SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1
Before the arrival of Nintendo’s Virtual Console and the slightly shady world of PC emulators, gamers generally had to rely on their memories and reminiscences to revisit the favourite videogames of the past. In recent times, however, retro-gaming has achieved a greater degree of ‘coolness’, and there has never been more ways to play old and forgotten titles. Compilations such as this can serve as interesting snap-shot of gaming history, but have the sixteen games included here managed to weather the passing of time, or are they little more than museum pieces?
Let’s face facts – there are few people reading this review that would have owned any of these games when they were first launched. The host console – the Neo Geo – was (in the UK at least) fairly rare and the games prohibitively expensive; this reviewer has memories of staring enviously at the console in a local games shop like a modern-day Tiny Tim. This was a console that was so far beyond my meagre finances, delivering arcade-perfect gaming, a world away from the more affordable alternatives. Needless to say, getting sixteen Neo Geo titles on one disk for a wallet-friendly price is (regardless of their quality) an excellent opportunity to see exactly what we were missing.
SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 offers an intriguing cross-section of Neo Geo gaming, from the obvious inclusion of poster-boys Metal Slug, Fatal Fury and Samurai Shodown, to lesser known titles such as Sengoku, Magician Lord and Shock Troopers. Some have aged beautifully, while for others the years have not been so kind. As a whole, quality outweighs the dross and there are some genuinely classic gaming experiences to be had.
The collection’s highlight is undoubtedly Metal Slug. Playing the first in this long-running series is a joy and makes you realise how little this classic side-scrolling shooter has changed over time – never has the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ been so true. Metal Slug is a work of pure craftsmanship, with every pixelated-inch of the screen lovingly rendered to bring the world of cartoon ultra-violence to life. Unlimited credits – a feature of all the games here – dampens the challenge somewhat, but the unrestrained chaos of the combat is as fun today as it was would have been if you were lucky enough to own it in 1996. The wonderfully titled Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy very nearly matches Metal Slug in the visual stakes, and offers similar knock-about fun.
1997’s over-head shooter Shock Troopers also understands the value of copious amounts of bullets and explosions, underlining these subtleties with some fantastic electronic drum and bass. R-Type wannabe Last Resort is less memorable, but is entertaining enough to encourage you to insert a few virtual coins into the virtual cabinet!
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