This Month In Retro

Nepiki By Nepiki.

Hello all and welcome to This Month in Retro! Today, I’ll be taking you back to August of 2005, which is the furthest we have been in the future thus far! It has been something I was trying to avoid due to there not being support for either Xbox or the Nintendo home systems yet that were relevant during this time, but it looks like I have found a good month that doesn’t have any big hits on either to make it feel like an incomplete month. The Nintendo Gamecube had Geist and… really, that’s it. Either all other titles were released consecutively on other platforms so I may or may not end up talking about them anyway, or they just weren’t interesting. There were also some mergers this month but of some pretty insignificant companies so that’s also something I won’t really be paying attention to.

So let’s get on with the main dish! As usual, I will be taking you through the interesting releases of August 2005, be it bad- or good games, hidden gems, and everything in-between. A write-up about every game contains the general opinion from both critics and players, as well as their sales numbers and, if applicable, achievement sets on RetroAchievements. This will be separated by games that first saw the light of day in the west, and games that never made their way to English-speaking countries–which, surprisingly, is still a good amount by 2005! So without further ado, let’s get into the games!

Western Releases

First up are a collection of games pretty much everyone who owned a Nintendo DS near release may have had in their possession. I sure know I did!

Nintendogs: Labrador & Friends (Nintendo DS)
Release dates JP: April 21, 2005
NA: August 22, 2005
PAL: October 7, 2005
Sales 23,960,000 (collectively)
Average score 83% (Metacritic, 54 reviews)

Released together with Nintendogs: Chihuahua & Friends and Nintendogs: Dachshund & Friends, Nintendogs: Labrador & Friends are simulation games where you take care of digital dogs, be it the breed showcased on the cover or any of the others you can purchase. Play with them, give them some walks, and take part in contests. That’s pretty much all you will be doing, and it worked extremely well for Nintendo. It takes advantage of all DS functionalities such as the microphone to call the dog, and the touchscreen to pet- and play with them. The games also benefited from social functionalities, allowing people with different copies to meet up in-game and have their dogs interact. Remember, these games were released in 2005 when digital social interactions were still pretty fresh. These games were absolutely huge, and pretty much everyone who had a Nintendo DS around that time had one of the three copies. I can personally confirm that; I was still in school when these games released, and many people brought their DS to school just to play Nintendogs… Or Mario Kart DS. But mostly Nintendogs. Personally, I also have a lot of nostalgia for these games and certainly wouldn’t be objected to picking up my DS and playing with my Labrador doggo again. According to Wikipedia, the dogs won’t ever die even after having been left alone for years on end, so that’s a good sign! Not sure if the doggo will be happy knowing that I haven’t given him attention for umm… at least 15 years? But hey, I had a super cute doggo in real life to take care off, not my fault!

Don’t underestimate this cozy simulation game however; you will become the best dog trainer there is, or no mastery for you. Win every competition and get a hold of every accessory and item there is and this mastery should be yours. But if you want a more casual experience, there are a bunch of fun miscellaneous achievements as well, like dressing up your dog as the Mario brothers and letting them play with a question mark block. Also some um, very relatable dog owner achievements like keeping them away from the trash outside during a walk. I wish my own doggo got that memo…

Now that I’ve met my cozy quota of the day, time to move on to more action. While the Nintendo DS was rapidly gaining more traction, the Game Boy Advance would still see frequent releases. One of these is my favourite form of games: a blend between two separate genres!

Sigma Star Saga (Game Boy Advance)
Release dates NA: August 16, 2005
PAL: June 23, 2006
Sales 50,000
Average score 68% (Metacritic, 34 reviews)

