Say what you will about their never-ending line of fighting games and overpriced consoles, SNK knows a thing or two about game preservation. Over the last two years, the Osaka-based company has been blanketing the PSN store with an impressive collection of arcade titles from the 1970s and 80s. This includes some of their biggest hits (Guerrilla Wars, P.O.W., Athena, Ikari Warriors), as well as a few obscure choices (Sasuke vs. Commander, Prehistoric Isle in 1930, Ozma Wars).
Just when it looked like the well was starting to dry up, SNK is back with two more hits from the 1980s. Up first is Gang Wars, a Double Dragon-inspired brawler set in the fictional world of New York City. Once we've mopped up the streets, it's time to move on to Time Soldiers, an action game that managed to find its way on to nearly every 8-bit console of the era. Are these of these arcade games worth owning? Find out now as we review Gang Wars, Time Soldiers and every other Mini SNK has released in the last two years.
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.
It's New York City and the year is 1989, do you know where Jackie Chan is? Apparently he's in Gang Wars, SNK's newest downloadable Mini for your PSP, PlayStation 3 and PS Vita. 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 Mike and Jackie to take on an army of well-armed baddies.
Looking past the generic story, Gang Wars is best known as a fake Jackie Chan game. The similarity is striking, both on the promotions (left) and in the in the game. Even the character's name, Jackie, suggests that you're playing one of the greatest action stars of all time. Unfortunately, Jackie only comes out with a second player, effectively leaving him out of this arcade port.
Jackie or no Jackie, this 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. Mike's swing animation is ridiculous and the whole game moves too damn slow. On a side note, I was simultaneously impressed and creeped-out by the strangely realistic (yet wholly ugly) cinemas. Too bad there isn't a more interesting story to tell in Gang Wars.
Of all the video game cliches, time travel is my favorite. Who cares if it doesn't make any logical sense? It's a conceit that allows developers to craft levels inspired by famous eras from the past and future. This means that every level looks different, the enemies are unique and the story (assuming there is one) can take crazy twists you won't see coming. Perhaps it's my love for time travel that makes me give Time Soldiers a pass.
Originally released in 1987 (under the name Battle Field in Japan), Time Soldiers is yet another Ikari Warriors-style action game in which players are supposed to swivel their D-pad and shoot enemies. The gimmick here is that our hero travels through time to shoot dinosaurs, Roman soldiers, aliens and more. In all there are five time periods you weave in and out of -- The Primitive Age, The Age of Rome, The World Wars, The Age of War and Future World.
Time travel conceit aside, this Mini feels almost exactly like Ikari III, SAR - Search & Rescue, Guerrilla Wars and countless other SNK releases. You have a choice between manually rotating your aim (by using the left and right shoulder buttons) or the simpler auto aim (where you shoot in the direction you are standing). Sadly, neither aiming option is ideal. No matter what, the game's insane difficulty will ensure that you're dying every few seconds. Thankfully the game comes with unlimited continues. This is yet another SNK Mini that would have benefited from a two-player option.
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.
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.
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! 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. 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.
[ 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.