I’m not lying to you: this one is for older players. With arcade and console hits from the last 40 years, Digital Eclipse and Other Ocean brings to us SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, a selection of titles from the last four decades, as the name implies, that gives you a further insight on the history of games from the perspective of one of the most important studios from Japan. The younger audience may know SNK only by The King of Fighters series, undoubtedly their most prominent title. But believe me when I say: they have much more hidden in their chest.
To review this game like you are used to reading our reviews here at Life is Xbox wouldn’t do it justice. No sir. We are talking about games from the ’70s and ’80s, a time that most of you weren’t even born. And neither was I. So instead, let’s talk about the content of this package and follow it with a brief description of each one of its games. And only then say what we appreciated and what we didn’t about this collection.
So, let’s begin…
A brief history lesson
The SNK Corporation (SNK Kabushiki Gaisha Esu Enu Kee) we all know today is a hardware and software company successor to the original SNK Corporation (Shin Nihon Kikaku – that can be translated as ‘New Japan Company’) established in 1978. The company owns the rights over the SNK video game brand and Neo Geo video game platform – yes, they had produced their own consoles too: the Neo Geo family.
The Neo Geo family debuted in 1990 with the arcade system Neo Geo MVS (Multi Video System) and home console Neo Geo AES (Advanced Entertainment System), both very powerful for that time, allowing perfect conversions from arcade games to the console (yes, perfect ports between different platforms just became more difficult later). In 1994, the console market received a new version of the AES by the name of Neo Geo CD that, instead of using ROM cartridges, used the newest technology in that period (guess what?), CD-ROMs. In 1997, SNK released their second arcade system board, the Hyper Neo Geo 64, debuting in 3D graphics for the fifth generation of consoles, the age of 32-bits when the first PlayStation, Sega’s Saturn and Nintendo 64 (this one a 64-bits). It was discontinued in 1999, with only 7 games released in two years. The family also counted with handhelds: the Neo Geo Pocket, released in 1998 and discontinued in 1999, and its successor, Neo Geo Pocket Color, released in 1999 and discontinued in 2001. Following the mini consoles trend from the last years, SNK released the Neo Geo Mini in 2018, a mini cabinet where you can play 40 titles from the Neo Geo family and is something collectors and enthusiasts dream of buying (I do, at least).
Games for the original MVS and AES have almost always been really well-received by critic and players (I can’t remember a single title for the platforms that wasn’t great!), with long-running and critically acclaimed series older gamers love like Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Metal Slug, Super Sidekicks, Samurai Shodown (with a new title announced for 2019… yay!) and the aforementioned The King of Fighters. Most of its series can be (re)played nowadays thanks to the ACA Neo Geo games being released each month.
You may be wondering right now: with good consoles and IPs like the ones they had, what happened wrong with SNK? It’s hard to say. In 2000, the company was acquired by Azure, a company known for its pachinko (Japanese gambling machines) machines. During this time, as you can imagine, its game market received almost no attention by its buyer. The only games we saw during this period worth mentioning were the ones developed with its rival Capcom: Capcom vs SNK. Although its success (I can hardly explain how it was a dream match for arcades in that time), Capcom get most of its profits (since they developed and published the game). While SNK released two games (a fighting game and a card game) on its portable platform that didn’t sell very well.
In 2001 the company filed bankruptcy and placed its IPs for auction. Some interested companies got rights to produce (under license) some of your most beloved series, like Mega Enterprise, who produced Metal Slug 4 and Eolith, who produced The King of Fighters between 2001 and 2002 (and can be held responsible for horrible Nests Saga… blergh!).
By the end of 2001, Playmore, a company formed by SNK founder Eikuchi Kawasaki, started a movement to regain rights for SNK IPs, rehiring many of the employees who left the company. This gathering was consolidated in 2003, when the company took the name of SNK Playmore. From 2004 ahead, the company continued releasing its titles for all consoles and mobile, aside operating in pachinko market. In 2015, a foreigner group acquired most of the company shares, making a new shift in its strategy: first, they withdrew from the pachinko market and in 2016 renamed the company after SNK Corporation, re-establishing itself as the successor to its great legacy – GAMES! The first title after this re-structure was The King of Fighters XIV, released in 2017. And here we are in 2019, ready to try a collection of their most prominent titles from the last 4 decades.
The titles in this package
- Ozma Wars, from 1979: The oldest title in this package. It reminded of space invaders. With ships!
- Sasuke vs Commander, from 1980: Before becoming a pain in the ass for Naruto, Sasuke used to protect the Shogun from flying ninjas (?)
- Fantasy, from 1981: This one is hard to describe. Ride your balloon and save your girl from perils of this mysterious land.
- Vanguard, from 1981: A shmup in labyrinths that changes your perspective from vertical to horizontal. Hated its bosses.
- Munch Mobile, from 1983: Collect the trash and throw it at the cans in your way home with this strange car.
- Alpha Mission, from 1985: A vertical scroll shmup where you control a spaceship that can collect parts of different spaceships to transform into them. I found it a little confusing.
