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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


SNK Arcade Classics (Wii)

Featuring 16 classic titles, SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 delivers a solid selection of the company's legendary games for the Wii There's a varied genres covered ranging from action titles like Sengoku and King of the Monsters and Last Resort and of course several fighting titles like World Heroes, Fatal Fury and the original Art of Fighting. Each title is faithfully reproduced here, looking and playing identically to their arcade counterparts. Numerous extras such as unlockable artwork, moves lists and movies are unlockable as well. Using either the standard Wiimote or the classic controller, the games play identically to their originals. SNK delivers a great value for Wii owners, who will find plenty of hardcore classic gaming in this package.

Wii owners can be forgiven for feeling that their system has gotten a bad rap from the self-professed 'hardcore' gaming crowd. It's not that the innovative controllers and Nintendo's own release schedule seems to ignore these players, but the console doesn't seem to be the ideal place for the hardcore gamer. However, the overlooked virtual console releases are quite extensive and a number of excellent packages are available for the system that bring the classic 2D arcade experience home flawlessly. One the best developers, SNK Playmore has supported the Wii from day one with a series of excellent releases, including Metal Slug and King of Fighters compilations. Continuing on with this trend is SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1. This title includes a variety of genres and titles that offers a well-rounded retrospective on SNK's legendary titles that delivers the solid gameplay and fantastic visuals that made Neo Geo titles stand out from the pack. The Wii edition doesn't change to much from other versions of the game and has a similar selection of games and menu screens. Players can use the standard wiimote controller as a good start, and use it in a traditional NES style horizontal position. For a more accurate experience, players can choose to connect the classic controller, or go all the way with Hori's Wii Fighting Stick, which delivers an almost flawless arcade experience that makes you almost feel like you're playing on Neo-Geo hardware. These control configurations should please gamers looking for an authentic recreation of the arcade gameplay while delivering plenty of value.

The highlight of this release is probably the first console appearance of Shock Troopers, a really superb action/combat title that expands and innovates the company's older Ikari Warriors game with both vertical and horizontal action, excellent character animations and the challenging, yet not excessively frustrating gameplay that became SNK's trademark. This is a high-quality title that's as good as anything on the Neo-Geo, and its accessibility to a mainstream audience should be cause for celebration. Next up we have Art of Fighting, one of SNK's seminal titles that served as the genesis of later series such as King of Fighters. While the move lists and animation seem a little bit lean these days, the solid and tight play mechanics in this title set the stage for what would come later. Speaking of which, the excellent KOF '94 is also included on this disc, and playing both games back-to-back shows a dramatic jump in quality with a massive number of characters, vastly improved backgrounds and character animation and much deeper gameplay that makes it one of the highlights in this long-running fighting franchise. The stylish kanji inspired fighting world of Samurai Shodown was one of the most memorable series in history and the inclusion of its first installment shows the balance, depth and fantastic character design that would become the series' trademark later on. World Heroes was a bit of a generic Street Fighter II clone, but its excellent balance and great animation made it a solid addition to the SNK library, though later revisions were when the series really began to shine in terms of overall quality and design. Another original fighter was Fatal Fury, a legendary SNK title if there ever was one, though this was also limited in terms of character numbers and move lists, it had several innovative features such as the ability to fight on different planes, and moves that would make the camera zoom in for a close-up view of the action. It's also a surprisingly difficult title in terms of opponent AI and while it's difficult to beat, it makes a great introduction to the SNK style of fighting, which was more technical and less flashy than Capcom's approach.

These popular titles made SNK synonymous with the fighting genre, but the company delivered excellence in other genres as well. While the graphics in the side-scrolling Magician Lord were amazing for their time, what stands out about this classic adventure is its difficulty, where enemies attack you mercilessly, giving you little room for error. The game's outstanding design made for some very difficult boss battles, but persistent players were rewarded with one of the console's most satisfying experiences. The horizontal scrolling shooter Last Resort shows off the Neo Geo's technical capabilities with a cool cyberpunk look and some surprisingly difficult boss battles, but it offers only a taste of the many excellent shooters on the system. King of the Monsters was probably one of the most popular SNK titles amongst what are now called casual players, and while its simple play mechanics and destroy everything motif were seen in Rampage, the game's vastly superior graphics and open-ended environments made for some truly impressive battles between the gigantic combatants. King of the Monsters has held up surprisingly well and it makes a great pick up and play title for gamers looking for a quick burst of action. Fans of the old-school Final Fight style brawler will probably enjoy Burning Fight, which features very familiar play mechanics, though much better visuals than many of the home-console versions could deliver. In a similar, but somewhat strange style is Sengoku, another side-scrolling brawler, but this time you're fighting against hordes of undead samurai on surreal stages that take place both in cities and a kind of strange netherworld, which makes this more interesting than the standard cities most of these titles usually offer. Platform fans will have much to like with Top Hunter, a very interesting and challenging title where you have to change planes and make more strategic moves in order to progress from level to level. A pair of sports games are also included, the arcade-style action of Super Sidekicks 3: the Next Glory makes it fairly easy to play and instantly enjoyable, and this version's excellent graphics and broad selection of teams make it accessible as well. The golf title Neo Turf Masters is also fun, offering some fairly interesting courses, solid visuals and an excellent feel overall that should please casual sports fans.

Wii owners looking for classic gaming action could do worse than this compilation. While many of the games on this disc are also available via the Virtual Console, purchasing them individually would be much more expensive, and less convenient than the single disc purchase. The emulations are nearly flawless for each game, and the relatively speedy load times make the overall experience an enjoyable one. SNK Arcade Classics' broad selection of genres and games allows for plenty of variety, and its use of multiple control configurations lets players choose to play in a casual manner with just the wiimote or go all the way with the classic controller and even an arcade stick. There are several other compilations available on the Wii, but SNK Arcade Classics offers a large range of solid titles at a fair price, making it good choice for those looking for an authentic arcade experience on the Wii.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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