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Game Info:

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
Developed By: SNK
Published By: NIS America
Release Date: November 13, 2018 (Switch)
Available On: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Arcade Compilation (with one Action RPG)
Number of Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: Teen for Mild Blood, Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes
MSRP: $39.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you NIS America for sending us this game to review!

SNK is one of Japan’s earliest video game companies, apparently with a birthdate in the same year as myself. To celebrate those 40 years, they released this hand-picked (though not quite exhaustive) collection of games from their first 12 years in business, on the Nintendo Switch. After the games celebrated in this collection, SNK went on to make the Neo Geo – the very advanced, but also very expensive, arcade/home system platform for the time. Those games were also highly regarded – but are from a different, later era than what is covered here.

On the cartridge, there are 13 games, which I will try to summarize, below. If you count NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) versions of the arcade games as separate, the list is actually 19 games. In most cases, the Arcade versions are much, much better than their NES counterparts. Nevertheless, it’s still great that both are included. If that wasn't enough, they also include both the English and Japanese versions of every game in this collection, which is fantastic. As for our summaries below, they are listed in alphabetical order, like the game does. Also listed is the title, year of release, what platforms are covered in this collection, and a short description of the game that I noticed while playtesting it. I did not complete any of the games in this collection (except for Crystalis, which I finished close to 30 years ago).

Alpha Mission – Released 1987 – Arcade & NES - A classic vertical shoot 'em up, where you shoot enemies, and you can also use bombs to destroy enemy platforms and turrets, which can expose power-ups for you to collect. It’s pretty fun.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
Highlights:

Strong Points: Excellent collection of classic games, both arcade and NES where applicable, in the pre-Neo Geo era; includes 13 games out of the box, with 11 more coming free via DLC; watch and rewind features are really great, as they allow you to jump in any time to get past where you may be stuck; it’s neat to see the progression of video games, especially arcade vs. console during the fast-changing 1980s; includes Crystalis, one of the best action RPGs on the NES
Weak Points: Lots of twin-stick shooters, several of which are very similar
Moral Warnings: Animated violence, with some games having blood; one game has a girl start the game in her underwear, and she gains armor as she goes through it

Athena – Released 1986 – Arcade & NES – It’s a 2D side-scrolling platformer, with the female protagonist Athena. She drops down in a dress (which flies off of her like an inverted umbrella), and proceeds to start the game in her underwear. In order to gain offense and defense, she must find armor and weapons as she goes, which also dresses her as well. Depending on which weapon she picked up last, she can do more damage, have better range, or other differences. Seems pretty interesting.

Crystalis – Released 1990 - NES – It’s a top-down action RPG, and one of the only RPGs of any kind released by SNK ever. There is a lot of magic use by both the player and enemies in this game, though it actually takes place in a sci-fi universe. This is truly an excellent game, and one of my favorite NES games of all time. This collection is almost worth it to me for Crystalis alone; I truly love this game. Certainly one of the very best action RPGs on NES, hands down. It was very technically advanced for a NES game as well. It's too bad SNK never decided to make another RPG; their first offering sure was great.

Guerrilla War – Released 1987 – Arcade & NES – It’s a top-down twin-stick shooter, one of many they released in that era. It takes place in Vietnam, or another similar jungle, as lots of games did in that era. You can also get in tanks, which can be quite handy. The controls are a little clunky, but that is not that unusual, as the twin sticks used in that time were not analog, but digital 8-way arcade sticks. It plays a whole lot like Ikari Warriors; so much so that I felt like a better title might have been Ikari Warriors 2.5. It supports two players simultaneously.

Ikari Warriors – Released 1986 – Arcade & NES – Classic top-down twin-stick shooter, that was quite popular when I was young. Though it took a back seat to the Contras of the world, it was still quite memorable. It takes place in jungle, you can get in tanks, and it supports two players simultaneously.

Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road – Released 1986 – Arcade & NES – This one has slightly better graphics, and some weapons are melee instead of almost all of them being guns in Ikari Warriors. Still plays fairly similarly to Ikari Warriors outside of the melee weapons.

Ikari III: The Rescue – Released 1989 – Arcade & NES – This one is a bit different, as it takes the melee weapons from Ikari Warriors II, and doubles down on them to be the main method of combat. I would call it a top-down quasi-twin-stick fighter, with the melee combat resembling a beat 'em up.

