Reviews

SNK 40th Anniversary review- an Essential Slice of History (Pt 2)

For those who missed it, Part 1 can be found here. Now back on to lads in military green.

Iron Tank (1988) Console Only

SNK 11

What do you get?
Another beach landing! And tanks. And some letters to collect. OK, so the letters are alternative weapons which are all similar, this being a 1988 console game and all. To be fair, yes, Iron Tank is visually bland, but the trains are cool.

Was it fun?
Mechanically this is just another vertical run ‘n’ gun, though feels rather smooth given you’re operating a tank. Having the turret fire in a different direction to the standard gun is nice, but clunky.

Will you play it again?
No. There are similar, better games within this very collection and, even with its middling-sluggish gameplay, the lack of multiplayer and lack of visual variety means this one’s beached.

Score: 3/10

Munchmobile (1983) Arcade Only

SNK 12

What do you get?
Herbie? Nope. Kit? No, what you’re getting is Brum. This vertically scrolling arcade high score chaser has a pleasant backing tune and a lovely bright colour palette. Your aim is to navigate what looks like the park pathway with reckless abandon. Prams, be damned. You grab neglected fruit from the floor with your massive, swollen hand, dumping the scraps in the bins as you pass, just for the glory of it (read: points). Clearly aimed at kids but my word, it’s a tough game.

Was it fun?
When imagining this rampant, maniacal, sentient vehicle tearing down the path, grabbing bags of discarded money or an old lady’s building society book with his misshapen hands, it’s quite fun. Looks novel for a game as far back as 1983. Give the old-timer some respect (perhaps by not addressing him as ‘Brum’).

Will you play it again?
This is an old arcade game. You know what you’re getting and, as long as you bear that in mind, why not? Strictly short bursts only.

Score: 6/10

OZMR Wars (1979) Arcade Only

SNK 13

What do you get?
Vertically scrolling (yes, I know) Space Invaders-type jazz; an old arcade sit down cabinet from the late 70s.

Was it fun?
The limitations are plentiful, especially with that sound chip but, again, for those basic, no-nonsense high score chasers, it’s deserving of a round if you enjoy a good history lesson. Does not have legs. Well, the cabinet did, but you know what I mean.

Will you play it again?
Yes. One more time. That’s it.

Score: 5/10

Paddle Mania (1988) Arcade Only

SNK 14

What do you get?
A strange, frantic round of tennis which plays out in the style of an arcade air hockey game (the ball bounces off the wall and the aim is to score goals). Chunky sprites and courts with some imaginative gimmicks such as facing sumo wrestlers and synchronised swimmers in a half-pool court. Complete with multiplayer singles and doubles. Somewhat comically, in one-v-one match, both players are named ‘You’.

Was it fun?
Yes. In terms of gameplay, this is one of the few that’s aged extremely well and feels more like a refined SNES game, than an 80s arcade effort. It’s effortlessly fun, responsive and unique.

Will you play it again?
Absolutely. Also, if you play against a buddy, ‘You’ will always win.

Score: 9/10

P.O.W. (1988) Arcade & Console Versions

What do you get?
“Another one?”, I said. No, it’s not. It’s a side-scrolling beat ‘em up! There are no combos as such, but most enemies can be sent flying with one hit. It’s very simplistic, especially when you consider the genre greats to appear in the not-so-distant future, but there’s a decent look to the sprites, even if character design is lacking. The screen is always busy with generous servings of enemy waves, some with weaponry which you can also utilise. Multiplayer is present on the arcade version. Considering the console version was on the NES, it gets a completely different visual take, but works equally well, mechanically, though doesn’t feel all that similar.

Was it fun?
The arcade multiplayer does its job and it’s a passable experience but, unfortunately, it does nothing to elevate it above the competition of the era. It does have a funky soundtrack though.

Will you play it again?
Unlikely.

Score: 5/10

Prehistoric Isle (1988) Arcade Only

SNK 16

What do you get?

A side-scrolling shoot ‘em up, but stepping outside the alien / sci-fi genre comfort-zone with a wonderfully realised Neanderthal and dinosaur tag-team. In the 1930s there was some suspect activity around a small island off the Bahamas. In your ‘30s war plane, your task is to begin an inquiry into these events. What plays out gameplay-wise is a solid two-player shooter with enemies and projectiles coming from all angles, eventually progressing to bullet hell. That may sound fairly standard but it’s all about the little touches, such as waterfalls slowing you down (with some nice accompanying sprite-swaps), the power up weapon-positioning mechanic, which allows you to switch the direction and type of projectile (bombs, larger energy waves, additional bullets etc), as well as the angle of your secondary weapon. It’s got a fairly even difficulty for a coin-muncher.

Was it fun?
Hell, yes! Thoroughly recommended. If this was ‘89 and I was in an arcade, I’d be penniless. I’d also be three years old, but you know, technicalities. The visuals are bold and backgrounds varied. The boss fights are against massive, epic creatures with their own movesets. The scrolling changes direction but to good effect, giving plenty of thought to enemy placement as well as environmental hazards. It’s great fun.

Will you play it again?
You bet your over-sized ‘80s 10p coins, I will. I’m also eyeing up the 1999 sequel now.

Score: 9/10

Psycho Solider (1987) Arcade Only

SNK 17

What do you get?
An oddity in the line-up, with lots of distinguishing features. At its base, Psycho Soldier reminds me of C64 platformers with movement being limited to moving horizontally and swapping between four vertical tiers. You play Athena’s ancestor from Athena (see part 1) and it’s this game where you’ll notice the connection to SNK’s flagship fighting series, King of Fighters! And Athena comes out singing. Literally. The lyrics are the stuff of legend and her school girl idol psychic powers are out in full force.

