SNK 40th Anniversary Collection Review
Few companies have done so much for the video game industry and yet remained somewhat obscure as SNK. While Atari, Nintendo, and many more quickly became household names, SNK became a backbone of gaming with new and innovative titles that would later inspire hundreds of games in the future. Originally established in 1973 and reorganized as a stock company in 1978, SNK would go on to create a number of classic arcade games that would delight and infuriate those with enough quarters to frequently inhabit the local arcade. 40 years later, SNK celebrates its achievements and longevity in gaming with its collection of classics ranging in date from 1979 to 1990. These are undoubtedly significant games, but just how well do they stack up 40 years later?
The first thing you’ll notice with this collection is it’s repeating theme of shooting things and shooting them fast. Arcades needed a way to get your money and test your skills and to that end, the most accessible option was to make something brightly colored, fast-paced, and with a kill or be killed attitude. Alpha Mission, Bermuda Triangle, Chopper I, and many more in this package are all about fast reflexes and a constantly scrolling screen. These games are the basis for titles like Galaga and they often punish you with single-hit deaths. It didn’t take long to feel my trigger finger cramping up as using a controller isn’t quite the same as an arcade cabinet, but these games provided a level of challenge you just don’t see anymore.
Rough Around the Edges
SNK also stepped into the home entertainment market and this collection features a number of games with both the original arcade and the console version included. Wile home consoles featured inferior specs at the time, these editions are notably less detailed and feature gameplay tweaks to accommodate the difference in controls between a cabinet and classic controller. I found the 1987 edition of Athena on home console to be far more enjoyable with a slightly slower pace and graphical downgrade. The arcade edition of the game – as I discovered to be the case with many of these games – offers faster and more unpredictable enemies as an additional challenge to, again, empty your pockets of those quarters. Of course, the standout experience for me was the 1990 console classic Crystalis. A forerunner for modern adventure titles, of everything SNK offers in the 40th anniversary collection this is one I already want to see through to the end. It offers so much with so little and considering the state of adventure/RPG games today, Crystalis could easily be released as a “retro style” game and still feel fresh and new.
While games like Crystalis, Athena, and Guerilla War were great to play, having a collection of essentially the same games over and over was a little more taxing than I was ready for. While there are standouts like the rail shooter Beast Busters, the incredibly dull Baseball Stars, or the unnecessarily troublesome Fantasy, almost everything else in the collection feels like a clone of something else. The vast majority of this collection is either a scrolling bullet-hell or a simplified twin-stick shooter with eight directions. While these can be fun – and I realize these were the staples during the arcade era – putting all of them together into a collection feels redundant.
SNK included a Museum feature into the 40th anniversary collection which showcases their titles with slideshows and short blurbs to get to know each game from their history. This features 74 titles by SNK and offers a much broader scope of their games library, so the choice to include so many repeating styles in the playable part of the game is a bit puzzling. Each game also has its own set of options to adjust such as starting lives, difficulty, and other features like filters, screen size, and borders. Chopper I in particular even has an invulnerability mode which allows you to destroy the enemy without taking any damage and instead enjoy the scenery of destruction. Each game also has the option to watch the computer play through from the beginning and jump in at any point to take control. For the completionists out there, you’ll also be able to win achievements for completing each game to the end.
The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection has a little something for everyone: adventure, rail shooting, bullet hell, and even a few sports games. Each one has that original arcade feeling you really can’t reproduce on home console anymore and for anyone who grew up with these games in the 80’s you are sure to have a blast. While these games were iconic trendsetters for their time, only a handful of them hold-up to today’s standards of playability, ingenuity, and fun. While the library size is large, so many of these games feel like reskins that it doesn’t quite reflect the broader scope of SNK’s accomplishments over the years. If you love a fast-paced challenge than this is definitely for you, but rather than being a memorable throwback like the NES or SNES Classics, this feels too bogged down in its lack of variety for what it could have been.
**Xbox One code provided by the publisher**
- Iconic Titles
- Faithfully Restored Arcade Experience
- Rewind and Save Mechanics
- Repetitive Gameplay Choices
- No Tutorials
- Good In Short Bursts