SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gabriel Jones 31.05.2019

Review for SNK 40th Anniversary Collection on PlayStation 4

With the release of Ozma Wars in 1979, Shin Nihon Kikaku Corporation entered the videogame industry, and what started as an attempt to cash-in on the arcade craze, has led to over 40 years of classic entertainment. SNK 40th Anniversary Collection chronicles the early days of SNK. This set features 25 titles, as well as an assortment of bonus features. Players the world over can engage in the thrills of fighting through soldier-infested jungles, singlehandedly stopping alien invasions, or uncovering the mysteries of an ancient civilization. After taking a good look at it on the Switch, Cubed3 takes an even better one, this time on the PS4.

For a mega-fan of arcade classics like yours truly, there are few things more exciting than a compilation. It's an opportunity to revisit old favourites and discover titles that might've gotten overlooked in the past. SNK 40th Anniversary Collection includes a mix of both, as well as a handful of NES/Famicom ports and exclusives. It's a lot of gaming goodness for a respectable price. However, there are two questions that immediately come to mind. Do these throwbacks from the olden days still hold up? Does this collection treat them with the respect that they deserve? Buckle up readers, because we've got a long road ahead of us.

Alpha Mission
As early as the mid '80s, STG developers were looking for ways to shake up the genre. Where this shmup sets itself apart is in the power-up system. Enemy installations hide various ship parts. When three of the same ship-type is acquired, then that configuration is saved at the bottom of the screen. Once the pilot presses the appropriate button their ship transforms. This enables powerful weaponry that makes short work of enemies. The catch however is that it costs energy to stay transformed, which is used up whenever shots are fired or damage is taken.

To be clear, this is not a title that can be underestimated. If the player doesn't know exactly what they're doing, then they're going to have a bad time. The ship's hit-box is rather large, which makes dodging bullet spreads a pain. In order to survive boss battles, one must memorize which transformations do the most damage, and then destroy the boss before it has a chance to do anything. In short, it takes forethought and preparation to win, raw reflexes just aren't enough. There are lot of good ideas at play here, but the stiff controls are hard to adjust to.

Athena
The Greek goddess has taken it upon herself to rid the world of evil. The problem is that she forgot her weapons and armour. It's up to the player to find her enchanted armaments, all the while dealing with the constant threat of monsters. This is another one of those games that has to be played in a specific manner. If Athena doesn't collect the required items, then her quest is doomed to failure. On the bright side, almost all of these necessities can be acquired within the first minute of play. After that, it's just a matter of holding onto them. This aspect lends an interesting twist to the otherwise straight-forward action, but that's about the only memorable quality. Athena simply isn't much fun to play.

Beast Busters
The city is crawling with zombie mutants! It's up to three guys with machine guns to put an end to this nightmare. As far as gun games go, this one is fairly competent, but also a little frustrating. Most of the enemies take two hits to kill. The first shot knocks them down, but they get up a second later. Nothing is ever truly dead unless it explodes into pieces. Players are liable to be overwhelmed until they adjust. Even then, there's no guarantee that they'll make a lot of progress. Also, what's up with everyone carrying handguns? Even the bats are packing. Anyway, there's mindless fun to be had here. However, using the analogue stick to aim is far from ideal.

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Bermuda Triangle
Here's a shmup that's anything but typical. Players must survive multiple stages, all while piloting an overly large ship. This unsightly hunk of junk also has a massive hitbox. The key to success is in minimizing damage. That means collecting as much energy as possible and manipulating options so that they take the bulk of the enemy's firepower. Each stage further complicates matters by moving both forwards and backwards, so one must be ready for an assault from every direction. Steer clear of the event horizon! If the pilot gets sucked in, they'll be transported to a forgotten realm where death is all but assured. As far as STGs go, this one can be pretty frustrating, especially because explosions are hard to avoid and do a ton of damage. It's a tough recommendation.

Bermuda Triangle is also unique in the sense that it is a "rotary shooter." Imagine being at an arcade and discovering an octagon-shaped joystick. This odd device can be twisted, allowing both space-age ships and guerrilla soldiers to aim at whatever accosts them. While it does take some to get used to, it's surprisingly effective for dealing with surrounding adversaries. Of course, with the advent of dual-analogue sticks, this control scheme has been rendered irrelevant for quite some time.

Chopper
"Their quest is to fight and destroy the enemy in the sky." Yep. That's an arcade game plot all right. This STG has everything fans could ever ask for. Tanks that wouldn't think twice about point-blank blasting copters away, catapults that hurl indestructible boulders, and bullet-absorbing nets. Every stage is a series of new and exciting headaches to deal with. What's especially cruel is that some enemy ships can appear from behind the player, completely unannounced. While this was a common theme amongst 80s shmups, it's still pretty annoying.

