This Month In Retro
Hello all and welcome to This Month in Retro! The year is 1992 and we are faced with April, a… surprisingly uneventful month when it comes to company happenings. Usually I start an article like this with the start-ups, mergers, and defuncts, but nope, nothing like that happened during April. Which would make for a pretty short introduction… but there was at least something that happened. This month, our favourite pink puffball was born! Or at least, in Japan. Kirby’s Dream Land released this month and was the first in a beloved ongoing franchise that still very occasionally sees multiple games per year. Although we won’t be covering this game today due to the western release being later in the same year, it goes without saying that Kirby is a very important franchise to Nintendo that is often in the spotlight, and for good reason as it is a high-quality franchise that consistently pumps out hit after hit. It’s a franchise I too love a lot, marking this as an important month to me.
And Kirby wasn’t the only important game that released this month–although to find out what I mean by that, feel free to continue on reading. This month has seen a plethora of games, so as usual, I will be covering the games that released for the first time in the West, as well as games released that have never left Japan to this day. If applicable, I’ll also cover the reviews and sales numbers, but do keep in mind early 90s documentation can be relatively poor and not too accurate. Also uh, MobyGames changed their website and it’s too much of a hindrance to make an average of reviews only made around the time so I just grab the average instead. Initially I didn’t want to include reviews from at least 10 years and later, but it is what it is. Regardless, the most important aspect is covering the games themselves and their achievement sets, so let’s get on with it!
So remember reading that introduction 1 minute and 32 seconds ago? Where I mentioned that there was another important game release? Yeah, that’s coming up right now. In total I have three favourite games of all time that usually take first place depending on my mood. What the other two of them are, wait and see I suppose as they are all very much possible to appear on This Month in Retro. Regardless, one of them we’ll be talking about today, and that honour goes to none other than…
|Legend of Zelda, The: A Link to the Past (SNES)|
|Release dates||JP: November 21, 1991
NA: April 13, 1992
PAL: September 24, 1992
|Average score||92% (GameRankings, 15 reviews)
94% (MobyGames, 43 reviews)
My first ever The Legend of Zelda game, and one that remains the undefeated champion that I don’t ever see being surpassed. I absolutely adore this game–so much so that, including the awesome LTTP Randomizer, my total playthroughs are far closer to the triple digits than to the single. That’s because it simply lends itself to a lot of freedom with a vast open world to explore that keeps delivering new secrets every time items from dungeons have been obtained. While the route to the end goal is fairly straightforward, there is so much to do that makes it feel like no playthrough is ever the same. And even then, most of the latter dungeons don’t even have to be done in the order the game wants you to–although it will certainly make your life easier. My love for this game knows no limits, and I am clearly not alone. Not only does this game often contest its own entire franchise as the best game of it, but also for being one of the best SNES games… or even games in general. And don’t just take my word for it either; critics- and players alike have an almost universal acclaim for this game, with practically no scores lower than a 7 to be found… anywhere. It simply is that good.
The achievement set doesn’t really need an introduction as it is one of the most mastered games on the website. It’s simple yet effective, and yours truly here has made an Achievement Guide if necessary. Talks about a subset have been going around and a revision is wanted by many players to include even more, but that’s something future Nepiki will tell you about. In the meantime, there are also a bunch of hacks based on the game that you can try out, and although it has no RetroAchievements implementation, I highly highly HIGHLY recommend giving the LTTP Randomizer a go. It has been one of my most favoured fanmade experiences ever, and it truly would be a dream for me to ever see this on RetroAchievements in one way or another.
