RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Sep 18th 2009 at 12:00:00 PM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Compilation, SNK, pre Neo Geo, Neo Geo,

This year I was fortunate enough to receive a Nintendo Switch console before Father's Day from my wife and kids.  It was a wonderful moment, especially considering I hadn't planned on purchasing one for another year (at least).  Despite this, I still had a nice list of games to buy, with one in particular standing out as an early purchase due the nostalgia that bubbled up whenever I read an article about it.

On Father's Day, imagine my surprise when the gift bag I assumed would hold a t-shirt and some homemade cards (which it did) also contained that very game I was wanting, that being SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (SNK 40th) for my new Switch! 

Personally speaking, it's been a really good year for playing anthologies of classic games.  A few months ago I wrote about my love for the Retro-bit Super Retro-cade, a plug and play that despite some glaring flaws, I found intoxicatingly fun, and since then (which I experienced earlier in the year), I have had my eye on a number of video game collections that go beyond just packing in an/some awesome game(s) to sell, and one of those is SNK 40th.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is an anthology featuring twenty-five games (twenty-six on the Xbox One), both arcade and console, from the company's pre-Neo Geo days.  Remember those?  I do, well a little.  If pressed, I could recall a few of those early titles, all being the typical "run and gun" shooters that many arcade goers remember so well, and all having (save P.O.W.) that amazing rotary joystick with the strange yellow, octagonal cap.  To those of us who have had the pleasure, I am sure we would recount tales of superiority over twin-stick competitors, specifically  for moving and shooting simultaneously.  But SNK developed many more titles over those years, and a small yet compelling sample resides on this game title.

A quick glance over the list above shows a nice and exciting group of games.  I think the main pull of this game for me is twofold: Not only the mix of console and arcade ports that I know and love, but the games that I know nothing about.  I think I inadvertently psyched myself up for this compilation by looking a lot at the list and trying to recall as much as possible, as over half of the games I had not played.  I was very excited to play Crystalis again (something I hadn't done since childhood) but also to fire up Victory Road, a mainstay for me when discussing arcade-themed nostalgia.  I had some trepidation prior to playing this title (and the other rotary joystick games) with dual analog sticks, but I hoped they would at least be superior to the setup on the Super Retro-cade and SNK PSN efforts (which used shoulder buttons to emulate the rotary function).

When I first spied this compilation, it was the run-and-gun titles that caught my eye.  I am an SNK arcade fan of old, and all of the games I looked forward to in the initial fourteen announced games (with the exception of Crystalis) were run and gun games I played in the arcade.  Most had been released in some form or another on other platforms, but not in compilation form, and certainly not with their respective console counterparts included.  For this alone I was willing to shell out the 39.99 USD asking price, even as others balked.  The way I saw it was I would get not only the arcade games I craved, but the console ports I didn't own that could cost (in some cases) ten bucks a piece.  It was savings right out of the gate in my eyes, even if I didn't have any current plans to buy Ikari 1 or 3 on the NES anytime soon.  But to get all those arcade games in one spot?  Priceless.

While I did count it as a bonus (of sorts), I wasn't really looking forward to some of the console ports, more specifically, Ikari 1 and 2, Guerilla War, and Athena.  I find some of them are so annoying and painful that if encountered in a retail or rental store, I would let my eyes slip past them and pretend they weren't there, as if denying their existence would somehow make up for the largely imagined slights they made against me in the more foolish days of my youth.  But perhaps due to the "new console" smell of my Nintendo Switch, I spent a lot of time with these games and had even more fun, in some cases more so than the arcade originals I had held up on pedestals for so long!  I won't get too much into them now (I might write something later about that), but in all cases I was able to finish the console ports, and honestly had far more fun in each case.  Well, except for the first Ikari Warriors.  I just can't crack that nut no matter how many times I try.  And I still don't like the console port of Athena over the arcade, no matter how much I play.

There are a bunch of shmups in this compilation, with the vast majority being games I previously knew nothing about. I stink at shmups, like a lot.  Sure, a few times I managed bumble my way a few (like the NES port of Alpha Mission) but for the most part I would be dead in less than a minute, in nearly all circumstances.  As someone in my skill level would predictably do, I spend (generally) no more than an hour smashing my head up against the wall they presented to me.  However, some of the games I spent longer on, with fun little distractions like Sasuke vs. Commander, Fantasy, and Vanguard taking up the lion's share of the shmup related time, with a close second being Prehistoric Isle, a dinosaur (and caveman) themed game with a fun little dino egg-encased power up system (that will kill you if you don't shoot them before trying to collect).  Some of the games I didn't find particularly fun, such as Bermuda Triangle and Chopper I, but I am sure mileage will vary.

This isn't entirely relevant to the article, but I thought to mention this after reading up on our very own slackur's article titled, Simulating Simulations, where he writes about the inability of some compilations to properly simulate some of the more tactile experiences from an arcade.  Something that I began doing during the beginning of the year when I tackled the Retro-Bit Super Retro-cade was to simulate limits on my gaming with arcade titles, much like back in the mid to late 80's when I was a younger Bomba and most of my arcade money was down to what I could get from returnable bottles (a tenth of a dollar for most bottles).  I tend to call it my "returnable limit" and generally keep it down to four or five plays (which is usually all I had in my pocket at the time).  Like I said, not entirely relevant to this article, but something I thought to share with you all.

Up until now we talked (largely) about the games themselves, but let me explain why this is one of the best compilations out there (past or present).  There is a lot of stuff in here.  While not interactive outside of pressing the "A" button and zooming in on pics, there is an amazing Museum section that details the gaming history of SNK from it's first game in 1978 arcade title, (Ozma Wars) until the last pre-Neo Geo game, Little League Baseball on NES.  It is quite long (took me thirty minutes to read through it) but is very fascinating and has many pics including snapshots of arcade cabinets, game boxes, manuals, and promotional flyers (mostly all high quality, so you can zoom in).  There are also some playable soundtracks you can listen to, though I was a little disappointed to see only the Japanese Psycho Soldier soundtrack is playable (love that English version).  As far as interactivity goes, you have the games, both arcade original and console port (when applicable), as well as their respective Japanese versions (complete with artwork and such).  All are playable, as one would expect in a compilation (duh).  At any point while playing the game you can "rewind" the action (similarly to many modern emulators).  Not great (I know), but an actual amazing feature is that many of the games come with a watchable playthrough of the title.  While it appears to be just a normal video of a playthrough, hit a button and magically you can jump into the game and take over!  This helped immensely with the arcade version of Victory Road, which without advanced knowledge of weapon usage one would think this game exists only to munch quarters and nothing else.  Plus it is very humbling to watch somebody ninja their way through some of these games, as the playthroughs are usually are of a much higher skill level than typically found in "longplay" style videos on Youtube.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is an amazing experience, but after spending some serious time with it I think it may be more appealing to a slightly older generation that experienced these games in the arcades, or at least those that are curious about those halcyon days. Still, it was a very pleasant ride backwards in time for me, and one that I would heartily recommend to most gamers.  The game has been released on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and Steam.  On the home consoles, it's physical on the Switch and PS4 only, but is still premium pricing only as far as I can tell.  On Steam it is $29.99 USD and would probably be the best bet for those that don't need a box but also have access to decent controllers with dual analog.

Thanks for reading!

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I played this at a friends house not too long ago and was extremely impressed with it as a whole. The extra stuff included with each game, the different regions or platforms, the watch mode was amazing, and the variety of games was fantastic. Immediately added it to my wtb list.

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