SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (Switch) Review

SNK to the Past

Retro game collections are a great way to preserve the past. SNK 40th Anniversary Collection celebrates the golden age of Japanese developer SNK. This compilation curates titles from the company’s earlier years predating the Neo Geo era, so series like King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, and Metal Slug are out. But there are still treats for fans of the arcade classics.

See every game in action with my Video Review!

Fourteen games are available at launch, with more to come as free DLC. In the initial batch, there are three shoot ‘em ups, two platformers, a fighting game, an action RPG, two beat ‘em ups, and five run-and-gun style games. A whopping six are military-themed. Diversity is not the collection’s greatest strength, and its value depends on nostalgia or taste for war shooters. Most are shorter 1-2 hour experiences, but the brutal difficulty can be unforgiving. Luckily, this adaptation offers unlimited credits among other helpful lifelines.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection Alpha Mission.jpg
SNK’s space shooter Alpha Mission

Before going over the games, here’s an overview of the package. The menus are easily navigable and clearly highlight numerous ways to play. For example, almost every game has both arcade and console versions, and in most cases, you can switch to the Japanese edition. The NES versions don’t look as smooth as their arcade counterparts, but the package feels more complete with their alternate takes and exclusive stages. The games are authentic replications of the original arcade cabinets, but look sharper with the 1080p resolution. You’re free to enlarge the display to a full or stretched screen, and you can add TV or monitor filters. Any negative space is filled with a border of official artwork, some fist-pumping, others weird.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection Vanguard.jpg
File Vanguard’s border under weird…

New functions for the emulated titles include save states, which immensely help given the difficulty. The robust rewind lets you go backwards by the second to redo mistakes. An unexpected touch is the ability to watch complete playthroughs of every game. Not only do they provide walkthroughs, but you can actually pick up and play from any point during the video. Yes, it’s cheating, but I appreciate the freedom to skip to a specific level or the final boss. Game options are light, but button customization is thankfully present. As a bonus, there is a lovingly crafted museum where you can learn about SNK’s pre-Neo Geo history, view bonus artwork and trivia, and listen to the soundtracks. Finally, there are achievements, but they all amount to simply beating the games. As a retro collection, the presentation and features set an exceptional standard on preserving and improving the classics.

Now for a look at the 14 launch games. Unlike my more in-depth reviews, I will offer brief thoughts for each one. Starting with the shoot ‘em ups, Prehistoric Isle has the standout concept of shooting down dinosaurs while piloting planes. It’s genuinely enjoyable with its colorful graphics, and it’s the only shooter at launch that allows simultaneous two-player co-op. In comparison, Alpha Mission is a more traditional vertical space shooter. While stocking up armors per situation is a neat idea, the standard ship moves so slowly. You have to basically collect every upgrade to survive the intense bullet waves. Vanguard looks archaic, but it’s ambitious for its time, allowing you to shoot in four directions. The repeated layouts are dull, but high scorers will appreciate the difficulty increase with every loop. My bigger gripe is that it’s hard to see incoming hazards before it’s too late.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection Psycho Soldier.jpg
Psycho Soldier’s vocal theme is surprisingly addictive. Listen to the Japanese version!

As for the platformers, Athena is the more traditional of the two, featuring incremental armor upgrades. However, it has stiff controls, and it’s possible to get stuck on some enemies without long-range weapons. The levels incorporate multiple paths but are plagued by repetitive design. Meanwhile, Psycho Soldier is an autoscroller where you move up and down through four lanes, shooting long range psychic blasts at enemies. It’s a simple concept that works, although the plain level designs wear thin. Its full vocal theme song made the biggest impression.