And The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past wasn’t the only NES franchise to make the jump to the SNES with a critically acclaimed debut. Next up, we have a popular Run and Gun video game series that may have torn some hairs out back in the day!
|Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)|
|Release dates||JP: February 28, 1992
NA: April 6, 1992
PAL: November 19, 1992
|Sales||??? (130.000 in Japan)|
|Average score||86% (GameRankings, 10 reviews)
87% (MobyGames, 24 reviews)
Contra III: The Alien Wars, known as Super Probotector: Alien Rebels in PAL regions, is the third home console entry in the Contra franchise. The aliens defeated in the previous entries were tired of it and decided to launch an all-out war against earth, with two bad dudes being the only defense Earth needs. And if you’ve seen a particular boss battle from this game where the heroes jump between missiles high in the air while shooting the enemy and avoiding incoming hazards, yeah, I think Earth will be safe. That is, if you are able to get past this boss given how tough the Contra games usually are. Featuring a total of six stages with a boss at the end, what may sound like a short journey could become the complete opposite depending on your skill. The game mostly features side-scrolling run and gun gameplay, but does sometimes alternate it with a top-down perspective that takes advantage of Mode 7. This clever us also saw a lot of praise from critics, as well as the gameplay overall with a good challenge provided. Nowadays it is still seen as one of the best Contra games, as well as ranking on the higher end of many SNES lists. Players overall agree, with a few negative opinions here and there that mostly apply to the GBA re-release named Contra Advance: The Alien Wars. No surprise then that whenever this game got ported, which in recent years has been pretty frequently, the SNES version is used. That’s also the only really good thing to come out of Contra anymore because, y’know, Konami.
While the GBA port also has a set, I’ll only cover the SNES version today given that’s what we were talking about. And the set developer has made sure that, despite there being only six stages, that the set would still be loaded with challenges. Complete every stage on any difficulty, without taking hit, and do the same but on hard difficulty. If you love dopamine, try to do all four at once for those sweet unlocks! But your skill is going to be a requirement, as the hardest achievement of them all wants you to beat the game without getting hit even once. Good luck with that!
Let us do one more SNES game and then move on to other consoles. This month was absolutely packed with outstanding games, so narrowing it down to only a few games was really tough to do. And the best part is that fans of almost every genre got their money’s worth this month. Case in point, racing game fans!
|Top Gear (SNES)|
|Release dates||JP: March 27, 1992
NA: April 16, 1992
PAL: November 19, 1992
|Average score||78% (GameRankings, 2 reviews)
82% (MobyGames, 7 reviews)
Not to be confused with the TV series by the same name, Top Gear is the first game in the franchise by the same name, and also one of the earlier Racing games for the SNES. This series is preceded by another franchise by the same developers called Lotus, which made its name on the Amiga and Mega Drive. Similarities between the two are very apparent, with most of the music tracks being remixed from these games as well. In Top Gear, your goal is to become the fastest driver across several nations, with the ability to choose between an automatic or manual transmission over four unique cars. To add some realism™ into the mix, players must also refill their fuel at pits because if they run out, the race is over. Critics- and players alike received this game very positively, with it having high speed while keeping great performance. The only annoyance some players had was that the split-screen will always be on even when alone, similar to what we’ve seen with Super Mario Kart, though the developers’ excuse was to give the sense of competition with the other racer displayed always being just a bit faster than you are. Although most people know the franchise for the first few SNES games, it did make it all the way to the GBA and PlayStation 2. The series has not received new games since then, but it, alongside other racing games at the time such as OutRun, have been incredibly important to racing games as a whole, with awesome indie titles such as Horizon: Chase Turbo taking the helm.
As expected, in a game where you are meant to become the best driver, the achievement set also wants you to end up in first place. Consider my shock. There are a surprisingly good amount of race tracks though, so this goal is still a good one to work towards. Furthermore, there are challenges for the highest difficulty, as well as some tackling the game’s unique mechanics, like winning a race while out of fuel. And of course, there are leaderboards accompanying this set as well, so don’t just try to become the best driver in-game, but also the best driver in general!
Given that we are doing really well with the variety in genres today, let’s make the final western release I’m talking about a strategy RPG. This time not on the SNES, so rejoice Sega fans, I have thought about you!
