Feature: Japan’s ‘G-Mode Archives’ – The Retrogame Series You’ve Never Heard Of

Switch
GMode Lead
Image: Nintendo Life

If you’re a retro game enthusiast, you’re likely aware of Hamster’s excellent Arcade Archives and ACA NEO GEO lines which both boast sizeable catalogues on Switch eShop. There is, however, another predominantly Japanese set of retro releases that might have passed you by completely: the G-Mode Archives and G-Mode Archives+ series.

This line launched in April 2020 and there are currently over forty G-Mode Archives titles available on the Switch eShop, although as only two of those — Zanac and Topolon — have made it to English-speaking shores, anyone could be forgiven for not being aware of this series’ existence. Like Hamster’s Arcade Archives, the aim here is to bring a wide range of otherwise left-behind games back for modern players, and G-Mode’s bespoke selection focuses on perhaps the most neglected subsection of retrogaming out there: games made for mobile phones.

it’s on all of us to acknowledge the value in preserving a broader range of titles from a broader range of systems

Think of pre-smartphone games and most people will think of Snake on a Nokia 3310 or some Java-based game they played for a short while in their youth and somehow still regretted. These are different. Built from the ground up for Japanese feature phones, these games often have an attractive SNES-ish look to them, featuring detailed pixel art and covering a wide range of genres from remakes of SNES RPGs (such as Heracles no Eikou III, a predecessor to the DS’ Glory of Heracles), more modern arcade shmups (including some of Cave’s best-known work), legendary RPG developer Falcom’s Sorcerian, and even completely unique titles, too.

They don’t look the way we think we remember old phone games looking, and on the Switch they don’t play like them either; the D-pad (or analogue stick) is put to obvious use with action buttons sensibly remapped. But no matter how good the ports are or how well they’re made they’re still just old phone games, aren’t they? Who wants to play (non-smart) phone games in 2022?

Well, us, for starters. And hopefully some other people too, if these games are given a fair chance. To help explain their appeal we’ve picked out a few highlights from the current G-Mode Archives selection to hopefully showcase the sheer amount of choice and quality on offer.

Nintendo Switch G-Mode Archives Games — A Selection Of The Best

Sorcerian

Based on the respected Falcom classic of the same name (one released in English by Sierra for DOS-compatible machines back in 1990), and including over twenty playable scenarios — as well as a thorough graphical overhaul not used in any of the game’s other ports or re-releases — Sorcerian’s evergreen action RPG design shines as brightly here as it does anywhere else.

In spite of a few minor nips and tucks (dungeons tend to shorten lengthy corridors to better suit the smaller screen space) the core appeal remains, players able to create their own party to then take on inventive mini-RPG stories, stories that might see you climbing into the sky to talk to gods or battling fearsome monsters in caves.

Zanac

Whether you choose to play using the default ‘arranged’ graphics or use the simpler ‘original’ sprites designed to evoke the MSX original, Zanac feels as swift and smooth a shmup as it ever did, the game’s many stages swooping as easily over lush forests as they do deep space as the screen somehow fills with more bullets than a game like this ever should have without skipping a beat or feeling unfair.

This Compile-born title is nothing less than a foundational entry in the genre, one with direct links to much-lauded later releases including the excellent MUSHA, now found and enjoyed as part of the Sega’s Nintendo Switch Online offerings. There’s even an online ranking screen filled with just as many out of reach high scores as any other ‘real’ shmup on the Switch, a testament to both the quality of this port as well as Zanac’s immaculate design.

City Connection Rocket

Jaleco’s unforgettable car-based platformer returns with a few new twists in this official sequel to the arcade classic, including the ability to use the rockets attached to the back of Clarice’s car to help get around the stage.

There are also giant tanks and helicopters to contend with as well as the shift from neatly ‘painting’ the platforms to recovering important confidential documents for the sake of world peace, making for an arguably smoother experience than the original. It’s good simple arcade-like fun and exactly what you’d want from a phone game — or from a Switch game on-the-go.

Hero Must Die

This one reached English-speaking Switch players last year in greatly changed and expanded form under the title Hero must die. again, no less obsolete for this apparent duplication than Collection of Mana is for Trails of Mana’s existence.

In any form it’s an innovative and flexible RPG that ends over and over again at the hero’s funeral, the previous five days not a cheerful victory lap against the forces of evil but one last chance to put his affairs in order, to try and find the woman he fought so hard for before his time runs out as his body deteriorates by the day.

DoDonPachi DaiOuJou DX

A tiny version of something as big as a Cave shmup may not sound ideal (especially considering the numerous ports to the Switch that contain multiple beyond arcade-perfect releases, with Deathsmiles I & II being the most recent), but like Ketsui’s pared-back DS form these portable versions can be beautiful in their simplicity, a tightly focussed bullet hell toy to spend a quick break with for many, although the online ranking makes it hard to resist having just one more go…

Tetris Diamond

Who doesn’t love playing Tetris? ‘Vanilla’ Tetris may be out of fashion in an era where Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Tetris Effect is capable of turning the eternal puzzler into an emotional experience, but sometimes it’s nice to perform a quick t-spin without sobbing at the beauty playing out before you.

The title here is down to the new diamond mode: At set intervals a diamond-effect tetrimino will appear, which if used effectively to clear a lot of lines will grant a significant points bonus.


That’s just a handful from a much larger selection — see below for a full list.

