A special thanks to NIS America for sending us this game to review.
When I think of SNK, I generally think of the company’s NeoGeo heyday, with run and gun classics like Metal Slug and a wide variety of fighters such as Art of Fighting, King of Fighters, and Samurai Showdown. The SNK 40th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION is a great reminder that the company’s deep catalogue of titles extends far beyond those. This collection is a nostalgia trip for those of us who grew up in the 80s, playing Ikari Warriors with our friends after school or spending late nights trying to work our way towards the final showdown in Crystalis. For newer gamers, it offers a variety of classics from the venerable developer, with fourteen games across diverse genres such as SHMUPs, beat ‘em ups, and action RPGs. Eight of the titles feature both arcade and home console releases, moving the total number of playable titles to twenty-two. Still, the number of games doesn’t really matter if the titles are emulated poorly or lack in quality themselves. So, how does this collection stack up?
As I mentioned previously, this collections covers many genres and gamestyles. While quite a few of them are shooters of one sort or another, many other genres are present as well. P.O.W. stands out as a very fun beat ‘em up, Athena is an interesting platformer, and of course, all the Ikari Warrior games are very good vertically scrolling action titles. Each one, however, has a bit of twist. I never cared much for Ikari Warriors 3, which takes the vertical movement from the previous titles but makes the game into a brawler instead of a shooter, but it is, at the very least, a very unique title. Personally, I love Guerrilla War. It’s very similar to the first Ikari Warriors, but the graphics and field of movement are much improved.
A very pleasant surprise for me was Prehistoric Isle in 1930. This game is a side scrolling SHMUP where the player takes control of a World War I era biplane to do battle with cavemen, dinosaurs, and other primordial monsters. It’s crazy in the way only 1980’s arcade games can be, and while I had never even heard of this game previously, I had tons of fun playing it. One point I will bring up is that the home console version of games are almost universally worse than the arcade versions. I personally had a lot of fun playing the NES version of the Ikari Warriors, for instance, but that was largely due to nostalgia. The games suffer from the limited graphical capabilities of the home consoles of the day, resulting in smaller sprites and random slowdown. More importantly, though, the lack of buttons compared to their arcade counterparts is a huge hindrance. I would MUCH rather play Ikari Warriors with twin stick controls that allow me to move and aim independently or P.O.W. with a dedicated jump button. Still, the inclusion of both versions of various titles is appreciated, and some players might enjoy an experience where the difficulty and length of the titles was specifically tailored for playing at home.
Presentation can make or break a game collection as surely as the actual content can.
Luckily, this collection is made using Backbone Entertainment’s Digital Eclipse engine. This engine was previously used on Capcom Titles such as the Disney Afternoon Collection and the Mega Man Legacy Collection, and this collection was emulated just as perfectly as those. I can honestly say that these game, for as old as they are, looked and played beautifully on both my 1080P TV and on the Switch’s handheld display. Speaking of playing the Switch in handheld mode, this collection allows you to rotate the display for both landscape and portrait mode. As most of these games originated in the arcade, the portrait mode, usable in handheld mode, is an ideal way to experience this title. The collection features all the extras you would expect including art, music, and arcade cabinet/border art when you play the game. Much like the aforementioned Disney Afternoon Collection, the SNK 40th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION allows you to rewind any game you are playing with the push of a trigger. This is not a feature I used much, especially for arcade titles I could simply “put more coins into,” but it was still appreciated. A new addition is the ability to watch games. This feature allows you to watch, rewind, and fast forward a pre played version of the game. More interestingly, though, you are also allowed to join the playthrough at anytime. It’s a bit like watching a Long Play on YouTube that you can start controlling if the mood strikes you. Once again, it’s not something I used often, but it is pretty neat.
The SNK 40th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION isn’t filled with a lot of household names, and not all of the titles, especially the NES ones, have aged gracefully. Still, the package they come in is very slick, and there is a lot of fun to be had with some of these titles. With 11 more games coming as free DLC in the future, this already content packed experience will only grow in value. I definitely recommend this title to anyone interested in the classic days of arcade gaming.