SNK has been pumping out a lot of compilation titles lately, and they just won’t stop with their latest addition, SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1. As the title suggests, these are SNK’s older video games that have found their way onto the Playstation 2 and Playstation Portable. Instead of spending up to $300 revisiting your Neo-Geo favorites, you can now exchange a measly $20 – or an additional ten dollars if you wish to pick up the PSP version – for 16 classic hits. This is one hell of a deal considering it works out to slightly more than a dollar per game, significantly less than what I put into those blasted arcade machines.
All of the games are straight ports from the Neo-Geo console and arcade machines. There are a couple that stand out, most noticeably the original Metal Slug and Shock Troopers, but there are also some that don’t necessarily do much justice to the release, such as Burning Fight and Sengoku. Along with those four are a variety of games that span across many genres. These include the notable King of Fighters ’94, Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting titles, along with the sword swinging Samurai Shodown and destructive King of the Monsters to fill your fighting needs. Also finding their way into this compilation are a number of sports titles with Neo Turf Masters, The Next Glory, and Baseball Stars 2 leaving you with nearly every popular sport in North America covered (with the exception of hockey). The only odd balls in the mix are Magician Lord, an adventure title, Last Resort, the side-scrolling shooter, and Top Hunter, a fantasy Metal Slug-style game. In addition, you can also unlock the well-deserved World Heroes. This is just the start of the pride and joy SNK carries and it really shows as some of the titles still stand out to be Grade-A hits, even to this day. While none of the games have been revamped in any way, the majority of them still play great and offer an old-school experience. This experience can be shared with multiple individuals as the atmosphere of playing on an arcade machine is simulated with nearly every single title having a cooperative or competitive play option available. This extends the already strong replay value of the release.
While the compilation is well done, it does suffer from a couple of emulation problems. For starters, on a few of the titles there is significant slowdown that almost becomes unbearable. These range from hiccups here and there, too long and stressful occasions which do nothing but drag the experience down. Along with these slowdowns are strangely long loading times. For games that don’t seem to be very large in a digital scale, they sure seem to take their time to get between screens. These don’t necessarily damage the emulation beyond recognition, but they do strangle some life out of the game, only to have it struggle to become a fantastic collection.
What sets everything apart from their singular or previous releases is a nice little bonus that puts a new spin on each game. Playing close to the Xbox 360’s achievement system, you are assigned goals to complete, but instead of rewarding you with a point value, you earn medals that unlock artwork, videos, and move sets. Each of the 16 games contains their own unique goals which range from beating the game on a specific difficulty to beating a high score. This definitely appears to be a clever addition at first. Unfortunately, the difference between this and most of the other reward systems is that you won’t feel compelled to do any of the more difficult challenges because, while you can earn some nice extras, they ultimately do nothing for you. The only time I found myself desiring to try my hardest was to unlock a move set for one of the fighting games. That’s right; you will have to play through specific games before you earn the right to browse a character’s move list. This takes the fun out of playing most games as it becomes more a trial and error experience.
I did have a good time with SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1; despite some emulation issues and some poorly chosen extras, it’s still an excellent value and will bring back memories of the good old days. Of course, newer gamers of this generation won’t have that same experience, but it does entertain with cooperative play and multiplayer in nearly every game. So, if you’re interested in revisiting a few classic games, or even trying out what you may have missed a couple generations ago, you really can’t go wrong for $20.
Version Reviewed: Playstation 2, PSP