I’m a sucker for classic game collections.
I often see them as a redemption for childhood folly and financial reality. Like most children of the 80s, a lot of the games I played were rented, which meant I had access to them for a couple of days before having to return them to whatever grocery-store extension I found them at. You saved your hard-earned allowance (or judiciously requested them at birthdays or holidays) for those super special games. Even if they weren’t super special, you had to play them for months on end so they were by default special anyway because you weren’t getting anything else. And, just like cars or houses, if you wanted to move on to the latest and greatest games and consoles, the price was to trade up and leave your legacy behind.
Finding a collection of retro fondness is a boon to this nearly 40-year-old reviewer. I get to build this library of old games for a fraction of the price it would have as a child and I get to relive those masterpieces I always felt guilty parting with. Which makes the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection an interesting proposition: outside of a couple of titles, I have no history with the company’s pre-NeoGeo line-up. Which means a lot of this is being played with fresh eyes. Which, as I found out, doesn’t matter in the slightest. While I may not have the nostalgia here that would usually draw me in, the way Digital Eclipse has curated and presented these arcade oddities has made this one of my favorite collections in recent memory and set my expectations of how they should be handled from now on.
As I previously mentioned, this is SNK’s games library before their massive NeoGeo ruled the world in the 90s. It’s heavy with arcade action games with a smattering of console ports to round things out. There are shmups like Alpha Mission, Vanguard and Prehistoric Isle; the Ikari trilogy and similar top-down war games like Guerrilla War or T.N.K. III. Like punching? Try P.O.W. or Street Smart. Want to play weird, platforming-ish games with bikini-clad girls? Athena or Psycho Soldier might be up your alley. Or play the crown jewel of the collection, the underrated Zelda-like Crystalis. This in itself is a hearty helping of retro-goodness, but there’s also a handful of games due via download that dig even deeper than that.
Everything is presented crisply and as best as can be mustered with the hardware it’s on. There are your usual suspects like borders, resolution changing and infinite quarters, as well as save states. But it goes beyond that in surprising ways. You can rewind time with the push of a button, taking back mistakes or undoing cheap deaths. For a lot of arcade games you can just watch someone play through it, but then jump in where you see fit. This is a great option for people like me, who may not have the skill to move on but want to see everything the game has to offer. There’s even going to be some loving afterthought with an upcoming patch that allows two joy-cons to be used in two-player games – this eliminates the need for dual-stick controls for the top-down games, as well as fixing some display issues. Rounding out the package is a hefty smattering of promotional art, soundtracks and reference material that I perused thoroughly because that’s the kind of thing that gets my knees wobbling, but also because Digital Eclipse dug up a lot of rarely seen stuff.
I had a great time with the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, nostalgia be damned. Your mileage may vary (having other people to play with can help) from title to title, but for amateur game historians, this is a great place to see something out of the ordinary and unique. You can tell that a lot of love and care went into making this collection happen, which I appreciate more than having the chance to replay the NES version of P.O.W.
Preservation is not something video game developers and publishers were very good at in the early days, so I’m glad Digital Eclipse is out there not only saving old games, but getting them in the hands of people who want to play them.
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is available for Nintendo Switch.
Disclosure statement: Review code for SNK 40th Anniversary Collection was provided by NIS America. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.
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