There are some rather neat aspects, at least. Enemy choppers tend to move in unique patterns, so even if they can't be destroyed, they can be outmanoeuvred. Colliding with walls won't result in a death, which is helpful. Screen-clearing special weapons are also fairly common. However, this shmup features checkpoints, and all power-ups are lost upon death. Altogether, this is an interesting time capsule, but it's also liable to be more trouble than its worth.

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Crystalis
The year is 2097. A century ago, nuclear war completely wiped out civilization. In order to prevent this mistake from happening again, a young man must seek out the four wise sages, master the elemental swords, and stop the evil Draygon Empire. This is one of the classics of the 8-bit era. At first glance, it calls to mind The Legend of Zelda, with its idealistic hero and overhead view. However, this is a deeper and more varied Action-RPG. There are giant bosses to contend with, special powers galore, and an assortment of exciting locales to visit.

There are many reasons why this game is considered a classic. The solid controls and neat weapon system allow for very satisfying combat. Each area offers something new and exciting to look forward to, like riding a dolphin, visiting a town full of zombies, or climbing steep cliffs with the assistance of bunny shoes. The only complaint is that grinding is a necessity for progress. In fact, the game will prevent the hero from entering certain areas, if his level isn't high enough. Nitpicks aside, this is one game that NES fans have to check out.

Fantasy
This is the story of a woman with ridiculously bad luck. Whether it's by pirates or giant birds, she's always getting captured. It's up to a dashing hero to rescue her. What follows is a rather odd assortment of mini-games. Mainly, the goal is to avoid dying, which isn't terribly difficult. Sometimes there are specific requirements to reach the goal, but nothing too complex. This is a 1981 game, after all. Altogether, this is an interesting experience, but doesn't quite capture the magic found in other classics of the era.

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Guerilla War
Che Guevara and Fidel Castro have teamed up in order to free Cuba from the clutches of an evil dictator. Much like the SNK classic Ikari Warriors, this is a run-and-gun rotary shooter. Naturally, the goal is to mow down thousands of bad guys, rescue the occasional POW, and deal with an assortment of end-bosses. In other words, this is pretty standard stuff. The memorable premise and other elements, such as rescuing friendlies, help to lend it a bit of identity. Some… well… all of the bosses are pretty cheap though. Still, there are certainly worse ways to spend 15 minutes.

Ikari Warriors
Sometimes simplicity is all it takes to make a game work. The heroes of this classic shooter don't have a massive arsenal, nor can they cover the screen in waves of fire. Every inch forward is earned, because the opposition is constant and overwhelming. Smart players have to manage their ammo, make the most of every tank they steal, and understand the importance of good positioning. The difficulty is relentless, but never reaches the point of being unfair. Despite its age, this title holds up really well.

Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road
For reasons that are never quite clear, Ralph and Clark have arrived at an alien world. Their only chance of survival is to destroy everything that moves. This is a much more fantastical game than its predecessor. Not only are the enemies outright bizarre, the methods used to dispatch them are quite unique. The good guys start off with bazookas, but can also make use of boomerangs and even a sword. Ammo and grenades are both infinite as well, which makes sense considering the massive number of enemies.

Occasionally, dimensional portals will appear. These otherworldly phenomena will transport the player-character to a mysterious chamber. In order to escape and continue, they'll have to defeat a mid-boss. In most cases, it's usually just a matter of chucking a ton of grenades at them, though regular foes will gladly join in on the chaos. Like the first game, there are no real stages to speak of, but major bosses will appear at certain checkpoints.

In every respect, this is a fine sequel. The change in scenery is quite intriguing, and there's plenty of challenge in dealing with the various enemies, all of which have their own patterns and attacks. The difficulty is pretty overwhelming though. Mastering the sword is an essential tactic, because its blade can deflect bullets. Otherwise, the best strategy tends to revolve around recognizing and eliminating threats as soon as they appear. The longer an enemy is onscreen, the more trouble they'll cause.

Ikari III: The Rescue
Ralph and Clark are back once again. This entry is an even more radical departure than the last one. Now, instead of gunning down anything that gets close, the heroes stick almost entirely to using their fists and feet. Huh… that's odd. Maybe they're practicing for an appearance on the King of Fighters series? No way, that'd be too weird. Anyway, this is an overhead-view "rotary-brawler." Players move along a designated path, and then wallop soldiers that get in their way. A handful of attack techniques are available to them, including punches and backhands. Since this title utilizes the rotary joystick, it's possible to pull off some neat tricks, such as a spinning jump-kick.

Do note however that this is a really tough beat 'em up to get into. Enemies are very strong. A single kick by a high-ranking soldier can easily do four blocks worth of damage. If someone isn't careful, they could get locked down by an infinite flurry of punches. Jump kicks are annoying to deal with, since there isn't really a "tell" to warn players that one is about to occur. Occasional bouts with tanks or other vehicles are also deadly, because a single bullet or explosion is always enough to kill. If all that wasn't enough, healing items might as well not even exist.

The funny thing is that still wasn't enough. Normally in brawlers, players will opt to move as slowly as possible, so that fewer enemies are liable to appear. Good luck trying that in Ikari III: The Rescue, because the army is always close behind. If they catch up, then the player loses a life and is thrown back to the beginning of the level. It'll take a serious amount of practice and a ton of jump-kicks to make any real progress here. One might instead choose to play something that's a little more accessible, which is perfectly alright.

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Iron Tank: The Invasion of Normandy
Relive the legendary tale of how a man and his tank singlehandedly put an end to World War 2. While this game is reminiscent of TNK III, the developer decided to take it in a drastically different direction. There are multiple paths to choose from. One might be more difficult to traverse, while another might contain a special weapon or important Intel. A lot of the replay value is in exploring every route. Powerful ammunition can also be collected, which can be used to quickly destroy bosses or solve other problems. A handy radio keeps players up-to-date on anything of interest.

Altogether, this is a pretty cool and underappreciated game. Its ambitions are carefully matched by solid gameplay. The level of difficulty is tough but fair, and passwords guarantee that progress is never lost. While the controls take some time to get used to, the pacing is relaxed enough so that players have time to make tactical decisions. Another neat touch is that bonus health is rewarded when the tank runs over grunts. There's a bit of a risk involved, since they're likely to be firing, but that's what makes it enjoyable.

Munch Mobile
The goal of this odd driving game is to grab food off the side of the road and eat it. Afterwards, the remains must be disposed of in conveniently-placed wastebaskets. Cash and fuel can also be picked up, and the latter is needed to keep the car running. Oh and try not to drive off of the road or into other cars, because that's a very bad idea. The curious premise is unfortunately let down by obtuse controls, and a complete lack of anything resembling fun.

Ozma Wars
Even though this is essentially the very first SNK game, there's not a whole lot to discuss. The genre here is 'Fixed Shooter," which falls under the same umbrella as Taito's megahit Space Invaders. Basically, the goal is to shoot through endless waves of UFOs, asteroids, and meteors. Colliding with enemies or their bullets will cause the player ship to lose large amounts of energy. Energy is replenished at the Mother Ship in-between waves. However, if pilots are taking damage more than once per wave, they won't last for very long. Overall, this is a pretty decent time-waster.

Paddle Mania
The only description that could possibly do this game justice is that it's like Pong, but with a few creative nuances of its own. The player must hit the ball into the opponent's goal, while taking care to protect their own. Paddles can be swung in either direction, which affects how the ball travels. One other detail to account for is that if someone takes a direct hit from the ball, they'll be knocked out for a few seconds. This is the perfect opportunity to score a point. The single-player mode features an interesting array of competitors, including a volleyball team and even a sumo-wrestler. Don't ask how this all works; it just does. Give it a shot sometime.

P.O.W.
In this brawler, a commando by the codename of "Bunny" has to break out of a military prison. Hundreds of enemy soldiers, armed with knives, grenades, and even guns will accost him. Severely outnumbered, but never outmatched, the commando can survive as long as he relies on his most valuable skill: He can hop around like a cartoon rabbit. While it is possible to defeat bad guys by walking up to them, and then punching or kicking them a few times, it isn't advisable. Generally the go-to strategy is to employ lots of jumps. Jumps to gain distance, jumps to dodge attacks, or jump-kicks to take everyone out, and that's what it's all about.

As far as beatemups go, P.O.W. isn't particularly stylish or deep. Enemies tend to do a lot of damage, and there aren't any health pickups. Thus the safest strategy is the best one, hence the constant bounding around. Manipulating and positioning foes to take them out with assault rifles or explosions is a sound tactic, as well. It's rather silly how this game works, but it isn't too bad. Once players get a handle on the basics, they're likely to have some fun.