Was it fun?
It was. More so with two players. The action is top notch without being overly difficult. The secondary, limited special attack is really satisfying for clearing out multiple enemies.

Will you play it again?
Yes, hyaku paacento (100%)

Score: 9/10

Sasuke vs Commander (1980) Arcade Only

 

 

What do you get?

One-man army, Sasuke (not, that one) has been given his orders by the Shogun; ‘PROTECT MY LIFE FROM NINJA’. Turns out that, even though the enemy shinobi have clearly been skipping dojo sessions, it’s a tall order for our Sasuke and his robe of infinite knives. There are bloody loads of them jumping between branches an dropping the ol’ throwing stars. It’s a bit like Missile Command with ninja and shuriken. An old, slow and basic hi-score chaser.

Was it fun?
Well, as I said, it’s an old, slow and basic hi-score chaser. It has its own look and feel but it’s just another dodge and shoot affair with little incentive. Actually, it had a boss fight so that’s a thing.

Will you play it again?
Not unless the Shogun kicks my door down and screams “PROTECT MY LIFE FROM NINJA”.

Score: 2/10

Street Smart (1989) Arcade Only

SNK 19

What do you get?
Mechanically plays out like a side scrolling beat ‘em up with 3D movement, but with fighting game style one on one bouts. The sprite animation and floaty movement works nicely during the long and drawn-out (in a good way) fights. It’s about draining the opponent’s stamina until they’re visually exhausted, in a tense showdown.

When those private SNK Hospital ambulances show up, you know there’s some form of scam going on, though. As if these bare-knuckle street fighting thugs have enough money to cover the health insurance. Unless they’ve become some sort of international NHS (IHS?), which, judging by how quickly they turn up, is unlikely, as they’re clearly better funded. Interestingly, the second fight is against Shenmue’s Tom from the hotdog stand. Do you remember how cool that tornado kick was that he taught Ryo back at the harbour? Watch out though, he’s buffed up.

Was it fun?
Exceptionally. As with most arcade games, and for obvious reasons, it’s suited to short bursts but with the AI being so horrifically unfair at time, it’s adds an urgency to getting back up and backflipping out of the way of their giant fists. It’s strangely satisfying.

Will you play it again?
If I feel like trying to escape a desperate beat down from steroid-driven nut jobs, I’d rather do it here than in town.

Score: 7/10

Time Soldiers (1987) Arcade Only

SNK 20

What do you get?
Well, you get into a big mess where your buddies have been scattered across time. Get out there and save them. It’s a vertically scrolling twin stick shooter but you have a laser gun this time! Yes, there’s the usual SNK army-green brigade out to greet you in the beginning, but when you zap ‘em, they blow up or disintegrate to nothingness. Nothing quite like an exploding Anubis boss. Excellent.

Was it fun?
Once again, the best way to play is with two players. The hook of time travel, firing lasers through an impressive array of locations, jumping through time portals leading to bosses, and a genuine piqued curiosity over what’s to come next kept this one fresh.

Will you play it again?
Yes, I’m keen to try to finish this one with a little less reliance on the rewind ability (though let’s be fair, it’s more fitting in this title).

Score: 8/10

TNKIII (1985) Arcade Only

SNK 21

What do you get?
A game so hardcore they don’t even need the ‘A’. Go back to be my review for Iron Tank; similar visuals, same premise, less sluggish turret use, better implementation of directional shooting and generally more fun. That’s TNKIII.

Was it fun?
Yes, as TNKIII manages to make you feel as tough as you should in a tank.

Will you play it again?
Ys.

Score: 7/10

Vanguard (1981) Arcade Only

SNK 22

What do you get?
What feels almost like a race course rather than an environment fitting the space shooter it is, due largely to the mini-map displayed as you shoot your way through this very, very, old-skool relic.

Was it fun?
Bar its infuriating boss fights, it’s actually quite interesting. The happy music shifts with each zone as you make your way through the level towards your inevitable death at the boss fight.

Will you play it again?.
If someone had it on a cabinet, I would.

Score: 5/10

World Mars (1987) Arcade Only

SNK 23

What do you get?
The final game of the collection (that honour goes to the last alphabetically, of course). Bit of a bum note, unfortunately. World Mars is a competent… you guessed it, vertical scrolling shooter. The music is a mixed bag but the shooting itself is fine. Upgrades can be added to your plane adding some extra oomph to your firepower.

Was it fun?
It started OK but once you’ve upgraded your plane to max, it’s a little underwhelming and makes it feel there’s nothing much more to aim for given the relatively bland presentation. It has the odd good idea, like dropping bombs on a projectile-shooting active volcano to cave it in, but it all feels extremely samey after a couple of levels.

Will you play it again?
It’s technically fine but I honestly can’t be bothered.

Score: 4/10

Verdict:

I love a lot of the 16-bit to modern day SNK hits from The King of Fighters line (here’s to ‘98, baby!) to Garou and the unrivalled Metal Slug series, but the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection opened a world of titles that completely passed me by. It’s great to have short bursts on and to look a slice of gaming history, with all the bells and whistles of a modern collection. The additional free DLC adds some extra value for money. Some games are great, some are simply products of their time, a few are out and out duff. That doesn’t matter though as there’s nothing quite like opening a box of retro treasures for the sake of curiosity.

The biggest draw here is the Museum, which feels like owning one of those cool, expensive video gaming history books, or like visiting a gaming museum. On your Switch. Any fan of retro gaming should own the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for that alone.

Overall Score:                       8.5/10

 

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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