Pew pew pew! Aliens! Spaceships! Bases are belonging to villain!
What a better throw back to the days of Sega Genesis than a collection that covers classic shmups?! Well today we’re looking at one such collection. In fact, it may be the only collection of it’s kind (as of now). So let’s skip over all of the opening bits and get right into the dog fighting action. This is the review over the Toaplan Shooters: Collectors Edition from Retro-Bit and Toaplan Co.!
‘ The Toaplan Collection…will include the Toaplan games:
- Fire Shark
- Zero Wing
First introduced in 1979, Japanese developer Toaplan, together with Masahiro Yuge, became the creators of 80’s classic shooting games most famous for featuring parallax scrolling backgrounds, which is where the background and foreground move at different speeds – making an enticing difference during this classic time of gaming. They were also one of the first companies to start releasing game soundtracks through disc media.
Its title Zero Wing for SEGA® Mega Drive was previously only released in Japan and Europe and had proved to be a successful arcade game that translated well onto home consoles. Zero Wing made a modern-day return with a notable meme on the internet in the retro gaming community for its scene dialogue “All your base are belong to us”, making the game considerably more treasured by retro gamers. Retro-Bit’s release of Zero Wing now includes over 30 alternate endings translated to English for the first time ever.
Toaplan’s title Fire Shark is a classic shoot ’em up style game based in the war era and had a complete soundtrack released in 1989. It is filled with smooth, non-stop shooting and promises some action packed explosions. Hellfire used a unique power up system to give 4 different firing options. The Genesis® version was well-received upon release with Mega Tech magazine stating it is “a slick and very good looking blaster which oozes playability.” Meanwhile, Toaplan’s Truxton features a setting in space where players will battle against an alien invasion. The classic shoot ’em game up was raved by Mean Machines as “a fine example of a pure, no-frills arcade blast.”
With the original carts running up to $249 USD online, Retro-Bit Publishing remains determined to localize and bring these rare classics for more to enjoy. The whole collection is indeed unique and highly acknowledged by the retro gaming community. Like other Collector’s Editions Retro-Bit® has issued, these Collector’s Edition games will mirror the other selections with exclusive extras made just for this limited time release. Commemorating this release are one-of-a-kind collectors contents included with every title:
- Special interview with developer Masahiro Yuge (specialized per game)
- Full-Color, Individually Numbered Certificate of Authenticity
- Exclusive Vintage 80’s Puffy Sticker Set
- Vivid & Detailed Instruction Booklet filled with artwork and tips to enhance gameplay
- Premium and original art prints
- 16-Bit Cartridge with unique and vibrant colors per game
- Collector’s Embossed Outer Sleeve with colorful and custom design
- Reversible cartridge cover with embellished artwork
- To every person who purchases all 4 shmup games in this collection: a commemorative slipcover, collectible Zero Wing enamel pin, and Thank You Card from Mashiro Yuge’
Physical Boxset Pros:
- Original artwork. It’s great to see that they’re leaning into the retro nostalgia of it all by using the original artwork. I kind of loathe seeing old games ditch the original artwork in lieu of a modern artist’s take on the stuff. If you’re going to do that, make that be what’s on the inside cover. Or give people a choice upon ordering, at the very least. But I digress, I love seeing these pieces of throwback art. It all seems so 90’s and I can finally own it. I’m so glad it fits into the aesthetic.
- Hardshell boxes. In a bit of irony, I’m about to talk about how protective these hardshell boxes are. It’s ironic because the lower corner of one of my hardshell boxes seems to have been bruised a bit in transit. However, I guess if you think of it in terms of how it protected the game inside, you’d be right. In fact, it’s more of a testament to how well these boxes should protect your games. I’m personally bummed that my hardshell box, which was in a slipcover, which was inside the boxset box, inside cushioning, inside a shipping box, still managed to get a bit hurt. Check the unboxing video out, if you haven’t already, to see the minor damage.
- Reversible Cover. I mentioned before how proud that they used the original artwork that existed for these games in the ’90s. Then I mentioned before that I was thankful they didn’t use some new-fangled art. I suggested that companies that do that put it on the inside cover. Well, these boxes actually have additional artwork on the inside cover. Best of all, it’s even more original artwork! I was so happy (again, see video) when I saw how much OG game art was involved. They could’ve gotten really cheap and just used screenshots too, but they didn’t. On top of everything, it gives you a sense of creative freedom with the games. Which side of the cover do you go with? What a fun problem to have!
