Brandon Sheffield (@necrosofty) is a senior contributing editor at Gamasutra.
When Gamasutra editor-in-chief Kris Graft asked me to do a top XX list for 2017, I know what he expected. He expected me to fill a few paragraphs with a bunch of old games and call it a day, like I always do.
But SURPRISE everyone, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. Yes, I’ll be talking about my top 5 new games of 2017! That were released for old/retired game consoles!!!
And it turns out 2017 was a pretty good year for old game systems. I’m glad it was good for something! Ha...ha.
Anyway, I’m being a bit loose with these but by and large I’m defining a “new release for an old console” to mean:
a) the game is newly created (some immediate fudging here)
b) the game is released physically in some form
c) the console it’s on is no longer in production (some fudging here as well)
So let’s check out a few of these curiosities, in no particular order, shall we?
Escape 2042 was created by French developer Orionsoft, and is massively cross-generationally multi-platform. This is a feat rarely achieved by any game – it was released for Sega Genesis, Dreamcast, and of course, Game Boy.
Escape 2042 is an action platformer that performs admirably across all three platforms, and has a physical release on each. You can even put your Dreamcast disc into your Sega CD drive while playing the Genesis version to get an enhanced soundtrack! Wacky stuff! Of course, you do have to look past the absolutely abhorrent political theme of the game if you want to enjoy it (a naive stab at "socialism gone wild"), but it's certainly a technological feat.
Orion also released a “16-bit-style RPG” called Zia for both Dreamcast and PS1, so it’s never a dull moment over there. Escape 2042 is a paid game, and comes complete with case and manual.
Check out a trailer for the Genesis/Dreamcast versions:
But I know what you really came to see – the Game Boy port. And here it is.
The PC Engine (Japanese Turbografx) has a pretty decent homebrew scene, and for its 30th anniversary a number of games and other programs were released. One particularly notable curiosity was Binary Star, a music player that lets you play MSX song strings with the PC Engine’s soundchip.
That’s certainly a neat curiosity, but not really a game, so the one I’ll be focusing on is Aetherbyte’s Nantetatte Engine, named after the classic J-pop song “Nanttetatte Idol.” The game also features a cover of the song for its in-game music.
Nantetatte Engine is an Asteroids-like in which you destroy rival consoles – from Feka and Pretendo naturally – with your trusty PC Engine shuttle. This game received a physical release of one – I heard the creator made one for himself. It counts!
The Aetherbyte developer himself describes the game this way: “It's a goofy, free little high score game in the same style as Astrosmash, and those early 90s bitwar/PC war games where you're shooting whichever machine you aren't fanboying over.
I remember playing one on Windows in the early 90s that was a Space Invaders clone that had you shooting Macintosh computers with X_X faces on them. It always made me laugh, so I'm happy we could finally do the same thing here. I hope this reminds everyone of simpler times.”
Okay, this one’s probably the biggest fudge of them all, but hey, I like it! The Schubibinman/Shockman series had a long life on the PC Engine, with three releases, the second of which came to the Turbografx as Shockman, and currently goes for about a million dollars on eBay.
One game, known as BS Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman Zero, was finished for the Super Famicom (SNES) way back in 1994, but was actually released on the download-onlySatellaview service in 1997. By 1998, the game was gone, piracy aside.
But now, 20 years after its release, Columbus Circle has released an official licensed SFC cartridge of the game, complete with a 2017 copyright on the title screen. So it’s not exactly a “new” game, but I’m giving it bonus points for being an officially licensed (by the publisher anyway, if not Nintendo) SFC game in 2017.
This one isn’t 100 percent new either, but gets a pass for being the first fully 3D game released for the Dreamcast since the final trickle of official releases back in the early 2000s.
4X4 Jam was originally released for PC, PSP, and iOS/Android, but was brought to the Dreamcast in 2017 by French publisher Joshprod, with Dreamcast-mapped controls, new menus, VMU support, and other DC-specific things.
Joshprod’s Philippe Nguyen describes the porting process: “A professional programmer (he's been programming on Dreamcast since 2000 on an official devkit) made the port with the original PSP source code, and it's taken a few weeks to port it. We tried to include additional options and improvements over the PSP version.”
Yes, well, we were going to get to this one eventually, weren’t we? Star Fox 2 was finished in 1996, but finally saw release in 2017 on Nintendo’s SNES Classic Edition.
Star Fox 2 developer Dylan Cuthbert confirmed to me that the game was indeed completely finished and localized at the time of its cancellation in 1996, and that the ROM that had been floating around for years was incomplete. So even though it was finished 21 years ago, this truly was the first actual release of the finished game. Pretty amazing!
I was especially curious to see how Nintendo would promote an unreleased game on their new system. It was a bit odd. There’s a starburst in the top right of the package notifying you the game is in there – but above it it says “never released” - not “never before released” (though it says that in Spanish), “never released.” According to Nintendo, is the game still “unreleased?”
Regardless of how it’s presented, it’s fantastic that the game is finally out and available for people to play, and it’s just a fantastic-looking game, regardless of what anyone else might tell you. I mean I don’t want to hate on IGN, but they’ve forced my hand with sentences like this: “Star Fox 2’s primitive 3D is so jarringly bad that Nintendo actually canceled it in 1995 before it came out because it didn’t look good alongside the groundbreaking 3D of the Nintendo 64.”
Numerous errors aside (it was canceled in 1996 because the chip was too expensive to manufacture), your average indie dev would cut off their right arm to make something with this pure and excellent an aesthetic. To everyone who thinks this game looks bad: try going to a museum once.
These games didn’t quite make the cut, but I felt like mentioning them anyway.
In honorable mention simply because it’s not out. Big hopes for this beefy-looking Genesis brawler.
Data East/Jaleco multicarts (SNES)
New SNES cart collections from Retro Bit, released worldwide.
Rush Rush Rally Reloaded (Dreamcast)
An updated of Senile Team’s Rush Rush Rally for Dreamcast.
Alice Dreams Tournament (Dreamcast)
A Dreamcast action party game, with large debts to Bomberman. Notable for its VMU game.
Unholy Night (SNES)
Brand new fighting game for SNES/SFC from former SNK developers. Why is it in honorable mention? Because it’s really not very good.
Street Fighter II (SNES)
This would’ve been great if they’d done *anything* to change the game in some way, but they didn’t, so it doesn’t get to be in the cool club.
Henshin Engine (PC Engine)
A brand new PC Engine game, funded by Kickstarter. Not yet released.
Turma da Mônica na Terra dos Monstros (Genesis)
This is the second 100 percent official release on this list after Star Fox 2. This 2017 Brazilian re-release of the 1994 original is sanctioned by both Sega and publisher Tec-Toy. (The game is a Wonder Boy-paintover featuring famous Brazilian cartoon characters.)
Generals of the Yang Family (Genesis)
New English-language release of this nice-looking beat-em-up.
Iron Commando (Genesis)
Another release that’s new to the English language.