SNK 40th Anniversary review- an Essential Slice of History (Pt 1)

This isn’t the first SNK collection to hit shelves and it’s unlikely the last, but this particular release marks a huge milestone (read: it’s in the title) with a range of titles from the SNK 80s arcade-era. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with any of the games included here (honestly, not a single game beyond recognising the name and artwork of a handful), but for a half-retro/half-modern gamer like me, that just made it more exciting to dive in.

I intend to lay this out in a filthy casual style; that is to say, play a small chunk of each game on the list, add a few thoughts to each from the perspective of a newbie (albeit one donning some funky retro specs) and slap a score on it.

The Mega Man Collection releases have set a recent benchmark for how to competently compile a collection with a bunch of fun features and extras. And it’s a high standard. The good news here then, where SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is concerned, is there’s plenty to sink your teeth into. The self-explanatory Museum provides wonderful hi-res artwork, the guide books to the arcade games, some incredible behind-the-scenes trivia and nuggets of information. There’s a lot to love. Game soundtracks are also present, another nice bonus. On top of that you get screen ratio options; stretched screen (16:9… no, thanks), full screen (boarded) ‘sharp’ screen (bordered but smaller) as well as a choice of TV filters. If that wasn’t enough, not only can you choose between drastically different arcade and console versions of many games, you’re also given the ability to switch region!

With that boxed off, let’s look at the games from A-Z. Given the volume of games (twenty-three in total), our short attention spans and the general length of the article, I’ll be issuing this review in two separate parts. Get comfortable, this might take a while.

Alpha Mission (1985) / Arcade & Console Versions

SNK1What do you get?
Vertical scrolling space shooter with a neat mechanic of separate weapons for air and ground mechanics. As well as a hell of a lot of upgrades; variety in weaponry is the main flavour here.

Was it fun?
The slow movement was a little off-putting at first but, after getting into the swing of it there was plenty to enjoy. Grabbing the extra pieces of the ship and pulling it together to form a big ol’ flamethrower against the first boss was a nice moment. The arcade version is far superior.

Will you play it again?
Probably, yes.

Score: 7/10

Athena (1986) / Arcade & Console Versions


What do you get?
A young lass who appears to lose a lot of her clothing within the opening sequence. She also gives you a creepy wink on the title screen. It’s a platformer with pleasant music. In true Mega Man style, Athena plagiarises her enemies’ style by nicking their weapons. The art looks like a bit of an Alex Kidd meets Wonderboy mash-up. Pretty slick of 1986.

Was it fun?
Sort of. The jumping’s a bit stiff. The arcade version is hard as nails to the point where it’s completely unplayable for a newcomer, without use of the rewind function. Play the console version if you actually want to grab some useful upgrades. Having said that, the console version is too easy.

Will you play it again?
Probably, not.

Score: 5/10

Bermuda Triangle (1987) / Arcade Only


What do you get?
Another vertical shooter, this time with simultaneous multiplayer. The ships are impressively chunky and the on-screen action is fascinatingly hectic. Because this is the Bermuda Triangle, weird stuff happens. Well, not that weird, you just go to the end of the level, then fly through it backwards before going back up again to face the boss.

Was it fun?
Yes. Grabbing all the ‘E’ powerups made it feel a bit like a ’90s nightclub (the future!), but the resultant upgrades to make the ship even fatter (and, dare I say, phatter). Made me feel invincible. For a bit.

Will you play it again?
Yes, will likely co-op my way through this one.

Score: 7/10

Chopper (1988) / Arcade Only


What do you get?
An extremely confident title screen declaring that this is, indeed, Chopper ‘I’. Sequel in the bag? The third vertical shooter involves helicopters, believe it or not! The chopper is nippy, as are many of the enemies, the sprite animation is also top notch. It’s a bit dull looking overall though. I guess, the screen scrolls slightly left and right at the extremes which is something. This one leans on the easier side with projectiles being slow.

Was it fun?
It wasn’t bad, as such. Just dull. Nothing exciting or stand-out here but it was worth a quick blast.

Will you play it again?

Score: 4/10

Crysalis/God Slayer (1990) / Console Only


What do you get?
A stark contrast in promo artwork between the US and Japanese versions. Crysalis is neat little action/adventure RPG. You know the type, little tileset towns with inns and shops. You wake up in a cave and an old fella gives you a sword because… you woke up in a cave. Someone then tells you to go to a cave. Not that one, a different cave. OK, this is getting a bit meta now. Battles remind me of a cross between Secret of Mana and Zelda, if a little less refined than the latter.

