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SNK 40th Anniversary Collection review: Psycho Soldier steals the show

Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America
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8.2
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The vocals of Psycho Soldier’s Kaori Shimizu and uncredited American counterpart are one of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection’s starring attractions.

There’s something about being serenaded as otherworldly enemies are vanquished in Psycho Soldier that makes the title an instant attention grabber. Quite frankly, it could easily pass for a new breakout retro anime-styled indie release right this second. Psycho Soldier is immediately accessible, action-focused, and old-school. Not to mention, packing a syrupy sweet soundtrack that you’ll come back to no matter what the calories entail.

Hardcore SNK fans are no doubt well acquainted with the treasure chest of rich Arcade and NES classics featured in SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. A fountain of nostalgia to leap into and re-access those vivid coin-op memory banks of days past.

An epoch in time where you slipped a pair of quarters into a just-in fresh import on the corner of your local arcade… Not knowing what to expect and loving that fact. A whole new mysterious digital universe drawing you in on-the-fly. For legacy devotees, it’s a chance to recall those soothing mementos of wonder trying out a brand new title for the first time.

For casuals, who in recent years have dabbled in Hamster’s ACA Neo Geo multi-console classics line, the NEOGEO X, and NEOGEO Mini International, it’s an opportunity to explore SNK’s lush history. Just as Namco Museum Volume 1 opened new Tekken fans at the time to NAMCO’s storied history once upon a time on the PSX, so too is SNK’s ambition with this collection.

Psycho Soldier (Arcade) - Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

Psycho Soldier (Arcade) – Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

Neo-Geo devotees born in the 90s will naturally be curious about the origins of The King of Fighters’ Athena Asamiya before their time. New SNK fan recruits fresh off completing Metal Slug 3, who never experienced Psycho Soldier, are in for an opulent surprise.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection: Games to Check Out

High-octane arcade highlights of the collection include top-down shooter SAR: Search And Rescue, simply pure fun with noticeable influence from the Alien films. It’s one of those titles from the classical era of gaming where you could just relax and react to what’s happening on-screen instead of checking in-game maps, compasses, and inventories.

SAR: Search and Rescue - Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

SAR: Search and Rescue – Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

Ikari III: The Rescue, part 3 of the Ikari Warriors trilogy is the one that most stands the test of time today. Quality large animated characters on-screen fit beautifully in the top down brawler/shooter. Though its parent titles are fondly remembered (both Arcade and NES editions are included in the collection), there’s something about the large animated sprites that’s more appealing to the eye.

Ikari III - The Rescue (Arcade) 03 - Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

Ikari III – The Rescue (Arcade) 03 – Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

The rotary joystick controls for both SAR: Search and Rescue and the Ikari Warriors trilogy being reworked twin-stick style with the right analog stick works well. R2 and L2 on the DualShock 4 serve as the attack buttons like traditional, modern FPS titles on the PlayStation 4.

Neo-Geo Pocket Color owners will be pleased to find Beast Busters, the parent game of the excellent Dark Arms: Beast Busters released back in 1999. It’s naturally one of those games that requires a light gun for home use like House of the Dead to play as originally intended. However, great care has been done with the PlayStation’s DualShock 4 for speedy controls to make the home experience refreshingly playable.

Beast Busters Arcade - Photo Credit: SNK/Hamachi, Papa and Team, Images Design via NIS America

Beast Busters Arcade – Photo Credit: SNK/Hamachi, Papa and Team, Images Design via NIS America

There’s excellent in-game museum information included on Beast Busters by the way, including how the game’s sprites were animated three times each to create the 3D jumping at you enemy effect.

NES action RPG favorite Crystalis and for many SNK Nintendo owning fans of yore will likely be the go-to title for in-depth playtimes. Crystalis is the complete opposite of the arcade line of titles included in this collection and naturally targeted at a different audience. Fans have wished for a Crystalis 2 for years now, even attempting their own homemade sequels. Any Zelda aficionado is sure to enjoy this one.

Crystalis (NES) - Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

Crystalis (NES) – Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

When it comes to traditional ship shooters, Prehistoric Isle in 1930, takes the collection throne with its colorful visuals, enjoyable gameplay, and let’s face it, dinosaurs! The setting is reminiscent of Jurassic Park, despite actually predating the novel by one year and the film by four years. It’s a standout piece, an obvious curiosity to Neo Geo AES fans who had such demand for the sequel (released in 1999) the MVS version was constantly converted by !Arcade! and others. There’s a ton of ship shooters in this collection from Alpha Mission to Chopper!

