SNK 40th Anniversary Collection

Like many other compilations of its ilk, the SNK 40h Anniversary Collection is a celebration of games from a company whose arcade output is mostly obscure to me outside of certain arcade classics, like Metal Slug, Samurai Showdown, Fatal Fury, and King of Fighters. I’m not overly familiar with the titles presented in this modest collection but I quickly realized that one doesn’t have to be a diehard SNK devotee to appreciate the amount of work and thoughtfulness put into this slice of video game history. Even if I couldn’t tell you the first thing about Athena or Fantasy, the games preservationist in me appreciates what Digital Eclipse, whose work in emulation made them a household name, has added into this video game time capsule.

The SNK Collection offers a smattering of arcade games that span genres, most notably shmups, platformers, shooters, and role-playing games. Although we recognize shmups as those games that have you piloting ships and spacecraft along a vertical stage blasting aliens and ground targets, a franchise like Ikari Warriors stands out because of how it changed the way these games play. It moved away from space wars to Rambo-like experiences, waging a one-man war against an army of bad guys. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the collection packs in the RPG classic Crystalis, an adventure game Fantasy that’s comprised of many different gameplay types, and Beast Busters, a surprisingly gruesome arcade shooter (a la the Terminator 2 arcade game) that has you blasting zombies that have overtaken a dense, urban city. Athena, whom SNK adopted as one of its earlier mascots, plays like a platformer but includes RPG character elements, the ability to pick up and use different weapons, and armor collection that might feel a little familiar to a game you might recognize as Ghost’s ‘n Goblins.

So, the SNK Collection is an arcade compilation. What’s so special about that? Digital Eclipse went the extra mile here by including the home console versions of the games where applicable. That means you get almost double the number of games in this set! Now, granted, the console ports don’t look nearly as good as their arcade counterparts and are slightly less difficult since they’re not trying to squeeze as many quarters out of you but it’s the thought that counts. I wish more compilations did stuff like this, honestly. Like other retro collections Digital Eclipse has produced, every game comes with a Save feature as well as the ability to rewind or fast forward, allowing you to skip through certain sequences faster or retry an area without losing a life. A new feature found inside the collection is the option to watch a full playthrough of each game. That doesn’t sound special at first but what blew me away is that at any point during the playthrough, you can push a button and take over without any interruptions for loading or screen transitions. This is really cool and I hope to see it implemented in the future Digital Eclipse projects.

A retro game collection is only as good as its extras and in my book the SNK 40th Anniversary goes out of its way to set a new standard. Beyond the playthrough feature, the Museum section of the game contains a treasure trove of scanned documents, trivia, video game soundtracks, and a slideshow that highlights some really great factoids about SNK, its creators, and the games they made. Inside you’ll find artwork and promotional materials for every game in the collection as well as a timeline of every game SNK produced. You can listen to game soundtracks, ogle artwork, and enjoy some fun facts. The games might be as old school as they come and the lack of Metal Slug and other top tier SNK titles are missed but the SNK 40th Anniversary collection is more than a compilation of the company’s early hits. The clean interface, breadth of games, added console ports and new playback options represents a new beginning for legal retro game emulation. I hope Digital Eclipse implements all these features in upcoming titles.

Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.