Retro Re-Release Wishlist [Part 1]

Gaming is a vast medium with an enormous history, some of it mainstream but much of it niche or obscure. However deep you choose to delve into our hobby however, there will always be great games that never get a modern re-release on the likes of PSN, XBLA or Steam due to licensing issues, a perceived lack of profit potential for the IP owner (often a legitimate reason) or for more bizarre reasons such as Sega claiming to have lost the source code for such classics as Panzer Dragoon Saga and the original House of the Dead (arcade version). Ignoring ALL of these boring, technical explanations for a moment, I’d like to kick off a new series where I look at some retro titles that I’d love to see re-issued for modern platforms. Take my money!

#1 – Outrun and its sequels

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The original 1986 Outrun has been re-released several times and is fairly easy to play. Discounting period conversions that all differed wildly in accuracy, some ‘arcade perfect’ ports eventually appeared including the Sega Ages edition for the Saturn and – more recently – a handheld version for the 3DS under the ‘Sega 3D Classics’ umbrella. Outrun‘s sequels haven’t been shown the same love however and that’s a shame. My personal favourite is Turbo Outrun which swapped the Testarossa for the mighty Ferrari F40, added a turbo boost feature, more hazards (such as oil slicks and wet surfaces) and fantastic music. Japan were lucky enough to receive a 3DS conversion of Turbo Outrun but that’s it as far as accurate arcade conversions go. Then there was the visually-thrilling Outrunners, a further sequel that seems – bizarrely – all but forgotten by Sega despite it channelling the essence of the original game and being a lot more exciting to behold.

To go even further, there were also the console-exclusive sequels like Outrun Europa and the divisive Outrun 2019 but I would be stoked just to have a digital collection containing arcade-perfect conversions of Outrun, Turbo Outrun and Outrunners. If the (long expired) Ferrari license is an issue then Sega could just slightly alter the details on the cars as they have been known to do before.

#2 – Capcom Vs SNK (and other Capcom VS series fighting games

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Capcom VS SNK 2 is a near-universally loved fighting game that brought the curtain down on the 1990’s and a fabulous era for fighting games. The game deserves the love it receives and it is a firm favourite of mine BUT the original Capcom Vs SNK is also a tremendous fighting game that is – in some ways – superior to its lauded follow-up. The stage backdrops for example were among the last to be hand-drawn and animated by Capcom for example (the sequel uses 3D and while perfectly attractive, aren’t as impressive) and the music is superb as well as exclusive to the original game. Sadly, the original CvS only saw period Dreamcast and Playstation conversions with the latter being the only way to play the ‘Pro’ update outside of Japan without resorting to importing the Dreamcast version. Even worse, CVS: Pro on the Playstation suffered (like with many of the VS series) from downgraded animation + audio as well as frequent load times as Sony’s machine struggled to host the game. The PS2 version of the sequel has been re-issued on PSN but the original game is mysteriously forgotten about. As somebody who no longer owns a DC, I’d dearly like for Capcom Vs SNK to get a re-release.

And while on the subject, not many of the Marvel VS series entries have been re-released. Marvel Superheroes and the original MvC had their arcade editions packaged together for an ‘Origins’ digital re-release but the other early entries in the series – X-Men: Children of the Atom, X-Men Vs Street Fighter and Marvel Superheroes Vs Street Fighter – remain exclusive to the arcade, Playstation or Sega Saturn. Capcom began producing VS games again with MvC3, Ultimate MvC and the recent-ish Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite so the sensible time to whack the older games on PSN/XBLA seems to have been and passed. Add in the poor performance of Infinite and it would seem that the window of opportunity may have disappeared which is a shame. A compilation of all the older games would be an instant purchase as far as I am concerned.

#3 – Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder

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The debate over which Golden Axe game is the best is a popular one. Some say that the arcade original is the only answer to the question while others have a fierce, nostalgic sentiment towards its Mega Drive conversion. Golden Axe II floats the boat of others while almost nobody opts for Golden Axe III or the spin-off, Golden Axe: The Duel. And if you try to claim that Beast Rider on the PS3/360 is the best? Get out of here! The tragedy of this once great side-scrolling beat ’em up series is that its best installment remained exclusive to arcades. The Revenge of Death Adder is bigger, brighter and so much more expansive than any of its predecessors with new characters, fantastic effects and more depth than ever before yet it has never been re-issued on anything at all, not even receiving an obscure port in some form on a Japanese-only computer. It’s understandable that Sega would see little merit in watering everything down to cram Revenge onto the Mega Drive or even the 32X but a belated Sega Saturn conversion would have been perfect. A counter argument would be that interest in 2D gaming and beat ’em ups was waning by the time of the Saturn but you only have to look at how revered the likes of Guardian Heroes have become to see that Revenge would have fitted the Saturn like a particularly snug glove. Besides, how many other styles of games that were perceived to be of little consumer interest were nonetheless released for the Saturn and Playstation in the 90’s?

