Tuesday, November 13

Review: SNK 40th Anniversary Collection [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Having spent a load of time and money in arcades when I was much younger and then worked with my father-in-law to build a full-sizes arcade cabinet for my basement you could say I have a healthy appreciation for games from that classic era. While many of the games can be harder to appreciate now with genres and play styles having evolved over the decades accurate representations of the arcade experience from that time have a certain fascination. It’s not only that a fair number of classic arcade and console games are present in the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (with over 10 more still to come!), what makes this collection pretty special is the care and reverence that its features deliver beyond the chance to play these games.

Starting with the titles that are included it’s a mix of games I remember very fondly, those that I vaguely remember but didn’t necessarily play much, and some I simply don’t remember encountering at all. For me the strongest games in the bunch are of the Ikari Warriors lineage (though 3 was a huge deviation I’m less fond of), and supporting them properly was a question mark in my head due to their unique 8-way positional joysticks you’d rotate to aim.

Thankfully twin-stick support for these titles works extremely well and they’re even implementing what sounds like a fair single-stick control scheme as well. In particular the sword slashing in Victory Road feels great with the way it has been implemented so it’s as close as I’ve come to playing it in the arcades since those days. 

The crazy shooter Vanguard is also a joy to return to with its multiple zones that vary gameplay and iconic music. Among the console titles Crystalis leads the pack with its own take on adventure gaming that has similarities but key differences from The Legend of Zelda. Games that are a bit more unique and even a bit out there like Athena and Psycho Soldier have a certain weird appeal to them for simply doing their own thing.

The inclusion of the rewind feature is great but an even more fascinating way to observe the games is to essentially let the computer take over and watch the game being played at a somewhat optimal level, as if you were looking over the shoulder of someone on an incredible run, and the option to then intervene and take the controls at any time.

Outside of the games another feature I really appreciate is the inclusion of the Museum mode, which allows you to walk through SNK’s history from the beginning and then through each of their releases in chronological order. Accompanied by a variety of factoids, magazine art, and plenty of screen grabs, this celebration of the games that put SNK on the map is fascinating and a terrific archival feature that I appreciate.

While I’m not sure people who aren’t either “vintage” gamers like me or folks who have an appreciation for video game history will have a great deal of incentive to pick it up, the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection delivers just about everything I could want from such a package. It provides both an opportunity to immerse yourself in the game industry and its rise through the eyes of this one revered company and to enjoy a completely arcade-accurate experience by playing these classic titles.

Score: 8.5

  • A great and diverse set of both arcade and console titles
  • The control emulation is terrific and honors the unique gameplay of the Ikari series
  • Convenience features like rewind and auto-play provide a great variety of ways to experience these games

  • Outside of vintage or retro gamers this may not have much appeal
  • Results on a per-game basis will vary wildly depending on tastes and not every title is a winner