Crystalis is the lone action RPG with a style similar to The Legend of Zelda or Secret of Mana. You explore a large top-down world and wield your sword to vanquish foes. The mechanics are well-thought out, including a chargeable sword beam, a level system, and a wealth of clever magic spells. Crystalis is hands-down the best game in the set, as well as the longest, spanning about six to ten hours. On the other hand, Street Smart is perhaps the worst. It’s set up like a fighting game but plays like a one-on-one beat ‘em up. There are no fancy combos–just simple punches and kicks that are hard to execute. And the opponents don’t even have a life bar. Its only saving grace is two-player mode.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection Crystalis.jpg
I’m always distracted by the fantasy novel border art while playing Crystalis.

All but one of the remaining launch games are war themed. Iron Tank is a top-down shooter where you drive a tank and decimate waves of enemies. Multiple paths and upgradeable firepower give it some replay value. The controls are cumbersome, however, as only one button slowly rotates your tank’s turret, limiting the effectiveness of multidirectional shots. T.N.K. III plays out the same concept much better. Not only is your tank faster, but you can use the right control stick to rotate your turret, allowing you to move while shooting in eight directions. Seriously, dual-stick support is a fantastic adaptation of the original arcade cabinet’s Loop Lever, which allowed players to run and aim with one rotary joystick. Purists can try out the single-stick mode to recreate the Loop Lever.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection Guerilla War.jpg
Guerilla War, one of several games with tanks. Tank Tank Tank!

This same dual-stick support works excellently in Ikari Warriors, a more traditional run-and-gun. This game and its similar cousin Guerilla War are both solid, fast-paced titles pitting you in the trenches of war. The one-hit kills can be unforgiving, but the collection’s assistive features and co-op mode are empowering and helped me see to the end of this Rambo fantasy. Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road is a sequel that has the same gameplay but oddly enough, takes place in space. The sci-fi setting keeps it fresh with more imaginative enemies, level designs, and firepower. But alongside the brutal difficulty are frustrating elements, including annoying holes that force you to fight a miniboss if you fall in.

Ikari III: The Rescue rounds up the Ikari trilogy. Unlike its predecessors, this is a beat ‘em up…a top-down beat’ em up. It’s a novel perspective for the genre, though it doesn’t particularly work here. The movesets are clumsy, and you have to adapt to close-range combat with poor collision detection. I had fun spamming jump kicks, but it’s not the best iteration of Ikari. Finally, P.O.W. is a military-themed beat ‘em up that sports a traditional horizontal perspective, but it’s just as hard to play, again due to wonky collision detection. There’s also a tedium of fighting the same dull enemies repeatedly.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection Ikari III The Rescue
Ikari means anger, but it may also mean Rambo.

Conclusion

Overall, the best aspect of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is how it curates and enhances the games, with excellent emulation and features such as rewind and save states. The ability for portable play with the Switch is icing on the cake. Gamers with nostalgia for SNK’s classics will appreciate this compilation, though others may want to wait. Its biggest weaknesses as of launch are the quantity and diversity of games. Most of the initial 14 titles are at least decent, if not great, but there isn’t a must-buy. Also, they’re short endeavors that feel overly similar, sharing genres and that ever-present war theme. Thankfully, eleven more games will be added as free DLC, including Chopper I, Fantasy, and Time Soldiers. I still wish this collection had more of SNK’s 40-year legacy, but its value can only improve as games are added.

Score: 7/10

Note: A review copy was used for this article.

Eleven games will be added as free DLC on December 11, 2018: Chopper I, Fantasy, Munch Mobile, Sasuke vs. Commander, Time Soldiers, Beast Busters, Bermuda Triangle, Ozma Wars, Paddle Mania, SAR: Search and Rescue, and World Wars. Additionally, a day-one patch will fix any potential issues with rewind and audio, as well as add optional “Auto Fire.”

Also, there will be a new optional “Single Stick” mode for all twin-stick games. Players can use one stick to control both movement and aiming simultaneously. With ”Single Stick” mode enabled, two players can play multiplayer games together using single Joy-Cons.

What do you think of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection? What are your favorite SNK games and series? What would you like to see added? What are your favorite retro collections? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and watching!

