With the overwhelming success of the Virtual Console it seems somewhat strange for SNK to release a disc of 16 of their best-known Neo Geo arcade games. But as strange an idea as it sounds, that's exactly what SNK did. Now you have a choice, you can pay $9 per game and fil up your Wii's teeny tiny hard drive ... or you can buy this disc and get 16 classic 24-bit hits from the 1990s for the low, low price of $30. The choice is yours.
Of course, any video game compilation lives and dies based on the games it contains. This is no different for SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1, so I've decided to treat this review like I would any other episode of This Week in Defunct Games and give a short review of each and every one of the disc's 16 Neo Geo games. Let's see how good the games are and if it's worth your $30:
Art of Fighting
At its release, Art of Fighting had some interesting ideas. This wasn't your typical fighting game, you didn't choose from a vast selection of well-equipped fighters; instead you chose one of two guys and played through a linear story. As interesting an idea as that ended up being, it couldn't save Art of Fighting from being an absolutely horrible game. When it comes right down to it every good fighting game needs two things: good control and good characters. Unfortunately Art of Fighting has neither. Controlling this game is a lot like trying to control your cat by using nothing more than your mind. The game actually controls better when you don't have your hand on the control. It's a really terrible game, and an inauspicious start to this SNK compilation.
Baseball Stars 2
Every time I talk about Baseball Stars 2 I get swamped with a lot of hate mail. Who would have thought that this very average old school baseball game would be so respected by so many different people? I personally don't get it, what I see is a collection of game breaking design decisions that turn what could have been a solid sports game into an unplayable mess. Thankfully the game improves when you add a second player, but even then you have to put up with control issues and the fact that the ball flies faster than the in-game camera (making it nearly impossible to field). There was a lot of potential in this franchise, it's a shame that SNK could never get the ingredients right.
Similar to Final Fight and Streets of Rage, Burning Fight is your standard 2D brawler. In some ways that's not a bad thing; however this game's loose controls and boring story mode don't do it any favors. Burning Fight isn't without some interesting ideas, but like Art of Fighting, none of the ideas translate to an improved video game experience. The graphics aren't nearly up to Neo Geo standards and the whole thing is over far too quickly. Thankfully the game does support two players, but all that means is that two people will suffer through this game instead of just one. This isn't the worst game on this SNK collection, but you could do a lot better than Burning Fight.
Fatal Fury is one of the worst fighting games of all time. Okay, it's not nearly as bad as Shaq Fu, Rise of the Robots or Mortal Kombat Advance, but Fatal Fury is a seriously flawed game that nobody should be playing. With so many other fighting games on the market there is zero reason to even load this game up, it's sluggish, only has three playable characters and can't even get the basics of the one-on-one fighter right. It's hard to believe that this game came out after Street Fighter II. While this game isn't as bad as Art of Fighting, at least that game was trying to do something new and original. It failed at every step, but at least it was trying. Fatal Fury isn't trying, it's just floundering.
King of the Monsters
I understand why Rampage was popular all those years ago. There's something to be said about mindlessly destroying buildings while eating humans, stomping on tanks, and beating up the other big monster taking your points away. Was it repetitive and pointless? Of course it was, but it was also a lot of fun. King of the Monsters tries to do exactly the same thing, only this time they've improved the fighting engine and made everything feel more like a standard wrestling game. The problem is that this game neither works as a fighter nor a Rampage-style destruction game. The controls are sloppy and the whole thing just doesn't feel right. I'm sure there are people out there that have fond memories of this series, but as far as I'm concerned this is one that you can completely pass over.
SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 may have a lot of games, but it's missing some of the Neo Geo's best titles. Perhaps these games will be represented in Vol. 2 or 3, but for now it's a shame that we have to put up with yet more ports of Art of Fighting instead of the infinitely better Wind Jammers. All in all, this single disc is a much better value than buying these 16 games individually through the Virtual Console!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!