- Tank, from 1985: Another tank vertical shmup.
- Athena, from 1986: A platformer where our heroine must collect parts of her armor and weapons to overcome challenges. Tough if you can’t find your armor pieces.
- Ikari Warriors, from 1986: A shmup where you cross the island in non-stop action (really: there aren’t stages or levels in this game) to rescue Colonel Cook.
- Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road, from 1986: Change your guns for swords and armor and fight an army of demons in this sequel.
- Bermuda Triangle, from 1987: A vertical shmup that allows you to control the direction of your shoots. I know it sounds silly, but at that time it was a huge addition to the game.
- Guerrilla War, from 1987: Viva la revolución! Eliminate the army of the great leader and free the island from his oppression. Fidel Castro gave you the best regards.
- Psycho Soldier, from 1987: Athena is back and brought her friend Kensu to help her defeat those monsters using their psycho powers in this platformer. This is the first game with sung music I can remember.
- Time Soldiers, from 1987: You are a soldier. From the future. Traveling in time. While facing hundreds of enemies in this vertical shmup.
- World Wars, from 1987: If can’t have enough shmups, here’s another one for you.
- Chopper, from 1988: Another vertical shmup where you control a… guess what?
- Iron Tank, from 1988: Relieve the invasion of Normandy in another shmup… with tanks.
- Paddle Mania, from 1988: Another one hard to master. Swing your paddle and try to score as many points as the game allows you to.
- P.O.W., from 1988: A brawler. With guns!
- Baseball Stars, from 1989: Well, it’s a baseball game. What would you expect?
- Ikari III: The Rescue, from 1989: Now you can jump, fight and shoot in 8 directions.
- Beast Busters, from 1989: One of those games you would want a pistol to play with. Eliminate the zombies and other freak enemies accompanied by two more friends.
- Prehistoric Isle, from 1989: I don’t know how these dinos got so many guns, but you better master the rotation of your auxiliary weapon to destroy them in this horizontal shmup.
- SAR Search and Rescue, from 1989: Eliminate the zombies, robots and aliens while performing some dodge rolls that would make Star Fox jealous. Any similarity to the movie Alien is mere coincidence.
- Street Smart, from 1989: Take SNK versions of Ryu and Ken into a brawler that works as a fighting game. Your prize? Some sweet and well-deserved love from the girls watching the fights throughout the States.
- Crystalis, from 1990: The only action-RPG ever produced by SNK, in a sci-fi fantasy-themed world.
- Fidelity: Something I must praise Digital Eclipse and Other Ocean is for their fidelity and respect to the original games: they work exactly as they did on Neo Geo consoles (I had the opportunity to play AES and Neo Geo CD waaaaaaay back ago), including the glitches, frame drops and sound problems. I believe they could have sorted these issues, but I believe they opted to preserve the game exactly like they were.
- Museum: The package comes with an extensive collection of information related to each game, with information regarding its development, its release and many other interesting curiosities. and photos of game carts, boxes and magazines. It almost exhalates nostalgy through the screen!
- God bless the save state and rewind! When older players say games are too easy nowadays, they aren’t joking, kids. These games needed to be mastered and decorated from start to finish and only then you would have a chance to beat it. If you have a regular life, you work, study and do other things besides playing, the functions to rewind whenever you die or use save states to continue your adventure later.
- Video guides: For those of you who think these games are impossible to beat, each one of them has a video showing how to do that. I don’t know for you, but they just made me angrier for being unable to make it. A cool feature is that you can pause the videos and start playing from where they stopped. Unfortunately, achievement hunters, your cheevos won’t pop up when you do so.
- Controls adapted for new times: Thankfully, Digital Eclipse adopted the controls of the games to the controllers we have today. Some games were adapted to your twin-sticks while others make use of the triggers of your Xbox controller. I can’t imagine how it was to shoot in some old games without the right analog stick.
- Selection of titles: It makes me sad that many other titles from the company were not included in this collection, such as Metal Slug, Art of Fighting, and Super Side Kicks. Some of these titles could give more variety to the package. Well, let’s just hope SNK releases a collection of its fighting games or a collection of each series after this one.
- Let’s skip this one
Yes, you can call me old. But it’s a pleasure to me to be able to play or replay games I’ve played when younger or always wanted to play but didn’t have the opportunity. And now, thanks to Digital Eclipse, we all can try these jewels that were almost lost in time. And this collection carries enough content to keep you coming back for months! Now I just wish game companies continue this trend of releasing older titles for new audiences. And that SNK brings back to us more of its great library.
Developer: Digital Eclipse. Publisher: Other Ocean.
Played on: Xbox One X Also available on: PC, PS4 and Switch
Time to beat: Less than 12 hours
Achievement difficulty for 1000 Gamerscore: Completing some of the titles will be really hard. Promise.
Perfect for: Fanatics for nostalgy, SNK classics fans, players who want a real challenge
Xbox Game Store link: Click here
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.