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40 years ago, Shin Nihon Kikaku Corporation, also known as SNK, released its first arcade game in Japan. Fast forward to the present and SNK Playmore, developer Digital Eclipse, and publisher NIS America have teamed up to bring SNK 40th Anniversary Collection to the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. This compilation of 25+ games may consist entirely of pre-Neo Geo games, but it turns out that SNK used to make some great games even before its Neo Geo hardware dominated arcades.

The recently released PlayStation 4 version of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection includes 25 distinct games. If we count NES console ports of included arcade games as separate games, that pushes the total up to 32 games. The included games originally released from the years 1979 to 1990. SNK’s NeoGeo hardware debuted that same year, so this compilation represents a fairly thorough look at the publisher’s pre-Neo Geo catalog.

The full games list:

  1. Alpha Mission (Arcade and NES versions)
  2. Athena (Arcade and NES versions)
  3. Baseball Stars (NES version; Xbox One exclusive)
  4. Beast Busters (Arcade)
  5. Bermuda Triangle (Arcade)
  6. Chopper I (Arcade)
  7. Crystalis (NES)
  8. Fantasy (Arcade)
  9. Guerilla War (Arcade and NES versions)
  10. Ikari Warriors (Arcade and NES versions)
  11. Ikari Warriors 2: Victory Road (Arcade and NES versions)
  12. Ikari III: The Rescue (Arcade and NES versions)
  13. Iron Tank (NES)
  14. Munch Mobile (Arcade)
  15. Ozma Wars (Arcade)
  16. Paddle Mania (Arcade)
  17. P.O.W. (Arcade and NES versions)
  18. Prehistoric Isle (Arcade)
  19. Psycho Soldier (Arcade)
  20. Search and Rescue (Arcade)
  21. Sasuke vs. Commander (Arcade)
  22. Street Smart (Arcade)
  23. Time Soldiers (Arcade)
  24. TNK III (Arcade)
  25. Vanguard (Arcade)
  26. World Wars (Arcade)

The inclusion of both NES and arcade versions of seven games is appreciated, as arcade and home console ports often differed significantly during the pre-32-bit era. However, the collection doesn’t quite go all the way with different ports; the GameBoy Color version of Crystalis and the Sega Genesis version of Street Smart are nowhere to be seen.

The clear standout game in this collection is Crystalis (God Slayer in Japan), an action-RPG released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990. Crystalis is often compared to the Zelda series, but it more closely resembles the lesser-known Ys series from Falcom.

Taking place in a post-apocalyptic future, you play as a hero who mysteriously awakens from a cryogenic sleep. This hero earns XP and levels up from fights, and he can charge up his sword to unleash powerful attacks. Crystalis is said to eventually have some moments in which progression without a guide would be difficult. Still, it’s a beautiful looking game with a fantastic soundtrack, and fairly long at ten+ hours. Players who beat it on PlayStation 4 will be rewarded with a Gold Trophy.

Many of SNK’s early arcade games featured rotary joysticks that allowed characters to aim in a different direction than they were moving. This collection wisely adapts that control method into standard twin-stick shooter controls, which makes the rotary joystick games easier to play than ever. These former rotary shooters include Ikari Warriors I-III, Guerilla War, TNK III, Search and Rescue, Time Soldiers, and World Wars. All support 2-player local co-op as well, so twin-stick shooters are in for a treat here.

Other notable games include Athena, a mostly great action-platformer with a huge and perhaps overly obscure array of weapons and items; Psycho Soldier, the semi-sequel to Athena that features the first lyrical song in gaming; P.O.W., a quality co-op beat ‘em up set in Vietnam; Street Smart, a fighting game/beat ‘em up hybrid; Beast Busters, a graphically impressive rail shooter for 3 players; and Prehistorical Isle, a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up set on an island overrun by dinosaurs.

The emulation for these classic games is spot-on to my eyes, with multiple display modes to choose from, including original resolution, full screen, and widescreen. Border art can be toggled on or off. I just wish we could choose from different borders, because the American cover artwork for Crystalis doesn’t suit the game at all. Players can rewind any game at will and save one state per game. Some games also include turbo button mappings by default. You can also watch a full playthrough video of several games, though the value of such a feature in the YouTube era is questionable.

Outside of the games, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection includes some worthwhile bonus features. The Game Soundtracks menu includes sound tests for 13 games, some of which have truly memorable soundtracks. The SNK Complete Works and Bonus Features menus include copious artwork and historical data (plus a fair amount of English captions) that will turn anyone into an SNK scholar.

The only area in which SNK 40th Anniversary Collection arguably falls short is Trophies. The PlayStation 4 version features a scant 14 Trophies, each awarded for the completion of a specific game. That means 11 games go Trophy-less, for better or worse. And worst of all, there is no Platinum Trophy. SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is the second compilation in recent memory (after Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection) for which developer Digital Eclipse chose not to include a Platinum. Considering that this collection costs $40 and will take around 20 hours to complete, the exclusion of a Platinum Trophy makes no sense at all. Some games, like Alpha Mission, Athena, and Iron Tank, are quite hard to beat, too, so difficulty provides no excuse.

Other than the slap in the face that the lack of a Platinum Trophy represents to Trophy hunters, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a wonderful compilation. True, a few Neo Geo classics like Metal Slug would have been welcome. Perhaps licensing deals with Hamster (who publishes Neo Geo games individually on the big three consoles) prevented that from happening. Even still, it turns out that SNK has quite a portfolio of interesting and beautifully made pre-Neo Geo games under its belt. Buy it for Crystalis, and then you can settle in for arcade thrills when the adventure ends.

 SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. This review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the game provided by the publisher.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection

7.5

Graphics

6.0/10

Audio

8.0/10

Gameplay

8.0/10

Entertainment Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • 31 classic arcade and NES games from SNK, all in one convenient collection.
  • Crystalis alone makes this worth a purchase for action-RPG fans.
  • Lots of games feature 2-player local co-op, and Beast Busters even supports 3 players!

Cons

  • No Platinum Trophy in a $40 game!
  • The GameBoy Color remake of Crystalis and the Sega Genesis version of Street Smart didn’t make the cut.
  • A few of the older games like Munch Mobile might be best forgotten.
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