The Neo-Geo. The second longest-supported console, ever. From 1990 to 2004, SNK churned out games of every imaginable genre, and has amassed one of the most-impressive single game libraries of any of the consoles that came out in the 1990s. Because of the sheer power of the Neo-Geo and SNK and Playmore’s dedication to the hardware, SNK Arcade Classics vol. 1 is better than most generic compilations. Rather than ten or fifteen top-down shooters or beat ‘em ups, SNK Arcade Classics has probably the best, and most diverse set of games in a compilation game thus far.
The full list of games is: Art of Fighting, Baseball Stars 2, Burning Fight, 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. Sixteen total titles, highlighted by the inclusion of sports games, shoot ‘em ups, beat ‘em ups, platformers and fighting games. While some of these games have not aged particularly well (mainly a couple of the fighting games), a lot of the titles remain relentlessly fun, and a couple of them remain the single best games of their genre. If I was going to narrow everything down, I’d have to point to Metal Slug, Baseball Stars 2 and Shock Troopers as the best games in this compilation. Metal Slug is one of the longest-lasting series in video games, with numerous installments and the same fun, simple shoot-the-crap-out-of-everything gameplay. What games like The Bigs and Power Pros Baseball try to do is be like Baseball Stars 2. In all seriousness, Baseball Stars 2 remains one of the best-looking, and most entertaining sports games of all time. And Shock Troopers! A game that’s really as good as Contra or any other great classic shooter has as much fun to be found as any other arcade title you can think of. While these three are exceptional games, there are other entertaining games like Magician Lord, SNK’s take on Castlevania, and the original King of Fighters title, which are both worth checking out. Because of all this, SNK Arcade Classics is probably the best arcade compilation there is.
While its lineup of games is well beyond any other arcade compilation, its graphics and sound don’t stand out quite as far. Because the Neo-Geo was a particularly powerful piece of hardware, its games look much better than pretty much any other compilation of arcade titles on the market. Sound is still terrible, though. Everything is made up of garbled voices and silly, repetitive music. This is to be expected, though. And like I said, it’s still well above essentially any other compilation of arcade games you’re going to find.
Because compilation games are in such a niche market, I doubt too many will be swayed by my opinions, but I’ll state them anyway. This is one of the best compilations around. Anybody with fond memories of playing on the “Big Red” arcade cabinet should check out this game. While most of SNK’s compilations have been fighting game-exclusive, this one brings everyone else into the fold. Check it out, people. It’s worth picking up.