Hello all and welcome to This Month in Retro! Today, I’ll be taking you back to May of 1999, which was a good month for games but less so for actual happenings in the game industry. E3 happened this month, so it was mostly just announcements, announcements, and more announcements. The most important one came from Nintendo, who publicly announced that their next home system was in developed under codename “Project Dolphin”, which eventually became the Nintendo CameCube. Sid Meier, the legendary game developer whose name is often associated with the Civilization series, was the second person to be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame at the same E3 event. And uh… that’s it for this month, so let’s move on to the games straight away!
This Month in Retro takes you through the major game releases of May 1999, be it famous- or infamous ones, hidden gems, and all in between. Their legacy will be discussed in the form of reception and sales, as well as their achievement sets if applicable. The Japanese side of this article covers only the games that have never made it to the west, hopefully with fan-translation present so everyone can enjoy them. And that’s all you need to know, so let’s get to it!
Also uh, apologies first of all. I made a teaser next month that we would see an absolutely bananas game today, which was meant to be Ape Escape… but Wikipedia gave me the incorrect information and that game actually released in June. Sorry if I got your hopes up :(
For the first title of the game… I’m showing my bias just a bit. It doesn’t happen that often that I end up talking about a game I’ve played more than once and also on RetroAchievements, so I have to take that opportunity when I can right?
|Bomberman Quest (Game Boy Color)|
|Release dates||JP: December 24, 1998
NA: May ??, 1999
PAL: November ??, 1999
|Average score||79% (MobyGames, 6 reviews)|
What do you get if you mix The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening with Bomberman? You get Bomberman Quest! In this action-adventure game, you travel through four regions and recapture all the monsters who were let loose after an attack by the Four Commanders on Bomberman’s space shuttle. Capturing a monster is as easy as throwing a bomb at them Bomberman style, but not all monsters feel frightened by your explosive might. Found throughout the world, a bunch of items will help Bomberman with his task, such as a variety of bombs for different terrains, as well as the ability to jump, and much, much more. Sometimes you even need to travel back through previously visited areas to defeat monsters you previously were unable to, truly channeling that Zelda spirit and presenting the player with a satisfying gameplay loop. It did go somewhat under the radar however, having almost no presence on the internet in terms of critic- or player opinions, so have mine instead! It’s a really fun game, albeit with some noticeable flaws, such as Bomberman initially moving pretty slow. But it also has the biggest criticism of Link’s Awakening and amped it up to 11: the item switching menu. Whereas that game only had several items, in Bomberman Quest almost everything is an item, including ways to increase Bomberman’s movement. You’ll be opening that menu very often, and it can get a bit grating admittedly. Certainly would love to see this remade in full glory someday, but as with most Bomberman games that aren’t mainline, they unfortunately never saw the light of day again.
It comes with a solid achievement set, but beware because if you want this mastery, your skills will be put to the test. The achievement set covers the entire game as a whole with nice separated progression achievements sorted by boss and region, while also having achievements for most of the more important items. But the damageless bosses are really tough, specifically the later ones that make your game run at an extremely low framerate. Either that, or I just suck. And fun fact, this set also comes with an Achievement Guide created by yours truly! Please play this game now, thank you.
The PlayStation 1 was still going very strong in 1999, seeing not one but two JRPGs this month! The first of which I’ll be talking about is a remake of a Sega CD title, and arguably the best way of playing this game.
|Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (PlayStation)|
|Release dates||JP: May 28, 1998
NA: May 28, 1999
|Average score||86% (MobyGames, 22 reviews)|
The Lunar series is a small franchise of JRPG games, with the first game being the one that we talk about today. This title was initially released on the Sega CD in both Japan and North America, and has ironically seen more remakes than there have been different games in this franchise. The PlayStation 1 version is the first of three remakes, which was ported over from the Sega Saturn where it only released in Japan. This version has the story of Dragonmaster Alex remaining faithful to the original, only expanding upon it further to accommodate for a larger cast of characters like expanding the villainous side to even the scales. And these are all very welcome additions, as Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete is very often praised for having a great story and cast of characters that focuses on love and the typical “stop evil” but in a more laid-back setting at first, and it is complemented by an outstanding localization in general. The gameplay is a solid take on the turn-based formula we would see during the 16-bit era, but beating them all because there are no random encounters to worry about, hurray! “Professional” critics at first weren’t as positive because “a 2D game on my 3D home system” is heresy according to them, but those complaints fortunately didn’t last long when other critics- and players discovered the quality the game offered, now being heralded as one of the best JRPGs from around this era. I made the joke about this game getting revamped quite often, but it was done so for a reason after all! The 2009 remake on PSP would unfortunately also be the last time we saw a game in this series, as Game Arts currently isn’t very involved in the video game industry anymore.
The set is a mix of both progression achievements, challenges mostly for the boss battle but also miscellaneous objectives, and collecting items in dungeons. With a total of 107 achievements, we certainly have a set worthy for this game! For people interested, there is a Missables achievement guide available as well that lets you know about the points of no return in chronological order, so certainly one worth keeping on the side!
Sticking to JRPGs for now, we have the second entry in another long-running RPG franchise still active to this day! Can you guess which one I’m talking about?
|Star Ocean: The Second Story (PlayStation)|
|Release dates||JP: July 30, 1998
NA: May 31, 1999
PAL: April 12, 2000
|Average score||81% (MobyGames, 24 reviews)|
Star Ocean: The Second Story was for a long time our first story as the original game for the Super Famicom never came over to the west until the PSP remake happened. Fortunately that didn’t matter too much for this release as every Star Ocean game can be played independently from each other. In this game, take on the role of cadet Claude Kenni from the space-faring organization of planet earth who strands on a medieval-like planet where the other main protagonist is met, namely Rena Lanford. The player can choose to advance the story as one of the two, with the story and ending having a slightly different result based on it as well as with other choices made during the story. And of course, if you are familiar with the history of this series, such as it being developed by ex-members of the development studio behind the Tales of series, then you most likely also known about the real-time combat with free movement and a lot of freedom in setting your parties strategies. Furthermore, there are nine skills to choose from for each party member to master, mostly used for creating items outside of battle. The game had an overall good reception with solid sales as well, only barely missing out on a re-release under the “Greatest Hits” hood. Nowadays, This game is often regarded as one of, if not the best game in the series together with Star Ocean: Till the End of Time and Star Ocean: The Last Hope. And no, that last game being mentioned there totally isn’t my own bias, nope, not at all. I love that game a lot and will bring it up every time I get the chance, sue me. That aside, the game did have a good life to say the least, having a manga based on it which was eventually adapted into an anime, and a remake for the PSP together with the first game which were also re-released on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Vita, but unfortunately in Japan only. But hey, the first game’s remake did get re-released on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 worldwide so the possiblity is still there, as Star Ocean is still very much a living franchise with the latest entry being released only last year.
The achievement set comes with a total of 92 achievements, focusing on a playthrough with Claude as well as one with Rena. All the skills mentioned before have achievements attached to them too, as well as the private actions to advance relationships between the playable characters. Do beware though, as the Star Ocean series is pretty infamous for having tough superbosses and multiple difficulties, and these will definitely put your skills to the test. If you are planning to play the set, it’s also worth taking a look at the forum for the game as set developer Altomar has went in-depth regarding some of the before-mentioned objectives and how they interact with the achievements!
