighty Japanese publishers and developers showing signs of recovering from their slumps.  Capcom finally made a Resident Evil that was well received, Team Ninja made their first well liked game in who knows how long with Nioh, Sega has two promising Sonic games coming out this year (although one is technically by western developers) – there are decades that would kill for that amount – and Square Enix has brought an underrated series into mainstream success while giving Platinum a chance to shine simultaneously with Nier: Automata.  Series that never had a huge western presence, such as Persona, Ys, Yakuza, and the aforementioned Nier/Drakengard also seem to be getting more attention than they previously did, which is great for the Japanese gaming industry.  The light of dawn may be starting to break through the cynicism that has clouded the concept of Japanese games in recent years.

 

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Looks like JRPGs don’t have cooties anymore.

 

There are two major Japanese publishers I consciously avoided mentioning up until this point.  One of them is a hugely conspicuous absence considering who is writing this article.  Why have I waited until now to say anything about Nintendo?  Because I like building things up before playing my strongest card.  Nintendo is in their own league among developers, and I’m don’t mean because they’re my favorite, their situation as the primary developer for their systems puts them in a very different position than the third parties I’ve covered.  Nintendo has always been prominent as a software publisher, even during the Wii U days their games sold millions with absurdly high attach rates that annihilated the best selling games of other systems with a low userbase.  However, Nintendo’s health is often measured by their console’s sales, and that has certainly not been going well in recent years.

Then it was like someone simply flipped a Switch.  Seeing what happened when they tried to copy their competitors with the Wii U, the Nintendo Switch is showing all indications that it recaptured the lightning bottled by the original Wii.  With the system selling out every shipment it makes almost instantly (and this is in March and April) and a non-pack in game managing to attain an unprecedented over 100% attach rate in at least one region, we have plenty of reason to believe that Nintendo’s console division is back on track.  And they’re definitely contributing to Japanese games making a resurgence in 2017.  This year we have or are scheduled to get The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, ARMS, Splatoon 2, Xenoblade 2, Fire Emblem Warriors and the game that means so much to me it was my most anticipated game of 2017 based on a six second “tech demo”, Super Mario Odyssey.  Breath of the Wild, the only one released so far, is one of the highest rated games of all time and would single handedly make this a better year for Japanese game reception than some of the last few.  Nintendo is back, and they’re ready to lead the charge in the Japanese game resurgence.

 

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Mario is back, and he’s not alone.

 

And what was that other company I avoided mentioning?  Well, it’s one that’s pretty easy to ignore, if the bitterness doesn’t get you, at least.  Konami, tormentor of employees, bane of Kojima, the Japanese EA.  No other Japanese publisher fell as far as Konami, but even with them, there is a glimmer of light this year.  Super Bomberman R is one of the more prominent Switch launch games that isn’t Zelda, and has been selling amazingly well for such a niche game.  Konami has publicly announced plans to revive more dormant franchises, as opposed to fleeing video games to make pachinko machines.  The slightest bit of hope for Konami is a miraculous step forward at this point.

 

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This game existing at all is a frigging miracle.

 

So, with the games released and announced in 2017, I think it’s safe to say that the sun is rising again for Japanese games.  Again, I’m not asking for western console games to go back to their dark age.  While I generally prefer Japanese design philosophy, western developers (many of whom grew up with games from Japan’s golden age) are perfectly capable of using it, and both sides can learn things from the other’s games.  Gamers benefit from as many developers as possible making great games, no matter what region they’re from.  With E3 fast approaching, we will hopefully soon have even more games to look forward to from Japanese developers and proof that the revival trend will continue in 2018 and beyond.

Top 10 Games I Want Ported FROM PC II: The Secret of the Ooze

Last year, I decided to change things up when it came to my long-running series of PC port wishlists by doing a list of games that would be great games currently available on PC, but not consoles. I have to admit, I actually had a lot of fun doing it – looking back on lesser-known games that were only available on PC just struck me as a much less futile endeavor than constantly mooning about games that might never get re-released in any format, let alone on PC. At least with PC, there’s always an odd chance that maybe at some point, one of the console manufactures will stumble across one of these obscure gems and decide, “Hey, this could work well on our system” and pay someone to port it to their current platform. Considering the sheer length of your average PC game’s shelf life, I’ve got plenty of material for future lists: I’m even considering making this into a yearly tradition.