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Prehistoric Isle
In the year 1930, there was an island that time forgot. Dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures roamed freely. Take control of a rickety biplane and attempt to quell this unreal threat. The bulk of this shmup revolves around the 'Option.' When picked up, it sticks close to the plane, protecting it from danger. Pressing the "revolve" button changes the Option's position. This also causes the Option to change weapons. When in front of the plane, it fires a powerful cannon. If need be, the Option can be moved to the back, where it will drop area-clearing bombs. Since enemies can appear from any angle, knowing when and where to move the Option will greatly increase the chances of survival.

However, despite the fact that the Option can deflect bullets, this ability shouldn't be abused. After taking enough damage, it will fall apart, leaving the ship especially vulnerable. This aspect is rather neat, because it lends more depth to the action. Should the player put themselves at risk to protect the Option, or rely solely on its defences to pass through a difficult area? It's a tough choice to make, especially when an armada of pterodactyls is bearing down on them. Be sure to give this title a look. It's quite nice.

Psycho Soldier
Athena is back and she has to save the modern world from demons. More action-shooter than action-adventure, Psycho Soldier is more tolerable than its spiritual predecessor. It's much easier to get an understanding of what needs to be done, and the mechanics lean towards forgiving, instead of frustrating. Even if someone isn't playing optimally, they can still get through the stages and beat the requisite end-bosses. The quirky pop-idol aesthetics also help make for an amusing experience. Perhaps the weirdest aspect is that if Athena grabs a certain power-up, she turns into a phoenix and roasts everything. Has that ever happened in the King of Fighters series?

SAR: Search And Rescue
There's not really any searching or rescuing in this game. Basically, players are required to run through alien-filled corridors, and shoot everything in sight. Expect to see "Xenomorphs," mutants, and all sorts of grotesque fiends. Next to Beast Busters, this is easily the most graphic title in the collection. There are corpses everywhere, and everything explodes into gooey paste when filled with enough bullets.

As for the game itself, it's definitely worth checking out. It's another rotary shooter, and skilful play is all about measuring threats. Knowing what to focus on in a tense situation can make all the difference. In lieu of grenades, the heroes can dodge-roll in any direction. This is less effective than it sounds. There are few (if any) invulnerability frames, so it's pretty easy to roll into an enemy and die. The only other annoyance is that some enemies fire really small green pellets. They're kind-of easy to miss in all the chaos, and like everything else, are deadly to the touch. Issues aside, this is a short and satisfying romp.

Sasuke Vs Commander
It's raining ninjas! Poor Sasuke is saying anything but "Hallelujah," because she has to protect the Shogun from their deadly attacks. This is accomplished by chucking shuriken at them, while they leap from tree to tree. Of course, they're bound to fire back, so a careful aim is a must. When enemies are struck, they'll fall to the ground - be sure that they don't fall on Sasuke, otherwise it'll result in a lost life. After completing a wave, one of the head ninjas will issue a bonus challenge. The goal is to land a hit on them, while avoiding whatever devious tricks they use. The bulk of the player's score will come from defeating these foes quickly, so don't mess up. There's not much else that needs to be said, it's a fun experience.

Street Smart
This brawler is more-or-less the equivalent of Pit Fighter. Players must fight with a series of opponents, in the hopes of scoring both the championship trophy and the trophy girl. There aren't really any combos, but occasionally the opponent can be locked down with a series of well-timed strikes. Grapplers tend to be real jerks, because they can grab the protagonists out of anything. Sometimes it's just outright difficult to get an opening, or escape after landing a hit. This is more a curiosity than anything else. Feel free to give it a look, but don't expect to stick around for long.

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Time Soldiers
The Time Soldiers are lost in time and they need help! The hero must journey through the prehistoric era, ancient Greece, and even WW2. No matter the time period, one thing is certain, everything hates you. This rotary shooter is packed with enemies trying their best to make players miserable. At least the smooth and responsive controls make dealing with them relatively easy. Special weapons are pretty common, and are effective in a variety of situations. The only catch is that they drain energy. There is also a power-up simply called "Power-Up." It causes the hero to get huge muscles and equip a stronger gun. Strangely enough, his pecs are now capable of absorbing bullets, though every hit costs a significant chunk of energy.

Anyone who is familiar with Ikari Warriors, and it's incredibly useful tanks, will immediately latch onto this mechanic. In order to win, one must get and remain buff for as often as possible. Being able to take a couple hits without dying is an amazing perk, not to mention the stronger main weapon. This helps in dealing with the bosses really quickly. Speaking of, SNK's knowledge of ancient cultures was a little suspect back then. One of the bosses in Ancient Greece is Anubis… the Egyptian God of the Dead. Maybe he was in the middle of a vacation? It's not as if stranger things have happened in videogames. Anyway, give this one a look. It's a good time.

