It's worth bearing in mind that twelve of the sixteen games that constitute Vol. 1 are already available via the European Virtual Console. Purchasing all twelve games at 900 Wii Points a pop would free your wallet of more than £70, rather than £20, but if you've indulged heavily before now then the value of Vol. 1 might be called into question. Other than being something of a kick in the teeth for anyone who has already bought more than a couple of Neo-Geo VC games, Arcade Classics is in good standing to offer fantastic value for money, but does it? Or is "Classics" simply a case of marketing hyperbole?
Before we take a look at any specific titles, let's examine some of the most important aspects of any retro compilation, starting with control options. Although SNK recommends that players use the Classic Controller for an optimum experience, it does not penalise those that wish to (or are forced to) use a GameCube controller, the Wii Remote/Nunchuk combo, or even the Wii Remote on its own. While the former do, indeed, represent your best option, the Wii Remote/Nunchuk holds up particularly well, and the Wii Remote performs admirably when used for titles that rely on just two or three buttons.
As a welcome addition, SNK Arcade Classics also allows you set both global controller preferences and game-specific key bindings for every title you play. The inclusion of 480p output and support for both 50hz and 60hz displays also helps to ensure that this is a collection of games that every Wii owner should be able to enjoy, regardless of setup. The emulation itself is equally well done, benefiting from a lack of noticeable loading times, slow down, or any of the bizarre display problems that often plague similar titles. With an admirable foundation upon which to build, how do the sixteen Neo-Geo titles actually hold up?
As you might expect of such a large collection, the quality of titles on offer varies quite significantly. Let's start at the positive end of the spectrum with Metal Slug, the very first instalment in the ongoing run and gun series that recently spawned the excellent Metal Slug 7 for the DS. Despite being nearly thirteen years old, this is a game that is just as playable - and gorgeous, thanks to wonderful hand-drawn sprites and impressive special effects - as later entries in the series. If you didn't pick up last year's Metal Slug Anthology, this is as good a place as any to catch up - with Classic Controller support to boot!
Moving through the list we find that some of the lesser known titles are just as worthy of your time. Top Hunter, for example, is a fabulous platform game that mixes fluid beat 'em up action with mecha suits, innovative boss battles, and a dual plane system for - pun intended - extra depth. Shock Troopers is a top-down, 8-way shooter that boasts some very addictive gameplay along with great visuals. Chuck in multiple characters, a variety of satisfyingly deadly weaponry, plus screen-filling enemy encounters and you're looking at some good ol' fashioned arcade action that even gives Metal Slug a run for its money.
The fighting genre is also heavily represented, with recognisable names such as Fatal Fury and King of the Fighters '94 appearing alongside the likes of Samurai Showdown and King of the Monsters. If you're a fighting buff then you've probably played many of these before, and you know whether you enjoy them or not. For everyone else, returning to the origin of some of these world renowned franchises is not always very entertaining. The genre has come a long way since the 1990s, and the devastating difficulty spikes as a result of flippant AI will probably leave you cursing like a sailor before long.
Regardless of personal taste - which will also be the key in determining your enjoyment of sports titles such as Baseball Stars 2 and Neo Turf Masters - some of the games included in SNK Arcade Classics are simply awful whichever way you look at them. Magician Lord is arguably the worst offender. It's a platform game that "features" horribly sluggish gameplay, ridiculously cheap foes that respawn infinitely, and repeating maze levels that offer no indication as to where you should be heading. This is a game that is about as far from standing the test of time as a game can be. We feel dizzy just writing about it.
SNK Arcade Classics also includes a welcome selection of customisable difficulty settings for each game. The easier settings even feature unlimited continues, allowing for a significant reduction in frustration when playing more challenging titles. Heck, you can even continue after turning the power off provided you end your play session at appropriate moments. If you're feeling hardcore, however, you can still switch to the higher difficulty levels and be rewarded - with Achievement-esque medals that unlock bonus content such as videos and music - for your trouble. It's up to you.