SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 Wii Review

SNK have been good supporters of the Wii’s Virtual Console, bringing many of their Neo Geo games to the download service. However, this disk brings together sixteen of them (including four that have yet to be made available to download) on a single disk. Is it good value for money?

The compilation spans from 1990 to 1995, and can be split into four main categories. There are the beat ‘em ups, both scrolling and one-on-one. There are the platform games and the shooters, and finally the sports games. The manual recommends the use of the Classic Controller, but I found the GameCube pad just as useful. You can change the controller for each game or globally, and assign the buttons how you want them. The Wii Remote can be used on its own (turned sideways) or with a Nunchuck attached, but with some games needing three or more buttons the pads are preferable. Once a game is chosen, it loads while displaying the button assignments for that game, which is a nice feature.

To give you an incentive to play all the games on the disk, each game has a series of medals to be won by attaining certain Goals. At the simplest level earning a medal by completing a game or defeating a boss unlocks artwork, music, videos or move lists for the beat ‘em up characters. Global goals include earning 10 medals in total to unlock World Heroes, or becoming an all-round player by earning medals at everything. This will undoubtedly take a lot of time. With the exception of Shock Troopers, all the games will create checkpoints as you play. These either return you to the last level you played on, or to a specific point (an innings, or the last hole) in the sports games. However, checkpoints are for solo players only and there is only one saved per game.

So, how do the games play? The emulation is generally very good, from the opening chimes of the start-up jingle to the scrolling of the screen. At times the graphics do seem dated, particularly when shown on a large display, but the sound is of a generally high standard throughout. From a nostalgic point of view, the high price of the Neo Geo hardware and its games put the chance to play the games out of the reach of most people – and still does.

Representing sports we have Baseball Stars 2 with its cartoon animations and the fairway action of Neo Turf Masters. For the shoot ‘em up fan there is the horizontally scrolling Last Resort with some nice bosses, and the platform based run & gun action of the original Metal Slug. The lesser-known Shock Troopers is a multi-directionally scrolling Commando/Ikari Warriors style game with some nice touches. You get to destroy whole Japanese cities in one-on-one beat ‘em up King of the Monsters, and then fight with honour in Samurai Shodown. Combining fists and guns in Top Hunter. And of course several of SNK’s well known beat ‘em up franchises are included here too.

Sadly, a couple of the games come off rather poorly. Magician Lord is one of the earliest Neo Geo games and its simplistic graphics and gameplay do feel dated. Sengoku is too complicated for its own good, a horizontally scrolling beat ‘em up with strange magic powers and confusing controls. Super Sidekicks 3 (The Next Glory) also feels very old, with sluggish players making it difficult to play.

All in all this is a good introduction to both the Neo Geo and SNK’s history. The choice of control methods and ability to redefine buttons mean it is easy to get to grips with most of the games, but having to unlock the move lists for the beat ‘em ups seems like a harsh decision. Some of the more difficult Goals will definitely be out of reach of most players. The £20 price tag is reasonable for those who want a large slice of arcade action. Let’s see what future volumes bring.