While the Virtual Console may not be making a comeback on Switch, we’ve seen plenty of publishers step up to fill the retro void, with wide-ranging efforts such as HAMSTER’s Arcade Archives Neo Geo eShop series sitting alongside curated collections including Capcom’s Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection.
Not to be left out, golden-era arcade powerhouse SNK is also getting in on the game with the upcoming, Switch-exclusive SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, a compilation featuring retro titles from the publisher’s pre-Neo Geo days, being released by NIS America. We were able to go hands-on with a non-final build of the collection at this year’s E3, and came away equal parts humbled in our gaming skills and excited about getting to dive back into these coin-op classics, thanks to some excellent accessibility features.
Our demo started with an attractive menu that let us select any of the available titles to sample, by scrolling through their HD logos in a crisp, easy-to-use interface. The first game we decided to jump into was 1986’s Athena, a side-scrolling action platformer starring the eponymous ancestor of The King of Fighters’ famous schoolgirl idol. After choosing the game, we had the option to pick between a ‘Home’ or ‘Arcade’ version - an option planned for all included titles with both home and arcade ports - each of which came with large key art specific to the selected version.
We went with the arcade release of Athena, and were quickly smitten with the bright colours and cheery chiptune music. Controls felt tight and responsive on the grip-mounted Joy-Con we played with, and were fully remappable too. Sadly, tight controls couldn’t save us from the merciless difficulty of the early arcade. Athena’s gameplay ostensibly consists of walking from left to right, jumping between platforms, and kicking enemies to defeat them and acquire new weapons, armour, and equipment, but for us, it was more a matter of taking a few steps and then dying spectacularly. After a few repeated wipeouts, the NISA employee running the demo pointed out that we could hold down the ‘L’ button to rewind, and back up the action to right before a mistimed jump or enemy attack.
Smooth, instant and easy, rewinding felt fantastic; rather than a simple ’10 second skip’. It runs back the tape in a way that feels almost analogue, allowing you to take in your line of play as you scrub back to safety. It also isn’t limited to the very recent past; you’re able to rewind as far back as you like within your current play session, and our clock showed several minutes of recallable gameplay by the end of Athena’s first stage.
This is quite literally a game-changer; more than just a gimmick, rewinding goes a long way towards upping the accessibility of these classic-but-almost-unspeakably-hard titles. Of course, one could argue that the unlimited credits of ROM releases such as HAMSTER’s Arcade Archives fulfil a similar function, but rewinding felt preferable to us for two main reasons. First, its instantaneous nature makes it far less tedious - we might not have hit ‘Continue’ 12 (or 20) times to get through the first level of Athena, but it felt easy and painless to just rewind back a bit every time we made a bad decision or wound up dead.
Second, while credit feeding can feel just a bit dirty, somehow - perhaps paradoxically - rewinding doesn’t; rather than the illicit thrill of throwing down endless virtual coins, it’s more like having a super power that helps you learn from your mistakes. It’s a much better way to get a feel for the level layouts, enemy patterns, and set-pieces that make up the beating heart of these arcade classics; instead of having unlimited chances at a stage, you have unlimited chances to try, retry, and study every jump, shot, or hit. It’s a wonderful feeling.
After making it up to (but not past, sadly) Athena’s first boss, we decided to try out another title. Jumping between games was a simple matter of hitting the ’+’ button and heading back to the main menu - from there you can also save states, view and customise controls, edit options (including toggling borders and either TV or Arcade-style visual filters on or off), and turn on or off included cheats such as invincibility. The next title to catch our eye in the menu was Alpha Mission, an early vertically-scrolling arcade shmup that also saw a Famicom/NES port, both of which are included in the collection.
Our first-stage run of Alpha Mission felt great on the Switch, and while we made far less use of the rewind function here than in Athena, it still came in handy - not just for avoiding death, but also for going back to pick up different powerups to see what each one did. Our NISA representative also mentioned that they’re targeting including Tate mode on all vertically-oriented games in the collection, so that you could prop your Switch up on its side and rotate the picture 90-degrees - an excellent addition that we’re happy to see becoming something of a standard in Switch shmups.