- Slipcover. I also mentioned a slipcover before, because there are slipcovers present, go figure. These are always kind of a pain in the butt to me and I never appreciate them for movies. But on a game, I can make the exception. With movies, you have to take the slipcover off, then open the box, then take out the disc and put it in. Then when the movie is over in less than 3 hours, you have to put it all back together. Nobody watches movies often enough for that much work. With a game, you can take it all apart and put the cartridge in your system. After that, you’re bound to have the game in the console for at least 3 days, likely more. So in other words, bring on the game slipcovers!
- Extras. Loads of extras in the boxes. But it also comes with things that are outside the box (excuse the pun). The two items are a “All Your Base Are Belong to Us” quote pin and a thank you postcard from Masahiro Yuge. This is one of the benefits of getting your hands on the entire boxset. Wait, what does that mean? Here, I’ll tell you…
- Purchase. Wasn’t that transition just great?? Anyway, if you haven’t figured it out by now, you don’t have to buy the entire boxset if you don’t want to. You have the option to buy the games individually if you don’t care about all of the games. For instance, I love the cover for Truxton the best. If I were forced to buy only one, it would be Truxton. It is certainly the most interesting in terms of what the box tries to draw you in with. If you think of this in terms of when it came out, as I do, the box is all that people had to get them interested. Trailers were non-existent (essentially) and commercials only existed for big, expensive Western games. So it’s back again and it’s the one that best jumps off the page at you.
- Shelfability. Is “Shelfability” even a word?! Well, it is now, I had to make it up just for this box set. The whole set just looks great as a whole from the side when viewing the spines. It, as a whole, is a really great conversation starter. The external cardboard box that they all sit in is another one of the benefits of getting your hands on the entire box set. Now, to pick up from the last topic, you might be wondering if the individual cartridges look good on their own on a shelf. Rest easy, dear retro reader, because I checked that too. And duh, they look great. In fact, there are more colors at play if you have any of these individually on your shelf.
- Cartridges. Now here I’m going to bring up one last thing. There are two interesting pros with regards to the carts. 1, the color. 2, the smaller flashboard. Starting with the color, while they’re not my favorite, I think it was a bold choice of Retro-Bit to go the way they did. They chose a different color of shell for each game cartridge. I would’ve personally just chose a black shell and moved on if I were them. But thank god I’m not because I’m sure the colors are a big draw for people that want to show they have a reproduction cartridge without it saying reproduction cartridge.
Now we can talk about how they used quality, modern day flashboards. To be honest, I don’t know if any company makes the larger flashboards anymore anyway. Reproduction boards may all just be more compact. But if they had a choice, I’m glad they went with these. They’re lightweight, first of all, something that you immediately notice upon holding the cartridge. I’m also guessing that they draw less power from the system. This also means that we don’t have to worry about any instances of needing to swap out batteries later down the line (if any of the games had that on the original carts, I’m unsure).
Physical Boxset Cons:
- Multicart. It seems like a no-brainer. For a fraction of the cost, have one cartridge with all 4 games as they’ve done in the past. I mention the idea in my video, but the more I think about it, the more I think that they could’ve actually done it and charged maybe half of the cost that they charged for the entire box set. I know I said $20 in the video and that is too low. But the idea is solid. I hope that in order to quelch the additional demand, they come out with a multi-cart and have two versions of it. One version can be cheaper and just be the multicart with a black shell, a black and white manual with the basics for the four games, and a cardboard box like some of the later title Genesis games. The more expensive one could be a colored cart, with a color manual, and a plastic box without a slipcover. Please make this happen guys! More people deserve to discover these games, not everyone is a mondo collector!
- Pin. The backs on the pin posts, at the price they’re asking for this, should absolutely be locking backs.
- Cover. For those who didn’t watch my video, there is an issue with the Hellfire cover. There happens to be a bit of pixelation that is obvious on it. That’s a bummer if you’re looking for utter perfection! …But I’m certain that there wasn’t much they could do about it. They likely took a smaller image and stretched it to fit the slip cover’s larger surface area. But if that bothers you, just be aware that Hellfire is the only one and it’s only noticeable if you’re looking for it. Of course, the simple solution is to flip the cover over and use the reversible cover in all its glory.
While there are no improvements to any of the games’ code, that could be seen as a positive to most people. I see it as the only major downside to this. I think that improving on people’s complaints from 25+ years ago would be ideal so that people discovering these titles for the first time would not drag up the same complaints. Having said all of that, these games are relatively great and do not have a lot of complaints to have fixed.
The biggest takeaway here is that these games had a new run and they’re at worst a conversation starter, but they’re definitely so much more than that. The entire box set has a ton of bombastic extras packed into them. Seriously, I weighed the entire box set, it clocks in at 2.5 pounds! So much paper and quality plastics up in this thing! If you can get your hands on the set, whether it’s in stock on their site or second-hand, you’ll be doing yourself a service!