As a 90’s kid, I have a fondness and a love for 16-bit gaming, and 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of one the juggernauts of the past; SNK. So to celebrate this landmark achievement, we are getting a collection of Arcade and Console classics on one handy little cartridge, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection.
The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection brings us 14 classic titles, with many playable in both arcade and console versions, as well as their Japanese and Western releases.
It is honestly hard to rate anything in SNK 40th Anniversary Collection as bad. It is an anthology of games from a time where we weren’t constantly barraged by the Battle Royale agenda. It plays exactly as you would imagine and looks it too. With the collection playing host to side scrolling beat-em-ups/shoot-em-ups.
With these old-school games comes the reminder that the older generation of gamers is a hardcore collection of sadomasochistic sociopaths. The difficulty adds to the nostalgia factor, but if players do find that games are too much for them, they can use options to boost their lives and change the difficulty of each title.
The devastating difficulty of these golden oldies is a huge appeal to me. In more recent years it has felt that video games are pandering to a lazier audience in terms of effort, most noticeably in first-person shooters. These retro games in SNK 40th Anniversary Collection‘s library provide absolutely no assistance in any manner. You are required to constantly move, shoot and slash your way through armadas of enemies. You need to be paying attention with the utmost focus and be prepared for anything.
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection also lets you drop in and out of games at the drop of hat by allowing you to save your progress on each game at any point in time. I found this very useful for games that I enjoyed more than others because it meant picking up from the exact point I left a game on. I found myself using this feature often at first as I bounced between all the games trying my best to experience everything on offer.
I will make one complaint though. As much as I love being violently punished for my ineptitude at video games as a whole, I think that shrinking down the playable screen to about 25% is a tad inappropriate. This scales the difficulty up to ridiculously high altitudes. This being said, the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection does allow you to set the games to full screen. There was a charm to playing the classics with the smaller screen, however, and that was that it felt like you were playing on an arcade machine as each title was bordered by the art of the corresponding game.
Okay, one more complaint. Last one. I promise. As varied as the titles are on the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, it features some, which to me, were fairly obscure. Despite being in my mid-to-late 20’s, there were only two games out of all of them that I had heard of. I understand that they wanted to showcase what helped to make SNK a household name. But this means that you are subjugated to titles with little to no recognition amongst an audience born after 1990. I could just be nit picking that there wasn’t much here from my childhood in particular, but that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy what was available.
As much as the collection disappointed me upon first viewing, I was quickly enamored. Not just by the games themselves, but the fact that I could see clearly what helped SNK to create some of their later, more recognized titles, and helped to inspire the industry as a whole.
The shoot-em-ups were in very high supply and were also what I was more drawn to in response. Despite the age of the games in SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, there was a huge amount of intensity in each of these titles. Thanks to the hardware limitations of technology nearly four decades ago, there is a slow burn to the gameplay of each title, but with all but one game across the 14 titles having a constant onslaught of enemies, the action feels incredibly well paced.
The beat-em-ups, well, the two provided, were a little more underwhelming. One was a one-on-one brawler which has some fairly poor controls and very minimal features. Whereas the other features more or less a single lane of enemies that are easily thwarted with repetitive and mindless tapping of the attack button. I get that these games are some of SNK’s earlier works, but these alongside the vast array of shooters just feels like an attempt to pad out the available memory on the cartridge, but I quickly found myself backing out of these to go back to something else.
The anthology of classics also plays host to a marvelous ensemble of themes. With these games being exactly as they were back in the 80’s it means that absolutely nothing has been changed in the slightest. Not a single piece of audio has been rehashed in SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. This means that you are blessed with nothing but tantalizing 8-bit techno. If you check out the bonus features on the collection, you can listen to the soundtrack for nearly every game in full.
There are also a few bonus features. One such allowing you to look at the history of SNK titles between 1978 and 1990 allowing you to learn more about each of the titles that are available to play as well as the ones that didn’t make the final cut of the game. You can also take a peek at some ads and old guidebooks, though because I don’t know Japanese this wasn’t much of an appeal to myself.
The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a huge amount of fun, especially for those looking for a fix of nostalgia. I do, however, feel that the games that made it into the collection could have been better as all but three titles are just different shooters, and after looking at the history section in the bonus features feels like there was little care to show what else SNK had to offer all those years ago.
By restricting the collection to games from 1990 and before, it appears only to appeal to players of a much older demographic than maybe originally planned, and maybe even has the potential to hurt the overall sales figures. Maybe they should pop some sort of micro-transaction to broaden their reach…