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Classic game publisher Sunsoft will try again

Publisher of Blaster Master, Batman, and others is reviving its retro back catalog

Game publisher Sunsoft, best known in the West for 8-bit era games like Blaster Master, Batman, and Fester’s Quest, is attempting a return to publishing and developing video games. On Thursday, the new Sunsoft — which, technically, never went away — outlined its plan to rerelease and revive its classic game catalog, starting with the Vampire Survivors-inspired Ikki Unite and releases of beloved retro games Gimmick! and Ufouria (known as Hebereke in Japan) for modern platforms.

Sunsoft is even hinting at bringing back Aero the Acro-Bat, the anthropomorphic bat who appeared in a pair of Sega Genesis and Super NES games near the peak of the console mascot platformer.

The publisher’s first game under the new plan, Ikki Unite, is a sequel of sorts to Ikki, an arcade game (that was later ported to Nintendo’s Famicom) about a medieval Japanese farming village’s uprising against its feudal overlord. Ikki Unite will expand upon the original single-player game with online multiplayer, and is unmistakably inspired — if not outright copying — 2021’s smash hit Vampire Survivors.

Yuichi Ochi, general manager of Sunsoft, told Polygon in an interview Wednesday that Ikki Unite is being built upon Vampire Survivors’ game design and viral success to help find an audience for the Ikki brand, which he admitted does not have global awareness. (The Famicom port of Ikki is infamous for its shoddy quality, and reportedly the basis for the derogatory phrase “kusoge,” or “shitty game,” in Japan.)

Only slightly better known than Ikki are Gimmick! (which saw a Scandinavian release) and Hebereke (which features Metroid-like mechanics and was released in North America for the NES under the name Ufouria: The Saga). But Sunsoft hopes to give those underdog games new levels of exposure by bringing them to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC via Steam, and Xbox One.

Beyond that, there are plenty of Sunsoft-developed and published games that were cult hits in Japan, but never made their way to the West. Ochi hopes to revive those as well. While Ikki Unite is being developed by Sunsoft internally, other titles are being developed with the aid of outside studios. Sunsoft is willing to work with smaller indie studios on games based on its IP, Ochi said: “Our strategy is very open.”

So why bring back Sunsoft now, years after its last attempt to publish games? Quite simply, business is good for Sunsoft’s parent Sun Corporation and the electronics company is looking to reinvest in making games, Ochi said. Ochi himself is relatively new to the company, having joined Sunsoft in July 2021, after stints at Capcom and other gaming companies in Japan and Taiwan.

But with a recognizable vintage name, a back catalog of underexploited brands, and now an official VTuber named Sunsoft Nosuke to deliver the good news about games like Gimmick! to a global audience, Sunsoft is proudly claiming it’s back.

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