There are currently 13 games confirmed for the collection - Alpha Mission, Athena, Crystalis, Ikari Warriors, Ikari III, Guerrilla War, P.O.W., Prehistoric Isle, Psycho Soldier, Street Smart, TNK III, Vanguard, and Victory Road - with more to be announced ahead of release. As it currently stands, the lineup does seem to lean a bit heavily on military-themed shooters, but colourful titles like Athena, Psycho Soldier, and Crystalis help even out the ratio. We hope the final list keeps up the quality and diversity, because between its feature set, presentation, and unique source material, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is looking to be an incredibly enjoyable history lesson for retro-minded Switch players when it releases later in 2018.
Share your thoughts on the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection in the comments section below...
Really looking forward to this. Glad I preordered on Amazon for Ikari Warriors and others action!
Cannot wait for this. I pre-ordered the limited edition collection so am really excited to get hold of this when it comes out.
Hell yeah!!!! This collection sounds amazing!!!! The Switch is quickly becoming the home for Arcade Perfect ports!!!!
I remember really liking Crystalis. Fun zelda-like game that I could actually make it through.
This is a day 1 for me!!
Literally hands on! Thank you NIS and SNK for this great-looking physical release! Looks like it's being crafted reverently.
I'm looking forward to my preorder and reliving some of those arcade and NES thrills.
If this ends up having the NES Version of Baseball Stars on it I will buy it day 1. I may do that anyway........but I loved the customization of that game.......and it's a good baseball game as well
Is that solid blue cover the final box art?
Can't say I have any nostalgia for these games so I'll likely skip unless I can get it very cheap somewhere down the road.
@samuelvictor SF30th Anniversary doesn't include Street Fighter 4 or Street Fighter 5.
That's the customer's fault for not reading the details. Unless the collection says something akin to "Complete", then I wouldn't assume anything.
I've never really gotten into SNK's pre-NeoGeo stuff, (wasn't there also a collection of these on PSP?) But I've only ever really played the Famicom versions which ports were not that kind to.
Not sure if I'd pre-order something like this, but maybe I'll pick it up on sale in a few months.
Include the long VC ignored NES version of Baseball Stars, and I'm in!
Argh. After looking at videos for TNK III I was HOPING that SNK also made one of my favorite arcade games, "Assault." Sadly, that was NAMCO. Dangit!
Athena and Crystalis. Yep. Those shooters are all right too. I was hopeful for a release date.
Still not sure how many of these are still good, but I might get it for Crystalis. The NES versions I've played look weird on a modern system.
groan snk scraping the barrel
This is definitely high on my Wish List, although I'm hoping there will be a digital version. These sorts of "pick up-and-play", high-score-focused experiences tend to lend themselves best to being on a console's hard drive/memory stick as opposed to a dedicated card you must insert to play. That leaves the card slot available for the massive RPGs, Zeldas, and other time-intensive titles, at least for me.
Chrystalis is worth it alone for me!
Already pre-ordered the limited collector edition from the SNK website on the first day it was announced. Super excited for the home versions of these games that I grew up with on the NES.....finally! It makes the whole loss of the virtual console less painful truthfully. This collection is really aimed for those that have nostalgic attachments to these games......and the market is there. Crystalis alone should be a good reason for most to pick this up.
I will definitely get it. I enjoyed guerilla war and ikari warriors. Can't wait to buy the compilation.
I’m picking this up for sure. SNK games have pretty much taken over my library of Switch games.
|sf>Athena was one of the first 3rd party NES games I ever played. Ever since the Wii Virtual Console days, the NES version of Athena has been on my wish list and I've waited patiently for its arrival. I've even settled for the arcade version in the past (PSN), so I'm extremely glad to hear that this release will have multiple versions.
I own the PSP version called "SNK Arcade Classics vol. 1" and all those titles were Neo Geo games that reached Virtual Console. PSP also received a collection for King of the Fighters (which I also bought). Pre-Neo Geo title releases up to this point have mostly appeared on virtual stores outside of collections.