Iron Tank: The Invasion of Normandy – Released 1988 - NES – This is a NES-only top-down tank shooter, that is more complex, has a map screen, and has an upgrade system for the tank. I didn’t get a chance to play too much of this one, but it looks very promising. You can also rescue friendly hostages, which is a nice touch.

P.O.W. - Released 1988 – Arcade & NES – This is a pure side-scrolling beat 'em up, which has quite a bit in common with games like Final Fight (Capcom) or Double Dragon (Tecmo). You can kick, punch, backpunch, headbutt, jump, or shoot (if you grab a weapon) to escape the enemy prisoner camp. It supports simultaneous multiplayer on the Arcade version only; the NES version is single player. Lots of fun.

Prehistoric Isle – Released 1989 - Arcade – This is a prehistoric-themed side-scrolling shooter, somewhat similar to Gradius. You fight dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes in a biplane. You can pick up speed and weapon boosters, including a pod that shoots with you. You die after one hit. I really liked this one.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 86%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 8/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Psycho Soldier – Released 1986 - Arcade – This one is a side-scrolling shooter/platformer, with a bit of a unique mechanic in that you can jump from level to level on screen. The screen constantly scrolls right to left, so you have to keep moving and keep yourself from getting stuck, as well as kill any bad guys in your way. Attacks include Shock Wave and Psycho Ball, and you can grab upgrades as you go. I was surprised to hear that the background music has a really low resolution woman singing in English! PCM voices were not common at that time. I believe this character is related to the girl in Athena from the titular game in some way.

Street Smart – Released 1989 - Arcade – This is a really nice 2D fighting game, where you kick, punch, jump, and somersault your way to victory in a fighting tournament in one-on-one battles. To put things in perspective, this game was released before Street Fighter II, where most genre conventions were defined. It seems like an answer to Street Fighter (not two!) at first, but it’s not in that the playing area has depth, so you can move out of the way of hits; it’s more like a beat 'em up in that way. It’s also miles better than SF1 anyway, despite being more brawl-ish rather than a technical fighter. Two players play cooperatively, where the second player gets their own bad guy to beat up. Between levels, you do fight each other to see who gets the girl in the end. This is a really neat fighter.

TNK III – Released 1985 - Arcade - (Sound effects seem messed up; hopefully this gets patched out soon.) This is a very early top-down twin-stick shooter, which likely was inspiration for Ikari Warriors, except here you are always in a tank, rather than getting in and out of tanks.

Vanguard – Released 1981 - Arcade – Last but not least, this is a side-scrolling shooter, kind of like Defender, which was one of the first of the side-scrolling shooter genre. I was shocked to hear a PCM voice - 'bon voyage' – on such an old game platform. The ship can shoot in all 4 directions, though sometimes you don’t need to, since you can grab the energy power-up and run into enemies to kill them, and even destroy the environment. Fun.

And if that was not enough, NIS America has announced that 11(!) more games are coming shortly after launch, for free to all game owners:

Munch Mobile
Chopper
Fantasy
Time Soldiers
Sasuke Vs. Commander
Bermuda Triangle
Beast Busters
Paddle Mania
SAR: Search and Rescue
Ozma Wars
World Wars

I can’t summarize what I haven’t played, but I’m sure they will be great also.

If that wasn’t enough, there are retrospectives on all SNK games from 1978-1990, bonus features like concept art, and full built-in game soundtracks for everything included in the collection.

I kind of wish that was it, as this is quite a long review already – but alas, it was not meant to be so. Lots of collections merely emulate classic games. Here, they went beyond just that. They have a ‘watch’ mode, where you can watch another (presumably a professional) gamer play these games. And the best part? You can jump in at any time to literally control the game by taking over for the computer. It’s really amazing, actually. You can also save games in progress, which is a standard feature at this point. Another, perhaps unintended bonus for games like Crystalis, is that if you are stuck in your own save, you can use the watch feature, along with fast forward and rewind, to see where you might be stuck to overcome it.

I already pointed out most of the appropriateness issues, but there is lots of animated violence, a small amount of blood, and a few girls in bikinis/underwear. Magic use is also present. Nothing is shown in great detail; after all, these were mostly 8-bit games.

I am incredibly impressed with the technical and presentation aspects of this SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. While they are not my favorite games from that era (apart from Crystalis), they are certainly respectably good, and worth experiencing if you enjoy classics. There are a few small issues that SNK/NISA are working on that they hope to fully address via a day-one patch. I look forward to it.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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