REVIEW – SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (PS4)

Preserving History

The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is not just a compilation of games; it is honoring and preserving the history of a prolific company in an appropriate way. This package is a celebration of some of SNK’s earliest and noteworthy work and is presented in a way that is done with the care and respect it deserves.  Video game preservationist Frank Cifaldi and the team at Digital Eclipse have set a new standard when it comes to presenting and protecting the legacy of old games here with this SNK 40th Anniversary Collection.

What you won’t find in this collection are the modern games that SNK is known for; there isn’t a Metal Slug, KoF, or Samurai Showdown to be found. Instead, players will experience classic SNK titles they probably didn’t even know existed let alone had a chance to play to completion without spending countless quarters. One of the reasons why this bundle shines so brightly is that both the console and arcade versions are included.  Beyond that, the player can even swap between the PAL and NTSC versions!  Each game also features a coveted rewind feature, screen filters, and screen boarders.  If players purchase this compilation on the Nintendo Switch, then certain games can also be played in vertical mode as well.

Here is a list of the included SNK titles:

Alpha Mission – Console and Arcade versions
Athena – Console and Arcade versions
Crystalis – Console version
Ikari Warriors – Console and Arcade versions
Victory Road – Console and Arcade versions
Ikari III The Rescue – Console and Arcade versions
Guerrilla War – Console and Arcade versions
P.O.W. – Console and Arcade versions
Prehistoric Isle – Arcade version
Psycho Soldier – Arcade version
Street Smart – Arcade version
T.N.K. III – Arcade version
Vanguard – Arcade version
Chopper – Arcade version
Fantasy – Arcade version
Munch Mobile – Arcade version
Sasuke Vs Commander – Arcade version
Time Soldiers – Arcade version
Beast Busters – Arcade version
Bermuda Triangle – Arcade version
OzmaWars – Arcade version
Paddle Mania – Arcade version
SAR Search And Rescue – Arcade version
World Wars – Arcade Version

Although there are dozens of games and settings to tinker with, my personal favorite aspect of this compilation is the Museum mode. Posters, advertisements, trivia, secrets, old original design docs… it is all here.  And if that wasn’t enough, everything has been scanned in high resolution and the interface gives the player the option to zoom in and see everything in detail.  Does this extra content and extra features need to be in this game?  No, absolutely not, but they are there and it is something fans will truly appreciate.  It is this extra effort that makes this compilation stand head and shoulders above most other bundles.  If the player doesn’t tap any buttons for a while when on the menu screen, the game enters the attract mode.  And if that wasn’t enough, the player is even given the option to “watch” the game being played, sort of like a muted streamer. Again, these features have no business being including but they are and is all the better for it.  These are the details that are most welcomed.

If I am speaking honestly, many games included in this bundled package are rough around the edges, unfair, and simply not fun.  Athena, for example, is a standout title thanks to the highlighted main female character but the game is a complete mess.  With an unfair difficulty level, buggy gameplay, and just awful mechanics, the game is borderline unplayable. Also, the Ikari Warrior games are terrible.  All of them, especially III, and you lie to yourself if you think otherwise.  Psycho Soldier also isn’t great but stands out with its amazing-for-the-time voice samples and audio track.  But even though many of these games can frustrating instead of entertain, they are still welcomed because they are important and a part of history. Giving the player the option to experiment between the NES/Famicom version and see how they are different from the NTSC or PAL version is something developers completely neglect with other compilations.  Even though many of these games would be terrible if viewed on their own, they work together to make something special and teach an important history lesson. A few of these games were also playable with a loop level, a single analog stick with this twistable dial at the top.  At the time, it was a unique concept but has been upgraded to the dual analog set up we know today. The developers then took this unwieldly control scheme of the original and converted it to be easily played on modern controllers.  Beast Buster is another good example of taking a light gun game but transitioning it to fit on a current controller.

My only complaint with the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a small one – the game auto saves in the main menu, which takes a few annoying seconds, even when the player has not changed any gameplay options.  Since there are so many options available, the player will want to see what is offered before playing each game.  Although short, sitting through a mandatory save when nothing has changed is a little frustrating. But this pales in comparison when trying to reach the end of T.N.K.III.

It is best to think of the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection not as a game compilation but as a piece of well preserved history.  The amount of care and detail put into this final product sends the right message to the world, that old games deserve respect and should be preserved.  In contract, celebrating Mario’s 25th anniversary, Nintendo slapped the Super Mario All-Stars SNES rom on a Wii disc and called it a day; they didn’t even update the controls or menu.  This was a hasty and sloppy cash grab unjustified given the history of video’s most iconic mascot.  Here with this SNK compilation, the developers knew most of these games did not have a mass appeal but this is one reason why this compilation is so great. It gives players a chance to play these forgotten games in every version possible on a modern console.  Even if the emulation wasn’t top tier, even if there were only a handful of games available, even if there was no rewind/filter/boarder options, and even if the attract mode was removed, this still would be an outstanding bundle simply for the historic documentation alone.

Digital Eclipse has set the gold bar for what makes a deep and respectable compilation.  If there ever becomes a video game history class at university, this compilation would be used as a study guide for the final exam.

SCORE: 9/10

Bet You Didn’t Know: that SNK actually stands for Shin Nihon Kikaku
Better Than: buying some of these games individually on PS3
Also Try: The Disney Afternoon Collection or the Mega Man Collections

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief
Twitter: @ZackGaz

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