Friday, February 7, 2014

Top 10 classic games that have never been re-released on modern platforms

If you want to read a centuries-old classic novel, you can find a recent edition of Beowulf or Canterbury Tales on Amazon. If you want to watch a classic movie from the '20s or '30s, you can easily get them on DVD or even Blu-ray. Why is it, then, that so many classic videogames have still never been re-released on modern platforms?

If you want to play the seminal adventure game Shenmue, for example, you'll have to track down a used copy and an old Sega Dreamcast on eBay. In our tech-savvy modern world, why isn't there an easier way for newcomers to play Shenmue? Many classic games risk becoming lost to the annals of time except among hardcore collectors. To the general public, Shenmue may as well not exist in 2014.

Here's my personal list of ten iconic games that have never been released on a modern platform. What's yours?

Star Fox

Release details: Developed & published by Nintendo, 1993

Available platform: Super Nintendo

Why it's relevant: The first Nintendo game ever to use 3D polygon graphics.

Why hasn't it been re-released? Now that EarthBound is finally available on the Wii U Virtual Console, Star Fox is perhaps the highest-profile Nintendo game never to be re-released. It's not quite as famous as Star Fox 64, but it's still a landmark in the company's history. Apparently the lack of a Virtual Console presence has something to do with the Super FX coprocessor chip used in Star Fox that would be difficult to emulate on modern hardware.

NHL '94

Release details: Developed & published by Electronic Arts, 1993

Available platforms: Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Sega CD, DOS

Why it's relevant: Arguably the best sports video game ever made

Why hasn't it been re-released? This is likely a licensing issue. Sports video games get the rights to use athletes' names by striking a deal with the Players' Association, but since virtually every player who appeared in NHL '94 is now retired, EA would probably have to go out and ask each player individually for the rights to their name if they wanted to re-release the game.

NHL '94 was included in the PlayStation 2 version of NHL 06, but without the player names. The names are important to NHL '94's legacy, but if namelessness is the only way to get the game re-released in 2014, I'll take it.

Pokémon Red Version & Blue Version

Release details: Developed & published by Nintendo, 1996 (Japan) / 1998 (worldwide)

Available platform: Nintendo Game Boy

Why it's relevant: It's the first Pokémon game. It started a revolution. Duh.

Why hasn't it been re-released? There were a couple remakes in 2004 on the Game Boy Advance, FireRed and LeafGreen, but it's not the same as playing the original game. I have no idea why Nintendo has been holding Pokémon back (any version, not just the originals!) from the 3DS Virtual Console.

Mega Man Legends

Release details: Developed & published by Capcom, 1997 (Japan) / 1998 (worldwide)

Available platforms: Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Windows

Why it's relevant: The first major change to the Mega Man formula, a cult favorite lingering in obscurity while the mainline Mega Man and Mega Man X series continue to get sequels.

Why hasn't it been re-released? It was re-released on the original PSP in 2005... but only in Japan. Capcom can't re-release Mega Man Legends because somehow they don't have the rights to the voiceover work. The only way they could re-release the game is if they re-recorded all the dialogue in the game, which doesn't look to be happening any time soon.

Panzer Dragoon Saga

Release details: Developed & published by Sega, 1998

Available platform: Sega Saturn

Why it's relevant: Unquestionably the best game on the Saturn. One of the only relevant games on the system.

Why hasn't it been re-released? If you want to play Panzer Dragoon Saga in 2014, you'll have to track down a used Saturn copy which goes for almost $400 on eBay. The best game on the Saturn is also one of the rarest. Why Sega couldn't release it as a digital download on a modern platform is beyond me. The Saturn's architecture is apparently hard to emulate, but come on, it's 2014! We live in the Future! Why can't we figure this out?

Grim Fandango

Release details: Developed & published by LucasArts, 1998

Available platform: Windows

Why it's relevant: The pinnacle of Tim Schafer's career, and the swan song of LucasArts graphic adventure games

Why hasn't it been re-released? LucasArts stopped making non-Star Wars games a long time ago, and now they don't even exist anymore. They released updated versions of a few of their games like The Secret of Monkey Island back in 2009, but who knows what'll happen now that Disney owns the rights to Grim Fandango?

Hopefully they'll realize what a treasure trove of classic '90s adventure games they've got, and eventually release them for modern operating systems. It's sad that Steam and GOG don't have Grim Fandango in any form.


Release details: Developed & published by Sega, 1999 (Japan) / 2000 (worldwide)

Available platform: Sega Dreamcast

Why it's relevant: The grandfather of open-world 3D adventure games

Why hasn't it been re-released? If Sega hadn't stopped making consoles after the Dreamcast, we'd probably see it released somewhere today. Its sequel, Shenmue II, was released on both the Dreamcast and the original Xbox, but the original never left the Sega console. This could be released as a digital download for any of the three current home consoles.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

Release details: Developed by Silicon Knights, published by Nintendo, 2002

Available platform: Nintendo GameCube

Why it's relevant: One of the few Mature-rated games ever published by Nintendo. A psychological horror game that redefined the genre with fourth-wall-shattering scares.

Why hasn't it been re-released? I always assumed the chances of this one getting a re-release were slim, since developer Silicon Knights fell apart, and founder Denis Dyack is a polarizing figure to say the least. But apparently the game's creators and Nintendo still get along with each other well enough that a Virtual Console release of Eternal Darkness is a very real possibility... if Nintendo ever gets around to releasing GameCube games on the Virtual Console.

Metroid Fusion

Release details: Developed & published by Nintendo, 2002

Available platform: Game Boy Advance

Why it's relevant: Do you ever get the impression I enjoy Metroid? Because I do.

Why hasn't it been re-released? This was re-released, in a way. It was released as a downloadable title on the 3DS Virtual Console in 2011, but only for "3DS Ambassadors," meaning people who bought a 3DS before a certain date. So for all of us trying to buy Metroid Fusion (or any Game Boy Advance game) on the Virtual Console today, we're out of luck. Obviously Nintendo has the capability to do it, since they did it before. So why aren't they opening the Game Boy Advance gates to the rest of us?


Release details: Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, published by Capcom, 2005

Available platforms: GameCube, PlayStation 2

Why it's relevant: I've made no secret of my love for Killer7. It's the seminal work of auteur Goichi Suda.

Why hasn't it been re-released? This one is complicated by the fact that the developer and publisher haven't worked with each other since the release of the game nine years ago. But can't they put aside their differences in the name of Killer7? This cult classic, with its stylized cel-shaded look, is just begging for an HD remaster on the Wii U or PlayStation 4. It would be gorgeous.

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