Return of a Retro. Classic gaming has never gone away. Remakes and 1-to-1 ripped ports of old gems and duds have made their way to every generation of gaming in some form, be it squeezed out in a digital release or a hard copy. Usually a single game or sets of games in a series are brought back to the public for purists and people who never knew they existed. This generation has seen several veteran companies release a compilation of most of their greatest hits and have seen great success. Perhaps it’s a culmination of perfect timing and taking advantage of platforms that have breathed a new life into the classic style of gaming that indie developers have been doing so well at providing, tapping into a market that has growing appeal. One of the legendary companies who’ve helped kick off the video game industry to get it where it’s at today is Shin Nihon Kikaku, mainly known as SNK. The company as a whole is certainly touted as a pioneer for sure. From creating its own video game platform Neo Geo and creating games with new or rarely seen formulas even before my time (’85) back in the very late 70’s, it’s interesting to see just where a lot of the passion came and evolved from. SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is an anthology of many SNK classics, and just like in its time, this collection innovates in its own way.
There are 25 known classic titles in this compilation. 14 are readily available with nearly half of them consisting of two differing versions being the console port and arcade port. The additional 11 are to be released on December 11 as free download. Included are the following list of games:
Titles at Launch
- Alpha Mission (Console/Arcade)
- Athena (Console/Arcade)
- Crystalis (Console)
- Guerrilla War (Console/Arcade)
- Ikari Warriors (Console/Arcade)
- Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road (Console/Arcade)
- Ikari Warriors III: The Rescue (Console/Arcade)
- Iron Tank (Console)
- P.O.W. (Console/Arcade)
- Prehistoric Isle (Arcade)
- Psycho Solider (Arcade)
- Street Smart (Arcade)
- TNK III (Arcade)
- Vanguard (Arcade)
Titles Coming December 11 As Free DLC
- Munch Mobile (Arcade)
- Fantasy (Arcade)
- Sasuke vs. Commander (Arcade)
- Chopper I (Arcade)
- Time Soldiers (Arcade)
- Bermuda Triangle (Arcade)
- Paddle Mania (Arcade)
- Ozma Wars (Arcade)
- Beast Bursters (Arcade)
- SAR: Search and Rescue (Arcade)
- World Wars (Arcade)
Note: Beast Bursters and SAR: Search and Rescue will be made available on Nintendo eShop as free DLC.
Opening the vault to the darn-near beginning is a rare treat in and of itself. Whether the quality of the lost relics could live up to any number of standards is dependent on the discoverer. There’s certainly a mixed bag within and spanning across different genres, there’s surely something here for everyone. Respecting games in the state they were created from decades of old, they certainly show their age. That isn’t a detriment to experiencing them first-hand, however. There are classics that did right by the genre. Right off the bat, Crystalis is probably the best game in the bunch and is just a classic gem, bearing resemblance to The Legend of Zelda formula, but more fluid. For shoot-’em-ups, Vanguard will pit players in a seemingly never-ending laser-blastathon against an onslaught of enemies through various levels where shots can be done in 4 different directions. Prehistoric Isle plays a bit more traditional with fast bullets and powerups through the land of dinosaurs. Both of these titles mix horizontal and vertical scrolling in their gameplay. A bulk of the titles are heavily military themed, although they don’t all play the same. First, the Ikari Warriors trilogy all improve slightly with each installment and play in a top-down perspective where players can gain powerups, throw grenades and gain additional armor. Similar titles include Guerrilla War, Iron Tank and TNK III. One title that stands out in this theme is P.O.W., a side-scrolling beat-’em-up. One thing’s for certain with this anthology of classic arcade titles; is that most were meant to be played in the arcade begging for you to dump every single quarter you had. The difficulty and unbalanced chaos that some of these titles bring to the table can smack you right in the face.
Thankfully, convenience is available in this day & age. Players can press “Start” to continue adding credits for infinite play. So you can play with death and see it through ’til the end. Likewise, a rewind feature has been implemented for every game. Pressing L will wind back your progress in real-time and let you resume in the middle of gameplay from an earlier point. So you can play without losing a life and see it through ’til the end. No matter how you choose to see it, though, some games offer two different takes of the same name. Or different name, since being able to change the region of a game from U.S.A. to Japan is allowed and playing the Japanese release is possible.
