SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 PS2
Nostalgia is a very powerful thing. Retro remakes are popping up everywhere and fans everywhere are getting ultra-excited and forking out actual money for a game that they first played when they had no real sense of quality, and was created in a time where most of the things we take for granted as gamers in 2008 didn’t exist yet. There are some games that have stood the test of time, like Super Mario World, Chrono Trigger and Super Metroid, all of which still have the same magic now as they did upon their initial release, but the next person who tries to tell me that King of the Monsters was amazing is going to get their rose-tinted glasses punched into their stupid, wrong face.
The first thing thought that came to mind about SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 is “Who exactly is this for”? The NeoGeo was an expensive bit of kit back in the the early nineties and presumably, 90% of the people reading this article never owned one during their childhood, so the nostalgia card is already out the window. SNK games have a bit of a cult following, so this collection of games from their back catalogue is probably aimed at a small bunch of elitist geeks who are no doubt holier-than-thou because they’ve heard of Magician Lord. Thing is, these kind of people are probably going to have already played these games through emulation or, if they’ve got the cash, through actually buying the originals. Certainly not the kind of folk who will splash out £20 for a PS2 disc full of emulated classics, anyway.
So, what about the average gamer? Knowledgable enough to know what the NeoGeo was and at the same time, drawn in by the reasonable price point for the sixteen games on offer? In 2008, can a niche retro collection still have a place?
Like a lot of these recent Ignition SNK packages, the front end is ugly and clunky, but ultimately this is about the games on offer, so it is forgivable. There is also the addition of “goals”, essentially the Achievements from the Xbox 360, gained by fulfilling cerain criteria within the various games, allowing you to unlock bonuses and give yourself a few extra things to think about when you are playing the games. Surely it is getting to the point where every game EVER is going to need some kind of achievement system? It is a great little way to award people for, at times, some truly heroic tasks and if used correctly can add an extra dynamic to any game. However, for some ungodly reason Ignition have decided that some of these bonuses aren’t obvious things like concept art or trailers, but MOVE LISTS for some of the characters in Samurai Shodown – a game which also has to be unlocked by fulfilling goals. It is understood that a lot of these games didn’t have in-game move lists, as they were usually printed in manuals or on the arcade cabinet, but it is 2008! Locking out a few fundamental things like this and making you have to play other games on the package to unlock them seems a bit backward thinking and gunning for that “all-important” authenticity, which is the curse of most retro packages.
Onto the games, then. As mentioned, they are absolutely authentic in their presentation – warts and all. The NeoGeo was a 2D beast of a machine, so some of the animation on display still holds up fairly well to this day. Some of the games, however, less so. Obvious classics such as Metal Slug, Samurai Shodown and King of the Fighters ’94 are all well respected within their genres, but have been bettered even within their own series. The hidden gem in the collection is Shock Troopers, a top-down shooter in a similar vein to Wolf of the Battlefield, full of ultra-violent death animations and gigantic bosses. It is perfect arcade multiplayer fodder – just zone out and blast hordes of enemies with a friend for an hour or so, without having to part with countless 20p pieces for the priviledge. Another cheeky little number is Last Resort; a shameless R-Type clone but still a lot of fun in its own right. After all, most NeoGeo games were clones of something, so it would be unfair to criticize.
Super Sidekicks 3 is another one worthy of your attention. It won’t last long, but playing a football game with what appears to be a blatant disregard for the basic rules of the sport is just enough to make it worthy of a few heated multiplayer sessions, while the other sporting titles Baseball Stars 2 and the brilliantly named golf title Neo Turf Masters are both fun, if unsurprisingly shallow arcade games.
Sadly, not all of the games are of this quality, with titles such as Sengoku, Burning Fight and King of the Monsters sitting at the bottom of the pile. They’re by no means awful games, just average ones that haven’t dated well, rendering them somewhat obsolete in this modern age.
Perhaps the biggest critisism of SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 is its own legacy. There are some glaring omissions – how about the ultra-rare Ultimate 11 or Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle – and the inclusion of Metal Slug is a tad questionable when you can get all of them on one disc for a similar price. Also, both King of the Fighters ’94 and Samurai Shodown have superior versions available on the PS2, so for the hardcore SNK fan, you’re better off looking around elsewhere for your arcade fix. This is a decent selection of titles to have as part of your collection, but then, you probably already knew that.
For everyone else, the budget price-point means that SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 is a passable collection of retro games, with perhaps a few that will act as a gateway to looking up other NeoGeo games. SNK has a rich legacy to draw from, and there will no doubt be more of these releases, it is just a case of whether the quality will be enough to draw new fans, or simply pander to the same ones they have always had. On the strength of Vol. 1, it is too early to tell.