This Month In Retro

Nepiki By Nepiki.

Hello all and welcome to This Month in Retro! As hinted at last month, we’re checking out February 1996 this time. Why? Well, it’s the month and year I was born in! And there goes my biggest kept secret… probably. And what a special month it is! Not just because of my birthday mind you, but also because this month is where the birth of one of, if not the biggest media franchises ever happened: Pokémon! …Which is unfortunately something I won’t be talking about today, as the west would not see the yellow mouse until two years later, and talking about Pokémon Green is kind of redundant, let’s be honest. There wasn’t really much else to this month though in terms of industry happenings, but I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that the birth of Pokémon alone already makes it one of the more impactful months in the history of video games.

Despite that, the month in the west was… pretty lackluster. I’ll still try to talk about a few games, but don’t get your hopes up as it was a pretty lame month. The Japanese side did have more games this month, but there are not many with translation available so this month’s article will be shorter than we are used to. Anyway, you know the drill: the western side will take a look at games released this month for the first time, even if they were released in Japan earlier, complete with sales figures and critic scores if available. The eastern side won’t go into detail as much due to the data not being readily available, but I’ll try to cover them as much as I can. So without further ado, let’s see what February 1996 had to offer!

Western Releases

You know a month is lacking in games when the first game I start with is a Virtual Boy game of all games. Yep, we are really diving into that territory today. So let’s get this over with right away!

Nester’s Funky Bowling (Virtual Boy)
Release dates NA: February 26, 1996
Sales ???
Average score N/A

Anyone remembers Nester? He was a mascot character in Nintendo Power’s magazine, which means that I automatically don’t care about this character since I’m not American which was the only region where this magazine was published. And I don’t think many other people did either since the only game they would grace him with is a Virtual Boy game of all things. What a terrible fate for the poor little kiddo and his sister, who just wanted to do a bit of bowling. And that’s exactly what this game was (unsurprisingly, I know), as there are a total of three modes to choose from that all have the standard bowling rules and mechanics, being Bowling, Practice, and Challenge–the last one being the only original one of the three, where the player has to throw down every pin in a variety of patterns. Despite no sales and score data being available, it sold pretty poorly (unsurprisingly) and also didn’t really do too well with critics (also unsurprisingly), cited as generic and just better to play elsewhere where you didn’t have to deal with the Virtual Boy. The only critics that were decently positive were, unsurprisingly, Nintendo Power themselves, though whether that was out of bias or not is debatable. Actually no it’s not, that’s not debatable at all, we all know they were. Regardless, to give credit where it is due, it’s not a terrible game; in fact, it’s one of the better Virtual Boy games out there! Not that that’s a tough position to achieve but hey, that’s better than nothing!

The game does have an achievement set, which involves getting a lot of strikes in a variety of situations, like doing it three times in a row or with a specific ball. Hopefully unlike real life where I always let one pin standing due to being cursed, it’s more doable in video games. It surely is looking to be a tough set though, as the only thing standing between many people and a mastery are the perfect games. Can you become the bowling champion?

Was I mean towards Nester? Nooo, I have no idea what you are talking about. But of the western side, it was only one of two games that had an achievement set so I couldn’t really ignore it. Fortunately from here on out, it will only get better!

Alien Trilogy (PlayStation)
Release dates NA: February 26, 1996
PAL: March ??, 1996
Sales 470.000
Average score 80% (MobyGames, based on 9 reviews)

The Alien Trilogy is a single game based on a trilogy of the first Alien films. Figured I would get that confusion out of the way first in case you thought this game itself was a trilogy. The story as a result is loosely derived of those films in one continuous storyline, as well as many enemies and weapons taken from said films in a first-person shooting environment. And publisher Acclaim did their absolute best to hype up this release, as it would be the first game of theirs to feature their new 3D motion capture technology, which was used for the alien movements. And that hype certainly worked out, as critics were very positive on the game. The films’ atmosphere were very well adapted into this game, and it went a bit more in-depth than most other shooters seen at the time, with special mentions going towards the mission objectives. It was a bestseller in the UK and nominated for multiple rewards such as “Best shooter of 1996”, so it certainly worked out for them. Retrospectively, gamers don’t look at it as fondly as it was received at the time, but it is still considered a solid shooter for the system and certainly one that Alien fans will enjoy.

Most of the achievement set is focused on the 22 levels, as players will not only have to beat them for one achievement, but also with all kills, secrets and objectives, as well as on the highest difficulty possible. There’s also some other objectives to aim for, such as having a specific amount of kills with every weapon. A solid set that will reward you for playing on higher difficulties!

And that brings us to the final western-released game this month. Yeah, when I said this month was lacking, I really meant it. There were more titles released this month, but they all had earlier releases on other consoles and were very much multi-platform games, which leaves us with just these three games. So without further ado, the final western game for today is:

Assault Rigs (PlayStation)
Release dates NA: February 1, 1996
PAL: February ??, 1996
JP: October 4, 1996
Sales 40.000
Average score 79% (MobyGames, based on 4 reviews)

Assault Rigs is a vehicular tank combat game developed by Psygnosis, famous for titles such as Wipeout and Lemmings. People of the future have finally accepted that sport is boring and time better spent on getting achievements, and instead resorted to virtual sports. Assault Rigs is the most popular of these virtual sports, where players control a tank through 42 levels, attempting to get all the gems before reaching the exit while shooting down enemies in the process. It has some light puzzle-solving as well while doing these levels, and a bunch of upgrades for the tank to deal with these enemies. The game was well-received overall, with critics praising increasing complexity when it comes to the levels, but that the controls weren’t always to their liking. Which, looking at the gameplay, does sound like a reasonable criticism given that tanks aren’t exactly the most versatile vehicles out there. It certainly is a very unknown game however, not only indicated by the somewhat low sales numbers, but also that nobody on the internet really talks about it. But hey, without having prior knowledge of the memory, this does look like a perfect game to make an achievement set for, both for beginning PlayStation 1 set developers and for veterans!

Japanese-exclusive Releases

Fortunately, the Japanese side of today’s article has many more games up their sleeve… but unfortunately only few with translations, forcing me to neglect titles such as Bakumatsu Kourinden Oni. Of course, as mentioned in the introduction, it’s not really a surprise that Pocket Monster Red/Green were the most successful games this month. They literally kickstarted one of the biggest media franchises ever, and there was no other game that did such a feat this month as good as they may be. Still, that did not stop them from releasing some high quality titles, including one of the most popular fan-translated RPGs on the Super Famicom!

Bahamut Lagoon (SNES)
Release date JP: February 9, 1996

Bahamut Lagoon was another of Squaresoft’s RPGs that to this day has never made it to the west, which is a shame since it is yet again another excellent RPG for the system. It has a more tactical approach to the genre, featuring a grid-based turn-based combat system where players raise dragons that fight alongside them. These dragons can also evolve into different types and are controlled with simple commands, making it a very funny coincidence this game released in the same month as Pokémon did. It also had the original “Final Fantasy Tactics” working title, but that was eventually dropped during development with the game having no other links to the franchise. Aside from a kingdom being invaded by the evil empire; that’s a Final Fantasy classic! Although this game has still not seen a western release, it had a translation patch as early as 2002, with an improved one released in 2021 that is also the basis for the RetroAchievements set. And even with it being slightly tougher to access for more casual SNES fans, it is still a title met with much praise over here in the west, and if Square-Enix is planning to remaster more Super Famicom RPGs in the future, Bahamut Lagoon is certainly one of the biggest candidates.

And such a well-received game deserves an awesome set, and developer Alena certainly lived up to all the expectations with a massive set of 150 achievements! Due to me not having played the set yet and also not wanting to spoil myself, I can’t really say much about the achievements themselves, but they are all nicely put in story order, with the developer having a post on the game’s forum with all the missables so be sure to check that out!

And as was standard with Squaresoft during the 90s, they didn’t really have any issue pumping out many quality games quickly after another–even in the same month if they had to. This is shown yet again with a franchise that is recently getting a bit more love in the west from Square-Enix themselves, Front Mission. But this title may not be the tactical RPG you are expecting!

Front Mission: Gun Hazard (SNES)
Release date JP: February 23, 1996

While the franchise is often known for their top-down turn-based strategy gameplay, Front Mission: Gun Hazard instead opts for a side-scrolling shooter with RPG elements. It’s not too surprising either as many of the key development staff of this game have worked on titles with a similar fashion, such as Cybernator which the game is heavily inspired by. Although it is the second game in the franchise, it is a spin-off title that takes place in a completely separate universe from the numbered games. In this game, mech pilot Albert Grabner is rescued from prison after attempting to help the president of Norway flee the country after a coup d’état by fellow Bergen Army member Ark Hellbrand, which is the most epic name ever and I would probably give that name to my kid if I alone had that decision. Anyhow, I’m getting off-track. Albert takes to his mech in a side-scrolling action platformer setting, with the RPG elements involving upgrading the mech and recruiting people to his cause. My description undoubtedly does not do it justice, as this is yet again a much beloved game that unfortunately never left the country of the rising sun. But hey, with the first three numbered Front Mission games getting remakes for the Nintendo Switch, it certainly is not an impossibility that day may come in the near future. In the meantime, Aeon Genesis has provided us with a very solid translation patch that is used as the basis for the RetroAchievements set.

