Following up on our piece back at the halfway point of the year, we’re now going to be looking at the best retro gaming releases from… you guessed it: the second half of the year!
2015 was a lot friendlier to retro gaming than I originally guessed, especially since I started the year thinking Microsoft and Sony had zero interest in providing any retro experiences on their modern day machines. However, Microsoft added backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One, and Sony somehow has people paying $15 for PlayStation 2 games for a potentially third time!
Retro gaming is still in fashion, and classics continue to find their way to the right channels. Let’s look at what is available.
SEGA 3D Classics
In 2015, the emulation gurus at M2 retooled another wave of arcade-perfect SEGA 3D Classics, and it has proven harder than ever to pick out a shining star of the bunch. Most will align with Gunstar Heroes as being its towering achievement, considering it’s a cult-classic favorite and many considered the game impossible to recreate in 3D with the insane amount of objects on screen at once.
After that, we need to give a shout to 3D Streets of Rage 2 and its groovy soundtrack from the legendary Yuzo Koshiro and 3D Outrun, a simple arcade racer that holds up oh-so well. M2 also made good on its promise to deliver the most solid portable port of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to date.
By the way, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is still the best Sonic game ever created.
I only hope that M2 continues its mission of making these wonderful ports, and there are still plenty of excellent SEGA classics to go… like Ristar, Shining Force, and Landstalker. Other than that, retro gaming was pretty quiet on Nintendo’s front.
Mega Man Legacy Collection
All six classic NES Mega Man games crammed into an affordable package on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Developer Digital Eclipse’s bundle is about as definitive of a release as these six games will ever get, and each is displayed at perfectly scaled 1080p. All the amenities of modern day gaming like challenge modes, trophies, and leaderboards make this the ultimate package for old-school fans.
What more could one ask for? Oh yeah… Mega Man 7, 8, 9, and 10 maybe? A Mega Man X Legacy Collection? Trust me, if there is a retro Mega Man game out there, the fanbase has definitely asked for it.
Speaking of which…
Mega Man Legends
2015 was finally the year we got this beloved gem on the PlayStation Network. After years of begging and lashing out from the fans, Capcom finally cleared its legal hurdles to re-release Mega Man Legends through digital channels, and it’s just as wonderful as you remember it.
In fact, it’s even better! Many of the gaming world’s current trends and advancements can be traced back to this mini-masterpiece: open-world exploration in a constant 3D environment, quests and missions, mini-games, weapon modification, and a central hub town to upgrade yourself in between all that sand-boxing.
Mega Man Legends unites all these mechanics perfectly with a wonderful story starring memorable characters and a brilliant anime art style. Not many appreciated this title at the time, but because it fits in so well with the gaming world here in 2015, it just goes to show how far ahead of the competition it really was.
Tomba! 2: The Evil Swine Return
Tomba! 2 is just a fan-favorite platformer that also managed to crawl its way onto PlayStation Network in 2015. The original Tomba! has been digitally available for years, but the publishers at MonkeyPaw struggled to secure the license for the sequel. However, it’s now up and running and worth checking out.
With this important release, fans no longer need to donate any organs to legally play the game. Amazon prices have been too steep to overcome, but this is the Light Side of digital distribution doing its job.
I’m still of the mind that the original is better, but the jump to “faux-3D” in Tomba! 2 was handled a lot better than most other franchises at the time. Plus, Tomba is just a timeless character who is charming regardless of the age he is released in.
Give this one a shot if you like PlayStation platformers.
Super Star Wars
It’s the entirety of Star Wars crammed into a single Super Nintendo game. The developers at LucasArts let nothing get by them for this one, using every single drop of classic Star Wars imagery to build and action level or enemy out of.
I mean, Luke even fights the chess pieces as a boss battle in this game!
This retro release on PlayStation Network is every bit as challenging as it was twenty years ago, and that might turn off many who have been spoiled by modern games. Those who stick with it though will find one of the most outlandish and fun interpretations of the series ever made.
Dark Cloud, Rogue Galaxy
PlayStation 2 emulation is finally available on the PlayStation 4, and Level-5 is the clear winner of the first batch of games. Two of its four PlayStation 2 hits have been made available digitally for the first time, and they both provide a look into why this company became a star overnight.
Dark Cloud is a dungeon crawler with plenty of modern day trends backing it up: random dungeon layout, town-construction, resource gathering. It’s held back a bit by the repetitive combat, but those who want an old-school adventure could do a lot worse.
On the other hand, Rogue Galaxy is an awkward game in that it is so close to being a true classic… but not quite. It falls on its face just as often as it thrills and excites. You like Star Wars? Well, this is Level-5’s version with a bright and overly decorated anime aesthetic to it.
The rest of the PlayStation 2 Classics on PS4 are decent, but these two are both the cream of the crop and the most worthy of your time.
No, I don’t own an Xbox One to play it, but this release seems too important to not mention. Rare fans have wanted a compilation of the studios classic titles, good and bad alike, for many years now, and this is about as definitive as it can get. Donkey Kong Country, GoldenEye, and my beloved Wizards and Warriors aside, this is the best place to settle in and play all that has made the studio special over the last thirty years.
It even has Blast Corps and Jet Force Gemini!
This will be a day-1 purchase if I ever get around to snagging up an Xbox One. I’ve always been on the outside looking in at Rare, and what better way to get acquainted?
System Shock Enhanced
Night Dive Studios has done a lot to preserve older and more obscure video games, but it always gives extra special treatment to the ones that deserve it. That’s where System Shock Enchanced comes into play!
System Shock has been on the wishlist of many gamers ever since it was found out that these games inspired Irrational Games’ modern-day masterpiece, BioShock. The only problem was that nobody knew who held the rights anymore or where you could find a legitimate copy. For years, we turned to abandonware sites to get a company that needed special emulation to run on modern day operating systems.
However, all that is a thing of the past.
Thanks to this treatment, Night Dive Studios not only delivers the original game, but also a much more friendly version that can work on modern PCs without any hurdles. And it’s a creepy creepy game. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Grandia II Anniversary Edition
GungHo Entertainment certainly made a lot of fans with this clever release. For years, the company was mostly known for its free-to-play games on the mobile platforms, but after acquiring several old school Japanese studios, its console line-up immediately bulked up as well.
Classic JRPG developer Game Arts was one of these studios, and to prove to anxious fans that it wasn’t just hording IP to itself, GungHo sent out a survey asking which classic titles they wanted on Steam.
A few months later, it delivered a very well received Steam port of this Dreamcast cult-classic. I’m not too big a fan of the game itself, but I can’t let such a high-road gesture go unmentioned. Rumor is also out that GungHo has the original Grandia and Lunar games primed for a Steam release as well.
The studio became the best friend of classic JRPG enthusiasts overnight, and now the world is hoping it can keep the momentum going. Maybe they can tap into Acquire’s old games too and deliver the original Way of the Samurai titles.