ADK Damashii montage.

SNK on the PlayStation 4 – Part I

Part II can be found here. Click here to check out Part III!

 

Welcome! This is the first part of what will be an ongoing crash course in every SNK game available on the PlayStation 4. SNK has a long legacy of high quality games, and many of them have found their way onto every major game system. Their output on the PlayStation 4 however, is a bit convoluted. There are PlayStation 2 games that are compilations of classic Neo Geo games that have been released on the PlayStation Network as part of Sony’s “PS2 on PS4” library, but there are also games SNK has ported to the PS4 individually. In addition, another publisher, Hamster, has released several SNK games on the PS4 as part of its “Arcade Archives” series internationally. On top of that, there are also PS2 ports of SNK’s Neo Geo arcade games that have been used as the base for new individual ports on the PS4. Even someone already obsessed with SNK’s games won’t be able to find all of these in a single section of the PlayStation Store. With this guide hopefully fans as well as new players will be aware of what awesome SNK games are available and find something new to try out. In this part we’ll be looking at the five games included in ADK Damashii, the overhead shooter Alpha Mission II, and the first installments of the Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury series.

 

Title as it appears on the US PlayStation Network – ADK DAMASHII™
Original Release – PlayStation 2, 2008
US PlayStation Network Release – 2/24/2017
PlayStation Network Price – $14.99

ADK Damashii was originally a very late PS2 release in Japan, and is a bit of a rarity there.1 ADK began life designing hardware rather than software, and was responsible for designing the Neo Geo itself,2 but only a few of their game reached the level of quality of the Neo Geo’s best. Fortunately you get five games for your $14.99. The included titles are Agressors of Dark Kombat,3 Ninja CombatNinja CommandoNinja Master’s: Haoh-Ninpo-Cho,4 Twinkle Star Sprites. It’s a bit of an oddball selection of games from a developer most players only know for Magician Lord and the World Heroes series, but it’s still worth a purchase just for Ninja Master’s and Twinkle Star Sprites. But let’s take a look at all five of those just to be sure. Note that while it’s typically possible to change a Neo Geo game’s language settings, this particular compilation only offers Japanese text.

Original Release – 1994, Neo Geo
US PlayStation Network Release – 2/24/2017
PlayStation Network Price – $14.99 (As a part of ADK Damashii)

The bad hit detection kills any fun this game
might be to play.

ADK has a lot of cool ideals in it, and it’s always fun to play a fighting game where characters can not only throw each other and escape from being thrown, but also reverse these grappling attempts to damage their opponents. One on one fighting games with isometric movement are also pretty rare. This game has a fatal flaw that makes it extremely frustrating to play though, and that’s that if one wants their character to run or dodge in a given direction, they accomplish this by tapping the joystick in that direction once. In fighting games moves like this is typically done by tapping a direction twice or hitting a certain combination of buttons. The result is that in a game where one has line up attacks carefully, trying to make precise movements with the joystick will result in characters hopping and running all over the place. This makes it easier to just walk up to and strike one’s opponent instead of using all of the cool other techniques and background elements found throughout the game. Between that and the small, bland roster the only thing the game has going for it is some occasionally good music and the fact that it inspired this incredible cosplay video.

 

Original Release – 1990, Neo Geo
US PlayStation Network Release – 2/24/2017
PlayStation Network Price – $14.99 (As a part of ADK Damashii)

The scenery is competent but very bland.

I wrote an article for Hardcore Gaming 101 about this game a while ago, and to sum it up I may have loved Ninja Combat as a kid it but it has little to offer today. Since this is a port of a Japanese compilation, you won’t have the English voice overs accompanying the game’s dorky cutscene dialog which significantly lessens the experience. Otherwise Kagerow’s casual delivery of “Yeah, we had trouble with that weird guy.” after defeating a particularly bizarre boss would be worth the price of admission alone. That said, despite its blandness it’s worth running through once to check out the overly dramatic sound  (prepare for lots of dramatic explosions and screams) and some occasionally cool backgrounds.

 

 

Original Release – 1992, Neo Geo
US PlayStation Network Release – 2/24/2017
PlayStation Network Price – $14.99 (As a part of ADK Damashii)

Some Neo Geo fans swear by this game but I never got into it myself. This overhead shooter can be a nice break from the Neo Geo’s many fighting games, but it’s also in the same setting as World Heroes and Ninja Combat. This means players will be treated to a similarly colorful presentation and some fun music. The downside is that it’s also one of the most shameless button mashing quarter-stealing games ever made. It doesn’t seem that way at first, but the boss fights are extremely unreasonable as any attack from them will kill one of our three selectable5 heroes off in two hits. And keep in this the default difficulty presented here has significantly less enemies (and enemy types) present than the higher settings, which are closer to how this game would have played on an actual Neo Geo cabinet, it’s crazy.

