We all know Shin Nihon Kikaku (New Japan Project), aka SNK, we all remember how well spend were all those quarters in our school days, how much fun were those games from that company based on Osaka. Wherever if you liked pure 2D fighting, fast paced action and shumps or fantasy adventure games, SNK had always something for you in the arcade. I'm here to talk about the games, franchises, and legacy, that made this company and arcade system one of the most beloved ones in the gaming community.
But first, let's do a flashback, shall we?
SNK was founded in 1978 by Eikichi Kawasaki. In that year he included the development of coin-op games for the arcades. The first two games were Ozma Wars (1979, a basic shoot 'em up) and Safari Rally (1980, which is a maze game, even though the name can make one belive it's a racing game). The game that made SNK under the flashlight was Vanguard, another shmup where you can fire at four directions at the same time, also, making this game a precursor of games like Gradius and R-Type. After that, they started only to focus to do arcade games like Athena and Alpha Mission. One of the bigger hit was Ikari Warriors, it was very popular that was ported to many home consoles with 3 sequels. Another game that was highly acclaimed was Crystalis, a action/RPG game (with a remake for the Game Boy Color). After many games released for home consoles and more arcade games, in 1990 the Neo Geo Arcade System was born.
At the same time, it was released as a highly expensive home console, called AES (Advanced Entertainment System) and the Arcade Machines were known as MVS (Multi Video System), both were practically the same.
Both of them was practically a beast, compared to other arcade cabinets and home consoles of that time, and the most impressive thing is that both systems used the same cartridges. Even though the home system failed because how expensive the console and games were, the coin-ups machines was having a huge success, with their great array of games available.
Enough of boring history lessons, let's get to the fun part, the games.
The King of Fighters
What do you get when you make a fighting game, toss some characters from Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Athena and Ikari Warriors, plus some new cool characters? Well, you get King of Fighters. For it's time, the first one caught the attention of many in 1994 how fast paced the game was, how rich it was in terms of audio and visuals, and how fluid the controls was. With a innovative dodge system, battles based on teams 3 on 3, flashy specials and high competitiveness, KoF was here to stay for many, many years.
So far, SNK's stellar franchise have 12 main games, divided in Rugal Saga, Orochi Saga, NESTS Chronicles and Ash Tales, with the last, King Of Fighters XII coming soon to the arcades and home consoles. Also it has inspired many spinoffs, like card games, 3D series and vs series with Capcom.
Did you know?: The tournament was named after the same tournament in the Fatal Fury Series and in Art of Fighting 2? Also, that the character K9999 is highly based on Tetsuo from the movie anime "Akira"?
You know this one. Frenetic run and gun gameplay, shooting hordes of wannabe Nazis, dodging bullets and "ROCKET LAUNGER!", it's the comical crazy hyperactive brother of Contra. The first one debuted in 1996 as "Super Vehicle 001 Metal Slug" (or is it the other way around?). As said before, it's a run and gun game with some mischief humor. Introducing a melee on hit kill against simpler enemies, over powered weapons, a extra button to throw grenades and using a tank, it's pure bliss in action platforming. What makes the games great is the multiplayer (or getting pissed because your friend got the weapon or the tank before you). So far it has 6 main games on the arcades and Metal Slug 7 coming to the DS and many, many ports.
Did you know?: Fio, one of the female protagonist appears in KoF Maximum Impact 2 as a playable character? And that General Morden, looks a lot like Sadam Hussein?
Known as Samurai Spirits in the land of the Rising Sun, Samurai Showdown is considered by many as the granddaddy of weapon play in fighting games. When it was released in 1993, it was as a response to Capcom's Street Fighter II, trying to gain the same popularity, and well it did (at least in Japan). One of the things that was noticed was the "zoom", depending how far away were the characters from each other, blocking in a split second would gain advantage, letting the opponent open for a attack and characters that have animals to help them (as Galford). The gameplay was great, with a button to do a dodge and near the opponent you could fip to his back. In most games, you could choose beginner, medium, and expert, changing the way of playing character different. Also, you could choose between Slash and Bust, changing the style and moves of the character. In contrast with other SNK fighting games that were more offensive oriented, this one is more defensive, you had to know when to attack or to block. Like Jonathan Holmes said, it's like comparing Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Street Fighter 3. So far, the series have 6 main games in the arcades, one 3D games and many spinoffs as RPGs.
