Review: SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 (Wii)
A classic compilation?
The Wii isn’t exactly lacking when it comes to playing retro games. Not only is it backwards compatible with it’s little brother the Nintendo GameCube but it also has the Virtual Console or VC as it’s know by Nintendo owners. For a small fee you can download and play games from 8-bit NES and Commodore 64 games through to 64-bit N64 titles with everything in-between, with over half a dozen retro consoles and over three hundred different games available.
So why am I talking about the VC during a review of this new release? Well it’s because as of the time of writing of the sixteen games in this collection eleven are already available for download via the VC, but at 900 Wii points each (£6.75 in real money) surely buying this collection is the best way to play these SNK classics? Well lets seeâ€¦
There’s sixteen different games to play that are a mix of different game genres from the early to mid nineties all made and released by SNK and later converted for the Neo-Geo home console. Along with being able to play perfect conversions of each game there’s art work, music, move lists and videos to unlock thanks to a achievement style ‘goal’ system that’s rewards and encourages you to play the games rather than relying on just sheer nostalgia. To make it an easier read (and review for me) I’ve focused on the better games in the collection rather than speak of it as a whole.
First out the gate is arguably SNK’s most famous franchise Metal Slug. For those of you who’ve never played one before it’s what appears at first to be a simple left to right scrolling action shoot ’em up with you in control of a lone soldier who’s expected to rescue dozens of POWs and destroy and entire army equipped with a simple pistol and a box of grenades. More powerful weapons can be collected from heavy machine-guns, flamethrowers, shotguns and rocket launchers from handy ammo boxes strewn throughout the levels or by liberating any POWs you find. From time to time you can also man one of the powerful mini tanks or Metal Slugs in each level with its destructive cannon, tilting machine-gun and think armour that can take several hits before exploding.
You’ll need it to as your standard troop can only take a single bullet, grenade, shell or explosion before losing a life and later levels become bullet hell with all kinds of solders, tanks, planes and even scuba divers trying to put you down for a dirt nap. Despite all the death and action happening on screen you never lose track of your trooper thanks to the well drawn and designed sprites that all drip with a kind of manga influenced world war two ascetics.
Neo Turf Masters
Next up we have SNK’s take on the 16-bit golfing genre much like the PGA Tour Golf games of the time but with less emphasis on accurate simulation and more arcade style par goals. You start out by choosing from a selection of different golfer each with there own strengths and weaknesses be it driving, accuracy, skill, recovery or putting. Once you’re on the green you have to make your shots using a constantly moving power bar, and then height bar making it a matter of good timing to get a good shot without too much/little power and too high/low.
With four different eighteen whole courses and the constant pressure of keeping below par there’s always room to improve your scorecard. It does well at staying on the fun side of simulation and never gets too bogged down in pointless detail like PGA does or slide to far into luck-over-skill territory held by something like Mario Golf.
Now I don’t know if it’s my lack of understanding of Japanese mythology or badly translated dialogue but this game makes little to no sense from beginning to end. It plays like a scrolling beat ’em up but just as you get used to fighting mutants in a post-apocalyptic wasteland you’re whisked into the sky to fight demon samurai before being dropped back to earth to have a boss fight atop a stampede of ghostly horses! Putting aside such madness there’s coloured orbs to collect that let you arm you with weapons or even transform in a dog that can spit fire. Like I said madness, but fun madness for a while until the novelty wares off and you’re left with stodgy controls, repetitive action and not much else.
What would you get if you crossed previous game Metal Slug with SNK’s own Akari Warriors? This SNK’s Shock Troopers. Taking control of eight different soldiers each with their own mix of weapons, speed and strength you chose one of three different routes to the enemy base destroying anyone and everything in your path. Once you get used to dodging bullets, throwing grenades and mowing down waves of enemy troops you can forgo the lone wolf option and link up with a friend and try another of the three routes each with unique levels and action.
Super Sidekicks 3: The Next Glory
A poorly aged 2D footie (call it soccer and die) game, don’t bother playing unless you’re trying to get the goals (unlockable goals that is not football goals). Next!
Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy
Bloody hell this is getting positively incestuous now, anywayâ€¦ take Metal Slug, replace the tanks with mechs mix in the non-linear pathways of Shock Troopers and add some hidden bonus rounds where you ride a jet powered skateboard and give the main character stretchy arms to grab enemies and yank chains for a trick or treat and you get Top Hunter. The other new gimmick here is the ability to jump between two different planes or layers on the screen with enemies and items occupying only one making it easy to dodge attacks but difficult to collect every bonus going. By mixing the two planes mechanic with all the usual SNK action and high production values you get one of the most playable games in this collection.