#4 – Snatcher & Policenauts

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It might seem odd now but Konami actually used to make a lot of great games. Even typing that feels wrong but unfortunately, they have lost their way with high-profile stories about poor treatment of employees and severe scaling back on active use of their wealth of enviable IP. Yes, Konami may be a Metal Gear Solid/Pro Evolution creature propped up by pachinko machines and the Yu-Gi-Oh!! card game but in the past, they put their name to such games as Snatcher, a distopian cyberpunk graphic adventure that remains frustratingly difficult to play by conventional means (emulation and bootleg fan translations notwithstanding). The only English-language version of the game was released on Sega’s Mega-CD (Sega-CD in the US) and now commands insane prices due to it’s desirability and notoriety for being a game very much worth playing on a system where the quality of the software library otherwise borders on being schizophrenic. At the time of making this post for example, copies are selling on ebay UK for between £250-£300 with ease. Higher condition copies with the spine card are pushing £500 while even loose discs have been snapped up for close to £100.

Spiritual follow-up, Policenauts, suffers an even harsher fate having never received an official translation of any kind. Both games were released for the Playstation and Saturn in Japan (along with various native home computers and – with regards to Policenauts – the 3DO) and language-patched translations are available for emulation or chipped consoles capable of playing back-ups but wouldn’t a proper, digital release be nice? Translate both games and I wouldn’t be able to hand my money over fast enough for the double pack.

#5 – Violent Storm

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I’m ending part one with another old-school Konami game: 1993’s Violent Storm, an arcade beat ’em up designed (like so many games of the period) to capitalise on the popularity of the likes of Final Fight and Streets of Rage. Thing is, Violent Storm is every bit as slick as Final Fight but manages to be a bit more light-hearted despite the main attraction still being smashing in the faces of thugs. The characters are big and bold while the crazy music and questionable enemy designs help Violent Storm stand out from its peers as an amazing beat ’em up in its own right. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t ever converted to a home system and – for some reason – it is quite obscure and unknown today outside of those in the know. Yes, I play it on MAME but I’d still happily pay for an official re-release.

Well, that’s part one done and dusted (with many more still to come no doubt). Please feel free to comment with your thoughts on my choices or for any suggestions for other games that are crying out for a modern-day re-release. We can but hope that some of these wishes may some day become a reality!

What happened to Tekken X Street Fighter?

It’s been a long time since Capcom released the divisive Street Fighter X Tekken, a landmark in terms of crossover fighting games that pitted two absolute giants against one another. It was perhaps the crossover that nobody expected would ever have happened yet it did and despite such a fantasy becoming a very real, er…reality, gamers still moaned about it. There was good reason to be disappointed too: the gem power-up system and “Pandora” ability were both superflous mechanics that could be ignored entirely and felt like weak attempts to add some form of additional depth. Worse still, the game shipped with a small DLC-related scandal whereby it was discovered that the code for fifteen or so additional characters was already locked away on the disc. Today, we are usually unfazed by a publisher planning DLC before a game has even been released but when SFxT hit the shelves, the issue was a hot one that rubbed a lot of fans up the wrong way.

All of this was before Tekken fans had to get to grips with their favourite characters now existing in a 2D game and with radically different movesets and inputs to match. The game felt fine if you were a Street Fighter IV player but somewhat alien if you were used to Namco’s series and were hopping into the crossover to follow your favourite characters.

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Ignore the criticism and give the game a chance…it’s pretty fun.

I personally really enjoyed Street Fighter X Tekken. The game played very well in my opinion which was no surprise given how similar to Street Fighter IV it felt. I enjoyed the spectacle of an amazing crossover that I had never believed possible and there were some fantastic remixes of classic tunes thrown in for good measure. Yes, the DLC strategy was a massive mis-step and to this day I haven’t bought the additional characters (though they come as standard on the Vita edition) but it was a lot of fun and very competent to boot. Go and play it, damn it!

Anyway, as much as I enjoyed Street Fighter X Tekken, I was FAR more excited for Namco’s promised version of the crossover, imaginatively titled Tekken X Street Fighter (wow…see what they did there?). How would Ryu and co. look in Tekken‘s highly detailed 3D world? More importantly, how on earth would projectiles, anti-air attacks and super moves translate to a 3D fighting game without unbalancing the world of Tekken? So many questions and unfortunately, so few answers as of 2017.  Let’s remember that the game was initially announced in 2010 and in that time, all we have had are a few promotional images and periodic promises that the game is “still happening” or is coming along in development.

