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Defunct Games Vs.
Defunct Games vs. SNK Minis 6
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on September 26, 2012   |   Episode 17 (Show Archive)  

   


"It's a chopper, baby."
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).

SNK is back with yet another batch of arcade rarities. This time around it's Chopper I (1988) and The Next Space (1989), both overhead shooters that are making their way to home consoles for the first time. One of these is worth buying, the other one you can skip. Think you know which is which? Find out when you read our full reviews of Chopper I and The Next Space. And stick around for capsule reviews for all of the past SNK Minis!

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

Chopper I
[ Release: 1988 | Company: SNK | Genre: Shooter ]
Taking a break from space shoot-em-ups, SNK has opted for something a little more contemporary. Originally released in 1988, Chopper I is yet another classic arcade release making its console debut. This three dollar PSN shooter sees you take control of an attack helicopter tasked with shooting down bad guys, taking out bosses and saving the day.

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.

Unfortunately, this game does have a couple nagging technical problems. I found that playing the game on the PS Vita meant that the lower part of the screen was mysteriously chopped off. Furthermore, the game has a tendency to stutter from time to time. It's nothing that impacts the actual gameplay, but it is noticeable. And like all PSP Minis, Chopper I doesn't even have a feature for two-player support.

Think you're going to power through by simply using unlimited continues? Not so fast, because Chopper I actually penalizes players for getting hit by a stray bullet. Instead of picking up right where you left off, the player is reset a few seconds earlier. This means that you'll have to battle the game's large bosses with care, because a single death will mean starting all over again. This added challenge, along with its sharp presentation and solid play mechanics, makes Chopper I a worthwhile shooter.

The Next Space
[ Release: 1989 | Company: SNK | Genre: Shooter ]
In the future we will colonize Mars, invade Jupiter and discover life in far off solar systems. NASA will discover that Tang has been the renewable resource we've been looking for all this time and space aliens will peacefully teach us the secrets of our origins. It's a peaceful time with cats and scary alien dogs live together. And then the sun blows up and destroys everything we've worked for. Space is gone. Don't worry; this game is about what happens after that. This game is about The Next Space.

Unfortunately, this SNK shooter looks a whole lot like The Near-Future Space. We get the usual boring black backgrounds and dogfights, presented from an all too familiar overhead perspective. This is the type of bullet hell shooter that SNK can do in their sleep. This is a company that experimented with every form of space shooter in the 1980s, making this lazy action game even more disappointing. This 1989 arcade rarity doesn't even attempt to evolve the genre.

Like so many shooters that came before it, The Next Space is all about the power-ups. The game offers ten items to pick up, including speed boosts, laser weapons, a spread gun, tiny spaceship helpers and missiles. Despite an impressive arsenal, nothing about this shooter feels new or original. To make things worse, the game's boring black backgrounds repeat throughout the entire game as if to remind you that you're playing the world's least creative shooter. If this is The Next Space, perhaps I'll wait for the next, next space.

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 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.

Athena
[ 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.

Bermuda Triangle
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | Price: $2.99 | Release: 1987 ]
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.

Gang Wars
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | Price: $2.99 | Release: 1988 ]
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. 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. 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.

Gold Medalist
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | Price: $2.99 | Release: 1988 ]
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.

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.

HAL 21
[ 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.

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