Mild Blood, Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes
Release Date: November 13th, 2018 (Nintendo Switch)
Genre: Arcade, Action, Adventure
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Digital Eclipse
I can not believe I forgot their birthday! July 22nd commemorated 40 years of SNK Corporation. You forgot too? Don’t worry, because SNK didn’t and they are celebrating by releasing SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for the Nintendo Switch on November 13th. If you have ever played the Metal Slug, King of Fighters, or SNK vs. Capcom series, you are familiar with this long-time distinguished video game company. This time, SNK is bringing us back to the 80’s and early 90’s to showcase several of the early titles that brought their company to life. Classics such as Psycho Soldier, Ikari Warriors, and Crystalis highlight this awesome collection of 13 retro video games. It’s time to take a trip down memory lane during this birthday celebration!
Most of the games that come with the release of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection are in the genres of “run and gun” and “scrolling shooter,” but that is because many of the early SNK games were made for arcade machines and later ported to consoles. Here is the cool part: both the arcade and console versions of those games are included in this collection. Despite the nostalgia that the console versions provided, I found myself enjoying the arcade versions more, due to the improved graphics and gameplay. Back in the 80’s, a lot of games had to be “downgraded” when being ported to consoles due to some of the limitations on home systems like the Atari and Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Also included in this collection are two gems I would like to make note of that stand apart from the rest: Athena and Crystalis.
Athena is a side-scrolling platformer with constant waves of enemies and many branching paths, in the vein of games like Zelda II and Castlevania. It is fast-paced, colorful, and the music is catchy, causing me to continue going back for more every time I died. Now Crystalis is a whole other story. This game was SNK’s first venture into the action RPG genre and one of the first games they made exclusively for a home console, back in 1990. It is a sword-and-sorcery style RPG with a multitude of weapons, armor, accessories, consumables, and spells coupled with a surprisingly gripping story. It is also one of the best games I have ever played. Full disclosure: my earliest childhood memory is watching my parents play Crystalis, so I might be just a little biased. That does not change the fact that this game has a great story, an amazing soundtrack, and colorful, vibrant graphics that were uncommon on the NES. It is my favorite NES game (and I have played all the classics) and I can say, with confidence, that this collection does it justice.
There are a few features I would like to make note of in this collection. First, when choosing which game to play, you get to select whether you want to try the arcade version or the console one, if that title was released for both. If not, you only have the one choice, but almost every game allows you to play either the English or original Japanese version. There is also an option to change the display from landscape to portrait, rotating it 90 degrees. This is particularly helpful when playing arcade games in handheld mode. While the Switch is docked, you have the option to keep the display clear, like games on modern television sets, or to have a filter applied that makes the display look like a TV set from the 80’s. Additionally, there is a rewind function that allows the player to instantly reverse time for however long they hold the L button in whatever game they are playing. Combine that with the option to save at any point and we have a modern touch on a solid collection of retro games. There will also be a “Day 1” patch that will give players the option to enable twin-stick controls for certain titles, like Ikari Warriors. One last feature that is particularly noteworthy: There is an option to watch any of the games being played by an expert. The playthrough can be paused, rewound, and fast-forwarded and at any point in the viewing, you can take control of the game and pick right up where the expert left off. I know what you are thinking: What a time to be alive!
In addition to SNK 40th Anniversary Collection providing fantastic ports of some of their iconic early games, SNK has also included a “Museum” on the home menu to give gamers several neat features. The first of these is a list of all the SNK games released between 1978 and 1990, with images and screenshots from each one. Next is a bonus section featuring old SNK advertisements, behind-the-scenes, and excerpts from guidebooks for some of their games. The last feature, and my personal favorite, is a section with the full soundtrack to twelve of the games in this collection. Music is very important to me and I love that I can explore the sounds of these games without having to play through them. While the Nintendo Switch does not offer a trophy system, the game has its own built-in achievements that are awarded whenever the player beats one of the games. SNK really thought of everything this time.
The main appeal to playing SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is the nostalgia factor. Almost every title will take you back to the days of putting coins into arcade cabinets to try to beat your best friend’s high score. There are even a couple of fun adventure games to offset the repetitive nature of these arcade classics and to sweeten the deal, SNK is adding 11 more titles as downloadable content, nine of which will be part of a patch in December and the remaining two will be in a bundle on the Nintendo eShop that same day. Oh, and did I mention that this DLC is free? I don’t know if there are plans to add more games, but I think the 24 titles in this collection justify the $40 (USD) price tag. There is also a limited edition available on SNK’s webstore that includes an artbook and a soundtrack CD. With a multitude of content and bonus features, there is a lot of fun to be had in SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for both the veteran of the arcade scene and the newcomer who wants to try his or her hand at some retro classics. Happy birthday SNK! (Justin Singh; Game Reviewer)
Review copy provided by NIS America.