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The original promotional image…such a tease!

Let us take a look at a rough timeline accounting for what we know so far…

  • Tekken X Street Fighter announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2010
  • March 2012 – poll released on Namco’s Tekken Facebook page, asking fans which characters they would like to see in the game. 55 Tekken characters and 66 Street Fighter faces are available to vote for with voters having a choice of 5 from each franchise. Harada later clarifies that the poll results will not define the final roster but will be used in conjuction with other research to determine what the character select screen will look like.
  • April 2012 – Tekken X Street Fighter confirmed to be around 10% complete.
  • 2014 San Diego Comic-Con  – Namco/Harada confirm that the game is still in development and the reason for a lack of information is due to parent company Bandai-Namco waiting for the ideal time to market the crossover so as not to conflict with the release of solo releases such as Tekken 7 and Street Fighter V.
  • 2015 – development of the game reported to have come far along. At the end of 2015, Street Fighter‘s Akuma is revealed as a guest character for Tekken 7.
  • April 2016 – Tekken X Street Fighter officially “on hold”. Polygon models and gameplay systems are reported to be complete but the game is on-hold so as not to split the communities behind both franchises.

So what IS happening? It’s been seven years since the game was first announced and it’s difficult to tell whether it will ever actually happen or if Namco are – for some reason – prolonging making a statement that officially announces the cancellation of the crossover. I find it odd that they haven’t simply binned the game by now rather than keeping it on hold while tiding fans over with scraps of information and promises that Tekken X Street Fighter is still happening.

Revealing Akuma as a guest character in Tekken 7 was what I believed to be a major moment. This was huge news, especially given how Namco went as far as to officially weave Akuma into the Tekken canon, writing him into the main Mishima storyline where he has apparently been involved from the very beginning. More interestingly, was Akuma a test to see how well Street Fighter characters would integrate into the Tekken universe? I certainly believed so and even considered the possibility of the standalone crossover game being canned in favour of releasing a stack of Street Fighter characters as a DLC expansion of sorts for Tekken 7. The idea seemed to make more financial sense than persevering with a full-on crossover release.

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Admit it: you didn’t see this coming. Nobody did.

But then, something else happened that blew my theory out of the water. Namco announced another guest star…a nonStreet Fighter guest fighter in the form of SNK’s Geese Howard. Suddenly, instead of this being a pure Namco/Capcom relationship, it looked like Namco were opening up the floor for guest characters in general. Akuma appearing in a Tekken game no longer looked like a ‘test’ of sorts but the first of a possible wave of outsiders entering the King of Iron Fist tournament. And so it has proven to be. At the time of me bashing this article out, Namco have just announced Noctis from Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy XV as the next guest fighter! This is a LOT more random and unexpected than Akuma or Geese so I can now honestly say that I have no idea what any of this means, if anything at all. This is now likely to be Namco simply raising the profile of its flagship fighter and drawing in new players as other publishers have done before. Let us not forget that Namco themselves have already made this move in the past with Soul Calibur II featuring Link/Spawn/Heihachi (depending on which console you owned the game for) and reportedly intending to host Final Fantasy VII‘s Cloud Strife in the PS2 version before various obstacles scuppered what would have been a real nerdgasm moment.

(on a side-note, I’m not sure what I think about Noctis after watching his reveal trailer. I’m all for guest characters but a sword in Tekken? Hmm…I’ll have a dedicated post for Tekken 7‘s guest character DLC soon perhaps)

So what do I think about all of this? Well, I would be very surprised if Tekken X Street Fighter actually happens at this point. With Namco and Capcom working so closely together these days, it SHOULD be easy but I’m always highly sceptical of any game seeing the light of day when it has dwelled in the dreaded “Development Hell” for so, so long. I’m no expert on videogame development but with the pace that both hardware and software evolves at these days, wouldn’t the completed assets be out of date before they can be utilised? The reveal of Geese and Noctis puts paid to my theory of a full-on Street Fighter invasion of Tekken 7 so…I don’t know. This has been one of my most eagerly anticipated games ever since the initial announcement but I am also keeping my hopes firmly under control because games in development for this long usually get canned or turn out to be disappointments (Duke Nukem Forever, I’m looking at YOU). Given the consistent high quality of the Tekken franchise on a technical and aesthetic level however, I refuse to believe that a finished product from Namco would be scrappy.

One thing is for sure though: it has been a great couple of console generations for fans of fighting games and the scene hasn’t been more alive since the 90’s. Yes there is a lot of crap out there and perhaps a lot less soul than the likes of 3rd Strike, Capcom Vs SNK and Soul Calibur II managed to possess but hey, at least there are fighting games for us to play. We can only hope that Tekken X Street Fighter turns up fashionably late to the party rather than shying out.