|Crystal Warriors (Game Gear)|
|Release dates||JP: December 13, 1992
NA: April ??, 1992
|Average score||77% (MobyGames, 12 reviews)|
We move on to the Sega Game Gear with the title Crystal Warriors, a first-party Sega-developed title in the strategy RPG genre. The game stars sorceress princess Iris who roams across the land in search of the elemental stones stolen by an evil emperor. You know, just your average RPG villain, never seen before and stuff. So don’t really expect an amazing story out of this game, but it does have gameplay that most fans of games similar to this one will enjoy, such as Fire Emblem and the Shining series. Many standards of the genre is also present for that reason, such as a rock-paper-scissors weakness system but with elemental magic given that magic is a major part of the game. Other than that, it’s one side versus another in multiple levels with different terrains to distinguish themselves from each other. Though easily the least known game I’m talking about today on the western side, it was received well and to this date has a cult following, many praising it for its portability at the time and just a solid element of strategy behind it. It did also end up receiving a Japanese-only sequel called Royal Stone: Hirakareshi Toki no Tobira which also has a fan translation and an achievement set available on the site. These did end up being the only two games in this “series”, but Sega has not forgotten them as the latter Japanese-only was part of the Game Gear Micro line-up.
Love the achievement icons for this game by the way. A solid set that covers both progression and optional grinding to make sure no evil emperor will ever show his face again in video games. Probably. Beat every level, recruit all named characters, and buy up everything you can!
Other interesting western releases this month
Games with achievement sets
|Raiden Trad (SNES)|
|Super Adventure Island (SNES)|
|Earnest Evans (Mega Drive)|
|Syd of Valis (Mega Drive)|
Games without achievement sets
|Devilish: The Next Possession | Bad Omen (Mega Drive)*|
|Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool of Radiance (NES)|
|Toxic Crusaders (NES)*|
|Sol-Deace (Mega Drive)|
|Traysia (Mega Drive)|
Sets with an asterisk are currently claimed.
It feels like it has been a while, but this month we also have a Japanese-only line-up where I can at the very least talk about four games. It’s an Easter miracle! Shout-out to Star Parodier which I really wanted to talk about… but then I forgot it did officially get localized on the Wii Virtual Console. Sure, you can’t get it anymore now, but I would still be breaking the rules. Same applies to Spriggan Mk. II, which did officially release on the PC Engine Mini. Still not convenient, but the Shoot ‘em Up gods have forbidden me to talk about the genre today apparently. Oh well, maybe next time. Let’s see what else was up in the lands of the rising sun!
|Magical Taruruuto-kun (Mega Drive)|
|Release dates||JP: April 24, 1992|
I remember talking about the Game Gear variant with the same name in I believe the very first instance of This Month in Retro! I’ve also played it since then and I had a great time with it, can certainly recommend it if you are looking for a cute horizontal Shoot ‘em Up. But as eluded in the introduction, I am not allowed to talk about Shoot ‘em Ups today! Magical Taruruuto-kun is a Japanese multimedia franchise that saw a total of four games on different systems all sharing the same name, but that were completely different games from each other. The game we have today is a side-scrolling platformer made by… Game Freak? With Ken Sugimori as director, Satoshi Tajiri as producer, and Junichi Masuda on sounds? Yeah, we have the unofficial Pokémon prequel on our hands here. Anyway, enough joking, time to talk about the game. Our protagonist Taruruuto-kun platforms through multiple stages and has the ability to grab- and throw objects, which funnily enough has his face plastered on them when they are grabbed. He can also glide with his wings and switch between multiple magic spells to help him defeat the magic troll Raivar. Speaking from experience with the Game Gear title, if you set your expectations to a very cutesy and charming game then this will be right up your alley. And I’m sure that next time I’ll talk about Magical Taruruuto-kun again, I can also give you an opinion on this variant!
The game does not have a fan-made translation, though given that it’s a cute platformer, you don’t really need it. See for yourself with the achievement set! It is a very short and linear game, so progression achievements and a few damageless challenges for the four levels are the name of the game here. But everything for that cute mastery badge am I right??
