I’ve always really liked retro anthologies. There’s some weirdly special to me about having a compilation of 10 to 20 old games on one disc (or cartridge) to play on a modern console, especially when the compilation is packed with bonus goodies from those games’ development.
My first experience with retro anthologies was Midway Arcade Treasures on the PlayStation 2, developed by Digital Eclipse. I think that playing Smash TV, Rampage, Gauntlet and more—as well as watching gaming greats like John Tobias discuss the creative process behind them—was a formative experience for me.
Fortunately, Digital Eclipse never stopped pumping out high-quality retro compilations, and their 2018 release, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, is every bit as magical I would expect from the developer. Join me as we jump into the wacky world of SNK’s pre-Neo-Geo output.
Since SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is, as we firmly established, a retro anthology, there isn’t a sole gameplay framework to examine. However, despite my reputation as a crazy freak who writes huge reviews, I’ll keep this fairly brief.
From what I can tell, most of the titles represented here are shoot-em-ups of some form or fashion. However, the action/adventure, platforming, driving, sports, and beat-em-up genres see some satisfying representation, as well. I believe that there’s definitely something for everyone in this package, even if you don’t like shooting bad guys.
My favorite games of the bunch (so far) are Athena, Psycho Soldier, Munch Mobile, Paddle Mania, P.O.W., Prehistoric Isle, Street Smart, and Time Soliders. Although not all of these games were perfect, I had tons of fun with each of them.
Since I can’t reasonably comment on every single title, I’ll comment on the emulation instead. I’m not a technical guy by any stretch of the imagination, but I can’t say that anything felt off about this experience. Everything played just as it should.
Digital Eclipse is known for packing their retro anthologies to the brim with tasty content, and SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is no different.
This anthology features a whopping 25 games. On top of that, you’ll often have the choice to switch between the American and Japanese versions of the game, as well the arcade and console releases. You can, in fact, play four different variants of some of these games.
As with many arcade anthologies, you can also screw around with the operator settings to specially your game experience. Wanna play Bermuda Triangle with 3 lives, no continues, and on the hardest difficulty? Believe me: You most certainly can.
There’s also a set of “Main Options”. Here, you can choose from one of six languages, toggle the display mode (landscape or portrait), view the credits, and view your achievements. The achievements, by the way, are an amazing incentive to stick through a lot of these games. I’m very grateful for the feature.
The coolest part—besides, you know, the games themselves—is all the yummy goodies available to pore over. In the “Museum”, you can view “SNK Complete Works 1978-1990”, “Bonus Features”, and “Soundtracks”.
SNK Complete Works 1978-1990 documents the history of…well, every game SNK produced between the years of 1978 and 1990. It’s actually pretty insane just how much information is packed in here.
The Bonus Features include a lot of fascinating scanned documents from decades past, including advertising material, concept art, and two volumes of “VGL: Video Game Land Newsletter”. These newsletters, from what I can tell, were special publications SNK Japan put out way back in the day to detail upcoming games.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to read through everything in the Museum yet, but I’m still so stoked that Digital Eclipse got their hands on this stuff. Historical preservation is extremely important—and they get that.
This section, like the “Gameplay” section is a little tough to generalize, so I’ll try my best to hit everything in sweeping terms.
I like the way Digital Eclipse adapted the often very specialized arcade controls for the standard Nintendo Switch button layout. There was nothing that overtly weird, as every button choice was clearly made with a purpose.
I personally appreciated how the pause function is mapped to the minus-button and the rewind feature is mapped to the L-button. With this layout, I never found these “extraneous” controls getting in the way of pertinent gameplay inputs.
However, if the preset controls don’t suit your fancy, fear not: You can also remap the buttons in the options menu.
It should come as no surprise that yet another Digital Eclipse anthology positively nails the presentation. Like I said, I’m not a technical guy, but the emulation seems pretty spot-on to me. I didn’t notice any issues at all.
The menus are super easy to navigate and look positively superb, especially since they employ art from the games. That being said, I’ve owned this game for close to two months and only just now found the achievements list when I finally bothered to check in the Main Options menu for this review. I’m pretty sure this was only an issue because I’m an idiot.
The box art, too, is pretty dang sweet. There’s this sense of awesomeness to all these classic characters existing in this larger-than-life, movie poster-esque space. The only bit that bums me out is the lack of an instruction manual, but that’s not uncharacteristic for a modern game. (I said it to feed my own bias. Sue me.)
Though I hate to say it, it worth mentioning that the cartridge would sometimes randomly crash while I was sifting through menus. This technical issue doesn’t mar the entire experience, but it is a tad lame.
The audio is another aspect where I, as a layperson, just have to say: “It works, doesn’t it?” I think the game sounds stellar through both TV speakers and headphones, and I never once noticed anything out of sorts.
The original composition accompanying the menus is pretty jivin’, too. I certainly wouldn’t listen to the song outside of the game, but it absolutely fulfills its purpose within this context.
Honestly, there’s much more I can say about this compilation in general. The entire experience is pretty dang sweet all around.
The bottom line is that SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a very solid anthology of games. Digital Eclipse pulled out all the stops once again—and for that, I’m extremely grateful. The quirky titles comprising this cartridge deserve to be preserved.
That being said, this is not a compilation for everyone. If you want strictly Neo-Geo stuff, this isn’t the anthology for you. But if you want to explore the deeper wells of SNK’s illustrious library, you needn’t look any further.
All in all, I’m gonna end this review the way I end many of my reviews: by recommending the game. However, I also advise to take everything I’ve written here into consideration. Not every game suits every player’s needs.
Until next time, I’m out. Make sure to join my Discord server so we can keep the party going.