Baseball Stars 2
Take the Super Sidekicks 3 information and replace the word ‘football’ with the word ‘baseball’.
A poor man’s Streets of Rage here that plays much like Sengoku but without the bizarre goings on to distract from the lack of fun and shabby gameplay on offer is an even more shallow and pointless affair.
King of the Monsters
Now I’ve not lumped this in with the other SNK beat ’em ups because it’s actually different enough to warrant its own write up. Here the combatants are all Japanese monster movie style archetypes with King Kong, Godzilla, Jet Jaguar etc. all present and beating the crap out of each other in different Japanese cities like the skyscraper filled Tokyo or water filled harbour at Kobe. If that doesn’t get you intrigued how about the fact it has the EDF taking pot shots at you with their tanks and jets, yeah though that would do it for you. The combat is a unique mix of straight fighting with punches and kicks tied with wrestling style grapples and throws that you can use to were down your opponents energy bar and then go for a three pin (you know just like in the films). The range of monsters is a bit small and some of the fights are too easy but as a quick ten minute play on the bus to work it’s the best in this collection.
Rather than ripping off on of it’s own game, SNK follows the lead of Irem’s always popular R-Type series even down to the orbiting weapon pods come bullet shield. All the shump clichÃ©s are here in full force with collectable weapon upgrades and huge arse bosses but unlike R-Type doesn’t punish you for not having a photographic memory and pneumatic pistons for fingers. The handy option of a rapid-fire button helps prevent finger cramp and the generous checkpoints mean you wont have to memorise every enemy attack pattern to ensure you don’t succumb to the games one hit kills.
The problem with any collection of games is the overall quality of the games, for every good one there tends to be a few stinkers. As well as the games there’s a host of unlockables, including music artwork and move lists for the fighting games.
SNK are mostly known for their fighting games and they make an appearance. There’s King of Fighters 94, Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown, World Heroes and King of Monsters. A big problem with these is that they all have better sequels.
As well as the fighting games, there’s a selection of sports games. Neo Turf masters, which is a fun Golf game. Baseball Stars 2, which is an OK cartoony Baseball game. Super Sidekicks 3: The Next Glory, which is an average arcade football game, just don’t go into it expecting any depth to it.
The collection also has shooting games, the best of these being the classic Metal Slug. Shock Troopers is a very good Ikari Warriors style top down game. Last resort is a wholly average R-type clone.
The other games on this collection are Burning Fight a dire side scrolling beat-’em-up. Sengoku a slightly strange side scrolling beat-’em-up. Top Hunter a fun little side scrolling platformer/shooter. Magician Lord which plays like a poor man’s Strider.
A problem is the medals you unlock the extras with don’t stack. So if you complete a game on normal, you don’t get the medal for completing it on easy, which is a little annoying. Otherwise everything is presented very nicely.
Secondary Score: 6/10
SNK does Black Tiger this time with action platforming the order of the day along with collectable power ups that transform you into six different forms like dragons, fish and even ninjas. Much like the games (Black Tiger, Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins) it mimics its hellishly difficult but persevere as it rewards you with some great later levels.
Art of Fighting, Samurai Showdown, King of the Fighters ’94, Fatal Fury
Peoww’s Danny will likely come looking for me with a hammer for saying this but each and ever one of these games bores me to tears. I could write up a long review of each one along with interchangeable character names, locations and fighting styles such is the incestuous and copycat nature of them. The bottom line is if you haven’t played them before don’t expect to be blown away by them, they all have their charms but they all play like every beat ’em up did in the nineties. That is to say boring memory tests with the occasional need for digital dexterity.
So final score time and the need to rate the collection as a whole. If you don’t have broadband and access to the VC then this collection is a must have buy thanks in no small part to the overpricing of retro titles for download that would cost you over £70 if you bought them via the VC. Sure there’s a few lemons in there but even compared to other must have retro collections like Capcom Classics or the Midway Treasures the lemon/gold ratio is far better. Also there’s the odd niggle like the d-pad orientation changing when in the system menus but when you add the unlockable goals and other extra content you get thisâ€¦