More DLC is on the way
Nintendo completely dominated the late ’80s and ’90s scene and it’s weird to think of any other timeline in which that didn’t happen. But sure enough, a lot of other publishers were lurking in the background, either blazing trails of their own or riding the coattails of the NES.
The Switch’s SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a bizarre and exciting journey into a world not many western retro enthusiasts have explored yet.
Let’s clear things up as to what this “collection” actually gets you. 14 games are on the cart (download) and 11 are coming later as DLC. All of these have been fully detailed: Alpha Mission, Athena, Crystalis, Guerrilla War, Ikari Warriors, Ikari II: Victory Road, Ikari III: The Rescue, Iron Tank, P.O.W., Prehistoric Isle, Psycho Soldier, Street Smart, TNK III, Vanguard, Chopper 1, Time Soldiers, Fantasy, Sasuke vs. Commander, Munch Mobile, World Wars, Beast Busters, ZMA Wars, Paddle Mania, Bermuda Triangle and Search and Rescue. Individually combing over each game would be exhausting for everyone involved, so I’ll talk about a few of my favorites.
Crystalis deserves a special mention as one of the few action-oriented RPGs at the time of its 1990 debut outside of The Legend of Zelda. Clocking in at a hefty 10 hours for a single playthrough it’s surprisingly well-paced, elevated by its combat system and lack of random battles. Given that a lot of folks will just cancel JRPGs outright if those are included, it’s not a bad way to acclimate to the genre after you’ve already played Zelda.
Prehistoric Isle really comes together with its silly premise and airtight shmup mechanics. It’s basically Jurassic Park: the shoot ’em up complete with giant dino bosses (some of them are so hilariously big that only their heads fit on-screen) and lush settings. The main conceit of swapping a drone to either bomb the ground, assist with front/rear fire or attack enemies above you is fairly advanced for 1989 and in some cases, modern standards.
Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road is such a massive departure from the first commando-heavy Ikari entry that it frequently pops up on all sorts of retro classic radars. With its strange alien invader narrative, silly sound effects and mountain of power-ups, it’s most definitely worth a co-op playthrough (the whole trilogy is, really). All three Ikari Warriors games are playable in their (superior) arcade formats as well as their console ports. That nuance applies to roughly half of the games in the base package (Alpha Mission, Athena, Guerilla War, P.O.W., TNK III, and Victory Road allow this option as well) and helps elevate the Anniversary Collection above a common retro ROM dump.
As for the collection options: they’re nothing fancy but they get the job done. You can swap difficulty modes, turn off borders, add or subtract lives, alter the controls, swap the display mode from landscape to vertical (useful for shoot ’em ups), and TV/monitor filters or full-screen/stretch/sharp aspect ratio toggles. Beyond the standard buttons, there’s an option for rewinding and saving progress in a single slot from the pause menu. Based on my experience each game runs smoothly and quitting to the main menu is nigh instant. As always a Pro Controller is preferred with this retro palette but the Joy-Con analog stick, for the most part, can get the job done in portable mode on the Switch (the only game I had a sensitivity issue with was Psycho Soldier).
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a fine collective of games that helped define several genres, even if they weren’t nearly as popular as their successors. Not everyone is going to be a winner and live on throughout history, but there are enough forgotten gems buried in here to warrant a look: especially after all of the DLC is a go.
[These impressions are based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.]