Ads are gone. We're using Patreon to raise funds so we can grow. Please pledge support today!
Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All
SNK Arcade Classics: Vol. 1 (PSP) artwork

SNK Arcade Classics: Vol. 1 (PSP) review


"Magician Lord is still gorgeous. Its backdrops are utterly otherworldly; its foregrounds brim with fantasy book life. Long-armed, bipedal beasts and gaggles of skeletons patrol the outer realms framed by unearthly mountain range and sky. Leap-deterring, hovering spheres; amorphous, wall-hugging gelatin; and spinning eyeballs actually seem alien -- not your garden variety projectile-spitters."



I trembled with anticipation when I heard this game was coming my way. Yes, trembled. My excitement was mostly due to just one game in particular -- which is remarkable, considering the collection includes sixteen. That special game is Magician Lord. The idea of playing this game on the go -- hell, the idea of simply playing this game again, brought tears of joy to my eyes. Well, almost. I used to gorge the Neo Geo arcade cabinet across the street from my house with scores of quarters, primarily to make headway in this gorgeous and difficult action platformer, and now I’d be able to recapture its majesty anywhere I chose -- on the subway, in bed, in the john.

I stopped trembling when the game arrived and started playing the collection’s killer app right away. And Magician Lord is still gorgeous. Its backdrops are utterly otherworldly; its foregrounds brim with fantasy book life. Long-armed, bipedal beasts and gaggles of skeletons patrol the outer realms framed by unearthly mountain range and sky. Leap-deterring, hovering spheres; amorphous, wall-hugging gelatin; and spinning eyeballs actually seem alien -- not your garden variety projectile-spitters. Music is at once raucous and thunderous and sinister and the best I’ve heard on the system; and the poor English voiceovers are forgivable, as their kitsch value lends some surcease to the inexorable intensity the pace of the game brings to bear.

Magician Lord takes itself very seriously. It impresses upon us early and often that it’s like nothing we will ever play, simplicity be damned. And it is a simple, 2-button affair: Elta, the frustratingly frail magician must jump and shoot his way through eight zones of mounting evil to recover the books of wisdom stolen by Gal Agiese in his bid to resurrect the evil god Az Atorse. The mechanics are simpler than Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, but it is far more punishing than even that notoriously difficult game. This is mainly due to the prevalence of two crippling flaws: Elta’s weapons are too weak, and his invincibility window after taking damage is too small. While he can transmogrify into a Samurai or a Shinobi (among other forms) -- the experiences are fleeting both because they are timed, and because you'll very quickly take a hit and its back to everyday-Elta for you.

It's a trying time to be sure, but the dramatic level titles ("Highway Leading to a Foreign Space"), the taunts from the omniscient gatekeeper to the boss areas ("What imprudence, you human being! Face your trial by God!"), and the general unfairness seem an inseparable part of Magician Lord’s blueprint. I still manage to love this game, much as I despise it for what is unequivocally broken.

Consider this a tale of two reviews, as I begin part two, which would be labeled "And then there’s the rest". Beyond the uncommon phenomenon that is Magician Lord, this compilation is mostly about old one-on-one fighting games -- the early efforts which spawned franchises: Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, King of Fighters ‘94, Samurai Showdown, and World Heroes. None of these games are very good by today’s standards, featuring very limited gameplay mechanics, slow battles and simplistic graphics. For example, Andy Bogard of Fatal Fury can run roughshod over his enemies by doing just one move over and over, and it’s fairly simple to pull off. The real draw here is that these games are where it all began for Terry Bogard and his ilk -- if that matters to you. Also, if you’re not a fighting game fanatic and can’t keep up with the ever-evolving finger gymnastics necessary to plays today’s games, you may enjoy this kind of basic three-button fare. Everyone else will move on quickly.

There is also representation from a different genre featuring fisticuffs: beat-em-up games in the vein of Final Fight. There's not much to cheer about here though -- Sengoku's badness is only outdone by its weirdness. A red leather jacket-clad tough guy strutting around in knee pads wielding swords, takes on medieval themed Japanese warriors-cum-garishly coloured aliens -- sometimes on the streets, sometimes in... heaven. After a go at Sengoku, the very pedestrian Burning Fight is a pleasure to play. But only then.

