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The eternal struggle between ninja and buzzsaw rages on.
The eternal struggle between ninja and buzzsaw rages on.
Among today’s highlighted games is a game for which I can always spare a few minutes: the Ninja Gaiden arcade game, a brawler that’s been mostly forgotten as a footnote in the history of the wildly and deservedly more popular action-platformer series that began on NES but one that deserves props for being eminently playable and mostly very fair, despite being made during an era where just having responsive buttons put your brawler a cut above the pack. That intro with the guy in the hockey mask doesn’t hurt, either, but that might be grade-school me talking.
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $7.99 / €6.99 / £6.29
- Publisher: Hamster / Koei-Tecmo
What’s this? A sidescrolling brawler starring one or two very American ninjas fighting their way through a very Japanese interpretation of the USA, originally developed by Tecmo and released in 1988 as part of the “USA Ninja” initiative that also begat the popular trilogy of NES games of the same name.
Why should I care? The game moves and responds admirably for a pre-Final Fight brawler, the cinematics and locales are impressive and silly in equal measure — not least of all, the game over screen — and you’ll get to do the Guillotine Throw from the 3D Ninja Gaiden games at least twenty times a minute.
Useless fact: A second Ninja Gaiden arcade brawler was in development for Neo Geo in the mid-’90s and made it to location test before being scrapped; the promotional art published here shows the trio of playable characters, which included the American footballer Rash, the would-be idol Ran and a drastically redesigned Ryu Hayabusa.
ARCADE ARCHIVES NEO GEO
- Platform: PlayStation 4, (North America)
- Price: $7.99
- Publisher: Hamster / SNK
What’s this? The Neo Geo’s one and only American football game, developed and published by SNK in early 1992.
Why should I care? You’re after something a lot prettier and marginally deeper than Irem’s 10 Yard Fight.
Useless fact: The King of Fighters ’94‘s Brian Battler was originally conceived as a Football Frenzy representative but after several alterations to his costume, some made to differentiate him from World Heroes‘ Johnny Maximum, the connection between the two games was practically non-existent.
- Format: PC via Steam, Humble Store, Discord
- Price: $9.99 or equivalent
- Developer: Night Dive Studios / Kaiser
What’s this? A long-overdue remaster of Monolith Productions’ Evil Dead-inspired Build Engine FPS Blood, originally released on PC in 1997; this remaster, handled by the same team behind recent remasters of Strife, Turok and Turok 2 and the unofficial BloodDGX, includes the original game and both expansion packs and features a bevy of modern rendering options, completely rewritten 8-player netcode, split-screen multiplayer, support for custom soundtracks and original Blood mods and the option to implement true 3D perspective, as opposed to the Build Engine’s extremely unstable 3D “camera”.
Why should I care? Blood is an IP that was considered forever off-limits due to a succession of trademark disputes between Monolith, Warner Bros. and the shambling husk of Atari, so the mere fact that it’s back at all is worth acknowledging; beyond that, it comes closer than any other game in the Build engine oeuvre of matching the highs of Duke Nukem 3D, with a peculiar explosive-dependent game style that sets it apart from its contemporaries, and the developer’s been making and remaking this game for years in his free time so the remaster’s bound to offer everything you might possibly want.
Useless fact: Blood originally shipped with a bug that would apply high-difficulty damage values to games loaded from an easy-difficulty save and vice versa, which skewed many peoples’ impressions of the game for well over a decade; that bug has finally been addressed, so if you’re somebody whose only recollection of Blood is that of sheer difficulty, now might be the time to give it another shot.
HACKS & HOMEBREW
- Format: Game Boy (cartridge + box +case + manual)
- Price: ¥ 5,304
- Developer: gameimpact
Released a few weeks ago in Japan in commemoration of the Game Boy’s 30th anniversary, gameimpact’s Dracula’s Castle seeks to emulate the very early era of the Game Boy library, which naturally guarantees fixed-screen puzzle-action with a relaxed pace and a simple assortment of elements spread over 32+ stages. There are several packages available, including a few that include merch of the game’s playable character, the real-world DJ and video game event host MC8bit, but only the standard package is available for international shipping.
- Format: SNES ROM patch (.bps)
- Price: free!
- developer: Vitor Vilela
Gradius III’s significant, omnipresent slowdown is touted by many as a welcome feature that makes a ruthless game slightly more manageable, but if you’d rather play the game at peak performance or just want to see how much of a difference all that slowdown really makes, you can try Victor Vilela‘s new patch which rewrites the game to work in conjunction with the SA-1 coprocessor ship used on such other games as Kirby Super Star and Super Mario RPG. This chip is supported by the SD2SNES flashcart, allowing you to play the patched game at full speed on genuine hardware, but otherwise you’ll have to emulate it and take it on faith that this could have feasibly existed as a genuine product. (For a quick peek, skip to 5:55 in the video and see how much faster the bubbles move and divide compared to the unpatched version.)
- Format: Mega Drive / Genesis ROM
- Price: free!
- developer: neko800, kunukunu
Many of today’s indie productions for classic consoles are made with people with a particular axe to grind: they want to fill a perceived hole in the system’s library, demonstrate arcane technical feats or just stick it to their designated rivals in some petty way. neko800’s LEFT RIGHT UP DOWN YOU AND ME, however, offers no such conceit — it’s a simple game, converted from Petit Computer 3 / SmileBASIC by SGDK aficionado kunukunu, that offers a simple no-commitment experience modeled after arcade-style games like Balloon Fight, Flicky and, most prominently, Taito’s Ice Cold Beer. Try the ROM on your emulator or flashcart of choice or, if you’d prefer to play on 3DS, load the SmileBASIC file using the key 7REYQ3L4.
LIMITED-EDITION PHYSICAL PRINT RUNS
- Platform: PlayStation 4 (worldwide)
- Price: $39.99 (standard version, limited to 3000 copies), $129.99 (limited edition, limited to 1500 copies)
- Availability: from May 10, 10AM & 6PM EST, ships July
After a year of teasing, the superlative M2 port of Raizing’s cult techno-infused dieselpunk shooting game Battle Garegga is finally getting an international disc release via Limited Run Games, with the option of a plain ol’ disc/case/manual or a collectors’ box which includes several of the bonuses from the Japanese LE (reproduction arcade flyers/manuals, postcards, medal pin, CD soundtrack) as well as a few new exclusive items, including a double-LP soundtrack and a bluray documentary on developers M2 produced by My Life in Gaming — the documentary will be made available on Youtube in a few weeks, but the vinyl is exclusive to this package.
SOUNDTRACKS & VINYL
A dozen Castlevania series soundtracks, taken primarily from the IGA era, are now available internationally on the streaming service of your choice — most of the track names are still in Japanese and all the music’s credited to “Castlevania Sound Team” because Konami’s owned and run by dirtbags who refuse to give former and current employees proper accreditation, but it’s somethin’.