19th Feb2019

‘SNK 40th Anniversary Collection’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

snk-40-switch-cover

2018 marked the 40th anniversary of legendary studio SNK and to celebrate this extraordinary milestone, a variety of classic arcade games from SNK’s golden age have been packaged together in one anthology on Nintendo Switch. But this is not your typical SNK collection, which involves a myriad of side-scrolling beat ‘em-ups and fighting games… No, this is a collection of the rarer SNK titles, old-school arcade titles (pre the likes of King of Fighters) many of which haven’t been available to play in years – some not on any console since the NES era.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE fan of the KOF/Fatal Fury era of SNK, however the companies output prior to that was something of a gap in my gaming history. Although back in the day I was a massive fan of the Ikari Warriors trilogy – all three of which are present here in both arcade and NES versions (and its the latter I’m most familiar with) – but I never really played the rest of the games available in this compilation – making most of these titles, despite their age, new games to me! However whilst these games may be new to me, they are actually older titles and as such a number of them don’t really hold up in today’s gaming landscape.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some stone-cold classics include in the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection: Ikari Warriors and its 2 sequels in particular; and all the genre bases are covered, with shooters, platformers, beat em-ups and even RPGs (with Crystalis, a game which, I thought for years, was made for the NES – turns out is was a port!) but there’s just something missing from the included games that lessened the excitement of getting to play so many old-school SNK titles. But then this isn’t just about playing games – this release is more like a museum guide to SNK history in the form of a Switch cartridge.

And whilst I appreciate that the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is meant to be more than just a compilation of games, featuring as it does the SNK Complete Works: 1978-1990, which profiles all 74 pre-Neo Geo era games released by SNK – profiles filled with character art, promotional materials, screenshots and a myriad of facts and trivia; but what I don’t get is the included “watch mode” that comes with the games within. Who in their right mind wants to watch a game play itself? Because that’s what this particular “watch mode” is! I don’t get it. Why not use that space on the cartridge to include more games from the get-go instead of making people download more (which is what they did on release)?

What I do appreciate however, is the inclusion of the NES ports of a number of the included games, mainly to see how inept and “unfinished” a lot of the Nintendo versions looked – comparing the arcade versions to the NES is like night and day, it’s hard to believe that we accepted these insipid versions as gospel back in the 80s/early 90s. Playing (and yes, you might be able to tell I spent most of my time playing these 3 games for this review) Ikari Warriors 1, 2 and 3 in there original iterations was a revelation, making the NES versions feel akin to playing a bad Atari 2600 port!

Whilst I may have issues with the choice of games included and the aforementioned ridiculous “watch mode”, you have to commend developers Digital Eclipse for the stellar work they’ve done here emulating both the ENS and the original arcade machines – something I would guess was tricky to do within the confines of a console. There’s no discernible issues with the emulation and the games look good both in docked and handheld mode (though a lot of these games play much better on a larger screen in docked mode – especially the shoot em-ups), meaning I’d certainly like to see more of these retro compilations from them – moreso if they stick with similar era’s of arcade gaming… What I would give for a Data East compilation and the appearance of the arcade version of Midnight Resistance!

Somewhat of a niche title, the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection will appeal to fans of SNK and fans of retro gaming, especially with the inclusion of the history of SNK’s games. Though if you’re a fan of the Neo Geo era of SNK and the likes of Fatal Fury, King of the Fighters, Metal Slug, etc., this title really isn’t for you.

The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is available now in stores and on the Nintendo eShop.

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