The Neo-Geo console was one of my favorite consoles growing up. My parents never had the money for the home machine or the outrageously priced carts. However, that did not keep me from spending many quarters on the standups day in and day out. Most of my Neo Geo quarters were thrown into games such as Ninja Combat, Sengoku and Magician Lord. The rich graphics, the ahead of its time gameplay were all amazing beyond belief. Almost twenty years later, SNK decides to make a happy man. Sixteen classics on a single dvd for my Playstation 2 console. Furthermore, they went and released it in the $20 price range. Very very happy.
Neo Geo games were always famous for their bright and beautiful graphics. Check out any Neo Geo game from the time period. Metal Slug, plenty of action and detail. Baseball Stars 2, bold & distinct characters with wonderful show of color. Almost every title is like this. There are only a few exceptions from what I could see. Burning Fight did have some issues and was kinda jagged and I don’t really remember King of the Monsters being as bland in the visual department. However, these minor details are few and far between and most are dead pan accurate translations of the graphics that I remember fondly.
Ahhh, sound. Unfortunately we only get Stereo and Mono output for the games. This is usually sufficient for the most part and your speakers should pump pretty loud as it goes from selection to selection. However, in playing many of these classics, I forgot how repetitive some of them were in the music department. Music that seems to loop after maybe a minute and two and gets buried deep into your subconscious. Play a few games of Baseball Stars 2 and tell me, Bay Bay Bay se Ball Ball Stars Twoooooooooo doesn’t haunt your dreams.
Sixteen gems, that’s what SNK has put before us. However, to loop them all together in some gameplay description mess would be unbeneficial to somebody who is really trying to evaluate this title. This title has everything from adventure to sports to fighting games and even a shooter in Last Resort. The age of the games vary as well with some being released like Magician Lord, Burning Fight in 90,91 and then more recent titles such as Metal Slug or Shock Troopers in 1996,97. Without further adieu and in appreciation of the Neo format, here is a summary of the games:
Art of Fighting (1992) – I swear everytime I hear this title, I want to rename it to Art of the holy heck how do I beat my opponent? A fighter’s fighting game, Art of Fighting was the second fighting series in SNK’s library. Set in the same universe as Fatal Fury, this SNK game made it so you couldn’t spam various special techniques thanks to a spirit gauge. The more you perform these special techniques the gauge becomes depleted. You could also taunt to make your opponents appear less. It was a rich fighter, but most fans found it to be too hard to play regularly. 6/10.
Baseball Stars 2(1992) – One of the best baseball games on the planet. It ranks right up there with RBI, Baseball Simulator and Bases Loaded. The characters are nicely animated and the game is very deep for an arcade translation. It is played in a season mode where you are trying to capture the pennant. Power-Up, relievers, pinch-hitters and factors like fatigue are all represented. Amazingly deep for what some would consider a throw away game in a collection like this. 9/10.
Burning Fight(1991) – A beat em up that was made around the time of Final Fight and Streets of Rage. It also reminds me of Riot Zone which was released on the Turbo Duo system. Fairly generic, easy to get lost in the shuffle but very playable. You could play as three characters from Duke to Ryu to Billy, each sporting the cliche balanced, speedy and strong prototypes. You had to track down Castella & the Japanese crime syndicate and defeat Castella in the end. 6/10.
Fatal Fury (1991) – the original fighting series for the Neo Geo system. You chose between Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard or Joe Higashi. The game was made unique by fighting on multiple planes and being able to move between them to dodge various attacks. The wealth of special techniques and diverse characters were plenty here, but the game was still very difficult to master, second only to Art of Fighting. 7/10.
King of Fighters ’94 (1994) – The first game in the King of Fighters universe featured characters from Fatal Fury, Psycho Soldier, Ikari Warriors, Art of Fighting and introduced a few new ones along the way. It brought a team concept to the fighting game genre using three players from a certain country. For example, England had Yuri Sakazaki(Art of Fighting), Mai Shiranui(Fatal Fury) and King (Art of Fighting). Then they would take on another team of three in an elimination style format. Much depth here and the best fighting game included on the disc. 9/10.
King of the Monsters (1991) – This fighting game was unique in that it used characters that were in the style of giant monster movies like Godzilla and King Kong. It was played out in a wrestling style interface where you had to actually pin your opponent for a three count. Also points were awarded on how much destruction and mayhem you caused to the city around you. Graphics were a little disappointing but very solid. 8/10.
Last Resort (1992) – The only true shooter in the package, this game played a lot like R-Type and featured many interested powerups and beautiful graphics along the way. The only downfall here was the insane difficulty (like R-Type) that was well represented in each level of the package. Quick note, the first level is actually homage to Akira, the famous anime movie. 7/10.
Magician Lord (1990) – This is the game that a lot of people first found themselves familiar with the Neo-Geo name. This platformer/shooter featured the wizard Elta who must save his homeland from the evil wizard Gal Agiese. Various orbs would show up on screen and the wizard would be able to transform into various other characters from Dragon Warrior to a Samurai to Waterman. Great stuff and proper translation. 8/10.
