Apologies for the slight delay in publishing this article, dear readers: I had to account for the last-minute addition of Ketsui Deathtiny, the superlative, long-awaited international release of one of Cave’s most exhilarating shooting games, and the last-second inclusion of the Atomiswave-to-Dreamcast conversion of ArcSys’ Fist of the North Star game, which I needed to personally verify for an hour or so, mostly as Rei. Game’s fun, you’d do it too.
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
Publisher: Hamster / Seibu Kaihatsu
What’s this? A rare four-player brawler from Seibu Kaihatsu, distributed in arcades in 1984; one to four players control a gang of vaguely tokusatsu-inspired heroes on a quest to save a hostage from a gang of stereotypically inaccurate (and gratuitously explosion-prone) kabuki-ninja-samurai.
Why should I care? Be it a consequence of poor distribution, decades of emulator incompatibility or the entirely superficial issue of the character sprites being smaller than those of the standard-setting Final Fight, this is a game that went criminally unsung for the longest time, but that ends now: Zero Team is a flashy, silly, responsive, deceptively sophisticated and generally fair brawler that offers a lot to both the solo player and the four-player get-together, and it currently stands without peer on Arcade Archives.
Useless fact: Zero Team received two revisions with relatively minor changes named New Zero Team and Zero Team 2000, respectively; Arcade Archives typically offers revisions like those as an option but, given that they ran on substantially different hardware than the original, it seems their inclusion may have been harder to justify. (Incidentally, the cheaper hardware used for the revisions has traditionally been much easier to emulate, so those versions are going to me more familiar than the original to most, not that they’re massively different games.)
Keitai Shoujo (“Cellphone Girl”)
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Japan)
What’s this? The first entry in a multimedia highschool romance sim centered around Japanese cellphones, originally released in 2005; after idly downloading a certain app, protag Hiro Aida is greeted by a magical being that emerges from his phone and tells him that if he can’t find love by Christmas, she’ll be stranded and his phone will disappear…
Why should I care? I know of Keitai Shoujo only by its reputation as one of the earliest successful attempts at a high-profile mobile game and one that was cleverly tailored to the cellphone format, as well as atypically content-packed… but I’ve never played it, so I can’t speak to the quality of the writing whatsoever. Maybe you watched the anime, iunno.
Useless fact: While this series spawned a high-spec PC remake, an anime, manga, multiple audio dramas and quite a few spin-offs, it only received one conventional sequel, and I’m sure it’ll appear on G-MODE Archives in due time.
Katamary Damacy REROLL
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (worldwide)
Price: $29.99 or equivalent
Publisher: Bandai-Namco Games
What’s this? A port of the Katamari Damacy remaster previously released for Switch and PC in… 2018? That long ago, huh? Anyway, this remaster is largely faithful to the Japanese version of the 2004 PS2 original, with the addition of upscaled, widescreen-enabled visuals, some control tweaks inherited from later games and subtle visual refinements to some of the characters.
Why should I care? Katamari Damacy was one of the final inheritors of the “golden-era” arcade Namco school of design and an arguable antecedent to the current indie milieu; more immediately, it’s an eminently satisfying mechanical experience that thankfully hasn’t been butchered via this remaster.
Helpful tip: Unlike most games of its ilk, it seems the Xbox One version is getting a disc release.
Ketsui Deathtiny -Kizuna Jigoku Tachi- (November 20)
Platform: PlayStation 4 (North America)
Publisher: M2 / Cave
What’s this? The fourth entry in M2’s self-published ShotTriggers series of boutique shooting game reissues and the third to be released overseas after a two-year wait; CAVE’s aggressive and relatively straightforward choppers-and-tanks bullet hell game from 2003 has been enhanced with brand-new easy and arranged modes as well as a very granular custom settings menu, a suite of training mode tools, many customizable on-screen “gadget” displays, several soundtrack options, online leaderboards and replay sharing. (This release also offers two additional enhancements via paid DLC: an arranged soundtrack by Shovel Knight and Shantae series composer Jake “virt” Kaufman, and an extremely rare version of the game that was heretofore only playable at a 2007 live event.)
Why should I care? Not only is Ketsui among the more immediately approachable bullet hell games — the scoring system, while deep, is not terribly complex or opaque, and the aesthetic maintains a through-line from the popular traditional vertical shooters of the ’90s that many other standout games dropped — but this particular release is augmented with a very thorough and well-considered set of training options that can allow even the most inexperienced player to come to grips with a very difficult genre very quickly; of all the ShotTriggers releases so far, this is the one I’d recommend for people who not only want to play a seminal Cave game but want to dive wholeheartedly into the subgenre.
Useless fact: No, I don’t know if this is getting an English physical release; no, I don’t know if any of these releases are ever going to come to not-North America; no, I have no idea if they’re working on a Switch port; yes, I wish I had answers for you. (Perhaps Jeremy’s the person to ask about at least one of these questions…)
Serious Sam Collection
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (worldwide)
Price: $29.99 or equivalent
Publisher: Devolver Digital / Croteam
What’s this? An out-of-nowhere console collection of the three mainline entries in Croteam’s nigh-on-two-decades-old series of maximal, tech-bending first-person shooters — Serious Sam: The First Encounter HD, Serious Sam: The Second Encounter HD and Serious Sam 3: BFE — with all expansion content, four-player local multiplayer and 16-player online play. (No, the Switch version does not include gyro aiming.)
Why should I care? You want to maintain the shared global delusion that anything about Serious Sam was ever, at any point, “old school”.
Helpful tip: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter is not Serious Sam 2 — that game is stuck in publishing hell with 2k, not particularly well-liked by Croteam and has essentially be written out of canon.
TRANSLATIONS & HOMEBREW
Atomiswave-to-Dreamcast hacks keep on truckin’
Knights of Valour: The Seven Spirits, the Taiwanese Romance of the 3 Kingdoms brawler you may or may not vaguely recognize! Maximum Speed, SIMS’ generic budget racing game! The King of Fighters: Neowave, that one KOF02 rehash with Young Geese as the final boss! Demolish Fist, Dimps’ clunky 3D brawler! Dolphin Blue, SNK’s would-be successor to Metal Slug! Arc System Works’ Hokuto no Ken, the greatest Fist of the North Star game ever made, and quite possibly the best fighting game ever made also!
Remote Control Dandy (PlayStation) translation by LIPEMCO! Translations
Before Sandlot became the EDF factory the world knows and loves, they were primarily identified in Japan for their cumbersome but engrossing remote-control giant robot games, for which their expertise was established during the dying days of Human Entertainment with the cult PlayStation game Remote Control Dandy. Now, thanks to LIPEMCO!’s comprehensive translation patch, players the world over can experience the game that directly led to more globally recognizable games like Robot Alchemic Drive and Tetsujin 28-go.