First things first, let’s go over what’s been announced since the last time I discussed this – both in terms of console releases and PC. Considering the topic of this article is focusing games being ported from PC to console, that seems like the logical place to start. As I already mentioned, both Ys Origin and Kero Blaster were announced for PlayStation consoles back in December – since then, Ys Origin released on PS4 in February and is expected to hit the Vita on May 30th. Kero Blaster still lacks a release date, but another game being handled by the same publisher (Playism) that didn’t quite make the list – Momodora: Under the Reverie released on March 16th and 17th on the PS4 and Xbox One respectively. Likewise, a game I originally intended to include on this year’s list: Pocket Rumble will be released on Switch sometime in the near future. Ironically, I would’ve suggested putting it on a Nintendo platform anyway, simply due to the lack of fighting games on the platform and the low-definition graphics seemed like a better fit for Nintendo’s core audience. An even bigger surprise came less than a week before this article was set to post: Lethal League is hitting both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on May 10th, adding another win to what I had originally intended as a joke article.

Fortunately, time has been kind to the PC platform as well. First and foremost, when NIS America announced their obtained the localization rights to Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, they also announced a release on Steam. This news is particularly inspiring, considering it comes hot off the heels of the fact that the Steam version of fellow Falcom title Tokyo Xanadu – being localized by Aksys Games – will be based on the PS4 release, Tokyo Xanadu eX+. Both games are expected to release late this year and I cannot wait for both games. The only thing that could make me happier would be PC ports of the 2 modern-era Ys games currently missing from PC – and XSEED did mention they had some big PC news coming up soon, so I guess I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Other good news include de Blob making its way to PC on April 27th, courtesy of the good folks at THQ Nordic and Blitworks. To make matters even better, Blitworks may have also leaked the existence of a port of the game’s sequel, which means that soon we could have the entire duology! Finally, Arc System Works teamed up with FK Digital to bring Chaos Code -New Sign of Catastrophe- to PS4 and Steam with a new online mode. Not to mention they confirmed that the “REVELATOR 2” upgrade for Guilty Gear Xrd will be hitting Steam alongside the console versions. It’s encouraging to see how ASW has embraced PC gaming. O

With those musings out of the way, let’s get onto the actual meat of the article: the next ten games I’d like to see ported to console from PC. Same rules as last time – we’re mostly going to be looking at relatively recent PC games, specifically those released during the seventh and eighth generations of video game consoles, that have not appeared on home consoles by the time this article has been posted. I’ll also be discussing which platforms I’d consider the best choice for these games if they do actually manage to make it to at least one platform.

Carrie’s Order Up!

Best described as a cross between Pac-Man and Tapper, Carrie’s Order Up is a fun little throwback to old-school gaming with graphics I’d liken to a lost Neo-Geo game. Players take on the role of Carrie, a crab waitress trying to raise enough money to keep the restaurant where she works afloat. The gameplay is simple enough: customers come into the restaurant, usually ambling around looking for the perfect seat; they place their orders which are made by Carrie’s coworker Calcia and Carries brings them to the right customers to keep them happy. But watch out! Once Carrie gets started, she doesn’t stop and bumping into customers is a big no-no. Fortunately, she can twirl to bypass customers, but using it too much leaves her dizzy. Plus, if the customers aren’t served in time, they’ll also leave angry. The game’s a mere $3 yet offers a great value at that price: in addition to the standard arcade mode, there’s an endless mode and tons of other unlockables.

Best Platform: I’d have to give this one to the Switch, no contest. The cutesy aesthetic coupled with the classic arcade-style of gameplay seems like a perfect recipe for getting lost in the shuffle on Sony – and I doubt Microsoft would ever want to pursue this style of content. Meanwhile, I could see Nintendo advertising this as one of their “Nindies”, perhaps not enough to receive a special announcement in a direct, but definitely a dedicated section in one of their sizzle reels.

Xanadu Next

Okay, now if you want to get technical, Xanadu Next has technically already been on home console – in fact, it was the first time it was available in English. Unfortunately, the system in question was Nokia’s N-Gage and from what I’ve heard, that port wasn’t exactly representative of the original PC game. From what I’ve heard, Xanadu Next has been described as a cross between Metroidvanias, Diablo and Falcom’s own Ys series. There’s no doubt in my mind that console gamers would want to get their hands on that kind of action.