Maybe there is hope for Baseball Stars NES--the arcade versions for several of the annouced titles appeared on PSN years ago & the arcade version of Baseball Stars (which lacks some of the features of the NES version) appeared with them. I share the strong desire for that NES version of Baseball Stars (one of the greatest home console releases for the sport), but Athena is enough to gain my interest in the title. All other titles on the collection will be a bonus in my mind.
Psycho Soldier is one of the highlights for me. The Psycho Soldier theme song for the Psycho Soldier team in the King of Fighters series came from this game. And it was definitely mind-blowing hearing a digitized song being sung through an arcade cabinet speaker back the 80's, when any kind of digitized speech in a video game was a big thing, let alone a whole song! Back then, I only saw the game briefly at a local corner newsstand before it was cycled out for something else the next time I was there. I was also denied the NES experience when it was listed in page 6 of the Nintendo Fun Club News, issue 2 when it was never mentioned again. It stayed in Japan where there was a bundle that included the game and an audio cassette. Presumably for playing on your cassette player as you play the game because there was no way the Famicom can play back the song. I mean, that's what I would've done, LOL.
But now I finally get to play this horrible platformer again (played it through other means and it's rough...don't tell my 11-year-old-self) with some greater appreciation as we celebrate 40 years of SNK.
Although, this collection is totally worth it for Crystalis alone! But stay for P.O.W., Prehistoric Isle, Victory Road, and Guerrilla War, as they're also great titles from this collection.
(and cross your fingers and hope they bring Baseball Stars 1)
@samuelvictor I think you’re right, as I went into this article expecting just that - Neogeo games! When I didn’t recognise any of the games and it started talking about NES ports, I was disappointed.
I'm happy with this collection. It's called SNK 40th anniversary not Neo Geo 30th anniversary. I think we have enough other means to get Neo Geo games. Let SNK share some of their other library.
I really want the arcade console, but this collection is pretty useless to me after I bought most of the ACA games they released so far.
I might get this just for the Ikari Warriors games.
"we’ve seen plenty of publishers step up to fill the retro void" No, we really haven't. Stop saying that nonsense, please. If you aren't a Neo-Geo fanboy, all we have a few random arcade ports. Some of which are pretty good to be fair, but NOT EVEN CLOSE to a satisfying replacement of VC. We've gotten almost zero games from SNES, N64, Gamecube, Game Boy, GBA, Gensis, etc.
All the classic arcade content on the Switch has been tremendous. Much more interesting than the same NES/SNES rereleases.
That said, not all arcade games here with home conversions will have the console versions represented here, as the article implies. SNK wasn't in the console business early on, so other companies like Atari licensed titles like Vanguard and ported them.
SNK doesn't own that code and today's SNK quite possibly lacks anyone involved with with this that is aware of the existence of some fine non-SNK ports of SNK arcade content.
@JayJ Actually, none of these games are on ACA, so there's no worry of overlapping or getting duplicates. If that's what you mean.
(PS4 list, it's the most complete)
Totally buying this, not even a doubt in my mind.
That's a lot of good stuff in there!
Any chance of wind jammers?
Looking forward to it, I'm always interested in gaming "archaeology", and I definitely didn't play these games, or even heard of in most cases.
I hope the final line-up becomes closer to that 40 of "40th anniversary", though.
I didn't pick up the collector's edition, I was thinking about it but with shipping it went well into 80€ range, and 60-ish was my cap.
I loved playing Athena on the Commodore 64! The graphics were terrible for the time, but the game-play was nice.
I doubt I'll be picking this up, though...
Ikari Warriors is my all-time favorite arcade game. I really am looking forward to this collection. I wish the NES versions of these games would be included on the Switch version as well, but that's just wishful thinking.
@delt75 They actually are for some of the games (including Ikari Warriors)! 😊 The website lists which games are getting both home (NES for most of these) and arcade ports in the collection: https://snk40th.com
@zipmon Oh!!! That's awesome!
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