Wow, what a great line-up of games we have so far! It would be a shame if there was an infamous game that may ruin the streak… right?
|Superman: The New Superman Aventures | Superman 64 (Nintendo 64)|
|Release dates||NA: May 28, 1999
PAL: July 23, 1999
|Average score||23% (GameRankings, 15 reviews)
32% (MobyGames, 24 reviews)
People are seeing the other interesting western releases of this month in just a bit and then wonder why in the name of all that is holy do I talk about this game, but I just couldn’t not do this okay? This game is so infamously bad that the month is defined by it, even if there were so many good releases. So where do I even start? Superman: The New Superman Aventures is so comically bad that it even has a typo in its name! I could blame the French for it as “Aventures” is the French word for Adventures and the game is developed by French studio Titus Interactive, but given their track record I’ll just blame it on them instead. Based on the animated television series, the player takes control over the strongest superhero in a virtual world as evil mastermind Lex Luthor trapped his acquaintances in there. To rescue them, he does not use his overpowered abilities to save them in a nanosecond, but instead resorts to following Lex’s commands and do very… weird missions, mostly involving flying through a lot of rings, punching people, and other meaningless tasks. While flying through rings might not sound terribly boring (at least, it doesn’t to me), technical- and control issues make it a difficult endeavor. Add in the music and graphics and then we have literally every aspect of the game being negatively received by the critics. Somehow the game did get surprisingly strong sales, though that’s probably more to attribute to the IP the game is based on. Titus did claim customer feedback has been very good but nobody really believed that. Just looking at the internet, pretty much everyone anomalously agrees the game is, for a lack of better words, complete trash, with it still being seen as one of the worst games ever more than 20 years later not including the shovelware we see on digital storefronts. Suffice to say, this is a game best left forgotten.
But I know you, you little sadist. If it has a set, it must be played. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that indeed, this game does have an achievement set. And hey, if the flying does sound interesting to you and you can somehow deal with the abysmal controls then you are in luck as you are tasked to do so without missing a single ring! Also to beat the game in the first place you have to play on the hardest difficulty sooooo good luck! I don’t envy you!
Other interesting western releases this month
Games with achievement sets
|Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing (Nintendo 64)|
|Star Wars - Episode I: Racer (Nintendo 64)|
|Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers (Nintendo 64)|
|Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (Game Boy Color)|
Games without achievement sets
|Next Tetris, The (PlayStation)|
|Warzone 2100 (PlayStation)|
|Fighter Maker (PlayStation)|
Unfortunately for the Japanese side, we don’t have the most exciting month. A lot of them came down to low-budget Anime games, low-budget puzzle games, or visual novels that are unlikely to get a translation in the near future. Still, I didn’t want to let you guys down so I do have some games to talk about that are fairly interesting! Some unfortunately don’t have a translation yet, but with a month this barren I think it’s acceptable to talk about them. Machine translation is apparently decent nowadays so hey, the possibility exists! But first up, let’s talk about a game that actually does have a translation:
|Last Legion UX (Nintendo 64)|
|Release dates||JP: May 28, 1999|
A game with a most impressive Wikipedia page that has two sentences, Last Legion UX is a third-person arena shooter where the players controls a big mech called Legions. These Legions are currently used to fight for control over earth, with two opposing forces being the main competitors. One of the two decided to mess with the past to get their victory instead and send some Legions back in time, but conveniently one of the opposing side’s Legion joined the travel. So now instead of fighting in the future, we fight in the past! Apparently a ton of upgrade material was sent along as well, as our mech can be fully customized for battle, be it through shields or through weapons. The mechs are very versatile as well, being able to make full use of the vertical space by jumping quite high while still attacking. With a campaign mode available as well as single-player and multi-player matches, this certainly is a game that could work as an achievement set. And hey, this game actually does have a fully completed English translation available!
The next game unfortunately doesn’t have a translation yet. And that is a shame, because this is easily one of the coolest RPGs I have covered on the Japanese-exclusive side in a really long time. I immediately fell in love with it, and I hope you do too!
|London Seirei Tantei-dan (PlayStation)|
|Release dates||JP: May 20, 1999|
London Seirei Tantei-dan is an RPG set in Victorian London. A really underrepresented setting in video games, and when I finally discover one, it’s Japanese-only, big shame. Especially when you also realise that the main protagonist is a mischievous homeless orphan who roams the streets of London, bumps into a famous detective, and then get taken in by him to become his assistance. So it literally becomes a turn-based RPG where you are solving detective cases in Victorian London, how awesome is that?? The game looks to follow a standard turn-based RPG system, but with the specific detective cases allowing for different options, as well as spirits which are a main theme of the game. Now unfortunately as mentioned before, this game does not have a translation and to my knowledge, none is in development either. More unfortunately, the game seems to be very unknown, so I hope I was able to bring this game to more people their attention because this sounds like one of those really neat games that have been lost to time.