Best Platform: PlayStation 4 and maybe the Vita, if it hasn’t died at that point. Falcom’s had a poor track record with Nintendo-original releases – ranging from as far back as Ys III on the SNES all the way to the ports of Ys I & II on the DS. Given the fact that Falcom gave up on their history of PC gaming to survive in Japan’s console-centric market, a tryst with the Xbox brand is laughable. No, just like Ys Origin before it, I could see Xanadu Next on Sony platforms – I’m just going to assume it won’t happen until after DotEmu has backported all of the Ys games currently available on Steam back to PlayStation all over again.

Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection

Here’s another game where I’m technically cheating by including it: both the original Super Killer Hornet and its remake appeared on the Xbox Live Indie Games service. However, given the fact that XBLIG is set to be taken down later this year – not to mention the fact that it wasn’t that big a priority for Microsoft in the first place – it seems like now would be a good time to try again. SKH:R is an odd mixture, focusing equally on fast-paced shmup action and mathematics. You see, power-ups like score multipliers, options and shot upgrades are tied behind completing simple math problems: first you collect a number with an operator, then a second number to complete the formula, then you’re given the choice of three answers. Answer correctly and you get upgraded. It may sound boring, but the game gets hectic pretty quickly considering this is all happening during a typical shmup.

Best Platform: This one’s going to be difficult. On the one hand, the game does have history on the Xbox brand, but it’s not exactly a stellar one. PlayStation has apparently tried to encroach upon Xbox’s former status of best console for shmups, but I’m not sure if they’d go for something quite like this – granted, the graphical style might be right up their alley. Nintendo, on the other hand, might be open to this unique title – so I guess I’ll give it to the Switch by default, though I wouldn’t count out a PlayStation release as well.

The Wonderful End of the World

I think the best way to describe The Wonderful End of the World would be if Katamari Damacy were less Japanese, made on a smaller budget but at least 90% as quirky. Made by the good people at Dejobaan Games – who have also brought us such games as AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, Drunken Robot Pornography and Tick Tock Bang Bang – The Wonderful End of the World takes place, well, exactly at that point: a demon with a fish for a head is going to eat the world and all that inhabits it. Fortunately, you’re thrust into the role of a puppet that can absorb anything it touches – and everything you absorb only makes you bigger. You’re in a race against time to save as much of the world as you can before it’s all over. A short game, but a fun one all the same – probably my favorite of Dejobaan’s entire library, even if it’s not their most popular title.

Best Platform: Another hard choice. Dejobaan hasn’t really strayed from PC and mobile development throughout their existence. I’d imagine that Sony would probably be happier to prod Bandai Namco to make a new Katamari game and this game doesn’t really seem like the kind of Microsoft would go out of its way to put on Xbox. Nintendo’s Switch just strikes me as a the most viable option by default, just because I think the game’s quirkiness would be a good fit. Honestly, if Dejobaan were to start releasing games on console, I’d wager they’d probably go for something a little more contemporary.

Camera Obscura

I’m a huge fan of platformers – from the twitchy ones that require perfect hand-eye coordination and reflexes to the puzzle ones that force you to rack your mind. Camera Obscura is clearly of the latter camp, but it’s got some unique mechanics: players take on the role of a lone photographer scaling a ruined tower, the failed work of a long since passed cult planning to reach the sun itself. On your trek, you’ll have to face off with wild animals that have taken refuge in the abandoned obelisk, as well as crumbling architecture and traps left behind by the structure’s creators, armed with nothing but your trusty camera. However, this is no ordinary camera: it’s capable of creating afterimages of the world around you – allowing you to bridge gaps, climb ledges, create floating platforms and ever crush deadly monsters between objects in the real world and your copies. But will this ability be enough to scale the tower’s 57 floors?

Best Platform: Once again, I could see this working best on the PlayStation 4, though I wouldn’t rule out releases on the other two consoles. The puzzle elements are a pretty solid match for Nintendo or Sony, but I feel like Sony would probably jump on this one before Nintendo, simply due to the grungier take on pixel art present in the graphics. While Microsoft did get their hands on Fez and Braid – both noted as inspirations for Camera Obscura in its own Steam page – before anyone else, they just don’t really seem like they’re going out of their way to bag pre-existing indie games at this point, preferring to finance their own.

Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge

Perhaps this is a bit of an odd choice, but we’ve seen games of this style released on home consoles both in the past and fairly recently. Starting life as a direct remake of an old computer game called Phantis developed by a little-known company call Dinamic Software, Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge absolutely oozes early 90s western PC game. Players are thrust into the role of heroine Serena S who is inspired to strike revenge on a dangerous alien planet …because someone trolled her on the internet. The gameplay in each level is split into two phases: a side-scrolling shmup inspired by games like R-Type and a side-scroller run-and-gun not unlike the Turrican games of old. Considering its classic artstyle was handled by Andrew Bado, a former alumnus of WayForward and Gameloft and its soundtrack was provided by the incomparable Jake “virt” Kaufman, Ultionus not only feels like a classic ‘90s Amiga throwback, but looks and sounds like one too.

Best Platform: I’m going to have to go with PlayStation this time around. As a similar Amiga exclusive, Psygnosis’s Shadow of the Beast received a remake on PS4 not that long ago, there’s at least precedent to allow something like this to hit the platform. Also, given the fact that main character’s design is brimming with fan service, it might be better suited for Sony’s platform simply due to the perceived maturity of the game’s design in general.

Terrian Saga: KR-17

Another game clearly evoking the spirit of early ‘90s PC games, KR-17 is somewhat evocative of western retro platformers like Commander Keen, the old Duke Nukem games and Jack Jackrabbit. Boasting over 60 levels across 9 worlds, varied level designs, a storyline that’s interesting without bogging everything down, mind-bending puzzles and precision run-and-gun gameplay, Terrian Saga delivers an impressive package at a reasonable price point.

Best Platform: This time, I’m a bit torn. On the one hand, this game seems to have “Nindie” written all over it, with its clear retro style, relatively family-friendly tone and its tendency to achieve “Nintendo hard” levels of difficulty at times. On the other hand, the game’s developer is currently working on getting their next project on both PlayStation and Xbox in addition to PC. I guess because of that, I’d give the edge to PlayStation 4, but I could definitely see this game doing quite well on the Switch too.

Devil’s Dare

If there’s one type of game that never really managed to adjust to the death of arcades, it would have to be the humblest of video game genres – the beat-‘em-up. An entire genre built from the ground-up for the sole purpose of bilking the young and young-at-heart out of entire GDPs worth of quarters, the transition to the console era didn’t do the genre any favors: games had to choose between unlimited continues – which defeats the entire purpose of the games – and a set number of limited continues, which just leaves me disappointed. Devil’s Dare thinks differently: opting for a perma-death mechanic instead. Continues cost in-game money, which can be obtained by performing well. Run out of continues, and the game deletes your save. It’s an interesting concept in my book. Even if the rest of the game’s components aren’t quite the pinnacle of the genre, I think it’s still worth sharing with a wider audience.

Best Platform: I’d honestly be willing to go with the Xbox One on this one, simply because of the game’s gritty yet retro tone. I’d recommend a slight overhaul of the base gameplay and that kind of an undertaking might make the effort to port Devil’s Dare to new platforms more of a Microsoft-friendly project, simply due to their obsession with “getting things first”. Label it as “Devil’s Dare DX” or something along those lines and I’m sure the folks at Xbox would lap it right up.

Owlboy

Developed over the course of nearly a decade as a love letter to old-school platformers, Owlboy dubs itself a “hi-bit game”, due to the fact that it recreates the classic look of 16-bit games at a much higher resolution and with much more fluid animation than what was possible back when 2D pixel art was the apex of its popularity. Players take on the role of Otus, a young anthropomorphic owl. Unfortunately, he struggles with living up to the expectations set for him, because he was born mute. When sky pirates show up, things only get worse and Otus must set off on an adventure. Fortunately, Otus has friends in the form of various Gunners, whom provide him with cover fire while in flight.