Did you know?: Even though that the games are called Samurai Showdown/Spirits, none of the characters are one, except for Jubei Yagyu, who is loosely based on a real samurai that worked for the Shogunate. Nobuhiro Watsuki, the author of Rurouni Kenshin, designed the new characters for Samurai Showdown V.
In 1997, another sword fighting series was made, that was Last Blade, known as Romance of the Bakumatsu: The Swordsman of Moonlight, since the setting of the game was at the end of the Bakumatsu era. Both games were polished really well, the controls were excellent and the most noteworthy, the music, which was rich and beautiful. The gameplay is almost the same as in Samurai Showdown, where you could choose between Speed and Power Mode, where Speed is to do more combos and fast attacks, and Power is for concentrated and powerful attacks, sacrificing some speed. There was also a Special if one input a special code. One of the new things to see was the Cancel Mode, which was the fourth button. One can successfully cancel a enemy's attack by pressing the Cancel button at the precise time. Also, as in Samurai Showndown, one had to know when to attack and when to defend.
Did you know?: Daisuke Ishiwatari, the creator of Guilty Gear, was one of the designers for this series. Something really note-worthy, was that the Last Blade was inspired by Watsuki's Rurouni Kenshin, since the characters art had an air as his drawings, and many characters of the game had attributes from R.Kenshin. It was this, because Watsuki was a big fan of Samurai Showdown, and many of the characters in his series was based from the SNK game. It's like a "thank you/thank you" thing.
Sengoku...I think that many of you have at least played one of the 3 games. Released in 1991, Sengoku was a beat 'em up where you had defeat legions of undead soldiers from the Feudal Civil War in Japan. What makes this mini series note-worthy, is the insanly great gameplay that it had. In these games you could gain power ups and transform into something more powerful (Altered Beast, anyone?). Also, was the special moves that one can input, like in a fighting game, and if you were really good, you could do combos until the end of the stage (or area). It was very fast paced and many consider that the second one is the best, since in the 3rd, many things were removed.
Did you know?: That I have nothing interesting here?
Garou: Mark Of The Wolves
I know what you are going to say, this game is part of the Fatal Fury series. I know that, but I want to put this one as a stand alone, since it's just so marvelous in every sense. Garou it's like any fighting game, but when it was released in 1999, for us it was beyond that. This game took the Neo Geo arcade board to the limits, making one of the most beautiful fighting games in 2D and the music was pretty good. The sprites was so well drawn, animated and polished that you had to be amazed. Gone is the two-plane system from Fatal Fury, and in the old school fighting style. It was one of those games that even though you could have mastered ages ago, it's still a blast to play again and again, and the competitiveness was really high. One system introduced here (and gone), was the Just Defended, where if you defended yourself in the exact moment of the attack landing on your character, you could counter attack with anything and you will regain a bit of health. Also was the T.O.P, where you could use a powerful attack, depending where did you put the 1/3 red part in your health bar. The list of characters wasn't big, but each one was really entertaining to play with, so it was easy to find the one that suited you best. Overall, it's a great gem that anyone should play.
Twinkle Star Sprites
A game so addicting that you will forget what the hell to do if I didn't study for the exam. This Puzzle/Shmup hybrid had really cute characters and cute story, but that doesn't mean that they couldn't kick you will using their specials. There are two attacks, normal and charged, also you could hold bombs in desperate moments. When you attack with normal attacks the blocks or enemies will come as Reverse attacks, and if you attack those, you could counter attack the enemy, even more if it is a huge chain.
Look, I could talk about this game, but Rider Chop explains it really well, so go to the link now!
I hope you liked this little article, leave so comments and tell me what did you like most of Neo Geo. Now, I know that I left many great games, like Baseball Stars 2, Aero Fighters, Blazing Star, Eight-Man and many others. Also, I left behind the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series behind because it's like a prequel to King of Fighters, but one day I'm going to cover these games in full, so bare with me please.
I would like to say thanks to Tactix and Tamz for the inspiration on doing at least a decent article this time, thanks guys!
The story of SNK was resumed from Wikipedia and puntodepartida.com.
Good Night and live it with passion.