SNK 40th Anniversary Collection: Arcade Excellence
Growing up in rural Missouri in the 90s and early 2000s provided an interesting experience when it came to gaming. Living in an area slow to modernize is much like living in a windowed time capsule, you know gaming is changing and advancing, but all you can do is watch…and play awesome retro games.
Though the console was pushing a decade on the market, the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive outside US) dominated my childhood with games such as Chase H.Q. 2 and Disney’s Aladdin. I loved playing video games nearly beyond description as a child, and there was one elusive experience that rose above all others, the arcade game experience. Going out for dinner or to the movies was less about the food or film, and more about sinking a handful of quarters into a The House of the Dead or Captain America and The Avengers cabinet.
To this day, I still feel a little giddy at the prospect of playing a new arcade game. Much to my admiration, SNK has recently released the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection on multiple platforms.
SNK produced an absolute ton of arcade games, but I can’t recall playing any of them as a child. Fortunately, SNK has provided a well-curated collection of their arcade games spanning a great deal of the company’s pre-Neo-Geo history. Booting this game on my Nintendo Switch has resulted in my first experience with these historically significant and well-presented arcade experiences. What follows is a brief look at some of my favorite games and features of the collection.
Right out of the gate, you’re greeted with the choice of playing arcade games, visiting the excellent museum, or changing up the game’s options. Options here include changing the display language and orientation, and allowing for Tate (vertical) mode. The game also features a built-in achievement system.
The museum feature is something quite unlike anything I’ve seen on a game collection like this one. The works of SNK from 1978 to 1990 are on display here. Each entry features beautiful manual scans and heaps of information for each title. Many of the games also have entries in a separate audio theater for the player’s listening pleasure. The inclusion of this feature provides a certain educational value to the game, and I absolutely love that it is here.
Prospective buyers should know that many of the games are acquired via free DLC, and are not included on the cart. Arcade and console versions of the games are included, and they all play great on the Nintendo Switch hardware. Most interesting and worthy of note is the ability to reverse time to correct mistakes made in-game! This allows for players of all skill levels to see every part of each game on the collection, and it is a final touch that really sells this collection for me.
So, what about the games themselves? Earlier in this article, I established that I’ve never previously encountered any of the games included in this collection despite a fair amount of time spent in arcades. I’ve now played each of the games, and the following are my five absolute favorites.
Vanguard is a 1981 arcade shooter with bright and interesting art direction and fast gameplay. Players maneuver through tight corridors while firing at enemies with an adjustable turret-style weapon.
#4—Chopper 1 (Legend of Air Cavalry)
This is a top-down vertical shooter with a cool old-school militaristic art direction. Gameplay is a familiar shoot-em-up affair, consisting of gunning down enemies while avoiding obstacles, enemy shots, and disabling nets. This game features interesting super-weapon power-ups capable of devastating enemies.
The third and final Shmup on this list, and the one I played the most, was Bermuda Triangle. This game is an excellent science fiction vertical shooter, and it features a few unique mechanics, including an energy hit-point system and stages that reverse the directional movement of your ship several times per stage.
Psycho Soldier is an action-packed 2D platform shooter about a shapeshifting teenage Japanese pop idol with psychic powers among other things. According to the museum text, this game features the first spoken dialogue in an arcade game. Bosses are defeated by destroying the buildings they inhabit and pulling this off feels very satisfying. The main characters of this game, Athena Asamiya and Sie Kensou, both go on to be featured in the King of Fighters games. Athena is the direct descendant of the main character of my favorite game in this collection.
Athena has quickly become one of my favorite retro platform games of all time. Starting off in nothing but her signature red bikini, Athena can rise to great strength by finding gear and power-ups throughout each level. Each level features branching pathways and challenging bosses at the end of each stage. For some reason, the game reminds me of a much less punishing version of Capcom’s Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins. The first main boss, an evil tree named Hamadrius, gave me odd flashbacks to Kirby’s Whispy Woods.
I’ve really become quite addicted to this game more than any other game featured in this collection, and I’m looking forward to beating it without making use of the time rewind mechanic.
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection retails for $39.99 and is available in both digital and physical formats. While my experience has been with the Nintendo Switch physical edition, this game is also available on PlayStation 4 at the same price.
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