Developer: Digital Eclipse
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Arcade, Action & Adventure
Release Date: November 13, 2018 (JP & NA) / November 16, 2018 (EU)
You may not be familiar with SNK, but if you’re a gamer you’ve probably heard of their Metal Slug and King of Fighters series and their beloved title Samurai Shodown. It may be news then that they’ve actually been cranking out titles since the early 80’s for arcade and consoles, specifically the Neo Geo systems. The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection mainly focuses on the pre-Neo Geo era of games ranging from as early as 1981 to 1990 in the arcade and NES. Needless to say, if you’re looking for a pure nostalgia trip, look no further.
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection includes an extensive amount of extras with the Museum mode, but the main reason to own this collection are for the games. At launch, there are 14 titles available to play on the card or when purchased digitally. On December 11, the publisher stated there will be 11 DLC titles coming as free additions, with 9 being implemented via a patch, while the other 2 will be available as a free bundle on the Nintendo eShop on the same day. Well, this may sound confusing, but in the end, it means you’ll eventually have 25 titles in all to enjoy, and there may be plans to add even more games later in the future.
There are well over 60 titles in SNK’s portfolio from before 1990, but this collection will be focusing on the 14 titles currently available before patches are implemented and the rest of the catalogue are added after launch. Available now are Alpha Mission, Athena, Crystalis, Guerrilla War, the Ikari Warriors trilogy (top-down Rambo-like shooters), Iron Tank, P.O.W. (side-scrolling Ikari Warriors), Prehistoric Isle, Psycho Soldier (great name for a game), Street Smart, TNK III, and Vanguard. I have to admit, I’ve only ever played or had a fondness for the Ikari Warriors games and P.O.W., with Crystalis being the one ultimate cult-classic for the NES many fans had been clamoring for.
Being a fan of video game history, actually playing the games was an enlightening experience as I didn’t know games could look or play this good if they were from the 80’s and not in an arcade. You are able to switch regions from America to Japan with the press of a button at the menu and can also choose to play either the arcade or console version before starting a game up. I played every title, but the two that stuck out for me were Crystalis and Psycho Soldier. In Psycho Soldier the protagonist actually sings her own theme song as you’re playing and the mechanics were unlike anything I’d ever seen in a side-scrolling shooter. I would recommend though, for everyone to play Crystalis as it was definitely on par with The Legend of Zelda for the time and even ahead of its time in gameplay mechanics and features. A real gem of a game that not enough people have had the chance to experience.
These are still the same titles in all their glory, but all have been enhanced with 1080p resolution and look better than you could ever have imagined. The colors really seem to pop out from the screen whether docked or handheld, and there’s even an option to play with a couple of different filters for a more authentic experience. You can manipulate the image with Full, Stretch, or Sharp Screen depending on your preference and you can turn the border on or off. There is also a Watch mode where you can just watch every game being played through, which is something that doesn’t sound like fun, but for a collection like this, it was a nice way to see how some games were meant to be played.
On top of all this, developer Digital Eclipse really went out of their way to make this the ultimate nostalgia experience. You have the option to change all the button layouts for each game and there are save states, one per title that you will definitely have to make use of. My favorite feature was the rewind functionality that allows you to rewind at any point with the L trigger back anywhere 30 seconds from where you currently are. As you know with games from the past, many of these titles are very difficult and this feature really made getting through them more enjoyable. However, on a couple of occasions, with P.O.W. and Street Smart in particular, the rewind function didn’t work. This has been addressed by the publisher and an upcoming Day 1 patch is promised to fix any issues that may occur.
The Museum mode is one of the best parts of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, and is similar to actually being at a museum and admiring the history and success SNK has established in the video game medium. While you may not be able to play the 60+ titles in SNK’s library from the early years, there are still detailed information, screenshots, concept art, scripts, and other history items available to check out with each game being divided by the year they were released. Many of these items are rare, including the box art for Yosaku or Atom Smasher, and all the images are enhanced in the highest resolution possible.
I appreciated how this gave me a snapshot of what are probably the best games SNK have ever created. If you go through and read everything in order of timeline, you’ll gain an important understanding of how SNK has influenced video games and the evolution they’ve gone through. You may not be able to play and experience every game in SNK’s catalogue, but at least you’ll be able to admire and learn more about them and that’s all I want as a video game enthusiast. You can also check out Bonus Features, which include behind-the-scenes fanzines, interviews, guides and more. Finally, there is a Soundtrack player for every game included and is another area you can easily get lost in.
Overall, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a must-own for anyone who is a fan of video game history and enjoys playing old-school titles. The menus are crisp, the Museum mode is extensive and well thought out, and the variety of customization options make it so you can play each one of these titles the way you specifically want. This will not translate over well to players who don’t like playing older games, but even then, the difficulty of many of these games can be toned down with the rewind feature. As far as collections go, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is the one to own and I would love for Digital Eclipse to make more games like this.
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*Review Key Provided by NIS America
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This post was written by minusthebrant