SNK Mini Review Wrap-Up

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SNK recently went on a retro kick of sorts, releasing two new Neo-Geo titles for PlayStation Network and eight games for play, both on the PlayStation 3 console and the PlayStation Portable. We’re talking games that haven’t been seen in years, back when the glory days of arcade ruled all. They’re available for a fair bargain, with the Neo-Geo games running $8.99 and the PSP Mini titles going for $3 or less.

However, are they worthwhile purchases? Well, that’s what GameZone is here for. We’ve played all ten games extensively, and we’ve come back with a final verdict for each. Here is what we think of these SNK classics.

Baseball Stars 2


The original Baseball Stars Professional, when it came for PSN last year, managed to bring back good ol’ 16-bit sports fun to the system for a very reasonable price—$8.99 compared to the $200+ the original cartridge sold. Baseball Stars 2 improves upon this formula with enhanced visuals (for Neo-Geo standards), a good networking option to go against other players online, and gameplay improvements—most noticeably in the batting. Fielding can still be somewhat tricky (since the perspective changes from an outer field view to overhead in seconds, which can be disorienting), but overall it’s a great classic that deserves to be played again.

RATING: 8 (out of 10)

King of Fighters ‘95


The 1994 edition of King of Fighters is easily one of the best in the series; at this point, SNK got the balancing just right in the 2-D fighting. This level of fighting continues to stay true today, as we had no problem performing combos and special attacks on opponents. The art style, while a bit primitive compared to today’s modern brawlers, is 2-D excellence, especially gazing upon the lovely Mai Shiranui. The network option is great too, as you can battle friends online. The lobby options aren’t expansive, but the fighting works just fine, and that’s what counts for a game such as this. Fighting fans shouldn’t miss this.

RATING: 8 (out of 10)

Ikari Warriors


Not seen since the old days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Ikari Warriors makes a welcome, arcade-style return to both PlayStation 3 and the PSP. The game is best played on the console, as you can team up with a friend for two-player, Rambo-style destruction, lobbing grenades and shooting soldiers like no one’s business. The aiming takes some getting used to, as you use the top shoulder buttons to rotate your soldier, rather than the right analog stick. However, the auto-aim option is cool. The graphics and music are arcade perfection, making this a retro favorite that no one should miss. We have no complaint with these Ikari Warriors—except our need for an imminent comeback.

RATING: 9 (out of 10)

Marvin’s Maze


Think Pac-Man walking around in the third dimension, and you’ve got the basis for Marvin’s Maze. You move your way across a two-level maze, eating up all the dots while avoiding enemies. However, you can gain the advantage by consuming a special power-up dot, which in turn lets you destroy those who are pursuing you. Original? Hardly. However, we do like the multi-layer concept, and the art style is rather cute. You could spend three bucks on worse things.

RATING: 6 (out of 10)

Ozma Wars


This Space Invaders-like wannabe pits you against a field of oncoming enemies in pure black and white fashion. This was one of SNK’s older releases, stemming back to the late 70’s, and age has not been kind to this game. It shows too many sprites glitching out, and the gameplay doesn’t work as properly as Taito’s Invaders games. That said, it’s a fascinating piece of retro gaming history, and it is worth investing in if you’re a fan of shooters of this ilk. Just be warned—you’ll constantly lose energy if you don’t know what you’re doing.

RATING: 6 (out of 10)

HAL21


Another of SNK’s top-down shooters, HAL21 doesn’t have the greatest of concepts—just fly through the air and shoot at whatever comes your way. However, where it fails to innovate, it does entertain. The game is fast paced and features a plethora of enemies coming your way, so there’s no shortage of challenge. You can bring a friend along for the fun as well. It may not be a must purchase like some of SNK’s more well known games, but if you have a thing for shmups, this one’s worth the investment.

RATING: 7 (out of 10)

Athena


If any game looks ancient compared to most of SNK’s releases in this bunch, it would have to be Athena. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, because it is, but even compared to most NES releases, it just feels like it’s being held back a little. The upgrade system is rather cool, though it’s too easy to accidentally downgrade your abilities as you proceed through your adventure—and it takes forever to upgrade again. The graphics are cute, and the controls aren’t bad. Even so, it feels more like a grind than it should. If you’re a fan of the genre, give it a look. Otherwise, you aren’t really missing much of anything.

RATING: 5 (out of 10)

Sasuke vs. Commander


While the idea of playing a shooter with ninjas instead of spaceships sounds fantastic, Sasuke vs. Commander blows the idea with horrible execution. The retro-style visuals are appealing, but everything else about the game literally falls apart. The controls don’t operate properly, there are too many glitches on-screen to notice anything standing out, and the frustrating elements settle in too quickly, particularly with enemies who keep dropping projectiles on you after they die. Maybe some day, someone will create a ninja shooter that does things right. This game isn’t it.

RATING: 2 (out of 10)

Guerrilla War


Another arcade favorite that we haven’t seen in ages, Guerrilla War feels like a more cleaned up version of the Ikari Warriors series, but replaces the gung-ho soldiers with bearded guerrillas. Gameplay is about the same, with a lot of shooting and grenade throwing, but there’s also better vehicle usage here, particularly tanks. Like Ikari, you can play with two friends—ideal for co-op destruction. While we prefer the flavor of the Ikari Warriors games, this is a great alternative. It is another sweet reminder of SNK’s arcade history.

RATING: 8 (out of 10)

Vanguard


Finally, we have the classic arcade shooter—one that introduces two interesting gameplay features that, at the time, were unique. The first is multi-directional stages—it’s a side-scroller and a top-down scroller, depending on which way you’re headed in the stage. The other is the ability to fire in multiple directions—an ability that proves useful, considering that enemies come at you from all sides. While the design is somewhat pedestrian, the gameplay is quite fun, making this a worthwhile investment for the three dollar price tag. It is worthy for play at home and on the go.

RATING: 7 (out of 10)

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Robert Workman
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