Best Platform: This is perhaps the most difficult decision of them all, but I’m going to have to give it to the Nintendo Switch. While you’d think that the fact that the game was built in XNA would make it a shoe-in for Xbox, you’ve got to remember that Microsoft discontinued the service and it isn’t compatible with the Xbox One. Likewise, while PlayStation would likely want to pursue getting this title, much of the game’s inspiration comes from various Nintendo properties, including Kid Icarus and the Tanooki Suit in Super Mario Bros. 3. It’s also fair to bring up that D-Pad Studios, the game’s developer, did consider console ports back in 2013, when the game was still in development – not to mention the fact that ports to both Mac and Linux were released this year – so who knows just where this gorgeous game might end up in the future?

Environmental Station Alpha

Developed by small Finnish studio Hempuli Oy, Environmental Station Alpha is a Metroid-like, pure and simple. It boasts a minimalistic pixelated artstyle, ambient music and solid, yet simple gameplay. Alas, it’s still a Metroidvania – and we’ve reached the point where the independently developed Metroidvania has become a cliché unto itself. Still, when Tom Happ – the man who single-handedly developed Axiom Verge, the last Metroid-like indie to escape being deemed “unoriginal” – says that ESA is worth checking out, I’m not going to argue with him.

Best Platform: The Switch or possibly the 3DS, no question. This game totally evokes the look and feel of a Metroid game and Nintendo would be foolish to not at least try to get their hands on this game to quell that particular fanbase’s hunger. I’m fairly certain that a significant portion of both the PS4 and Xbox One’s core audiences might be turned off by the primitive graphics – though, Vita fans will beg for just about anything.

There you have it, 10 PC games I’d like to see ported to consoles. No honorable mentions this time – might need to save those games for next year after all. I already own every game on the list, but of course, that’s not really the point of this list – it’s less about getting the games myself and more about sharing them with a much wider audience. You know, better to give than to receive and all that mumbo-jumbo. Having said that, it was probably more fun to do this article than the last one: I had already blown through most of my obvious choices last year, so searching for new games that weren’t already on console was pretty fun. Not to mention the fact that actually seeing some of those titles I picked last year getting console ports – that definitely made things more exciting this time around. I wonder which (if any) games will make it over out of this batch. You know, aside from Pocket Rumble, considering that got announced before I started writing this article.

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!

Continue reading

The Year Without a PC Port Wishlist

Christmas has pretty much always been my favorite holiday, especially when I was a child. I was a greedy little boy while I was growing up: one of my favorite holiday traditions was always writing up my list to Santa on my computer. Sure, some years I’d get overzealous and start thinking about it as early as August, but I’d always have a lot of fun just writing the list itself. I’d always try to sort things in the order I wanted them, but that was actually part of the fun for me: one week I’d really want some action figures, the next some new video game caught my eye. The downside to starting a list that early is that as time goes on, new items catch your eye. Even the greed of a child has its limits, so I would often have to pare down my list, trimming the items I could “do without”. (Gotta love child logic, am I right?) In a sense, I think those PC ports lists I wrote for a long time were the evolution of that favored Yule tradition, but eventually I got tired of doing them. Too much wishing, not enough getting. I’ve taken a hiatus on them and now, it’s been over a year. Instead of making an entirely new one, why not look over my previous works and analyze them a little? This year, I’ll be recounting my 5 favorite success stories, my top 10 most wanted and the game on each list I’d consider the most important (excluding those on the aforementioned lists) plus a brand-new one for good measure!

Before we get started (fittingly enough, with my favorite success stories), I’d like to start with some recent successes as well. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was released on PS4 earlier this month and it will also be hitting both the Xbox One and Steam in March. Meanwhile, Garou: Mark of the Wolves was also recently released on PlayStation consoles via CodeMystics, but surprise, surprise: an entirely different port hit Steam soon after, from the good folks at DotEmu. In fact, it was such a surprise, I actually had to change a list entry because of it. The DotEmu port is less fancy than the CodeMystics port, but apparently, not only does the Steam version have a more solid netcode, but it’s also getting immediate bugfixes to iron out some of its bizarre glitches. Funny how that works. I expected that to be the last bit of news I got on the PC end of things, but I was wrong: The Legend of Dark Witch 2, another game I’d been salivating over the prospect of seeing a PC port is announced to be hitting Steam sometime during “Q4 2016”. One last big surprise for me.