Sigma Star Saga is a blend between the Shoot-em-up genre and action RPG gameplay. Think of something like The Guardian Legend for the NES, but with a slightly higher emphasis on RPG elements such as leveling up. While the player is exploring a 2D overworld on an infiltration mission, they are occasionally transported to space to fight off the Krill in horizontal Shmup stages. These villainous aliens have waged war on Earth, killing almost everyone on the globe by boiling the oceans. Not only will our hero hunt down the aliens, but also discover the reason behind the attack in a tale of war and betrayal with multiple endings. It also features some elements from the action-adventure genre, as receiving power-ups in either mode benefits the other, which in turn also unlocks parts on previously visited places. It is definitely more of an RPG however, as the space battles are more akin to random battle in said genre; take too many steps, and you are blasted off into space. Unfortunately, this is also where both critics and fans agree on where the game suffers. Unlike random battles in JRPGs that still abide rules of the genre like monsters per area and the ability to escape, Sigma Star Saga wants you to finish every shooter segment. Add on top of that complete randomness in what ship you are fighting with, as well as what terrain and enemies you are facing, and this can get slightly frustrating–especially when a defeat also means its back to the last save point. Everyone will definitely praise the originality on display here, but the execution left some things to be desired.

Of course, this is just what the general opinions that I found on the internet summarize. It’s definitely a game worth checking out, and fortunately you can with a pretty big achievement set! After all, it has both the collection aspects of the action-adventure/RPG genre and the no-damage and specific ship setup aspects of the shmup genre, which both combined make for a comprehensive set. There are definitely a lot of interesting challenges in this set, and players of it are generally very positive on it, so give it a shot if you are interested!

But the Nintendo handhelds weren’t the only dominating force during this generation. Sony also took a shot of the market, with this month showcasing the first publicly-shown PlayStation Portable game!

Death Jr. (PlayStation Portable)
Release dates NA: August 16, 2005
PAL: February 10, 2006
Sales 190,000
Average score 61% (Metacritic, 40 reviews)

Advertised as one of the killer apps for the PSP, Death Jr. is a 3D platformer with hack-and-slash elements featuring a Tim Burton-esque style, both in themes and quirky characters. As his name may indicate, Death Jr. is the scythe-wielding teenage son of the famed Grim Reaper, who is disappointed in his son for constantly creating chaos. While his dad warned him for the last time, he yet again manages to unleash chaos, with the game involving him fixing his mess without Death Dad finding out. This is done through platforming, puzzle solving, and combat–the latter involving not just the scythes, but also a bunch of guns that are laying around. In that sense, it is very often compared to other platforming franchises at the time such as Ratchet & Clank–which makes sense with it using an engine originally developer for a spin-off game of Spyro the Dragon. However, the gameplay itself does tend to be hit or miss with both critics and players, with the camera and sometimes sloppy platforming being a deal-breaker for many. After all, it’s a third-person game on a console with only one analog stick. But if you can get used to it, this may end up being a hidden gem to check out. The style as mentioned before has seen a good amount of praise, and this carries over in the levels as well. While not the best reviewed game, it still did well enough to receive one more sequel on the PSP, as well as one on the Nintendo DS. A comic book adaptation was also made for the game, which was also received fairly well.

The set embraces its hack-and-slash nature and tasks you with getting various combos for each that Death Jr. learns. These combos are also further extended to leaderboards, so be sure to master them! Furthermore, get the highest rank in each level, after which the mastery will be yours!

For the final game of the month, I obviously had to talk about a PlayStation 2 title. I didn’t go all the way into the future just to talk about handhelds. It didn’t have the most high quality set of releases to be honest with you, though the game I wanted to talk about for today was one I surprisingly had not heard about despite being something I would definitely enjoy.

Darkwatch (PlayStation 2)
Release dates NA: August 16, 2005
PAL: October 7, 2005
Sales 320,000
Average score 74% (Metacritic, 37 reviews)

I love games with badass vampire main characters that remind me of Van Helsing, and Darkwatch looks to be exactly that. In this first-person shooter developed both for the Xbox and PlayStation 2, follow the story of outlaw Jericho Cross, who wasn’t a vampire at first but got cursed into becoming a half-vampire half-human hybrid after crossing paths with a powerful one. Now having a variety of new vampiric abilities as well as a thirst for blood, he gets recruited in the Darkwatch organization that maintains the balance between good and evil by hunting supernatural threats. In a setting that combines multiple genres such as Western, Horror, and Steampunk, Jericho fight as a normal human during day, having weapons such as a handgun and crossbow to do his bidding. But of course, the main meat of the game is when nighttime arrives, putting his bloody vampiric abilities on full display. Depending on the morality choices you go with, he can learn an additional set of abilities as well as change the outcome of the story. At the time it was received fairly well, although pretty much every reviewer called it pretty standard for a first-person shooter. Retrospectively, players look back a lot more fondly on the title, often calling it one of the better underappreciated titles from this generation. The setting is undeniably its strongest asset, as everyone who has played it agrees on it being the selling point of the game. Unfortunately, while all the set pieces were in place, Darkwatch was doomed to become a standalone game. Plans were present for there to be an entire franchise focusing on the Darkwatch organisation as a whole, with various eras in our history being the setting, but it never came to fruition in favour of the developers having a bigger focus of licensed titles. Even a film adaptation was in the works, but the last update we got from that was in 2011. Suffice to say, this was one of the hidden gems of the era that didn’t get its full potential unleashed. It doesn’t even have a RetroAchievements set! But there are already a good amount of requests, so we can hopefully change that soon!

