El Viento Returns, Sorta

El Viento remains a fascinating artifact from a facinating era. Like many early 1990s games heavy on anime style and resolute heroines, El Viento is cut from the same manic energy as anime OVAs of the decade prior. Yet it steps beyond the typical fantasy or science fiction milieu of the time, and it’s all the more enticing for that. 

Our story is technically about a green-haired Peruvian woman named Annet who wields wind magic and well-trained boomerangs as she fights mobsters, cultists, and vaguely Lovecraftian nightmares in 1928. That alone makes it stand out among side-scrolling action games of this vintage, but it doesn’t even cover the giant pixelated octopuses, the dolphin-riding, the skyscraper full of pteruges-wearing lizardmen, the Mount Rushmore totem-pole robots, or the speakeasy somehow full of ice dragons, sunglasses-sporting rats, and bartenders who look like mohawked versions of the Butterball cenobite.


In her journey Annet brilliantly embodies the allure of an entire era's anime OVAs and action games, both of which thrived on embracing weird sights and not caring one iota for how much sense it all might have made. Yes, El Viento has the usual cliches and the rough edges that typified even Wolfteam’s best games (of which El Viento is one), but it’s such an energetic and inventive journey that it’s hard not to emerge satisfied, endeared, or just sympathetic toward poor Annet at the downbeat conclusion. 

Physical copies of El Viento are expensive these days, as is the case with just about every decent Genesis and Super NES game that isn’t Pac-Man 2. Fortunately, El Viento isn’t trapped in some frustrating legal miasma like some other cult-favorite Genesis games that I definitely don’t talk about too much and definitely aren’t called Trouble Shooter. El Viento is legally available on the Evercade system already, but the recently announced Retro-Bit reissue of the game tries to come close to the original Genesis case and cartridge. 

Retro-Bit’s done a few reissues like this in recent years, offering Genesis cartridges with packaging that includes both the Japanese and international covers, plus a full-color manual and some other extra. And their El Viento re-release, announced alonside Sol-Deace, looks sharp in its recreation of the original Kazutoshi Yamane cover and the Renovation cover that I wrote about who knows how many years ago.

One thing bothers me: the cartridge itself. I’m not fond of translucent plastic in general, and pink is a strange color choice for El Viento. Yet what really jumps out at me is the label itself. The manga artwork, taken from ads and Yamane’s own El Viento comic in Beep! MegaDrive magazine, just doesn’t look right on a cartridge label, particularly when it’s cropped so awkwardly, and combined with the color choice it looks like someone cut out a manga panel and stuck it on a Jolly Rancher. 

It's almost enough to put me off buying Retro-Bit’s version of El Viento—or at least enough to take it from something I’ll instantly purchase, squawking like a trained parrot all the while, to much vaguer status. 

Am I being too picky? Shouldn’t I be glad that El Viento is available for less than a family of three’s monthly food budget? Should I really count it a deal-breaker just because I don’t want to look at that neon lollipop of a cartridge in my Genesis and reflexively think it’s a bootleg? Shouldn’t I get this in the hopes that we’ll see reissues of more Genesis rarities and perhaps the other two decidedly lesser games in the El Viento trilogy, Earnest Evans and Annet Again

Really, why do I care so much about this trivial detail? Perhaps I should look to El Viento for the answer.

Ah, yes. Now it all makes sense.