You’ll also remember that this past April, I did an “April Fools’ Day” article, revolving around 10 PC games I’d like to see receive console ports. Well, like many of my jokes, this one ended up biting me in the ass. During the PlayStation Experience, Ys Origin (the only PC-exclusive Ys game) was announced to be hitting both PlayStation 4 and, amazingly enough, the Vita on February 21, 2017 with the port being handled by the good people over at DotEmu who are utilizing XSEED’s English translation and coming up with original French, Italian, German and Spanish translations as well. (As an aside, DotEmu’s also bringing a favorite of mine – the NeoGeo classic Windjammers – to the same platforms. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a PC port down the line!) You’d think that would be enough, but the world wasn’t done having fun at my expense: soon after, it was revealed that the indie platformer Kero Blaster would also be coming to the PS4, thanks to its publisher Playism. They’ll also be bringing Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight to PS4, though release windows for both titles have not been announced. Continue reading

10 Games I’d Like To See Re-Released #05: SNK

Man, I’ve been slacking off a bit lately. I intended to have this up by the first of the month, like I usually do, but because I slacked off on next month’s article – and I’ve decided to have the companion piece to that pushed back to next month – I ended up just relaxing and recharging, instead of writing this one. In terms of games I ended up achieving, I can’t really claim victory here, but I am incredibly happy to hear that the original Dead Rising is being re-released on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. While this technically wouldn’t have made my list, considering it was a last-generation title, it’s good to see that it will no longer be tethered to the Xbox 360 permanently. In addition, both main iterations of Dead Rising 2 (the original and Off the Record) are also hitting PS4 and XB1 – both games were already released on PC. I was kind of hoping we’d also see re-releases of Case Zero and Case West – but DR1 was really what I was most looking forward to in terms of re-releases.

Since I’ve gone on hiatus with PC ports, I feel like I might as well do my bragging about it in here. At the start of July, I got hit with a bombshell I wasn’t really expecting: Aksys Games got the rights to bring Falcom’s Tokyo Xanadu to North America and to make matters even sweeter – they’re financing a PC port of the game on Steam. It’s unknown if it’ll be a direct port of the Vita version, or if it will also include content from Tokyo Xanadu eX+, the enhanced PS4 port, but regardless I am ecstatic for what this may mean for future Falcom releases on PC.

Before we get started with the list, let’s go over the rules I’ve been keeping when writing these articles. I’m going to be looking at games from the 6th generation (Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox) and earlier. I’ve decided to focus on one company for each article, and because I live in North America, I’m not counting any international re-releases, so if anyone decides to be a smartass and tells me I can buy some of this stuff on Japan or Europe’s services, that’s not going to work for me. If I can’t buy it legitimately from America, I’m not counting it. I’ll also be discussing any potential improvements that could be made to these games, in the case that they would receive an HD re-release. To make things reasonable, I’ll also be avoiding games that saw re-releases on 7th generation and later consoles, through PlayStation Classics, Virtual Console or other similar services. Of course, more substantial re-releases than straight emulations would be ideal, but at least the games themselves are easy enough to obtain and play.

To celebrate the recent release of The King of Fighters XIV, I’ve decided to delve into the library of the newly-rechristened SNK. SNK has been starting to re-release some of their classic fighting games on PS4 with full online functionality, as well as some of their arcade classics on PC via Steam and the Humble Bundle. However, I am clearly a very greedy individual, so I just can’t get enough SNK classics. Here are 10 games I’m absolutely hoping they re-release sometime soon.

Crystalis (NES)

I bet you were expecting me to start with a fighting game, weren’t you? Well, Crystalis is perhaps the best Zelda game on the original NES, at least in terms of official releases. The unnamed protagonist awakens in a post-apocalyptic world, where science and technology have been abandoned for magic. In order to defeat the devious machinations of the Draygonia Empire, our hero must combine the powers of the four elemental swords: Wind, Fire, Water and Thunder in order to reform the legendary sword, Crystalis.

Potential Improvements: Considering how poorly done the later GBC remake was, I’d prefer it if they just kept this one as true to the original as possible. Just put this sucker on the Virtual Console on Wii U, 3DS and NX (if it continues the Virtual Console program). That’s pretty much the best we can do for it.