TNK III
This is the first game to make use of the rotary stick, and it's also one of the best. Rampaging through enemy lines in a tank has rarely been more gratifying. The controls are simple to grasp, making it easy to cause a lot of carnage. Of course, this isn't a smooth ride. The hapless soldiers can't do much of anything, but a couple shots from an enemy tank will quickly put an end to the hero. Thankfully, there are a lot of audio cues, all of which warn players when dangerous vehicles are nearby. Be sure to check this one out ASAP.

Vanguard
Enter a warzone and destroy constant waves of enemies. That's the extent of this game. What helps to set it apart from other early shooters is that the player-ship can fire in four directions. Baddies have a habit of attacking from above and below the ship, so this is an effective way to counter them. Not an astounding game, but it's alright.

World Wars
Get ready for what is basically the prequel to Bermuda Triangle. The most immediately noticeable differences are that the player-ship is a smaller target, but it is destroyed in a single hit. There are also checkpoints, which are rarely fun to deal with. The main aggravation is that a lot of enemy bullets are red, which blends in with the player's weaponry. Also, for whatever reason, a large chunk of the screen is inaccessible to the player. They can't move close to the bottom, nor to the top, which cuts down on their evasion options. These issues date the game more than its simplistic graphics and gameplay, making it difficult to recommend.

The Collection
Digital Eclipse did a fantastic job in ensuring that the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is loaded with content. First off, almost every title supports region-select. While in most cases, the differences between the USA and JPN versions are minor, the extra effort is still greatly appreciated. In case a particular arcade classic received an NES port, then that version is included as well. Granted, there are times when the console release simply doesn't measure up to its arcade counterpart. A number of games, such as Ikari Warriors, suffer from poor frame-rates or other issues. Also, some concessions had to be made when it came to controls. After all, the NES never received a rotary knob add-on.

Still, there are some pleasant surprises for those who dig into the NES ports. P.O.W. is a perfect example. Rather than attempt a straight port, SNK opted for extra features such as power-ups, the ability to throw grenades, and even a few boss-fights. While it's still not as good as the original, the changes lend it a more pronounced identity. The NES version of Ikari III: The Rescue is surprisingly adept, as well. The sprite-work is decent, and the difficulty doesn't reach the point of absurdity. Not having to deal with the arcade version's time-limit is really cool.

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Alongside the slew of region and console available for almost every title, there are other features. An always-accessible rewind button allows players to undo their previous mistakes, or figure out how their past few decisions results in an early demise. The visual filters are sparse, but still pretty nice. The TV and monitor filters aren't bad on the eyes. It's also possible to customize the controls and difficulty settings. Progress can be saved through the menu, which is handy for longer games like Crystalis and Iron Tank: The Invasion of Normandy.

One of the other handy extras is the "Watch mode." When enabled, the game of choice plays itself, albeit without taking damage or dying. Think of it as a readily available super-play video. This is fantastic for understanding how to pass difficult sections, or simply for casual viewing. Another neat aspect of it is that the player can jump in at any time and take over. Also, be sure to check out the museum. Tons of screenshots, artwork, and trivia can be found. There's even an option to listen to the soundtracks for every game featured in this set.

Unfortunately, not everything about the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is great. Due to the nature of the rotary games, a workaround had to be devised. Therefore, the player can use the PS4's analogue sticks to move and aim, just like in a common twin-stick shooter. It's a good feature, but the problem is, it's subject to severe input issues. At least once every five minutes, there's either going to be a moment where the player-character moves on their own, or their aim will be locked to the wrong direction. Whenever this issue crops up, it'll take a second for the person holding the controller to realize what's going on. That's time enough for one of the Ikari Warriors to run headfirst into a bullet, or for Che Guevara to accidentally hit a POW.

Needless to say, when playing games where the slightest mistake is severely punished, errors that are out of the player's hands are unforgivable. On the bright side, there are alternatives. By mapping the rotary functions to the face-buttons instead of the right stick, it's possible to aim and shoot without any potential problems. Also the d-pad can be used for movement, which keeps the heroes from occasionally charging into certain death, but it's brutal on the thumbs. These aren't ideal solutions, but they're the only way to avoid the possibility of losing control at the worst possible moment.

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Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

All in all, the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a fine way to experience SNK's humble beginnings. The included games cover a wide variety of genres, and even the worst of them have one or two admirable qualities. There are no complaints at all when it comes to features. Both region-select and console versions are accounted for, and the museum is loaded with bonus materials. Hopefully the dual-stick control issue is eventually sorted out, as it's the only stain on this otherwise impeccable set.

Developer

Digital Eclipse

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Action

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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