While they're best known for their long line of Neo Geo fighting games, SNK originally made a name for themselves by releasing a number of popular arcade games in the 1970s and 80s.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. And just a few weeks ago we had the third batch, offering Prehistoric Isle in 1930 and P.O.W.: Prisoners of War.
Now comes the fourth batch, two of SNK's biggest arcade hits in the 1980s. The first is Bermuda Triangle, an overhead shooter with incredibly large sprites. We follow that up with Gold Medalist, a mini-game collection featuring your favorite Olympic events and all kinds of button mashing. 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.
Over the last few months we've been treated to several of SNK's best arcade shoot-em-ups. For months I've gushed over Vanguard and only a few weeks ago I was surprised again by Prehistoric Isle in 1930. These may not be the best known shooters from the 1980s, but they are definitely some of the most fun. You can add Bermuda Triangle to the list of great shooters. Even though it was released a quarter century ago, this SNK stunner is one of the most inventive shooters I've seen in a long time.
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. You're not just upgrading your weaponry, but also what your ship looks like and how large it is. It's good that you're built so large, because the bad guys are just as big and just as mean.
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.
As much as I love reviewing these old SNK games on my PlayStation 3 and PSP, I can't help but think that I'm losing something by not getting the arcade cabinet. It's not just that feeling having the authentic joystick and buttons, but also the cabinet art and special instructions guiding first-timers through the perils of the game. Actually, I don't need the cabinet art and original buttons, just give me the damn instructions!
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. You get the usual assortment of sports -- 100 meter dash, long jump, horizontal bars, boxing, swimming, discus throw, hurdles, high jump and the 400 meter relay. These events are short and usually require players to mash buttons until you win.
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. Even the menus are confusing. The final straw comes when you realize you can't compete against other players. The game is set up for four players, yet you're limited to only one. Gold Medalist is a mean game.
SNK MINIS CAPSULE REVIEWS
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 Minisreviews. Instead you should check out the twelve capsule reviews, making this the ultimate SNK Minis buyers guide!
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.
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.
[ 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.
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | Price: $2.99 | Release: 1985 ]
No, it's not a prequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, but rather a return to the crowded vertical 2D shoot-em-up genre. This 1985 hit is a lot like Namco's influential masterpiece, Xevious. You fly a spaceship around an Earth-like planet shooting bad guys in the sky and dropping bombs on gun turrets on the ground. The game rotates through a number of mostly good looking backgrounds, including forests, water and weird religious temples. HAL 21 is the kind of game that gets so close, but doesn't quite stick the landing. Even with fast action and a cool boss fight, there's not enough here to recommend. There are no power-ups, the stages tend to repeat a bit too much and I got sick of the one boss rearing its ugly head over and over. Even more frustrating is how pedestrian the whole experience feels, especially when compared to Vanguard from 1981.