Prehistoric Isle in 1930 (Arcade) - Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

Prehistoric Isle in 1930 (Arcade) – Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

P.O.W, a traditional Final Fight/Streets of Rage beat-em-up in a more Metal Slug style war setting is worth a play through. You will occasionally be cheaply hit but there’s unlimited continues (for every Arcade game) should issues arise.

P.O.W. - Prisoners of War (Arcade) 02 - Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

P.O.W. – Prisoners of War (Arcade) 02 – Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

However, it’s bit more old-school Ghosts ‘n Goblins-like in the original Athena as you’ll have to start the level all over again! Guerrilla War is quite similar to Ikari III, although a bit more in line with the original Ikari Warriors series. SNK sure loved the war theme back in the day, NAM 1975, Metal Slug, Ikari Warriors, Guerrilla War, P.O.W, just all at the pattern!

Athena (Arcade) - Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

Athena (Arcade) – Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

Some titles in the collection like Sasuke vs. Commander, Paddle Mania, Munch Mobile, and Fantasy are more on the nostalgic side for variety. Meaning, you’re less likely to stick around longterm if you weren’t around for the original release.

Paddle Mania plays like an early Windjammers and it’s definitely fascinating to see game development throughout the years. There’s just too many games out these days demanding your time so realistically, one will likely play one of the subsequent spiritual sequels (like Windjammers on the PS4/Switch). That is unless they were there for the original.

Widescreen stretch support included!

Finally, widescreen stretch support 16 by 9 support for those who want it! Yes, many gamers like to stay pure and faithful to the original aspect resolution but there’s a reason stretch mode exists on almost all modern television sets. The option should be a native feature in all 4:3 content released as remastered these days but somehow it’s ignored quite often.

Digital Eclipse however, does not disappoint and you can fill the whole screen! No bars on the sides, or barely viewable screen filled more by artwork than gaming. Kudos for including the option for those who want it, and it looks amazing! Like an early SNK version of the HDMI modded NeoGeo AES.

SNK Museum and Gaming Soundtracks

One of the top features of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is the Museum mode where you can learn about the history of each game and SNK itself in the process. The amount of vintage advertising material and artwork alone is worth the price of admission for retro fans but the soundtracks complete the package. Each main game entry plays out a bit like a modern, sleek slideshow with a photo and caption. When you press the X button to move forward, then next chapter of the story unveils. Artwork can also be zoomed in on.

Serious work has been placed into this section of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. Any dedicated SNK fan will relish touring the history of the company and maybe even learning something new about Neo Geo’s parent. The sleek presentation and calming background theme adds to the refined polish.

* Soundtrack wise, it’s a bit surprising the Psycho Soldier cassette tape single with Japanese idol singer Kaori Shimizu is missing. There’s no English version of the original theme included either, although the Japanese original theme is intact.

While both (the single and English version) are readily available on YouTube, they would have been naturally welcome additions. Two curious omissions for such a complete package. Especially, since Psycho Soldier has some of the title’s finest audio work and is renowned for having the first vocal track used in an Arcade game. Maybe a future DLC?

Speaking of DLC, Baseball Stars is included in Museum content despite not being a current entry in the collection… Will it arrive in DLC form this year?

Continues, Rewind feature, Save States, Watch Feature

There’s unlimited continues in SNK 40th Anniversary Collection and an easy to use rewind feature on top of it. Although you might occasionally bump it by accident, it’s a very modern, seamless addition. The rewind feature was enjoyed by fans most recently in the SNES Classic and if you own one, it should be quite familiar.

It could come quite handy in Athena, which makes you go back to the beginning of the level upon losing. However, dedicated gamers of the Bits console generation might abstain from the feature, as it kind of feels like ‘cheating’ in a way. Save States which are present feel simply in line with modern convenience. Nevertheless, the rewind feature runs perfectly smooth for those who want to use it. Considering the occasional perceived cheap damage taken in some of the titles, you could find yourself more than justified to rewind! Set the record right!

