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Defunct Games vs. SNK Minis 3
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on January 04, 2012   |   Episode 12 (Show Archive)  


Enough with the King of Fighters sequels, it's time for another Prehistoric Isle in 1930!
While they're best known for their long line of Neo Geo fighting games, SNK originally made a name for themselves by releasing a number of popular arcade games in the 1970s and 80s. Over the last year the company has been blanketing the PSN store with affordable ports of some of their biggest (and most obscure) arcade releases. The first batch included Sasuke vs. Commander, Vanguard, Athena, Ikari Warriors and Guerilla War. That was followed by the second batch, which featured Street Smarts and T.N.K. III.

Now comes the third batch, two of SNK's biggest arcade hits in the 1980s. The first is P.O.W., a 2D brawler that went on to become a hugely popular 8-bit NES game. This week also brings one of my favorite side-scrolling shooters, Prehistoric Isle in 1930. It's a crazy mash-up that has to be seen to be believed. Are either of these two games worth the $2.99 asking price? Find out now when Defunct Games explores yet another collection of SNK Minis!

Note: All PSP Minis reviewed today are available in the PSN store for $2.99. They can be played on both the PSP and PlayStation 3. Though keep in mind, none of the games offer any form of multiplayer experience.

P.O.W.: Prisoners of War
[ Release: 1988 | Company: SNK | Genre: Brawler ]
You have to hand it to SNK, they had a very specific war theme that they've stuck to for more than twenty years. While other companies took their 2D brawlers to the streets (Double Dragon, Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Rival Turf, etc.), SNK decided to go a completely different direction. They went back to what they know best, jungle-based action in the middle of a war-torn part of the world. It's the formula they've used with Guerilla War, 'NAM 75, Ikari Warriors and even Metal Slug. P.O.W. may not break any new ground as a brawler, but it certainly is nice to walk on something other than a city street for a change.

You play a prisoner of war who is going to do everything it takes to earn his freedom and make these bastards pay. You start by making a MacGyver-esque escape from your cell, setting up an urgent situation involving you and some nameless guards. From there you fight through jungles, an enemy base an old warehouse and more. Winning your freedom requires the player to battle tanks, helicopter pilots and a menacing fat man. It's not the most original idea, but is a nice change of pace from street thugs and gang kingpins.

The setting and storyline is the one thing P.O.W. has going for it. Without the unique locale this is just another beat-em-up. It moves slower than Final Fight and Double Dragon, and this port had a few problems where the action would pause for a second at inappropriate times. The graphics aren't much to look at and the gameplay is as simple as it gets. It's also disappointing that you can't bring a second player in. So many of the levels are designed with two-players in mind, it's a real shame the PSP Minis are still hamstrung by these limitations. While not a must-have, P.O.W. offers gamers a fun brawling experience with a location you don't normally see.

Prehistoric Isle in 1930
[ Release: 1989 | Company: SNK | Genre: Shoot-em-up ]
While I have great love and appreciation for classic 2D shoot-em-ups, I'll be the first to admit that most lacked originality. With the exception of Air Zonk and Parodius, too many shooters involved little more than a spaceship exploring the universe, collecting power-ups and killing aliens. BORING! Thankfully SNK's latest PSP Mini flips the script on the traditional side-scrolling shoot-em-up and gives us a gimmick we can really get behind.

Introducing Prehistoric Isle, a game that combines the best elements from World War I and Jurassic Park. You take control of a fighter pilot who is tasked with investigating a mysterious island. As you approach you notice something weird -- dinosaurs roaming the Earth as if they never went extinct. Thankfully these ferocious baddies play using traditional side-scrolling shooter logic. Pterodactyls fly in an easy formation, dino eggs offer power-ups and you'll have to pay attention to the cavemen throwing things from the ground. Dig deep enough and you'll see a few familiar faces show up in end-level boss battles.

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. If the idea of shooting dinosaurs doesn't already excite you, then there's little about this arcade classic to interest you. However, I found the tongue-in-cheek approach refreshing, especially after spending so much time playing SNK's past shooters (HAL 21, Alpha Mission, etc.). Sure Prehistoric Isle is silly, but I would rather see another installment of this crazy idea than yet more Metal Slug games. After suffering through Fox's Terra Nova and Telltale's Jurassic Park, it's about time somebody gets dinosaur action right!

While not as glamorous as Neo Geo Station, SNK's PSP Minis offers an interesting collection of old school arcade games for a cheap price. Unfortunately the $2.99 cost comes with at least one major drawback (a lack of multiplayer support), but that shouldn't deter fans of classic arcade games from checking out these forgotten classics. There's no need to dig through our past SNK Minis reviews. Instead you should check out the twelve capsule reviews, making this the ultimate SNK Minis buyers guide!

Alpha Mission
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | Price: $2.99 | Release: 1985 ]
Best known for its Neo Geo sequel, Alpha Mission was a mid-1980s space shooter that is indistinguishable from Xevious. You pilot the fighters ship SYD, going head-to-head against a deadly fleet of the Seven Stars Alliance. But don't get too excited, because Alpha Mission largely follows the same generic tropes you've come to expect from all 1980s space shooters. You pick up items to upgrade your weapon, speed up your craft and whatnot, all while dodging incoming bullets. You've played this game before ... even if you haven't played this game before. There's nothing outright offensive about this SNK shooter, though you can certainly do a lot better.

[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | Price: $2.99 | Release: 1986 ]
Athena has a lot of promise, which makes the disappointment that much greater. 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. I did appreciate the different special items our heroine can pick up, but it wasn't enough to take away the bad taste from my mouth.

Guerilla War
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | Price: $2.99 | Release: 1987 ]
Guerrilla War is a lot like Ikari Warrior, only this time you take control of ... Che Guevara? And is that Fidel Castro as the second player? Okay, so this PSP Minis port is based on the localized American version, but when the game was released in Japan it took direct aim at the 1950s battle in Batista-controlled Cuba. While I'll admit that this makes for a cool story, it doesn't improve what is an otherwise unspectacular war-based shooter. This is the type of game that exists for no other reason than to suck tokens from your pocket, which means that you'll have to put up with countless cheap deaths that were created on purpose. It may be easier than Ikari Warriors, but that doesn't mean it plays fair. This is a visually appealing game, even a quarter century later. The characters are large and the backgrounds are full of detail. Guerrilla War isn't a bad game, especially for $2.99. It's fun in short bursts and is looks good on the PSP's screen.



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