SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
Developed By: Digital Eclipse
Published By: NIS America
Category: Role-Playing, Strategy
Release Date: 11.13.18
The preservation of gaming history is an issue near and dear to my heart. I’m a collector of retro games (when I can afford to be), and it breaks my heart to think of all the games that have been lost to time or that I’ll probably never get to play just because I can’t find a copy in my price range. Remasters are cool and all, but I really think it’s important to also preserve games as they were originally presented. Good Old Games has done a great job archiving and making available older games in their original condition, but finding console games and arcade cabinets is a much spottier proposition. Digital Eclipse has done some great work preserving the games of the past, and they continue to build on their tradition with the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for the Nintendo Switch.
Fourteen Games In One
Like a lot of classic collections of its type, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is an anthology of fourteen classic SNK titles. By their count on the official website there are thirteen, but I counted six times and came up with fourteen. Here they are, in list form:
Ikari Warriors 2: Victory Road
Ikari Warriors 3: The Rescue
Iron Tank: The Invasion of Normandy
It’s a pretty impressive list (Iron Tank is the game missing from the official site). You’ve got a variety of side-scrolling action platformers, top-down twin-stick shooters, side-scrolling shooters, beat-em-ups, and even an action RPG for good measure. That’s the one that’s right in my wheelhouse; Crystalis remains a fun game to play even now. The games are presented almost completely as they were originally presented. In the case of games that have both a console and arcade version, you can select which version you want to play. The arcade version is always superior in those cases, in terms of graphics and sound. You can even change regions; if for whatever reason you want to play the Japanese version of the game, that’s something you can do.
There are two new features they added. I have mixed feelings about both. The first is the ability to rewind a game using the L button, and the second is the ability to save the game. On the one hand, a lot of these old games can be rough. The arcade games can be especially unforgiving, since we all know they were at least partially designed to eat up quarters as much as they were designed to be fun games. It’s nice to have a little forgiveness introduced into the proceedings, and being able to save is a huge benefit to someone who wants to experience these games but may not have the time to go all the way through in one sitting. On the other hand, the games weren’t meant to be played with a safety net. Those limitations provide an essential part of the game experience, and removing them fundamentally alters the makeup of the game. If you don’t like it you can just not use those features, so I guess it’s not a huge deal.
Reinforcements Are On The Way
Since fourteen games on the cartridge isn’t enough, clearly, there will be DLC that adds eleven more on December 11th. Nine of the titles will be part of a patch released that day, and the five announced games in that pack are Chopper, Fantasy, Munch Mobile, Sasuke Vs Commander, and Time Soldiers. The remaining two titles will be a free DLC pack available on the Nintendo Eshop the same day that the patch is released. You can add Beast Busters and SAR: Search and Rescue to your collection that way. There’s also a patch coming to improve the experience of the games already on the cart, including some control issues and blips with the audio and rewind function. I never encountered these problems personally, but apparently some people with advance copies had issues.
Bonus Features Galore
Probably the coolest feature of the collection to me is all the museum section. There are three sections in the museum. The first is SNK Complete Works 1978-1990. This is a complete list of every single SNK game released between 1978 and 1990, accompanied by a slideshow presentation describing the game and its place in gaming history. I’m a huge fan of gaming history as well as gaming itself, so I spent more time in this section of the collection than I did anywhere else.
The second museum section is the Bonus Features section. It contains a gallery of advertisements, concept art, cabinet art, guidebooks newsletters, and even a feature on a lost SNK game that never saw production. I kind of wish the guidebooks and newsletters had been translated to English, but it’s pretty amazing they bothered to track this stuff down and include it anyway so I won’t whine too hard. The final section is a music gallery where you can listen to selected music from the games. It’s pretty cool that they featured the music like this, but I didn’t really get much out of it. You can’t download the music to another device or anything, but it was cool to put some music on and listen while I was writing this review up. Still, it’s pretty clear Digital Eclipse were hell-bent on getting you some value for your forty bucks.
Choose Your Own Graphics
Visually, the games… well, they look old. But they are old, so I can’t knock them for that. As a showcase for gaming history, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection does its best to make sure you can get as authentic an experience as possible. There are different graphics filters to simulate a tube TV or monitor, or you can pick no filter for the smoothest look. The games default to a landscape format, but one of the new options promised in the day one patch is the ability to flip to vertical for some of the shooters. You can resize the screen already, however; you can leave it in a border, fit it vertically, or stretch it to take up the whole screen. Stretch looked terrible; these games are meant for a 4:3 ratio, and the Switch’s screen and my TV are… not that. Fitting it vertically probably gives you the best look at the games, but the border art was cool enough I just liked having it up there.
I love old video game music almost as much as I love old video games. They weren’t called chiptunes back then, I guess, but that’s what we call them now, and they sound great. Old systems and arcade cabinets couldn’t handle as many harmonies and simultaneous sounds as we can now, so the music is a little barebones by comparison, but still cool. I especially love the anime-style music from the opening stage of Psycho Soldier (track 3 in the museum). I felt like I was playing an 80s anime movie. It was perfect.
Touch and motions controls are more of a modern thing, so there aren’t any in SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. I did greatly prefer playing the game on my TV, however, since the smaller aspect ratio means the games don’t take up the whole screen. I felt like I got a better look at what was happening on the screen that way. Except for Crystalis; playing that undocked just felt like playing a Game Boy game.
TL;DR: Fantastic collection and presentation of classic games. A must-have for any gaming historian.