Was it fun?
Hells yes! With that lovely charged sword attack and upbeat funky exploration music, I want back in. Movement feels smooth and there’s an abnormally quick walking animation. Top notch.

Will you play it again?
100%. This is one I intend to set aside some real time for, as the early game suitably impressed.

Score: 8/10

Fantasy (1981) / Arcade Only


What do you get?
No idea. I challenge anyone to start the game without thinking something along the lines of ‘what just happened?’. It appears that your lady was kidnapped, and you must fly your balloon, before ending up on a pirate ship and orchestrating a rescue. Once you’re out, it’s back to the balloon for a sequence involving dodging a gorilla chucking a banana or something. This is immediately followed by a section of running through a jungle while Funky Town plays in the background. I’m not joking. Then there’s some huts with some questionable voices and themes before it’s back to the balloon again to dodge helicopters. That’s when you need to perform turret dodging heroics above London Bridge. It plays like a collection of WarioWare mini-games. But harder. And less fun.

Was it fun?
I have absolutely no idea, it made me feel light-headed. It was what the kids would describe as ‘an experience’.

Will you play it again?
Yes, but only to show people how weird it is.

Score: ?/10

Guerrilla War (1987) / Arcade & Console Versions


What do you get?
Twin stick vertically scrolling shooter. You’re a couple of US war movie types in a bit of anti-Cuban propaganda. You shoot tanks and lads in military green. The arcade version, naturally, has better visuals and music but the console version is the better choice here, being much faster. Asynchronous multiplayer gives this one a boost.

Was it fun?
The arcade version is far too sluggish to enjoy, whereas the console version holds up far better, despite losing the twin stick aiming. It’s most irritating feature is; on death, you’re thrown back to the exact same spot you were shot. I mean, I got shot because I wasn’t supposed to be there. Don’t put me back!

Will you play it again?
I’d give it another blast, but strictly the console version only.

Score: 7/10

Ikari Warrors (1986) / Arcade & Console Versions

What do you get?
Well, pretty much Guerrilla War. Twin stick vertically scrolling shooter. You’re a couple of US war movie types with mustachios and a bit more Rambo looking. You shoot tanks and lads in military green, or was it blue? Déjà vu? Well, I’ll put an end to that; Ikari’s arcade (better) version doesn’t feel quite as refined as Guerrilla War’s console version.

Was it fun?
The arcade version is alright but there’s nothing to make this one stand out. The music is horribly irritating (and that’s from someone who’s pretty forgiving with retro game music) and Guerrilla War’s generally better all around. Do not play the console version though. Just please, burn it with fire.

Will you play it again?

Score: 3/10

Ikari Warrors II (1986) / Arcade & Console Versions


What do you get?
Well, pretty much Ikari Warriors… wait, what the hell just happened? This took a dark turn. Alright so it looks like our warriors became enamoured with the arcane arts and dabbled in some witchcraft, seemingly pissing off a dark lord in the process. Or they’re still in the jungle, but trippin’. Whatever the reason, Ikari Warriors II has completely ditched its entire vibe, going for what appears to be an alien bug invasion.

Was it fun?
Surprisingly, I spent more time with this than with the original Ikari despite the fact that it’s similar but even more sluggish. The aesthetics and wacky enemies made this easier to drag myself through. That said, Ikari II is too ambitious for its own good. Also, say it with me: the console version sucks. Improved, but sucks.

Will you play it again?
It’s still a no.

Score: 4/10

Ikari Warrors III The Rescue (1989/1990) / Arcade & Console Version

SNK 10What do you get?
Four years on and our warriors (Paul and Vince, for the record) have returned from their drug-induced coma. They don’t even care anymore. The comedown’s in full swing, they’re back in the jungle but now with high visual fidelity. In a moment of clarity, the warriors decide they don’t need weapons and recall their martial arts training (pub street brawling), opting to pummel their opponents to death with their bare fists. Ikari III has far more in common with beat ‘em ups than it does with its predecessors. In fact, it is a beat ‘em up if I’m being honest.

Was it fun?
A resounding yes! Not for long, mind, but a yes in any event. Movement is nice and smooth, controls are far more responsive, and there are some really impressive details within the spritework. The soundtrack’s weird but give the lads a break, they’re still recovering.

Will you play it again?
A definite maybe.

Score: 6/10

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Format: Switch (reviewed)
Price: £35.99 (UK eShop)
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Digital Eclipse / SNK
Age Rating: PEGI 12

Release Date: 16/11/2018 (UK eShop)

Review copy provided by publisher


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