The King of Fighters 2003/NeoWave/XI/’94 Re-Bout (Arcade/PS2)

Admittedly, this is kind of overkill, but these are all great games and since they’re in the same series, why not? 2003 and XI were the first two games in the series’ third arc: commonly referred to as the “Tales of Ash” Saga; ’94 Re-Bout was a remake of the game that started it all, with enhanced graphics, playable bosses and the addition of Edit Mode; while NeoWave was just a pseudo-remake of 2002 made for the Atomiswave arcade hardware.

Potential Improvements: Online play is really the only thing I’d want for these re-releases. Graphical enhancements are optional, but would probably be appreciated by most people. Personally, I’d rather see bonus features like image galleries and sound tests.

SNK Gals’ Fighters (NGPC)

I was a huge fan of the NeoGeo Pocket Color back in the day. In fact, I actually owned one while it was still active in the United States and it really helped me to become the SNK fanboy I am today. To be honest though, a majority of the games SNK released on their slick little handheld were derivatives of arcade titles, with the most popular “original” titles being their crossover games with Capcom. However, there was at least one original fighting game IP on the NGPC I’d love to see re-emerge, even only as a re-release. SNK Gals’ Fighters was another crossover fighting game, this time taking various women fighters from games like King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown and Last Blade and put them into a more comedic setting not unlike Capcom’s Pocket Fighter. A fully realized sequel and/or remake of this game would be my true goal, but that seems unlikely without at least some kind of a re-release to gauge interest.

Potential Improvements: Online play, full stop. Everything else was at a point where it can’t really be improved, due to the small scale of the system it originated on.

Rage of the Dragons (Arcade)

This is probably the most legally murky of the choices on this list, Rage of the Dragons was a spiritual successor to the Double Dragon fighting game on NeoGeo, which was loosely based on the live-action movie adaptation. Playmore couldn’t get the rights to make an actual sequel, so instead they decided to create an homage: starring such original characters as James and William – the Lewis brothers and “Abubo”. All-in-all though, a solid tag fighter from the NeoGeo’s later days.

Potential Improvements: Once again, online play would be the most important thing for me. What would be really cool though, would be if they were able to work something out with Arc System Works (the current owner of the Double Dragon IP) to do a “Double Impact”-style release with the original DD fighting game. That game was great.

Savage Reign/Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle (Arcade)

This is the point in the list where things start getting obscure. First up, we’ve got a fairly unknown duology of SNK arcade fighters. Savage Reign was generally considered a very forgettable fighting game, but its sequel, Kizuna Encounter, was a fairly solid game. The first tag-team fighting game SNK ever made, Kizuna significantly improved over its predecessor with a more interesting cast and improved gameplay engine. I’d mainly include Savage Reign just to show how far Kizuna came.

Potential Improvements: Online play, ‘nuff said. Including both the original arcade and arranged CD soundtracks would also be a nice gesture.

Aggressors of Dark Kombat (Arcade)

Another obscure game, fittingly made by ADK – the creators of World Heroes, who were later acquired by SNK – Aggressors of Dark Kombat is a unique fighting game compared to the majority of those that appeared on the NeoGeo. While some Fatal Fury games allowed characters to jump into the background and foreground, Aggressors allowed players to full-on walk in 3 dimensions, not unlike a beat-‘em-up like Final Fight, Streets of Rage or Sengoku. In addition, the game also utilized a similar control scheme to beat-‘em-ups: one button for attacks, one for grappling and one to jump. The game also featured the ability to grab and use weapons found throughout the battlefield (again, like most beat-‘em-ups). Matches consist of a single round, but both characters’ health bars have multiple layers, leading to long fights. The closest we’ve seen to a revival was the appearance of Kisarah Westfield in NeoGeo Battle Coliseum.

Potential Improvements: Online play is really the only recommendation I can think of, though honestly, this would probably do best in a collection with other ADK-developed titles, not unlike 2008’s Japan-exclusive compilation, ADK Tamashii for the PS2.

Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 (NGPC)

SNK’s non-fighting game releases are generally considered fairly obscure, but Dark Arms is probably the weirdest entry on my list. Based on the pre-NeoGeo lightgun shooter Beast Busters (which received a smartphone sequel a few years back), Dark Arms was a top-down action RPG-style game featuring a demon hunter who enters the spirit world in order to prevent an outbreak of monsters in the main world. Your mentor is the Master, a grim reaper-esque fighter who gives you a weapon, called the Catcher, which you can use to collect the souls of felled monsters in order to create an ultimate weapon: the titular Dark Arms. Probably one of the most unique titles on the NGPC, I’d love to see modern audience get the chance to play it.

