During the last console generation, Japanese publisher Hamster re-released Neo Geo games on a weekly basis. The reason this Arcade Archives sub-series ended wasn’t due to diminishing returns, but rather because they ran out of titles to re-release, with pesky licensing issues to blame. They certainly had a good crack at it, putting out a sizeable chunk of the Neo Geo’s catalogue. This new collection from QUbyte and Pixel Heart fills in some gaps, offering seven arcade games that originally ran on Neo Geo hardware.
The seven titles present aren’t very well known, and that’s where much of the appeal of this collection lies – these are games few will have heard of, and even fewer will have played. Prior to diving into this collection, I was familiar with just two (Andro Dunos and Ganryu) and that’s only because IP holders Pixel Heart recently published modern day sequels.
The presentation is commendable, featuring a choice of screen sizes (fit, stretch, 4:3) and filters, online play for the four games with two-player modes, and a brief overview of each game with a ‘how to play’ section.
Games can be saved at any point, but there’s no rewind tool – something negligible, considering additional credits can be added freely. Some games – such as Andro Dunos and Captain Tomaday – let you continue from where you died, while others such as Ganryu use checkpoint systems. The ability to save anywhere certainly comes in handy for Goal! Goal! Goal! and Neo DriftOut – two games where small mistakes can cost dearly. Indeed, beating Brazil in Goal! Goal! Goal! will likely require several attempts.
The mixture of genres here is pleasing. 1992’s Andro Dunos is a straightforward space shooter that scrolls both vertically and horizontally. The main weapon can be charged by holding down the fire button, putting your craft at risk while the gauge fills, and there are a few weapon types to experiment with. The visuals aren’t particularly detailed, with this being an early release for the Neo Geo, and the need to tap the fire button continuously results in a tired thumb. While not a genre classic, it’s worth playing through once or twice. Generic, but serviceable.
Generic isn’t a term that applies to 1999’s Captain Tomaday, a riff on Konami’s vertical cutesy shooter Pop’n Twinbee. You play as an anthropomorphic tomato who can launch their fists at enemies, with a button assigned to each fist. Button tapping isn’t called for here, thankfully – holding down the two attack buttons sees the titular tomato launch their fists continuously. There’s a comical tone present and the pixel art backdrops are well drawn. Bosses, however, take a long time to defeat – which was presumably to extend the playtime. This is one of the better games present, singlehandedly giving the package personality thanks to its nonsensical premise.
Then there’s Bang Bead and FlipShot – two games linked to one another. They resemble Windjammers but play more like Pong, as instead of flinging a frisbee they involve bouncing a spherical projectile back and forth. The presentation is bold and brash, and there are a few different characters to try out, but ultimately, a stiff learning curve puts a dampener on things.
1995’s Goal! Goal! Goal! is a typical arcade football game, similar to something like Hat Trick Hero for the Super Famicom. 28 international teams with varying stats feature, and matches last for two minutes. Peculiarly, injury time is added to every match regardless of whether an injury occurred. AI movement is robotic, with teammates moving up and down the screen in unison with yourself. As long as you aren’t expecting realism, it’ll keep you entertained for a while. Expect comedic goals, at the very least.
This leaves us with the main reasons to own this collection: 1999’s Ganryu and 1996’s Neo DriftOut. The former is a hack ‘n slash platformer that’s part Strider, part Shinobi. The pixel art looks fantastic, the bosses are challenging, and there’s a good variety of weapons/spells to experiment with. Level design varies greatly from one stage to the next too, even calling for gliding through the air via the chain weapon by latching it to trees. I’d even say this is something of a hidden gem. Neo DriftOut, meanwhile, is a fast-paced isometric racer with smooth scrolling and scaling. Success mostly relies on consigning the six tracks to memory; this racer is dependent on fast reaction times. Once you’re in the zone, zooming around corners without toppling cones, it’s very satisfying.
VISCO Collection is a bit of an oddity – in ways both good and bad. Unless your local arcade had some of these games, which I’m willing to bet is unlikely due to their obscurity, there’s not much here in the way of nostalgia. Every game present (aside from FlipShot, superseded by Bang Bead) is in some way interesting though, and worth spending an hour or two with. If you like the look of Neo DriftOut, Ganryu, and Captain Tomaday – and perhaps fancy a blast through Andro Dunos – it’s just about worth the £16-17 outlay. It isn’t often we’re treated to cuts of arcade history this deep, and that counts for something too.
QUByte’s VISCO Collection is out now on all formats.