We’ll be honest – we didn’t even realise an Xbox One release of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection was planned, believing it was destined for Switch and PS4 only. It may have arrived later than the other versions (and it’s also digital only, which defeats the point of video game preservation somewhat), but Xbox One owners still shouldn’t overlook this belated collection.
Rather than feature SNK’s big hitters from their golden age (Metal Slug, King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, et al), it focuses on SNK’s lesser known games from their earlier years to provide a mixture of curios and classics. The Xbox One version also features an exclusive game – Baseball Stars on NES, which gave other baseball games a run for their money back in 1989 before becoming part of a long-running series.
Heading up the classic side of things, there’s the entire Ikari Warriors trilogy, Bermuda Triangle-based shooter Prehistoric Isle, eccentric auto-runner Psycho Soldier, top-down run and gunner Time Soldiers, gloriously grisly shooters Beast Busters and SAR: Search and Rescue, scrolling brawler P.O.W, early platformer Fantasy, and the Wonder Boy-esque adventure Athena.
There’s also the 1990 NES RPG Crystalis, which is something of a cult classic due to failing to sell well upon release.
To elaborate more on our definition of ‘curio’, Munch Mobile, SASUKE vs COMMANDER, OZMA WARS, and sports sim PADDLE MANIA all entertain for ten minutes or so, but all fall well short of ‘classic’ status. Munch Mobile – an odd vehicular collect’em up – requires ridiculously precise movements; the rest are either crude or aquired tastes.
Iron Tank, TNK III, Vanguard, Bermuda Triangle, Chopper I, and Alpha Mission fall in-between. They aren’t necessarily bad games, but they can prove to be a bit of a slog, even with the ability to rewind gameplay.
The same can be said for Street Smart, a basic one-on-one brawler with loose controls and awkward movement – the fighters slide across the ground as if it were covered in ice. In fairness, though, calling out bad games is to miss the point – SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is intended to be a ‘warts and all’ walk down memory lane.
The package is presented in a stylish manner, complete with a museum full of advertising scans, a jukebox, concept art, guidebooks, and even a look at Tangram Q – an unreleased puzzle game from 1983. Using the limited resources available, developers Digital Eclipse do their best to describe how it would’ve played.
Emulation is faultless throughout, including the ability to save anywhere, add filters and change screen sizes. It’s possible to watch playthroughs of certain games too. Moreover, Digital Eclipse even included not just the US and Japanese ROMs (where available), but the NES version Ikari Warriors, POW, Alpha Mission, Guerrilla War, and Athena too.
It’s interesting to see the differences and compromises made when SNK brought their arcade hits home. And as much we would have loved to see the Master System version of Time Soldiers, we’re happy to chalk this up as wishful thinking.
Achievement hunters will also be in their element here. Most games take no longer than 30 minutes to beat yet cough up generous amounts of GamerScore. Not all games have achievements linked to them, though, and you’ll certainly need to put the hours in to beat Crystalis.
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection an exhaustive package that represents some thorough research, and it’s especially pleasing to see it on a system that doesn’t receive quite as much retro action as the Switch and PS4.
A genuine labour of love, it sets the bar high for future collections.