SNK 40th Anniversary Collection review: Victory road

One of longest operating arcade and home console game makers takes a long reflective look at its rich and storied history.

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It’s not horribly surprising that SNK is mostly associated with the Neo Geo and its catalog of arcade and home titles. However, the plucky Japanese company has been around and making video games long before the first Neo Geo ever even came to market. In fact, the company has about 13 years of history before they made their own console. During this time they made a ton of popular and challenging titles for arcades and home consoles. Now, on the cusp of their 40 years of operation, the team has put together The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection to shine a light on some select titles that help shape the company’s early years.

A big package

SNK’s Anniversary Collection contains 13 titles including all three Ikari Warriors titles, TNK III, and Crystalis, as well as a few of my personal favorites like P.O.W. and Street Smart. A few of the titles only made it to arcades or to home consoles like the NES, but whenever possible SNK has included both the arcade and home console versions of their titles, or in the case of international releases the Japanese and US versions.

This essentially means that hefty a chunk of the 13 included titles is a two for one deal. What’s especially great about this is that while the two versions of a title may be extremely similar, they both have enough distinct features to offer up a different play experience and give the more hardcore fans an easy way to compare and contrast arcade and home game design.

Along with alternate versions of a handful of titles, the Anniversary Collection also features the rewind the function that seems to have become a standard for classic anthologies like this one. It makes sense considering that most of these games were designed to quarter eaters, titles that were tough as nails that could be beaten with the right set of skills, but would mostly end with people clunking down 25 cent piece after 25 cent piece in order to make it to the next level. While all the games are on free mode and have endless continues, dying in most titles does reset power-ups or weapons, so there’s a practical reason for players trying to stay maxed out to use it.

The little things

For players having serious problems getting through a title, or just looking to give their hands a rest, the game also features a “Watch” mode that runs through a game for you. It’s an interesting option that I haven’t seen in a compendium before, and considering how much people are into livestreams and let’s plays I wouldn’t be surprised to see this be a more common feature for collections like this in the future.

As one would hope, SNK’s 40th Anniversary Collection also delves deep into the company’s long history. Players will have a chance to check out concept art, arcade cabinets, instructional manuals, and other promotional materials from the company’s long and storied history. They take a look at several titles not included (at least initially) in the collection and even delve into Tanagram Q, a “lost” title that was conceptualized and never made it to market. Whoever was in charge of collecting all the archival history did a great job of being thorough.

Much like with other anthologies such as the Capcom Beat’em Up Bundle and the Disney Afternoon Collection your enjoyment of the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection will depend on a combination of nostalgia and a passion for challenging or retro games. While many of the titles included are overhead or side-scrolling shooters, there’s also the classic NES RPG Crystalis and the arcade/Sega Genesis brawler Street Smart that really showcase what an eclectic driving force for creation SNK has been through its lifespan.

Precious memories

While I personally already own much of SNK’s NES catalog on cartridges, having portable versions of several arcade classics that I can take anywhere on my Nintendo Switch along with their 8-bit counterparts is definitely a bonus. While most of them are gems in their own right, the actual arcade cabinets can be rare and hard to come by in the wild, especially since most titles like the Ikari Warriors series had a proprietary joystick that twisted as opposed to a twin-stick shooter setup.

Overall, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection has titles that old school arcade gamers are sure to appreciate and also does an impressive job of diving deep into the company’s four-decade history. However, this may be even more of a niche collection than the Capcom Beat’em Up Bundle, which could work against it in the end..

Still, with nuanced features like being able to just watch the gameplay through itself, and having alternate versions of titles for some of the games, this really ends up feeling like a solid package. And there’s more free content to come post-launch, including 11 more games that are planned to be patched in and two that will be free on the Nintendo eShop.


This review is based on a Nintendo Switch digital code provided by the publisher. The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection will be available on Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch eShop on November 13 for $39.99 at launch. The game is rated T for Teen.

Reviews Editor

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

Pros

  • A ton of classic titles
  • Multiple versions of some games
  • A lot of history in the museum feature
  • Some hard to find rarer titles
  • Free DLC coming

Cons

  • Might be too niche for some

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