When viewed as games and not ‘old feature phone games’, these titles are fantastic value for money (even at full price they’re firmly in ‘leftover eShop credit’ territory). They are often truly unique titles — even on hardware as well-stocked as the Switch — as well as being incredibly well made, and a perfect fit for time-poor gamers looking for a quick bit of fun.

But G-Mode Archives also represents something more than another umbrella brand for a bunch of good old games: To a certain extent, their presence is something of a canary in a coal mine for commercial retro re-releases as a whole. While we appreciate they might find only a limited audience in the West (and that the RPGs especially may present a significant language barrier), if we wish for a better future for our collective gaming past than simply another (welcome) round of Mario, Metroid, and random Final Fantasys come the next console cycle, then it’s on all of us to acknowledge the value in preserving a broader range of titles from a broader range of systems — titles we may not at first glance realise ‘deserve’ saving and playing — and to do this before they vanish into the digital ether.

G-Mode Archives Nintendo Switch – Full List

Here is a full list of every G-Mode title currently available on the Japanese Switch eShop (the ones you can find outside Japan are indicated with an asterisk(*). The ‘Archives +’ section contains third-party games not created/ported by G-Mode.

G-Mode Archives

  • G-Mode Archives 01: Flyhight Cloudia
  • G-Mode Archives 02: Ai to Roudou no Hibi
  • G-Mode Archives 03: Kururin Cafe
  • G-Mode Archives 04: Beach Volleyball Shizuku
  • G-Mode Archives 05: Sukeboooman
  • G-Mode Archives 06: Shijou Saikyou Miyamoto Julia
  • G-Mode Archives 07: Love Love Knuckle
  • G-Mode Archives 08: Pucchin Puzzle
  • G-Mode Archives 09: Flyhight Cloudia II
  • G-Mode Archives 10: Omohide Series Omatsuri Dukushi
  • G-Mode Archives 11: Senbazuru
  • G-Mode Archives 12: Night Hike
  • G-Mode Archives 13: Rinji Shuuden
  • G-Mode Archives 14: Mystia
  • G-Mode Archives 15: Churashima Kurashi
  • G-Mode Archives 16: Beach Volleyball Shizuku 2: Hishou Hen
  • G-Mode Archives 17: Flyhight Cloudia III
  • G-Mode Archives 18: Hero Must Die.
  • G-Mode Archives 19: Magical Drop DX
  • G-Mode Archives 20: Magical Fantasista
  • G-Mode Archives 21: Unou Paradise
  • G-Mode Archives 22: Hercules no Eikou III: Kamigami no Chinmoku
  • G-Mode Archives 23: Keitai Shoujo
  • G-Mode Archives 24: Sangokushi Nendaiki DX
  • G-Mode Archives 25: Topolon *available in the West
  • G-Mode Archives 26: Ore no Sentai Oranger
  • G-Mode Archives 27: Ninja Gakko
  • G-Mode Archives 28: Sepas Channel
  • G-Mode Archives 29: Zanac *available in the West
  • G-Mode Archives 30: Sorcerian
  • G-Mode Archives 31: Irekae IQ Crossword DX
  • G-Mode Archives 32: Maou Company
  • G-Mode Archives 33: Tetris Diamond
  • G-Mode Archives 34: Majoukko Princess
  • G-Mode Archives 35: Magical Fantasista 2
  • G-Mode Archives 36: Beach Volley Girl Shizuku 3
  • G-Mode Archives 37: Moe Suro Beach Drops
  • G-Mode Archives 38: Mystia 2
  • G-Mode Archives 39: Flyhight Cloudia 4
  • G-Mode Archives 40: Kamura – Gods and Contractors

G-Mode Archives+

  • G-Mode Archives + Tantei Yukikawa Rikuke Kentan Vol. 1 (Kamen Gensou Satsujin Jiken)
  • G-Mode Archives + Detective Ryosuke Akikawa Case Tan Vol.2 (Kairoukan Murder Case)
  • G-Mode Archives + City Connection Rocket
  • G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kashiwakawa Omyo Kentan Vol. 3 – Shisha no Rakuen
  • G-Mode Archives + DoDonPachi Dai-Ou-Jou DX
  • G-Mode Archives + Maou ga Ochiru Hi
  • G-Mode Archives + Burari – Sekai Untei
  • G-Mode Archives + Ninja JaJaMaru-kun – Ranbu
  • G-Mode Archives + Tantei Yukikawa Rikuke Kentan Vol. 4 (Shirasaginiakanohane)
  • G-Mode Archives + Danmaku Kentei Shi Tameshi – Daioujou Hen –
  • G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jikentan Vol. 5 (Kurai no Hako no Ue)
  • G-Mode Archives + Ketsui-Kizuna Hell-DX
  • G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jikentan Vol. 6 Tsuikousaku Jiken
  • G-Mode Archives + Tondemo West Boo Ki 2 Paris Butal Rally
  • G-Mode Archives + Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi DX
  • G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jikentan Vol. 7 Otonari Keiji no Sousa Memo
  • G-Mode Archives + Momoko 1200%
  • G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jikentan Vol. 8
  • G-Mode Archives + Idol Janshi Suchie-Pai Milky’s Ambition
  • G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jikentan Vol. 9

Have you played any of the G-Mode Archives series? Would you like to see more of these released overseas? Is there a particular mobile game you miss? Let us know in the comments below!

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