IGN Review of SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1
Surprise! Another compilation title from SNK. The company has been cranking out collections as of late and delivering a lot of old Neo Geo titles to modern gamers. Now, SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 throws sixteen old Neo Geo titles onto one UMD. "16" seems like a pretty nice number, considering the fact that you're paying about $1.90 for each game on the collection. I know Burning Fight and Magician Lord might not be on everybody's mind due to Grand Theft Auto IV's release, but I had a pretty good time with Arcade Classics. It wasn't an ideal experience, but I had fun.
You should know, first of all, that I missed out on a lot of classic Neo Geo games when they were first released. Thus, I get intrinsic satisfaction out of playing older games that I haven't had much experience with before. I have a feeling that gamers in the same or a similar situation might feel this way as well. There's something very appealing about going back to the old stuff and giving it a spin, and that's exactly what's happening with Arcade Classics.
A very simple, retro-inspired menu organizes the games alphabetically and breaks down some basic information on the labels like the year of release, game genre and number of players. You'll also notice that every game has a number of "Goals" to unlock. The tasks you must complete to fulfill these Goals are pretty straight-forward, like beating a game on a certain difficulty or going through a stage without using a continue. The rewards for accomplishing these Goals vary quite widely. Some will unlock art for other games on the collection while others will open up move lists for the fighting game characters.
Having goals is a fantastic option, but the one thing I found very strange is the aforementioned unlocking of character moves. For example, say I want to play some Samurai Showdown but I can't figure out the special techniques of a certain character. That character's move list might be locked -- which is odd considering the nature of the information. Odder still is that in order to unlock those details I would need to play a game of Burning Fight, for example -- a completely different title. I understand that this promotes play time across the different games, but locking fundamental information is never a good idea.
The load times are also questionable. Neo Geo games aren't exactly massive data files, but the PSP takes a hefty amount of time trudging between various menus, start-up screens and the games themselves. Because a lot of these games are inherently arcade-style, quick-play affairs, having to sit around and wait for something to boot up can be discouraging -- especially when using a portable system.
Fortunately, the PSP version of Arcade Classics runs well during single-player games -- you won't find too much slowdown. But when it comes to multiplayer, a very important aspect for some of the titles, you won't have an ideal play experience. Almost every game on the collection supports ad hoc wireless play, which I really appreciated, and connecting to another PSP usually wasn't a problem. Unfortunately, actually playing the games with a friend is pretty bad. Most of the titles chug along at an embarrassing rate and that hurts the overall experience. A lot of these old Neo Geo gems benefit from two-player options, so they lose a lot of appeal when you take away smooth multiplayer.
Issues aside, Arcade Classics is great when you get right down to the raw single-player gameplay. This is of course assuming that you enjoy dabbling in older titles, which I definitely do. Baseball Stars 2, Top Hunter, Neo Turf Masters and Last Resort were among my favorites and offer a very simple but entertaining gameplay experience (I'm well aware that Last Resort is basically a clone of R-Type, but it's still a smashingly good time).
But the greatest strength of Arcade Classics is the diversity of the titles. Sports games, fighters, side-scrollers and shooters can all be found here and that's pretty neat. Even if you don't like playing some of these games (Sengoku), having a hearty chuckle at the poor translation and ancient art design is still amusing.
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