Irem Collection Volume 1 (PS5, 2023) Impressions

Released digitally in late 2023, this collection recently saw its physical release in Japan. Fans of the genre weren't happy with this one, but I got it anyways because I was interested in the artbook that comes with the limited edition.

Now that artbook turned out to be a dud as it only includes the pixel art used by the games. The development concept artworks I was hoping for are nowhere to be found.
However I feel that the hate the collection itself has seen is a little overblown. I wasn't able to detect any bugs on the patch that was available when I got my copy of the collector's edition. There are six save state slots per game (the last Arcade Archive releases I played only had one, so that's an improvement actually) and the rewind feature does its job. You can tell this wasn't developed by M2, but it has everything you need to practice for your single credit clears. There's leaderboards and a sort of arrange mode that allows you to control the pods/arms separately from the aircraft, making the games somewhat easier and more accessible (but it's true that there should be separate leaderboards for the control modes). What irks me personally is that instead of a good scanline overlay, like M2 adds it to their games, these come with various CRT shaders that each come with their own problems (silly bloom, blurriness, distorted colors, curved edges, and what not). The developers could have done a better job here, but for me it's better than having no filters or shaders at all. Surprisingly the arcade versions of Image Fight come with an option to play in true tate, for those that like to turn their LCD or OLED displays (does anyone still use plasma displays?) around for an even bigger picture.

What also bothers me a little is the shovelware aesthetic of the main menu. The game shouldn't be booting into a language select screen each and every time. The selection should be saved and automatically loaded on subsequent plays. A config menu should allow players to change the language later on. The wallpaper options to fill the entire 16:9 HD area boil down to two random computer graphics. Probably because they also act as backgrounds for the hub menu, but actual game artworks would have looked nicer and less cheap. And why aren't trophies available in score attack (challenge) mode? It makes sense to disable them for standard mode since that let's you cheat your way through the games. But having to play arcade mode after getting a 1cc in score mode specifically to get the trophies makes little sense.

Anyways, this is a decent collection for fans that would prefer to own the HD releases of these games on disc or cartridge with a box to put on their shelf. The games are intact and run well without problems. The hub menu is available in a dozen languages, from english and spanish to chinese and korean. There is no knowledge of japanese required to play and enjoy any of the games in this collection. They even put out a recent patch that adds english (and japanese, possibly more but I didn't check every language available) subtitles to the anime cut scenes in Image Fight II. So anyone bothered by the delay of the global boxed release, or worried that it may never come out, has the option to import Tozai's japanese release instead.

Now I don't know what exactly the issue with the early digital release was, but it seems the developers are taking player feedback seriously and putting in the work to fix whatever problems players might encounter. I'm confident volume 2 will release in a better state now, and am looking forward to what future volumes will have to offer (while hoping that those will still happen).

Reviews for the games included might follow in the (far) future.