Given that many of retro gaming's most collectable items now sell for hundreds (and occasionally thousands) of dollars, it's unsurprisingly that enterprising companies are turning their hand to officially-licenced reprints to satisfy demand and make a quick buck in the process.
The latest example of this is Gleylancer, a super-rare Mega Drive shooter from 1992 that regularly fetches three-figure sums in its original form. Japanese firm Columbus Circle – which also creates its own clone hardware – inked a deal earlier this year with original rights holder Masaya to create a reproduction cartridge, pre-orders for which promptly sold out within days.
Gleylancer is now out in the wild, and, following the unexplained cancellation of our pre-order with the online retailer Play-Asia, we managed to get our hands on a copy – although it cost us a little more than its suggested retail price thanks to the fact that the game is already in high demand and is subsequently being up-sold by scalpers on auction sites and elsewhere. Gah.
It would seem that Columbus Circle, perhaps unsure about how such a niche release would perform, has only manufactured a very limited number of cartridges in this case. In hindsight, that seems like a foolish move, given the fame and scarcity of the original version, but it's easy to forgive a little caution when you consider the huge financial investment involved – even more so when you remember we're talking about a game from 1992 being re-released on a console no longer in production.
What's less forgivable is the fact that despite the high asking price, Columbus Circle has done a pretty shoddy job with this reproduction. The cover on our copy has several creases due to the fact that the plastic sleeve on the case isn't wide enough (we've seen other buyers comment on this also). The manual features poorly-scanned screenshots and doesn't appear to have been 'cut' properly during production, while the cartridge sticker on our version has a strange off-set printing issue (and the sticker itself wasn't fully stuck down on the back, which is again something we've seen other buyers report on). Finally, the circuit board isn't bevelled like it is on original Sega carts; while the thickness appears to be fine, the lack of a bevelled edge could potentially damage the cartridge contacts inside your console over time (although we can't say that for sure).
All in all, this is a slightly disappointing release, but quality control appears to be something that many companies working in this field struggle with, or choose to neglect. Back in 2017, Capcom gave iam8bit permission to produce a 25th anniversary Street Fighter II cart which, it turned out, could potentially set your SNES on fire – it even came with a warning stating as much. Likewise, Retroism's licenced reproduction of Super Double Dragon (called Return of Double Dragon) refused to work on very early SNES models. There's clearly an issue with quality control in this sector of the market; companies are perhaps spending most of their budget on securing the licences and then cutting corners when it comes to the physical product itself – which sort of defeats the object of reproducing a desirable and collectable item.
There are exceptions, of course – we've really liked Retro-Bit's line of reproduction games, which includes an insane R-Type III limited edition – but that feels like the exception. Until retro collectors vote with their wallets and avoid buying these shoddy products, we imagine this sorry trend is set to continue – especially as much of the demand is driven by enthusiasts who don't want to miss out on an item which could potentially grow in value, which is precisely what has happened with the Gleylancer reissue.