The more interesting look into the technical aspect involving visual identity and gameplay features is being able to play either the Arcade version of a game or the Console version. It’s interesting to see the same game essentially having to be remade from the ground up to work for the platform it was design for. The verdict is the console versions are complete and playable, but the arcade versions are of simply higher quality being able to do more on-screen with smoother visuals, elements and with crisper audio output. Take Athena for example, a side-scrolling action-platformer. Both versions have roughly the same gameplay even though the differences are noticeable. See below: the difference in graphics should give a general idea of how much differentiating features to expect in the gameplay department.
Top: Arcade, Bottom: Console
In fact, it can all boil down to taste. They may play different enough to offer twice the experience. An interesting look into development changes might be part of the value for collectors and fans of the history of video games — even if that means pushing through the brutality of early design shenanigans seen here in Street Smart.
A Package for Portability
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection has implemented very welcomed features that work in any form of play, but it also takes advantage of Switch’s portable aspect. One feature specifically allows players to rotate the display on its side while in handheld mode. Portrait favors vertical play with the left Joy-Con at the base, while Portrait (Reversed) favors vertical play with the right Joy-Con at the base. Perfect for that arcade cabinet feel and best suited for vertical-scrolling shooters. In such cases, you would be playing with a single Joy-Con. Even for TV play, a single Joy-Con works. NIS America has issued a statement regarding a day 1 patch that incorporates a new “Single Stick” mode that when enabled, allows two players to play multiplayer games together using a single Joy-Con. The idea is that movement and direction faced require two different inputs. Now with “Single Stick” mode, players can control movement and aiming simultaneously with one analog stick. Also added in the patch is “Auto Fire” mode for all twin-stick games. This allows bullets to automatically fire in the direction the player is pointing with that 2nd stick, as some games require the fire button to be held down.
Customization extends. In the list of games, pressing Y on each title brings up its own individual options. Here, players can customize their controls, choose difficulty, number of lives, and more. For instance, if a game grants bonus lives for every number of points acquired, players also have the ability to alter the score for when they are given. In games with co-op, options for friendly fire can be disabled as well. Screen size and filters are also available. Players can choose Sharp Screen (smallest size, emphasis on borders, crispiest image quality), Full Screen (less border, touch screens edges while maintaining ratio), and Stretch Screen (no border, wide, stretched image). TV Filter and Monitor Filter add screen effects that can smooth image quality.
For all the completionists out there, there is an in-game Achievement system, although there’s nothing too fancy for every game individually. It’s basically “can you beat this game?”. Without the rewind and/or freeplay features, that’s gonna be a no for the majority of these games for me personally. The unforgiving nature of some of these titles already have it in for me. However, one feature can be seen as a bit more fair in regards to beating it “proper”. Players can create a save state at any time during a game and come back to it later. Upon exiting a game, it will always ask you if you’d like to save as you exit to the menu. It’s a nice touch. It should be expected, but it’s great that it’s here. It’s great that it’s all here. Between being able to rewind, add “quarters” for free, and save states, it’s nice that anyone is finally able to enjoy these games and see them in totality. I often wonder how many people even get to see what the creators worked on.
In the present, it’s nice to see what creators have included as a completely new feature yet to be seen.
In SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, some games include a Watch feature. Here, players can watch a complete run of a game with full playback control. It’s essentially watching a walkthrough or Let’s Play where players can speed skim through the session should they choose, learn new tactics or methods, etc. Best of all, however, is the ability to watch and immediately take over at any point as if the controller was directly handed to you.
Preservation. It may be digital gatherings, but the Museum mode is a plethora of goodness. 12 years of works, concept art, advertisement, behind the scenes, and full soundtracks to the included games as all archived neatly and in high quality. The amount of art found in this package are truly never-before-seen tier. Zoom features allow a close inspection of the image. All games are properly organized and some blast-from-the-past adverts probably make you wish certain games were playable. And don’t write off the music. There are some tunes that are an instant classic, even if you’re hearing them for the first time. I mean, just briefly listen to Psycho Soldier.
And I encourage you to listen to the Japanese version of this song!
Overall, as a compilation, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a pretty great package. With 11 more games releasing as free DLC on December 11, the total count of 25 games is decent, especially considering the emulation process. On that subject, the emulation of every game is near perfect. With these older titles, it’s vague on its quality, but it captures them how they were originally seen without any freezes or noticeable glitches. Booting games feels snappy as do all the manipulation features such as rewinding gameplay and the fantastic Watch mode.
Running at 1080p in TV mode and 720p docked, it’s a great collection for either situation. Unfortunately, and understandably, no use of HD rumble or any rumble. The song played during Museum gets bonus points for being chill.