Metal Slug (1996) – The most popular series made by SNK. This fun as heck run and gun featured the most chaotic side to side scrolling action one could ask for. The characters were fun and had personality and weapons were plenty and easy to acquire. Until the day I die, I will always remember that giving somebody your pants equals a powerup. Best game in package, easy. 10/10.
Neo Turf Masters (1996) – A golf game? This collection certainly includes a little of everything. The game includes four courses and features the classic three tap swing to get the ball from tee to cup. Nice graphics again as expected, my problem here was that you found yourself missing the ball a lot until you got the timing down. I could get a well placed birdie on one hole only to be followed by a double bogey on the next. 7/10.
Samurai Showdown (1993) – this novel fighting game was the first in memory to include weapons as part of every fighter’s arsenal. From the standard swords to weapons that resembled scythes or kusarigamas. Set in the 18th century, this game focused more on hard strikes and decisive blows as opposed to typical combo techniques found in most games of the genre. It also used the camera zoom technique that was found in Art of Fighting. Again solid fighting game. 8/10.
Sengoku (1991) – Let me start off by saying, I will catch flack for my love of this game. Set in feudal Japan, you are either a ninja or cowboy figure who must fight various undead warriors in attempt to defeat the game. You could also obtain souls from defeated enemies to change into a ninja, a samurai warrior or even an armored dog. The curious and odd graphical style coupled with a very odd musical style made the game easily stand out in a sea of similar titles. Be prepared for a very long game, well worth the time though. 9/10.
Shock Troopers (1997) – The most recent title in the mix and the one you will probably play the least. Why? This is the only title that does not support a save game (explained more in replay). This game you had to choose three different characters to run n gun with. The game played like a combination of Ikari Warriors and Metal Slug. From a top down perspective, the characters represented were unique with different weapons but unfortunately the action can’t hold it together for very long. 5/10.
Super Sidekicks 3 (1995) – Harking back to the sports crowd, we actually get a soccer game of all things. But, contrary to most soccer games I’ve seen, this one is actually fun. Don’t expect high scoring affairs, this game moves fairly slowly but very accurately. Yellow cards are given out when illegal trips take place and goals require proper placement or good rebounding to go in. The tournament style format includes an astonishing 64 teams among 8 regions. 7/10.
Top Hunter (1994) – Roddy & Cathy are your guides to a game where you had to take the characters through five worlds and use the environment to overthrow space pirates. The unique style here featured a fighting system that included special techniques and two planes to fight on to accomplish your goals. Sub bosses and a ridiculous final boss highlight this very fun co-op experience. Thank goodness for Free Play. 8/10.
World Heroes (1992) – this game requires ten medals to unlock (explained more in replay). This fighting game which is often panned by critics is actually my favorite fighter in the Neo-Geo universe. Featuring characters from multiple time periods from Rasputin to Mudman, this button masher is delightful in keeping you on your toes and your tongue in cheek. Sure it had stereotypes like a character that looked like Bruce Lee or one that looked like Hulk Hogan, but counting stereotypes in fighting games would require way too much time & countless headaches. 8/10.
Most arcade games require you to play it once all the way through and then file it under “Never to Play again”. SNK actually encourages multiple play throughs thanks to their medal system. The medal system draws inspiration from the Xbox 360 achievement system where you get a medal based on beating a game on a certain difficulty level or performing a certain task. Each game has 8 medals of variable difficulty. The medals unlock art, music, and even move lists for the various fighting games. As mentioned, ten medals gets you World Heroes.
The other replay improvement is the use of the save system. Every game (with the exception of Shock Troopers) includes a save state. This is usually activated after the words “Game Over” appear on your screen. Then you simply start your next game from this checkpoint the next time you play. Even sports games save after every inning or every hole. This helps to stimulate taking a game in chunks as opposed to torturous single sittings.
SNK has always had some of the best arcade games on record. From the Metal Slugs to the Fatal Furies to even lesser games like Sengoku or Magician Lord they provide the goods. Bright beautiful graphics and faithful gameplay are the norm. Sixteen games to enjoy and hours upon hours of fun can be had. There might be disappointments in the bunch (Burning Fight, Shock Troopers) but the great games greatly out-weigh them. The use of medals encourage you to try out games you might not normally play (Super Sidekicks 3 for example) in order to get move lists on your favorite fighting classic. The package is wonderfully priced and is one of the best anthologies to date, only being succeeded by the likes of Sega Genesis or Mega Man collections. To SNK: a hearty thank you and even though reviewers don’t usually do this, I am including a list of 16 Neo-Geo games I would like to see in a second installment of SNK Arcade Classics in this review in hopes that this becomes a reality. Highly recommended.
List of Proposed Games (wish list) for SNK Arcade Classics Volume 2
2020 Super Baseball
3 Count Bout
Aggressors of Dark Kombat
Fatal Fury Special (or Fatal Fury 2)
King of Fighters ’95
King of Monsters 2: The Next Thing
The Last Blade
Metal Slug 3 (or Metal Slug 2)
Samurai Showdown II
The Super Spy
World Heroes 2
- Ign.com: “If you missed out on the Neo Geo and you want to experience some nostalgic goodness, this compilation works just fine.”
- GameZone.com: “SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 brings us a hearty collection that isn’t bad at all but it’s just not presented as good as it should have been considering the console’s track record of doing justice to other classics.”