Other interesting western releases this month

Games with achievement sets

Advance Wars: Dual Strike (Nintendo DS)
Dragon Ball GT: Transformation (Game Boy Advance)
Inuyasha: Feudal Combat (PlayStation 2)
Pac ‘n Roll (Nintendo DS)
Shaman King: Master of Spirits 2 (Game Boy Advance)

Games without achievement sets

187 Ride or Die (PlayStation 2)
Animaniacs: Lights, Camera, Action! (Game Boy Advance)
Big Mutha Truckers 2 (PlayStation 2)
Dynasty Warriors: Advance (Game Boy Advance)
Fossil League: Dino Tournament Championship (Nintendo DS)

Japanese-exclusive Releases

As with the last time we went into the middle 2000s, when games were exclusive to Japan around this time, there was usually a reason: they were visual novels or anime games. No hate against either by the way, but that’s just how it is. Of course there are a few exceptions, but this does make my job a bit tougher as the former games usually don’t get fan-translations quickly unless they are the top of the crop. Still, I did manage to find a collection of games to talk about! One of them has an achievement set, so let’s talk about that one first.

Bleach: Erabareshi Tamashii (PlayStation 2)
Release dates JP: August 4, 2005

I have practically zero knowledge of Bleach so excuse me in advance if I butcher some things. Bleach: Erabareshi Tamashii is a Hack & Slash game, based on the manga by the same name but with a storyline that is unrelated to it. The goal of the game is to make it through various missions with a party of two characters out of a total of ten, going through maps and fighting enemies with the powers each character is known for. That’s umm… all I have really. Little information can be found on the internet, where even my final resort of asking our AI overlords to summarize the game barely helped. Even the GameFAQs board is just some random dudes declaring themselves king over an empty board. So if you like Bleach and want to play a game based on the Manga, there you go!

The other reason I wasn’t able to find information is because the game has never been fan-translated. I’m sure it can be played perfectly fine without a translation though, as we do have a set! This set will task you to beat each mission under certain conditions, be it on hard mode, with a specific rank and score, or finding all collectable butterflies. Also, be sure to check out the forum for tips before playing!

That sure wasn’t my most informative piece I’ve written. Unfortunately as mentioned before, most of these games have never been translated and therefore also suffer from having little information available. Fortunately for the following games, they are pretty straightforward and require little knowledge of the Japanese language!

Bomberman Land 3 (PlayStation 2)
Release dates JP: August 4, 2005

Bomberman Land is a series of games that Hudson looked at for a long while, thought “nah the westerns won’t like this”, and only started localizing some games when the series was about to end. I actually have experience with one of them, being Bomberman Land for the PSP. Solid enough minigame collection, but I will never forgive it for insulting me for completing the game with a message saying it was all for nothing. Anyway, where was I… oh yes, Bomberman Land 3! As already hinted at before, this game also features minigame collection gameplay; imagine something like Mario Party, but single-player oriented and with a few more game references. Games like Buster Bros. are very literally adopted into a minigame, but there’s also more silly stuff like emptying a paper roll or parking a car. All of this is accompanied by a campaign mode, collecting pieces from theme park attractions (the minigames) to save your friends. Due to its minigame structure and the story honestly being irrelevant, it’s an easy game to pick up without the necessity of knowing Japanese. As the title indicates, it was the third game in the franchise and also the last Japanese-exclusive title. All of the sequels released on PSP, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo Wii have seen localizations with the games themselves taking advantage of each system’s gimmicks while keeping the minigame structure. None of them have a set yet, so if any of these games sounds interesting to you, be sure to leave a request on their respective page!

Certain genres just play very well without the need of a translation. Minigame collections, platformers, and racing games are just a few, but there is one more that is arguably the easiest of them all: rhythm games!

Taiko no Tatsujin: Portable (PlayStation Portable)
Release dates JP: August 4, 2005

Taiko no Tatsujin: Portable is a rhythm game in the series by the same name, as well as the first of three on the PlayStation Portable. You might have seen this series before, as it is known for having a drum peripheral with most entries that they can optionally be played with. With the PSP obviously not having anything that allows peripherals, this version is unable to take advantage of it. To compensate, this version comes with a wide variety of tracks, ranging from popular Japanese songs as well as some Namco originals from games like Soul Calibur II. Players could also download extra songs online, which lasted for a while until the sequel came out. Heck, it has the fourth opening of Fullmetal Alchemist which makes this game a certified classic in my book. It even has some English songs like We Will Rock You from Queen! Of course, I don’t think I really have to talk about how popular this franchise is and how well each game is received, since it follows a timeless format. This game, alongside it’s two PSP sequels, have all been very well received because the games are perfectly playable without drums. So are the PlayStation 2 games, but the PCSX2 emulator does support drums so the option for either are there. Conveniently, another game in this franchise was released this month called Taiko no Tatsujin Tobikkiri! Anime Special which, shocker, has a bigger focus on anime songs. No Fullmetal Alchemist though, so the superior game of this month is Taiko no Tatsujin: Portable.

For the final game of the month, I am again breaking my own rules and talking about a game that does need a bit of Japanese knowledge. After all, the next game is an RPG. I just really felt the need to talk about this one as it comes from a franchise I feel is severely underrated… but also understandably so with most of the games being Japanese-exclusive.

Summon Night EX-These: Yoake no Tsubasa (PlayStation 2)
Release dates JP: August 4, 2005

Summon Night EX-These: Yoake no Tsubasa is an action RPG spin-off in the Summon Night franchise, a series of RPGs that have been active since the PlayStation 1. Of the series with eleven games, only five crossed the ocean. The mainline series follows a more traditional tactical RPG formula, while all of the spin-offs take on a different aspect of the genre. You may be familiar with the two Swordcraft Story sets on the GBA that follow a gameplay loosely based on 2D Tales games. The game we are talking about today plays more similar to games like Ys and Seiken Densetsu while still taking advantage of its tactical roots. You take control of two characters, one focusing more on slow vertical attacks while the other has more mobility and slashes horizontally, which is a key feature of the original game to strategize the maximum potential a move can do. Summons are also still present, though this time also being used more to solve puzzles. The two characters can be switched between at any time, with the character you select at the start really only having impact on the story. The two characters have amnesia and share one body, and their objective is to find out more about their past. I can’t say too much else about the story however, as the game does not have a translation yet. This is unfortunate for RPGs, but with the combat being more action-oriented, there are workarounds to still play the game and have a good time.


While not the most high-quality month, I am happy with the diversion I’ve been able to talk about today. Of all the eight games, none share the same main genre, making this an edition where almost everybody should be able to find a game in their favoured style. Of course, this month does have a clear winner with Nintendogs, like, no questions asked. It towered over every other game, not only from a review standpoint, but financially. But there were also no real stinkers so that’s always good news.

I was also happy to talk about the Japanese side as most games don’t really require a translation to be played. It was a shame that some of them had little to no information like Bleach: Erabareshi Tamashii, but I’m sure fans of the franchise know exactly what the game will be about. Writing about Taiko no Tatsujin: Portable and its PlayStation 2 counterparts actually got me very interested in buying the Switch version with the drum soo… RIP wallet! And of course, any time I can showcase Summon Night is a good time. Just… release the games over here officially already, please and thanks.

Not sure yet what year we’ll end up doing next time! I got two years lined up for the coming two months and both of them have absolute bangers in each of the months. May throw a dice, or may have my favouritism show a bit. We’ll see! And with that, Nepiki out, see you all next month!


Unless stated otherwise, the following sites have been used to create this article: