SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1 (Review)

SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1 (Review)
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If you’re looking for classic games to play then look no further than SNK-Playmore’s SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1 for the Nintendo Wii. It contains 16 Neo-Geo classics on a single disc. The selection of quality varies from average to very good, but this is from the age of the titles included. People who are familiar with SNK’s Neo-Geo system need little introduction to the games in this compilation. Games like The King of Fighters ’94 and Metal Slug have spawn multiple (albeit successful) sequels over the years. Other games, like Art of Fighting, weren’t as popular even though better sequels were developed.

The thing to remember here is that you’re buying a collection of classic games. Unlike most classic collections, this compilation is something special. The games chosen for this volume were created by a company that was not afraid to pioneer new ideas. These games appeared on SNK’s coin-op hardware that later had a very expensive home cartridge system variant, dubbed the Neo-Geo AES system. Both systems offered identical versions of the same games, so what you played at the arcade was identical to the home cartridge version. What most people don’t realize is that SNK-Playmore developed and released games for both the Neo-Geo MVS coin-op and Neo-geo AES system until 2003. The games you get in this collection were during the Neo-Geo’s heyday. Magician Lord looks like your average platformer on the surface, but once you start playing it, you will be drawn in by its charm. As you control Elta, the magician lord, you must collect different orbs to transform the young magician. His forms can vary between a man-like dragon that breaths fire to a ninja. The game is chock-full of power-ups, hidden areas, creatures, and tough bosses. Magician Lord is a timeless classic.


Magician Lord

Magician Lord

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The collection also contains other worth-while titles like Metal Slug, Shock Troopers 2, Samurai Shodown, King of Fighters 94, King of the Monsters, and Top Hunter. Metal Slug is a horizontal shooter filled with big explosions, selectable characters, and some of the most memorable gameplay moments ever seen in a contra-style shooter. There are plenty of power-ups to enhance the action. The power-ups can be obtained by freeing POWs (Prisoners of War) and the selection varies greatly. Choices like the Heavy Machine Gun allow you to spray the entire screen, while Flame Shot allows you to  fry your opposing military foe to a crisp. If this isn’t enough to satisfy your craving for classic arcade carnage, vehicles called Slugs are scattered through-out the levels for you to use. These vehicles are either tanks or mech suits that enhance your fire power. They are slow and feel cumbersome, but they are very responsive.

Metal Slug is full of personality. It has spawned six sequels because of its polished play mechanics and large fan base.


Metal Slug

Metal Slug

Shock Troopers  offers hours of enjoyment. Unlike Metal Slug which is a horizontal shooter, ST is a vertical overhead shooter akin to Ikari warriors. Choose between 8 different soldiers with their own unique attack skills. The action is non-stop, the enemies endless, and the bosses are enormous. You will travel through jungles, mountains, and other locales, as The Bloody Scorpion organization tries to stop you from freeing their hostages.

The overhead perspective was put to good use by SNK. Enemy soldiers will drop in from the top of the screen to surprise you. This keeps the arcade action fresh and unpredictable. Like any good shooter, there are plenty of power-ups available to increase your arsenal. Besides having your  average heavy machine gun upgrade and the all-too-popular flame thrower, you are also given 3-way cannons that can wipe the screen clean. Most power-ups will drop from slain soldiers or can be found inside destroyed crates.


Shock Troopers

Shock Troopers

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Samurai Shodown was the first weapon-based 2D fighter ever developed. SS offers heated Street Fighter-like action in Medieval Japan as you battle opponents to the death. You can chose between 12 distinct samurai fighters with their own attacks, skills, and special abilities. The beauty of this game is how the characters come to life on screen. Unlike most fighting games from this era, the SS characters have personality and stand out above the rest. You will find yourself bonding with a character, learning the moves, special attacks, and ultimately mastering the game. SNK Neo-Geo fans will always remember this title fondly.
Samurai Shodown
Samurai Shodown
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The King of Fighters ’94 is where the KOF franchise began. When this game launched on the Neo-Geo back in 1994, it didn’t offer the ‘team edit’ ability found in later sequels. This doesn’t mean the game isn’t worth playing. While it may feel dated compared to newer sequels, KOF ’94 still offers solid team vs team gameplay with SNK’s flagship characters. At the time, Kyo Kusanagi was a new character. Later, in KOF ’95, SNK introduced his rival Iori, and the legendary struggle between these two characters was born.
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The King of Fighters '94

The King of Fighters '94

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King of the Monsters is a simple game at its core. Select a monster, choose to play with a friend, and destroy cities while you fend off the military. While the this game tends to be difficult, it can be very rewarding when you complete a stage. There is nothing more satisfying than grabbing a helicopter from the sky and tossing it into a skyscraper. It is also possible to beat on your friend if the impulse suddenly overcomes you. This can make matches more interesting, if not more entertaining, when you’ve had a long day.
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King of the Monsters
King of the Monsters
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Top Hunter is a cute side-scroller that takes place on multiple planets. Roddy and Cathy are cosmic bounty hunters on the trail of the Galactic Pirates. With the help of your partner, battle the pirates across various planets like the Ice planet and Fire planet. The action is nothing like Mario. You can still jump on your enemies, but you can also punch, kick, and use weapons. There are chains randomly placed throughout each level. Some chains, when pulled, will release coins and power-ups, but others will release traps like flying boulders. It’s a game of luck when this happens. Top Hunter is a stellar title. It’s addicting and fun.
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Top Hunter

Top Hunter

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The other titles in this collection do not shine as brightly as the ones just mentioned. Fatal Fury, while the grandfather title of the series and the precursor to The King of Fighters franchise, it has not aged as well. As far as 2D fighters as concerned, Fatal Fury feels clunky and tired. The controls are floaty, the hit detection is spotty, and the overall presentation just doesn’t cut it after all these years. Respect should be given to FF for being the first in the series, but again it feels and plays dated. Art of Fighting is another 2D fighter that deserves similar praise. The large sprites are still incredible even by today’s standards. Ryu Sakazaki and Robert Garcia — mostly known today as playable characters in KOF- – made their debut in this title. However, like FF before it, AOF suffers from unresponsive controls. This problem was an issue even when it was a new release on the Neo-Geo MVS system. Obviously SNK is trying to represent its roots by including AOF, but today’s generation of gamers may look at this game from a cynical perspective.

Including a game like Neo Turf Masters (which is a golf game) was a bit much. Neo Turf Masters did terrible in the arcade, so the reason behind SNK’s decision to include this game evades me even now. The only thing that comes to mind is its collectibility when it was a home cartridge release. When it was first released on the Neo-Geo AES home system, it was very difficult to find a copy. In the years to come, people who owned the game began to sell their copies for a premium price. Apparently SNK wanted everyone to experience Neo Turf Masters. I applaud this effort, but there were far better games in the Neo-Geo’s library to choose from; Super Dodgeball and Windjammers come to mind.

The remaining games in this collection are mediocre at best. Even Burning Fight, which is a Final Fight clone, offers very little originality. Last Resort is a great horizontal shooter, but the slowdown that plagues the arcade original is present in this release. No optimization whatsoever was done to enhance the experience. It’s understandable that classic packs like this one are meant to keep the experience intact, but why include the nuisances that made the game frustrating to begin with?

SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1 is a mixed bag. What saves this collection from the bargain bin are the games highlighted earlier on; they are true masterpieces. The graphics are still beautiful, the sound is just as explosive as ever, and you are guaranteed hours of endless enjoyment. Unfortunately, you can download most of these games from the Wii shopping network, making this collection less practical for the consumer. However, for just under $20 US, you really can’t go wrong with SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1.  Nothing is perfect, but what really is?

Score 6 out of 10
Mike ‘STGuy1040’ Pittaro

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