A long-running (mostly) Japanese-exclusive JRPG franchise would also see its third entry this month, as well as its first on the SNES. Funny how this month has a lot of third games huh. Can you guess what JRPG franchise I’m talking about?
|Heracles no Eikou III - Kamigami no Chinmoku | Herakles no Eikou III (SNES)|
|Release dates||JP: April 24, 1992|
Herakles no Eikou, known in the west as Glory of Heracles thanks to it literally having one game release in the west on the Nintendo DS, is a long-running Japanese RPG franchise based on the world of Greek Mythology. Heracles himself was only the main protagonist of the first game however, as this game features an immortal character who has lost his memory. He’s not alone though, as he meets other protagonists sharing the same fate, and they go on a quest together to recover their memories as well as put a stop to monsters emerging from Hades. This is done through a gameplay mostly similar to other retro RPGs like the Dragon Quest series, with a first-person perspective battle system as well as the usual combat mechanics. It’s in that regard not really too unique, but that’s fine as the story definitely is the main attraction here. Japanese fans generally consider this entry to be the best in the series, consisting of five mainline games and a spin-off. Almost every Japanese-only game has been fully fan-translated so far, with the first game currently being available on RetroAchievements. If you are a fan of classic JRPGs, then this is certainly a franchise worth putting a set request into!
For the final two games we are also sticking to the SNES. It’s been a very Nintendo-sided issue this month, but that’s just how it is I’m afraid; other systems were either lacking in games, or lacking in fan-translations. The latter does apply to the following games as well, but I would at least argue it doesn’t matter too much for the first one.
|F-1 Grand Prix (SNES)|
|Release dates||JP: April 28, 1992|
Formula One-related video games aren’t a rarity nowadays, and that also applies to the retro days. Though it doesn’t matter how old the system is, F-1 games almost always had a behind-the-car view. While certainly not the first of its kind, F-1 Grand Prix has a top-down perspective instead which is fairly interesting given how fast these cars actually go. Yet, looking at gameplay, it’s not really similar to other top-down racing games like Micro Machines since you still have the staples of the sport, like making pit stops to repair damage. Collisions will result in damaged components after all, which is very easy to do when racing so fast. Fortunately the game does portray everything well, with the car’s damage, the map, and upcoming turns always visible on screen. Aside from that, you know what to expect: race to become first, and tune your car for it to be even faster. This game is also the first in a series spanning seven games including spin-offs, with the two sequels after retaining the top-down perspective, while the next generation games do opt in for something closer to the modern Formula One games we are used to. Those also did come over to the west, though none of the games in this series has a RetroAchievements set yet.
And then, the final game for today. I did slightly cheat with this one, as I always promises to only include text-heavy games if they had a translation, and this one doesn’t. It’s just a bit… unusual, and I couldn’t really not talk about this game after looking it up and studying its existence. You could see that as a blessing or a curse by the way!
|Maka Maka (SNES)|
|Release dates||JP: April 24, 1992|
So, we have a JRPG called Maka Maka. A game so obscure it doesn’t even have a page on MobyGames, which is usually my source for critic opinions and descriptions of a game. Not even a Romhacking page! No, I got my information from TVtropes of all places. And this is certainly one of those games where the developers must have been using something while thinking of the story. It takes place on an earth where all kinds of random stuff is just normal every day business, like giant cannibalistic aliens and evil faceless ant-men. Add to that a dose of quirky Japanese humor and yeah, this is one of those games. Fair warning though, it is almost universally agreed upon that, despite being a generic JRPG, it is an absolutely horrible game with tons of glitches due to being shipped out in bulk while the game was still in prototype phase. Which is funny because even though it’s so terrible, people also felt compelled to continue playing it just for all the weird stuff that is happening. It’s for that reason that I felt the need to include this game but yeah, do keep in mind that this is absolutely not a game you should put a lot of effort into playing.
This was easily one of the best months I’ve written for in a long while. The Western side had so many releases I also wanted to talk about that I almost feel guilty that I couldn’t, while the Japanese side also wasn’t too bad; it was just unfortunate (for me) that most great games did actually get released in the west so I couldn’t talk about them.
It’s not really too hard to guess which game won this month on pretty much every front, and that’s not even me being biased. There weren’t even really any misses in the games I didn’t include, which says a lot. The Japanese side didn’t have any massive hits this month (aside from Kirby’s Dream Land obviously), but still a solid line-up. Just um, watch out for Maka Maka. It could either be one of the weirdest experiences ever or just complete garbage that you never want to look at again.
Next time, we’re going to see what May 1999 has to offer! It may end up being a bit… bananas. But what kind of bananas? See you next time!
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