The unevenness of the package finds an upside with two shooters. Metal Slug hardly needs an introduction, and while the original has been bettered since its arrival on the scene, it's still a blast to play. Last Resort isn't. But to be fair, this tough R-Type wannabe was never completely execrable; and it's a good deal more approachable in the handheld format, with the compilation-wide selectable difficulty and the end-of-level save function.

Rounding out the notable titles are several sports games which lend themselves especially to the handheld format. I enjoyed playing the Neo Turf Masters golf game, which has a surprising amount of depth to it. The controls are tight, and the difficulty is just right; winning a tournament actually elicited some fist pumping from me. Super Sidekicks 3, the included soccer game, seemed a bit too arcadey for its own good, offering up extremely short halves such that scoring is difficult; and scoring is necessary to move on in the game, as a tie will ensure a visit to the continue screen. The race to score quickly seems is at odds with the sport’s deliberate, chess match nature, but the game is a decent distraction nonetheless. Less enjoyable was Baseball Stars 2, which featured muscular characters and counterintuitive fielding -- a forgettable title at best.

All in all, Magician Lord on-the-go is enough to earn my recommendation. The fact that there's a lot more here -- not all of it good, but still, a lot more here -- should earn SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1 an enthusiastic thumbs up, right? Not exactly. The PSP has always been known for slow load times, but it gets a bit ridiculous with this collection. It takes ages just to exit games and return to the title screen, a big turn-off with any game, but especially considering how the unreasonable delays sit at odds with the frantic, pick-up-and-play appeal of old school games. The loading annoys me so much at times, that I toss the PSP aside for awhile. But then I remember how good a round of golf is on the can; I remember where I left off in Metal Slug. And I remember Elta.

Rating: 7/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (June 20, 2008)

A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.

More Reviews by Marc Golding
My Hero (Sega Master System) artwork
My Hero (Sega Master System)

You play the role of The Hero, but you look like Edward Carnby, specifically from Alone in the Dark 2, right down to the blue leisure suit and pitiful death sequences. You are the strapping, golden-domed captain of the football team, enjoying a sunset with your prudish girlfriend on the beach, besotting her with...
Silent Hill HD Collection (Xbox 360) artwork
Silent Hill HD Collection (Xbox 360)

I am not enamoured of any two old games slapped together (just Silent Hill 2 and 3 in this case) being called a “collection” in the first place, especially given how easily Silent Hill 4: The Room (of the same ‘era’) could have been included for more value if not quality. Moreover, the third instal...
Silent Hill: Downpour (Xbox 360) artwork
Silent Hill: Downpour (Xbox 360)

Some might argue that the canon was lost once it left the hands of its original developers; since that time it has been passed from studio to studio, each with ingenuous intentions of making the first ‘next gen’ standout. Regrettably, that still hasn’t happened.

Feedback

If you enjoyed this SNK Arcade Classics: Vol. 1 review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
Felix_Arabia posted June 23, 2008:

I thought this was a nice read that did a good job explaining the ups and downs for a compilation of games I'm not too familiar with. I did notice a few little typos, though. Check your fourth, seventh, and eighth paragraphs. Other than that, I came out satisfied in reading what you had written. You need to review Yoshi's Island soon!

BTW, EmP told me to tell you on a public forum that you're a beautiful man.
board icon
Masters posted June 23, 2008:

I submitted the wrong copy apparently. Thanks for letting me know, and for reading.
board icon
EmP posted June 23, 2008:

You’re a big, silly Canadian for sitting on this one for so long.

I think you do a good job here of telling the reader what they need to know on each game without dwelling on them too long. You quickly highlight the package’s gem and then waste no words on the obligatory scroll through the rest. I like the old-school fighters more than you, but you can’t be blamed for that. I would have liked to have known a bit more about how some of these games handle on a PSP, but I know which would interest me and, more importantly, why the ones that probably wouldn’t wouldn’t. Tough review to write, but you covered it well.

TYPO?

I’m not sure of the phrase, but isn’t it ‘on the john’ rather than ‘in the john’? Could be wrong -- I don’t know!
board icon
Masters posted June 23, 2008:

THANKS EMP! Haha. You were a FOOL to sit on this feedback for so long. :P Kidding. Thanks for this. I think it's "in the john" around these here parts. =D

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Site Policies & Ethics | Contact | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. SNK Arcade Classics: Vol. 1 is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to SNK Arcade Classics: Vol. 1, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.