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The Best & Worst SNK Minis for PS Vita, PS3 & PlayStation TV
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on February 12, 2015   |   Episode 116 (Show Archive)  

   
This week Sony decided to discount a bunch of the SNK Minis that were released on the PSP back between 2011 and 2012. These titles are all ports of old SNK arcade games, many of which never made it to home consoles. Right now these games are a mere $1.49, which makes this the perfect time to load up your PS Vita, PSP, PlayStation 3 or PlayStation TV with these arcade classics. Today we're going to take a look at the best and worst SNK Minis.


Prehistoric Isle in 1930
[ Release: 1989 | Publisher: SNK | Genre: Shooter ]
Prehistoric Isle is a game that combines the best elements from World War I and Jurassic Park. Even though the game pilfers from a number of popular shooters of the era, Prehistoric Isle manages to hold its own thanks to a solid theme and memorable level designs. I found the tongue-in-cheek approach refreshing, especially when compared to some of SNK's other shooters. Prehistoric Isle in 1930 is recommended.
Vanguard
[ Release: 1981 | Publisher: SNK | Genre: Shooter ]
Vanguard doesn't get the amount of respect it deserves. This thirty year old shoot-em-up does a lot of enormously influential things for the very first time, yet it's rarely mentioned by fans of the genre. Not only is this a competent horizontal shooter, but it's also a great vertical shooter. That's right, Vanguard manages to fit both types of shooters into one game, all while introducing the world to the concept of dual-stick shooter. It has a dizzying amount of new ideas, many of which are still trendy all these years later. But even if you take out all of these firsts, Vanguard is still a damn fun action game that holds up better than you think. Whether it's on sale or full price, this shooter is not to be missed.
Bermuda Triangle
[ Release: 1987 | Publisher: SNK | Genre: Shooter ]
Forget playing some teeny tiny space ship. In Bermuda Triangle you play a GIGANTIC fighting ship. The craft easily takes up 15% of the screen, a massive increase compared to every other 2D shooter of that era. Your ship changes in some very exciting ways as you pick up the energy capsules lying around the levels, literally transforming before your eyes. Beyond the unorthodox ship upgrades, Bermuda Triangle has a couple of other things going for it. In each stage you will find yourself flying both forward and backward, allowing you to pick up the energy containers and other fun stuff. Your ship is also able to shoot in multiple directions, similar to classic SNK games like Ikari Warriors and Guerrilla War. The end result is an exciting vertical shooter that manages to have its own unique look and feel. And just like Prehistoric Isle in 1930, this is the kind of game SNK should be making more of.
Chopper I
[ Release: 1989 | Publisher: SNK | Genre: Shooter ]
Taking a break from space shoot-em-ups, SNK has opted for something a little more contemporary. Fans of top down shooters will feel right at home with Chopper I. You pilot a surprisingly responsive helicopter past dangerous canyons, through claustrophobic caverns, a dangerous factory, the city streets and other warzones. SNK doesn't let the action slow down, constantly throwing new levels and bosses at you. The easy game mechanics and always changing locations keep this otherwise derivative shooter fresh.
Sasuke vs. Commander
[ Release: 1980 | Publisher: SNK | Genre: Shooter ]
Never heard of Sasuke vs. Commander? Don't worry, you're not alone. This ultra-rare shooter somehow missed a stateside release, making the PSP the first American home console to house this colorful shooter. It's basically a re-skinned version of Centipede (which also came out in 1980), only SNK wisely swapped out bugs for kickass ninjas! You run around at the bottom of the screen dodging ninja stars and shooting down ninjas. Even though I fully endorse this hidden gem, understand that this is a 31 year old action game. None of the characters are detailed and the animation doesn't move as fluidly as one might hope. Also, the ninja stars can sometimes get lost in the busy background. Just keep that in mind.
Athena
[ Release: 1986 | Publisher: SNK | Genre: Action ]
If Vanguard and Sasuke vs. Commander are the best arcade ports SNK has to offer, then Athena is definitely the worst. Here's further proof that sometimes a cool character can be part of a truly terrible interactive experience. You run around common RPG-style environments punching, kicking and slashing your way to victory. Unfortunately your standard attack barely registers and it's often hard to tell when you're attacking. Things get a little easier when you pick up an axe or hammer, but even then you'll have to contend with cheap shots that can kill in just one or two quick hits. The check points are nonexistent and the game is far too repetitive for its own good.
Gang Wars
[ Release: 1988 | Publisher: SNK | Genre: Brawler ]
Originally released in the late 1980s, Gang Wars will be instantly familiar to anybody who has played Final Fight, Streets of Rage or countless other brawlers. When a girl gets kidnapped by an evil gang leader, it's up to a couple of street fighters to take on an army of well-armed baddies. Gang Wars is a lame beat-em-up that is short and forgettable. The action is little more than punches and kicks, with the player occasionally picking up guns and bottles. On the other hand, the hero does look a lot like Jackie Chan.
Gold Medalist
[ Release: 1988 | Publisher: SNK | Genre: Sports ]
As much as I love owning these old games on my new hardware, I can't help but feel like I'm losing something without the original arcade cabinet. Gold Medalist is a mini-game collection consisting of nine Olympic events. Without being too cynical, this is SNK's answer to the runaway success of Track & Field by Konami. The problem is that it's never clear exactly what you're supposed to be doing. The game doesn't actually tell you what the controls are, so the first few events involve a lot of anger and frustration. Even when you go to change the button layout, the game doesn't give you any hints about what to do. Worst of all; it's set up for four players, yet you're limited to only one. Gold Medalist is a mean game.
Street Smart
[ Release: 1989 | Publisher: SNK | Genre: Fighting ]
Street Smart is an unholy combination of Street Fighter II and Final Fight. You travel around the United States fighting unique challengers, each with their own fighting style. Unfortunately the limited move set and poor controls brings this fighter to its knees. The game doesn't even pretend to give players a fair fight. You can forget about winning two rounds or even knowing how much damage you're inflicting on the enemy. You can thank Street Fighter II for stopping the Street Smart franchise dead in its tracks.
Vanguard II
[ Release: 1980 | Publisher: SNK | Genre: Shooter ]
The original Vanguard is a genuine masterpiece. I was blown away by the innovative mechanics and how ahead of its time it was. Unfortunately, Vanguard II is not the awesome follow-up genre fans deserved. Instead of building on what made the first game so memorable, SNK decided to build an entirely different game from the ground up. Beyond the boring stages, I found myself constantly fighting the game's tricky control scheme. The original game worked so well because of the elegant gameplay, but the same can't be said about this sequel. Here's a perfect example of a company fixing what wasn't broken. Vanguard II is one of the most disappointing arcade sequels of all time.
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