13 thoughts on “SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (Switch) Review

  1. Awesome review! That was a lot of games to cover, but you gave a nice bite-sized overview of each one. I don’t know much about SNK, other than SNK Heroines that you reviewed. I’m not really into retro arcade games, especially hard ones. Crystalis is probably the only one I might be interested in since it’s the most like Zelda. Shooting dinosaurs from planes reminds me of Jurassic Park to some extent. I guess old school SNK was really into run and guns and beat ’em up games. As for me, not so much. Everything in the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection looks really similar to each other, and I can’t tell them apart. I’m curious about the other DLC games, though. And the presentation and museum themselves seem really impressive. Happy 40th Anniversary SNK! Great job as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your words of support and encouragement! I truly appreciate it, and it means a lot! 😀 SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a game that I think can only get better as more games are added. I’m glad there will be free DLC in the first place, even though it would have been better at launch. The presentation and museum aspects are well-crafted, and I wish more compilations had the kind of love that Digital Eclipse put into it. Solid second-by-second rewind and save states, and even the video playthrough. Those are all implemented well, and I just want more games to be a part of this retro compilation.

      Also, yes, Crystalis is definitely the best of the bunch, and was one of my favorites growing up. Prehistoric Isle was probably my second favorite. Though there’s also something so compelling about the vocal theme song of Psycho Soldier, which by the way, stars the same Athena from SNK Heroines! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, the collection is very military-heavy, and I wish there were more solid platformers or other genres like racing (which will be added in DLC at least). But the way the collection is presented is pretty good. That rewind saved me way too many times haha!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot man! I appreciate it! That’s a good point. I think a lot of people just weren’t around for the pre-Neo Geo era at this point. Probably also the fact that their more modern series are more popular. I admit to associating SNK with King of Fighters and Metal Slug before thinking of Ikari Warriors or Psycho Soldier.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think some games should be left to fade away with time. None of these games interest me in the slightest. Maybe the free DLC games would be better than what’s here already? Great review as usual dude!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot man! I really appreciate it! This arcade collection is very old-school arcade-skewing so it’s not for everyone. I will say that Crystalis is an underrated NES gem. Otherwise, a lot of the shoot ‘em ups and beat ‘me ups have a more niche audience. They’re good, but again, not for everyone. If you’re not interested in the launch games, I don’t think you’d like the free DLC games either. Some of them are even older and arcade-like than the game’s already here haha!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sweet collection! I especially like Prehistoric Isle and Psycho Soldier! I’m somehow nostalgic for them without actually having ever played them. The fact that this lets you save AND will add more titles later is also a really good deal. Now that we live in a post-restore point world, it’s always funny to see how games that were REALLY hard when you were a kid, are also often only 2 hours long.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These games are very retro, so if you have any fond memories of the arcade or at least NES, then I can see having nostalgia for games you haven’t played haha! Something about Psycho Soldier reminds me of other classics like Donkey Kong, and Prehistoric Isle is basically Jurassic Park the Game. Restore points are so good, for Virtual Console, NES/SNES Classics, and also the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, you name it. Games were so hard and short back then, so that you’d be forced to put in more quarters, or so that you wouldn’t beat old NES games so fast. That’s why we had lives systems and no battery saves too. Of course, this is probably why old-school gamers tend to have ridiculously awesome twitch reflexes! Thanks so much for your great comments and wonderful words! 😀

      Like

  4. These games all seem like they’re from that era where games don’t want you to beat them, haha. It’s very cool that the developer included save states and a rewind feature. It sure makes the games easier to complete, I bet. Awesome review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words of support! It always means a lot to me! 😄 The games here are definitely from that era because the developers wanted you to put more quarters in haha. Or at least for NES games, they wanted you to think the game was much longer than it already was by making it super difficult. Thankfully, the rewind feature, save states, unlimited credits, and full play through that you can jump into make everything so much easier. I don’t know if I have the skills to beat them all otherwise haha!

      Liked by 1 person

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