We have a lot of coincidences today with this set yet again being developed by Alena, with a total of 112 this time. As with the last game, I can’t really say much about the achievements without the desire to spoil myself, but it’s also yet again neatly sorted in story order, with user 1337haXXor having a small guide on the forums for those who want to approach it. And if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, a subset is also available to those who dare!

Let’s stick to the Super Famicom for one more game, as none of the remaining ones have a translation or a set. I am going to break my rule here for a bit as this game did release on other platforms in Japan first, but I have to come up with something after all. Which means it’s time for a genre I… don’t think I’ve talked about before yet on this show?

Tokimeki Memorial: Densetsu no Ki no Shita de (SNES)
Release date JP: February 9, 1996

Dating simulators! That’s… something I don’t really have any experience with whatsoever aside from that one viral game that shall not be named. The original game was developed for the TurboGrafx-16, after which it was ported to the Super Famicom as the first of many, making it all the way to disc-based systems of the next generation, the Game Boy Color, and the PlayStation Portable. And hey, it shows how little knowledge I have of the genre, as this first title in a surprisingly massive franchise is often seen as one of the biggest influences to the dating sim genre that doesn’t go for sexual content. Instead, it’s a cute high-school story where the player controls a male freshman where he has to balance dating a lot of girls at the same time, because once they aren’t given enough attention, they’ll start getting angry and gossip bad rumours about you to their friends that make future dating a bit tougher. Consider me even more shocked to learn that the writer is Koji Igarashi of all people. You know, just one of the major faces behind the Castlevania franchise, with this being the title that gave him permission to start working on the Castlevania team due to the success of the game. Spread across multiple consoles, it already sold 1.1 million copies by 1996 alone, not to mention all future sales that happened. And to this day, it is still greatly appreciated for what it has done for the genre, receiving a fan translation only just last year that is used as the basis for this achievement set.

It doesn’t matter if you have a favourite girl, because you’ll be dating them all in this game if you want that mastery. Make girls fall in love with you and take them out on special events during each season, while also making sure you are still doing good at school at the same time. There is also a subset available, making this game pretty massive for the achievements juice!

And… yeah, that’s everything… again. I feel really bad for having such a short article but there simply isn’t more for me to talk about. At the very least, I wanted to list a few games that, despite not having a translation, may at the very least be mostly playable in Japanese without knowledge of the language.

  • Hyper Crazy Climber - Based on that Arcade title Crazy Climber, this PlayStation 1 title is a faithful recreation of the climbing game where you scale mountains and skyscrapers while avoiding stuff thrown downwards. Given it’s simplicity as an Arcade title, this game should be relatively easy to understand without knowledge of the language.
  • Vehicle Cavalier - While this one does have more Japanese text, it’s a 3D Mech Arena game that is simple to understand: beat enemies, get money, upgrade your mech, rinse and repeat. All four face buttons are different equipped weapons, so it may take a bit of trial and error but it’s certainly a playable game.


I was quite shocked that we ended up with such a lackluster month when it also has the birth of Pokémon. This was completely unplanned by the way as I thought to do my birth month and year as a funny celebration, but wow there just wasn’t anything to talk about beyond the games mentioned. Still, a low amount of game does not necessarily mean a bad month, as both Alien Trilogy for the western side and pretty much every Japanese entry showed that quality is still more important than quantity. While it looks like the western side has a clear winner and loser this month, the Japanese-side doesn’t really. Bahamut Lagoon is one of the most beloved RPGs to not leave the country, with Front Mission: Gun Hazard sharing a similar fate. And despite my inferior knowledge, it cannot be understated that Tokimeki Memorial did a lot for the dating sim genre. So yeah, Japan definitely had the long end of the stick!

We’ve been in the 90s for a few months now, so I think it’s only right that we go see what the 2000s has to offer. After all, with the PlayStation 2 having support now, there are a bunch of great games to talk about. So why don’t we jump ahead all the way to 2004? See you next time and stay achieving!


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