There’s a watch feature that plays out like an AI controlled speed run. Usage will vary, as many gamers will want to do the playing organically rather than know how to play the game perfectly.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection: Game List at Launch, Price

Alpha Mission (Arcade / Home Console)
Athena (Arcade / Home Console)
Beast Busters
Bermuda Triangle
Chopper I
Crystalis
Fantasy
Ikari Warriors (Arcade / Home Console)
Ikari III: The Rescue (Arcade / Home Console)
Guerrilla War (Arcade / Home Console)
Munch Mobile
Ozma Wars
Paddle Mania
P.O.W. (Arcade / Home)
Prehistoric Isle in 1930
Psycho Soldier
SAR: Search and Rescue
Sasuke vs. Commander
Street Smart
Time Soldiers
T.N.K. III (Arcade / Home Console)
Vanguard
Victory Road (Arcade / Home Console)
World Wars

Price: SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for the PlayStation 4 is currently selling for $39.99 on Amazon for a physical copy.

Developer: SNK (Originals/IP) / Digital Eclipse (Collection)
Publisher: NIS America (U.S.A region)
Console: PlayStation 4 (Physical and Digital)
Release Date: March 19, 2019

* Also available on Nintendo Switch (Physical and Digital).

What’s missing?

All Neo Geo based content. Any SNK fan will notice this omission instantly for a 40th anniversary collection, no Fatal Fury, no Metal Slug. Even early titles like Magician Lord and NAM-1975 (both would have fit in perfectly) are missing in action. Most likely, this is because they’ll be released as part of Hamster’s excellent ACA line at some point… However, being included here would have gone a long way for good will with the Neo Geo community. It’s not too late by way of potential DLC!

No online play. For so many co-op games, online play would revitalize the collection. Just imagine playing Ikari Warriors online with a friend. Netplay has been around on emulators for these titles for many years, and Nintendo recently brought online play to NES games on the Switch. It’s miles from a make or break but it would add potential longevity after a play-through.

That said in the age of digital content, all games have the possibility of expansion, as seen in SNK HEROINES: Tag Team Frenzy’s DLC addition of a certain World Heroes’ favorite!

Relative Scoring

One of the all-time greatest game collections is Super Mario All-Stars for the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom which beautifully remade the originals is a 10 for the collection genre. Namco Museum Vol. 1 (PSX) pioneered the whole museum concept with a gorgeous 3D museum to visit, is a 9 for the collection genre. SNK 40th Anniversary Collection receives an 8.2, for bringing a streamlined collection of enjoyable games and detailed museum worthy of a read! Extra credit for including widescreen stretch! The only thing really stopping the collection from scoring higher is the lack of inclusion of any Neo Geo titles at all.

Rare for example, brought out an amazing collection for the Xbox One, (no widescreen for Conker though), so bringing the big names is expected. Casuals for the prior collections had Mario, Banjo-Kazooie, Conker, and Pac-Man as frontmen but this collection primarily highlights SNK itself (and Athena) as a whole. Akin to Midway and Williams’ Arcade collection years back. Meaning, if you’re a hardcore SNK or KOF Athena fan, you’re already playing but casuals might not recognize some of the titles. Maybe Crystalis if they owned an NES. When you have one of the greatest game lineups ever, you don’t have to include them all but expectations are always trending up.

Psycho Soldier (Arcade) - Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

Psycho Soldier (Arcade) – Photo Credit: SNK via NIS America

Conclusion:

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is definitive buy for any hardcore, dedicated SNK fan. It’s bursting at the seams with rich history, enough to pop a button out and send it flying across the room!

For reference purposes, this review was based on the PlayStation 4 edition. Visit SNK40th.com, the official website for the title and watch game trailers.

Review copy of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection was provided to LiveGameDeals.com by NIS America.

Pros
Widescreen 16 by 9 stretch support available!
Amazingly informative museum, like reading a retro magazine.
Emulation is top-notch, beautifully recreated games.
Game soundtracks included!
Instant fun arcade titles + Crystalis for in-depth play.
Rare games you might have missed out on. Completists won't be able to resist!
Cons
No Neo Geo games, not even Magician Lord. True SNK fans only.
No online play, netplay featured in emulators for titles many years now.
No rare cassette version of Psycho Soldier's theme in soundtrack section, or English version of main theme.
Some titles might be too obscure, nostalgia wise, for casuals to recall.
8.2
Buy SNK 40th Anniversary Collection

Nir Regev is the Founder/Editor of Live Game Deals, a website dedicated to bringing you the best video game deals live, industry interviews, in-depth analysis, news, previews, price guides/rarity guides, and more! He is also the Founder/Editor of entertainment website, The Natural Aristocrat. Contact Nir at nir.regev@livegamedeals.com.

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