Which brings me to yet another text-heavy game without a translation. But hey, this title sounds interesting and two of the franchise’s games did make it to the west, so no harm in bringing it up right?
|Culdcept Expansion (PlayStation)|
|Release dates||JP: May 01, 1999|
Culdcept is a long-running franchise of games that questions the idea of “What if we combine Monopoly with Magic the Gathering, and made it a turn-based strategy video game”. You’re on a virtual board where you roll a dice, and win the game by forcing opponents to land on the squares in your possession. Two of these games actually did make it to the west, namely Culdcept Second Expansion for the PlayStation 2 and Culdcept Saga for the Xbox 360. Culdcept on the Sega Saturn is where it all started, with the game we are talking about today being the expanded port to the PlayStation 1. The very first game already embodies the formula mentioned earlier well, with the Magic the Gathering aspect being that the squares players can land on are defended by creatures summoned by a card. Advance through the game to get more cards, and place them on specific coloured squares to give them bonuses.
If this does interest you then good news! While this game does not have a fan translation nor a set, the localized PlayStation 2 game does have an achievement set. If you want to learn more about this franchise, this is absolutely a good place to start!
A lot of the Japanese side was on the PlayStation 1 today, and for the last game we will also be remaining on this system. Not too surprising when it has one of the biggest game libraries ever, but it’s always fun to discover some games most people are unlikely to know about. And hey, for this one a translation may not be necessary!
|70’s Robot Anime: Geppy-X - The Super Boosted Armor (PlayStation)|
|Release dates||JP: May 27, 1999|
Now this is the perfect game to finish of with because while the title says anime, it actually isn’t based on an existing IP. Rather, it was designed as an affectionate parody to 70s Mecha anime popular at the time–specifically those of Go Nagai, such as Mazinger-Z and Getter Robo. Still, you probably wouldn’t tell it’s not an anime as the game is full with video clips and Japanese songs to give you the illusion it truly is based on an existing IP. For example, every level starts with an opening, commercial breaks/eye catches, and an ending with episode tease. But the question remains… what is this game actually? 70’s Robot Anime: Geppy-X is a horizontal Shoot ‘em Up, with the robot Geppy-X being able to take on three different models also inspired by 70’s anime. While I can’t speak for the quality due to the few fan opinions there are to find, it looks like a solid game for Shmup enjoyers. As it is a Shmup game, I don’t think a translation is a necessity to enjoy this game–especially when most of the dialogue is spoken. But it may be worthwhile to wait a little bit longer, as a translation is in progress as we speak!
We had a solid month to look at today, with several big hits and overlooked gems. Of course, we cannot ignore that one game leaving its very ugly mark on this month, but ignoring it we sure had some interesting titles. I already showed my bias with Bomberman Quest, but both Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete and Star Ocean: The Second Story are excellent titles for RPG fans. Not to ignore the titles I’ve listed in the interesting section as well, of which Super Mario Bros. Deluxe is most likely the one with the most financial success this month. I just… really hate that game for its screen crunch, sorry. The Japanese side didn’t have any massive hits this month, but I’m still glad I got to discover some of these. I need the Victorian London RPG and I need it now.
Heads up, there is no This Month in Retro coming next month! I will be on a vacation for most of the month and preparing for it in advance, so I will see you again in July. As for what year… I haven’t decided yet. I want to give the far future another try and cover some Nintendo DS/PSP games while I’m at it, but that’s something we’ll have to wait and see. See you guys next time!
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