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SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1 returns us to the dim recesses of arcade games long past. Although not ground breaking at the time, there is enough quality here to warrant a trip down memory lane. The question is whether this is simply a history lesson, or something more entertaining?
If you were around in the late 80's maybe you, like me, used to drool over pictures of the Neo Geo home console. While other machines were busy converting arcade titles the Neo Geo was essentially an arcade machine for your living room. It existed in two forms, one for the home consumer and one for the coin-operated emporiums that adorn our southern coastline.
The problem was that the thing cost the earth. In fact I remember that at the time, a single Neo GeoSNK Arcade Classics Volume 1 joy pad (bristling with buttons) would have set me back as much as I had just shelled out for my SEGA Megadrive. Not even the might of Father Christmas and his endless budget (even before the Iceland banking collapse) could stretch to such extravagance.
So it was with much excitement that I got my hands on SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1 for my Wii. And indeed, it is the technical achievement that hits you first. Being able to play those arcade games in the comfort of your own home is the stuff of fairy tales. The one disk contains an impressive set of 16 games. Admittedly only die-hard fans will really appreciate them all, but surely any avid gamer, retro gamer or even, to an extent, casual gamer of this era will have some place in their heart for a couple of them.
But as you play there is the realisation that beneath the skin lies all sorts of nuances and tricks to be exploited - those hard won skills that would impress onlookers waiting for their turn with 10p's lined up on the cabinet.
Once you tire from the big titles, such as Samurai Showdown and King of Fighters 94; as well as the first on the now famous Metal Slug, you'll find yourself flicking through the other games on offer and it's here you will turn up some less familiar gems. Initially, of course, you will spend your time playing through those big titles, but it's a relief to find other games that extend the life of the game beyond the celebrated handful.
SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1There is something magical about playing these games again rather than simply reading through a list of historically significant titles. Having dug them up and playing them on new hardware gives these games the acknowledgment of respect which they so deserve.
If you only have a cursory memory of these games the sense of time travel is somewhat diminished. Without the familiarity that comes from a miss-spent youth though, the collection becomes more of a history lesson and less about real memories. Have a look at the list, if you remember even a few of these you are in for a treat: Art of Fighting, Baseball Stars 2, Burning Fight, Fatal Fury, King Of Fighters '94, King Of The Monsters, Last Resort, Magician Lord, Metal Slug, Neo Turf Masters, Samurai Showdown, Sengoku, Shock Troopers, Super Sidekicks 3, Top Hunter and World Heroes.
Once you have played your favourites in the list and are looking for the next challenge you can step back and gain a bit of perspective. These games, for all their claims to fame, are pretty basic by SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1today's standards. In fact it makes you appreciate how far we have come. Not only in visuals and sound, but in the variety of game play we expect from our games now - most here are one trick ponies.
I ended up pumping most of my playtime into Neo Turf Masters, SNK's best golf game. On the face of it this is a simple golf game, much as Camelot would produce for various Nintendo consoles in later years. But as you play there is the realisation that beneath the skin lies all sorts of nuances and tricks to be exploited - those hard won skills that would impress onlookers waiting for their turn with 10p's lined up on the cabinet.
It's not only Turf Masters, in all the games there's an attention to detail that comes from the game being burnt into real arcade hardware. Like the high design principles of physical Pinball tables, these games justified their big budgets and lengthy developments by their destination in real coin operated machines.
SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1These are also games that followed the wave rather than broke it. The fighters were developed in the aftermath of Street Fighter's success, and the shooters like Last Resort followed in the footsteps of R-Type. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but compare this to a collection of original ground breaking games and it starts to pale somewhat.
SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1 does what it needs to and in some style. Some care may be needed if buying this as a present as enjoyment leans quite heavily on the player remembering the 'good old' SNK days. That not withstanding, the sheer value for money combined with the novelty of these arcade hits makes it a great package.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: