Repackaging old games in new bundles isn’t a revolutionary idea, especially in the current climate where doing so seems like the hot thing. SNK 40th Anniversary Collection continues the trend with a batch of 14 games and more on the way in an enriched extra-featured treatment for an unremarkable list of games.
Part of the reason I chose to do a review of this game is because of my lack of knowledge on SNK titles. Even the more well renowned games like Metal Slug and Samurai Showdown have never been something I’ve taken the time to play. So SNK games in general have been a blind spot to my “gamer cred”. Unfortunately, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection emphasizes games prior to 1990 (except one in Crystalis which came out in 1990) whereas the general feel I get is that their best releases came in the middle to late 90’s.
Below is a list of games that are part of the collection. Many feature both arcade and console versions of the title, and I will note below which they are:
- Alpha Mission (1989) – Arcade/Console
- Athena (1986) – Arcade/Console
- Crystalis (1990) – Console
- Guerrilla War (1987) – Arcade/Console
- Ikari Warriors (1986) – Arcade/Console
- Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road (1986) – Arcade/Console
- Ikari Warriors III: The Rescue (1989) – Arcade/Console
- Iron Tank: The Invasion of Normandy (1988) – Console
- P.O.W.: Prisoners of War (1988) – Arcade/Console
- Prehistoric Isle (1989) – Arcade
- Psycho Soldier (1986) – Arcade
- Street Smart (1989) – Arcade
- T.N.K. III (1985) – Arcade
- Vanguard (1981) – Arcade
In fact, not only do you get the American versions, but almost all of them (Athena and Vanguard being the exceptions) allows you to switch the region of release to the Japanese edition, text and all. So instead of say Crystalis, it will change over to God Slayer.
NIS America have also clarified with me that they have been marketing the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection with only 13 games. Iron Tank: The Invasion of Normandy is technically a remake of T.N.K. III, so while I count it as a separate entity (it appears as a different game in the collection itself), NIS America may not want to mislead people with what constitutes a different game. This is why I use 14 games, but elsewhere you may read 13 games.
If that isn’t enough, they also revealed that 11 more games would be added as post-launch DLC on December 11th…for free! Those titles would be:
- Beast Busters (1989)
- Bermuda Triangle (1987)
- Chopper 1 (1988)
- Fantasy (1981)
- Munch Mobile (1983)
- Ozma Wars (1979)
- Paddle Mania (1988)
- SAR: Search and Rescue (1989)
- Sasuke vs Commander (1980)
- Time Soldiers (1987)
- World Wars (1987)
Of these 11 titles, 9 of them will be implemented into the game via a patch. The other two, Beast Busters and SAR: Search and Rescue, can be found as a special bundle on the Nintendo eShop under the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection store page.
Now have some mercy on me when I say – I’m not good at these games. These are from a time where grueling and punishing gameplay was common and these titles are no different. So not knowing what are the nostalgia darlings here, I’m hard pressed to say if this collection of titles is good or not. However, I was able to find enjoyment in the Final Fantasy/Zelda type game of Crystalis or beating the snot out of people in overly long fights in the same vein as They Live in Street Smart among some other games. Whereas Athena and Psycho Soldier were not something I wanted to keep wasting my time on. Not counting the free DLC games, that puts each game at roughly $3.00 in this $40.00 collection. With more games on the horizon for free, that price looks better and better, especially if these SNK classics are up your alley.
Even if all the games don’t do it for you, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection provides multiple extras ranging from soundtracks for the games, a timeline of SNK releases and trivia about the games or SNK in general, box art, concept art, promotional art and more. All of these items can be found in the Museum option on the title screen.
Features within the games themselves can change depending on the experience you would want. For example, you can have the “full screen” look which will enlarge the screen, but not actually take up the full screen (I know, I know). Or, if you would like the entire screen to be filled with old-game-goodness, the “stretch” option will blow things out of proportion to do just that. The standard “sharp screen” will show it similarly to Arcade Archive titles with artwork of the game surrounding a whichever ratio of gameplay you choose, though there is an option to remove that artwork as well. All of this rendered in 1080p resolution.
Filters are also available, but limited. The three options are no filter, TV filter, or monitor filter. The TV filter is as one would expect trying to give the CRT TV appearance making it slightly darker, a little more blurry, and a more pixellated look. The monitor filter darkens the screen even more but things are a tad sharper. Nice additions, albeit limited, to hammer home the nostalgia mood.
The trend of rewind during gameplay is featured here as well, similar to collections of the recent past. So if you find yourself in a pickle, back it up to give yourself another chance. However, on a rare occasion, I found that pressing the button would result in nothing happening. NIS America did inform us that a day 1 patch would fix some known bugs, one being rewind functionality, so hopefully it will not be an ongoing issue from time to time.
Speaking about said patch, NIS America also noted a few other improvements and fixes that would come along with it. One of said improvements is the “Single Stick” mode available to the twin stick shooters in this collection. This not only allows for control and aiming to be done on one stick, but also enables single joy-con play in local multiplayer. It’s not the only mode they plan on adding as “Auto Fire” will be possible too removing the need to hold down a fire button and instead use the second stick as one normally would in twin stick shooters. Outside of the rewind fix, there are two issues being addressed. One involves the audio as a “popping” sound is heard. The patch is expected to eliminate this problem. The last problem is an incorrect aspect ratio during playtime which plans on being resolved as well. Again, this patch is not currently available, but would offer a greater experience.
To sweeten the deal a little more for people not able to withstand the difficulty of older titles, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection provides a tool-assisted run-through of each game and allows the player to take control at any point. So if you want to jump to a later part in the game, fast forward the walk-through to that point and click “Start Playing”. Any progress to that point is yours and you can continue from there. If this is done, the player can’t pop back out and let an AI do heavy lifting though for obvious reasons. They either have to tough it out, or exit the game and go back through the video to a later moment before jumping back in as the player. It’s a cool feature, especially if you just want to see later events and try your hand at them instead of slogging your way through early gameplay.
Despite all of these cool inclusions, one is notably missing – online. Leaderboards for score based games could have been cool with limitations such as “no rewind” applied, or even having the ability to do multiplayer online. It’s not a deal breaker, but a little disappointing.
Whether plowing your way through the difficulty with no assistance, using the rewind frequently, or even taking advantage of jumping into later moments in the game using the “watch” feature; SNK 40th Anniversary Collection allows for saves as well. As anyone who grew up during that era of games can attest, not having save states was irritating. Couple that with titles made to make your life a living hell and having to finish them in one sitting (unless you pause and walk away) is not the ideal way to play games. These quality of life improvements make revisiting these games much more appealing.
The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a good bundle. It may have a nice bit of extra features for those interested in them, and many improvements to make these games more playable for the casual audience, the biggest drawback is also the most important…the games. Some have withstood the test of time for the most part while others seem like they wouldn’t have been as good back in yester-year, much less today. Hopefully SNK continues this treatment for games released the following decade with the same amount of love, because if so, that could be a collection to behold.
Score: 3 out of 5
– Bonus Features
– Gameplay Perks
– Number of games vs Cost
– Selection of Games
– No Online Features
*A review copy was provided by NIS America for the Nintendo Switch*