Toaplan’s Zero Wing is the game that spawned the classic (ancient, even) meme of “All your base are belong to us.” And it’s now out on Steam, easily accessible on modern hardware. As you might expect, the game’s store page references the beloved memes Zero Wing spawned decades ago. However, this release doesn’t contain those memes because it’s the wrong version of the game. Whoops!
Popping up on Steam yesterday, Toaplan’s original arcade version of Zero Wing from 1989 has been ported and re-released to modern PCs by Bitwave Games. And that’s very cool. It’s always nice to see old games get re-released, preserving our history while letting more people play it, too. But with Zero Wing—a fairly generic space-based shoot ‘em up for the time—the only real reason anybody remembers it was that the Mega Drive (Sega Genesis) port included some truly hilarious, poorly translated dialogue that ended up becoming popular memes online over 20 years ago. (Side note: Oh god memes are reaching drinking age.) Even the Steam page for Zero Wing directly references all this, twice even.
Unfortunately, the Steam version of Zero Wing only includes the original arcade release and not the meme-filled Mega Drive port. Technically, this is the better-playing version of the game, and it’s nice to have, sure, but it seems odd to not include the version of Zero Wing that contains the very memes that allowed it to be so well remembered in 2023. Without the Mega Drive version’s legendary contributions, I highly doubt I’d be here right now writing up a story about Zero Wing in the year of our lord 2023.
I first became aware of this lack of memes via a tweet from Giant Bomb co-founder Jeff Gerstmann. A few others have noticed the discrepancy, too. One negative Steam review even points it out clearly, stating: “Doesn’t even have the intro cutscene that it mentions being remembered for in the store page.”
And that’s the real problem here. If someone wanted to go and re-release Zero Wing’s arcade version to Steam, I doubt many would care that much. But using the classic memes on the store page as a selling point for this port feels a little misleading.
Kotaku has contacted Bitwave Games seeking comment.
However, there might be hope yet for all you fans of “All your base is belong to us.” On Zero Wing’s community page on Steam, a developer responded to criticisms over the lack of the cutscene, suggesting that it might be incorporated in some way in the future.
Alongside Zero Wing yesterday, Bitwave also launched Steam versions of classic Toaplan arcade shmups Truxton, OutZone, and Twin Cobra. Great games all, but less powerful on the meme front.