SNK 40th Anniversary review (PS4)

After its initial release for the Nintendo Switch, SNK’s 40th Anniversary Collection will be launching on Playstation 4 soon. We took an early look – here are our thoughts.

I immediately got excited when I first heard about plans to release a 40th Anniversary anthology package for SNK. They may not be a household name in classic arcade gaming for some (not like Capcom, SEGA, Atari and Midway were, but they were the driving force behind the Neo Geo system. A system that brought arcade-like experiences to the living room for the first time, it was ahead of its time in the home console market – and came with a premium price tag as well.

Many of SNK’s most memorable titles were Neo Geo based, including Fatal Fury, World Heroes, Samurai Shodown, Metal Slug and of course The King of Fighters – all very successful series in their own right. The 40th Anniversary package, however, completely ignores that period in SNK’s history, disregarding the last 25 to 30 years and instead focusing on SNK’s earlier years. It feels like a shame for SNK fans, but let’s hope the collection does well so we can get a volume 2 somewhere down the line.

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Considering SNK’s strong association with Neo Geo platform, the 40th Anniversary Collection has a couple of surprising entries from an “I didn’t know they made this” perspective, as well as a few games that I had personally never heard of before. ‘What’s also nice is that, where available, console ports have also been included for your retro gaming pleasure. Seeing the arcade and home console versions side by side also showcases how revolutionary the Neo Geo was, in an era where “how well was the home conversion done?” usually boiled down to how much of the audiovisual experience was left intact.

Arguably the most well-known game in the collection is Ikari Warriors, and its two sequels are also here. A game I originally played on an Atari ST (and if memory serves me right, it was prettier there than the NES version was), it’s one of those instantly playable titles that takes you right back to the time period of Rambo and Commando. As such, it’s also held up pretty well, which isn’t true for every game here – Vanguard and Street Smart are good examples there.

A more modern shooter than Vanguard, Prehistoric Isle, was one of my favorites – I had thus far only played its Neo Geo sequel so this was a nice trip down memory lane for me. The games themselves aren’t the only draw though, it’s that way that the entire package was handled that makes this a worthwhile collection for any retro gamer.

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Not only are console versions included, in many games you can also alternate between US and Japanese versions, and you can play around with the dip switches for the game to modify its settings as well. In addition, there is a wealth of background information on each game, including original manuals and visual assets like original artwork. SNK’s even included material on a bunch of games that didn’t even make the collection.

Of course, we’ve had better retro collection in the past – mainly the ones that used Capcom’s extensive library of games as a source of inspiration. In that sense it really is a shame that SNK didn’t dip into (part of) their Neo Geo library for this one, but it’s rare to find a collection with such a loving attention to detail. For the retro enthusiast who likes these collections for more than just playing the games in them, the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is excellent. Those with a more casual nostalgic inclination are probably better off with a collection of Capcom, Namco or Atari games.

Score 7.8/10

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