Potential Improvements: To be honest, I’ve got nothing to add. A straight port of the original would be a great treat, especially as a budget title.

Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition (Arcade/PS1)­

The King of Fighters XIV isn’t SNK’s first foray into 3D graphics. They’ve actually been experimenting for quite some time. While most people argue that the KoF spinoff duology Maximum Impact was their best attempt, I was fond of an older title. Wild Ambition was effectively a remake of the original Fatal Fury, in the sense that MegaMan Powered Up was a remake of the original MegaMan: the basic plot remained the same, but there were some pretty extensive changes made – changes that no one really cares about since it’s not canon anyway. The roster’s been rearranged – with many of the old forgotten characters replaced with more popular ones from later iterations, like Mai Shirunai and Kim Kaphwan.

Potential Improvements: This isn’t going to surprise anyone, but online play is pretty much the only thing I’d add to this, especially if they use the PS1 version as a base.

Breakers Revenge (Arcade)

Probably the most obscure game on this list, Breakers Revenge was a revamp of a 1996 fighting game developed by Visco. The main reason it’s on the list is because it was exclusive to the arcades: there wasn’t a release on the AES or the NeoGeo CD, despite both platforms being active when it was released. I’m not sure exactly who owns the rights to this one, as Visco and SNK co-published it, but considering the fact that Visco’s currently making slot machines and flat screen TVs, I’d guess it would be easy enough for SNK to secure the rights.

Potential Improvements: I’m not even sure if I should continue writing this section, because it’s obvious just going to be online play. Although, honestly, I also wouldn’t mind seeing the original Breakers packed in as a bonus.

Samurai Shodown 64 & 64: Warrior’s Rage (Arcade)

Ever since SNK expressed interest in reviving some of their other old properties, one name has risen to the top of the list: Samurai Shodown. SNK’s #2 fighting game franchise – mostly due to the fact that until now, none of its characters appeared in a mainline King of Fighters game – Samurai Shodown has had a very successful run for the most part. The obvious choice of action would be to re-release the classic 2D games again. Unfortunately, considering the fact that Samurai Shodown Anthology, which contains every major release in the series, was released on the Wii and PSP, they’re still somewhat easy to get one’s hands on. So I’ve decided to ask for the next best thing: the lesser-known 3D releases for the Hyper NeoGeo 64. Samurai Shodown 64 and Warrior’s Rage told their own story, taking place after the second Samurai Shodown game. It also introducted the world to Asura and Shiki, two fairly popular characters that would later appear in NeoGeo Battle Coliseum. Plus, no matter what, it can’t be as bad as Samurai Shodown Sen.

Potential Improvements: Online play would be my main request, but what would be really cool would be if they included the Samurai Shodown games from the NeoGeo Pocket Color, as they were scaled-down remakes of the 64 games. It would at least be interesting to have them compiled, at least for the sake of comparison.

Admittedly, it was harder to narrow this list down than it usually is. So my honorable mentions will be a little more in-depth than they usually are. First, we have Metal Slug Advance for the Game Boy Advance: one of the rarer spinoffs of the series, built from the ground up as a home gaming experience as opposed to the standard arcade run ‘n gun. Then there’s Buriki One, another Hyper NeoGeo 64 game. What appeals to me about B1 is its unique control scheme – buttons are used for movement, while the joystick is used to perform attacks and its tenuous connection to the Art of Fighting series. Finally, there’s The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood, another GBA game. It’s effectively the closest thing I’ll ever see to a King of Fighters R-3 and it’s a respectable game in its own right. I’d just love to see it get some more love.

Despite my overall love for SNK as a company, it was harder to make this list than I would have originally expected, but that’s mainly due to the fact that so many of the games I would’ve wanted received re-releases either during the seventh generation or even recently, with their latest round of re-releases on PS4 and Steam. Hopefully, some of the games on this list will be among SNK’s next choices when deciding which games to re-release in the future. By that token, let’s also hope that their classic slogan, “The Future is Now” is more literal than figurative.