The other problem is that unlike other shooters where one can pick up items to give them different weapons, in Ninja Commando power ups just refill a character’s life or build up power to unleash a powerful transformation attack. If one wants to increase the speed or spread of their attacks, the only way to do that is to rapidly mash the A button. The faster you can do it, the better the character’s range of fire! Our heroes each have a few other moves, but these are performed by inputting commands similar to what you’d see in a one on one fighting game. The motions required to perform these are relatively simple, but can be difficult to use effectively while enduring Ninja Commando‘s constant stream of enemies. Fun little touches like the dorky cutscenes, our heroes’ running text commentary on the bottom of the screen and the various “historical” enemy designs and backgrounds are hard to appreciate when almost everything about the game is pretty unfair even by 1992 arcade game standards. Despite all of this, it’s definitely worth blasting through with a friend once for its unique take on history. One fun bit of trivia about this game is that a few of the levels and bosses (along with the game’s time travelling premise) are a remade from a much older ADK overhead shooter called Time Soldiers.

 

Original Release – 1996, Neo Geo
US PlayStation Network Release – 2/24/2017
PlayStation Network Price – $14.99 (As a part of ADK Damashii)

Slickly animated combos await you.

NOW we’re talking, Ninja Master’s is awesome! Don’t let the small character sprites fool you, this is a solid one on one fighting game with good animation, some cool characters, and an awesome soundtrack that uses some samples approximating traditional instruments but also takes things in an industrial direction that perfectly complements the dark ninja action. No really, this is a chiptune as it sounds on hardware created in 1989. On top of that, a year before Mortal Kombat IV did it, every character in this game has a weapon players can wield or sheath at will in the middle of the fight, changing up many of their attacks in the process. Critics weren’t kind to Ninja Master’s when it came out, but that’s because at the time one would have needed to shell out $160 for the game to play it on their $600 Neo Geo. But the game’s presentation and dangerous atmosphere holds up and it’s cheap enough today to make it worth a try for anyone who enjoys fighting games.

 

Original Release – 1996, Neo Geo
US PlayStation Network Release – 2/24/2017
PlayStation Network Price – $14.99 (As a part of ADK Damashii)

Things go from zero to crazy very quickly
in this game.

The last game on this compilation is also the best. It’s the kind of game you don’t see often (or ever), a competitive overhead puzzle shooter. This is a sickeningly saccharine coated game on the surface, but can get quite intense! The screen is split in half, with one player or the computer controlling a character on each side. Formations of enemies fly down at the player, but instead of shooting enemies efficiently just to increase one’s score, doing so also sends extra attacks to the opponent’s side. But don’t worry, revenge comes fast in Twinkle Star Sprites, where if a player can destroy those incoming attacks fast enough, they then get deflected back to the attacking player! These extra projectiles and enemies can build up very quickly, allowing for occasionally sudden turns of fortune that gives Twinkle Star Sprites a Mario Kart 8-esque level of efficiency at destroying friendships. ADK Damashii is worth purchasing just for this game and Ninja Master’s.

 

Title as it appears on the US PlayStation Network – ACA NEOGEO ALPHA MISSION II
Original Release – 1991, Neo Geo
US PlayStation Network Release – 1/10/2017
PlayStation Network Price – $7.99

Compile and Hudson fans will appreciate
the game’s bosses.

NES fans may remember playing the original Alpha Mission6 years ago, but unlike that game and its arcade counterpart Alpha Mission II holds up well with energetic music and some very bright graphics. As an early Neo Geo game, this one also makes some gratuitous but fun use of the systems’s sprite scaling capabilities. What makes this game really awesome though is that it’s a perfect balance between more modern shooters seen in the 90s and the more deliberately paced classics like Xevious. The original Alpha Mission is a bit TOO close to Xevious to be memorable today, but Alpha Mission II is a huge improvement. It preserves the Xevious-like layout of a ship that both fires shots across the screen and can also drop bombs on numerous ground targets to reveal bonus items. But it also offers a nice variety of weapons that change the appearance of the ship as they’re equipped. Definitely worth a look for both new and veteran shooter fans thanks to its presentation and unique placement in the evolution of the genre.

 

Title as it appears on the US PlayStation Network – ACA NEOGEO ART OF FIGHTING
Original Release – 1992, Neo Geo
US PlayStation Network Release – 4/20/2017
PlayStation Network Price – $7.99

The presentation holds up but the controls
just aren’t there.

This is one of those games that made a big splash when it first appeared in arcades thanks to its presentation, but was quickly made obsolete both by its superior sequel and SNK’s many other more refined fighting games released throughout the 90s. The focus on story unfortunately means that players can only control either Ryo Sakazaki or Robert Garcia when playing against the computer. The character designs will seem unimaginative at a glance, but it was rare to see any fighting game at the time with such a focused setting, making it really stand out against an endless wave of Street Figher II clones.7 It also stood out thanks to its much more complex techniques, this was the first fighting game where characters could dash forward, attack multiple times in mid-air, use super moves, and a host of other things taken for granted as standards of the genre today. Despite the great presentation and innovation however, the limited roster and at times inconsistent controls make it harder to recommend today to anyone who isn’t a completist. Hopefully by the time this comes out in the US Hamster will already have ports of Art of Fighting 2 and Art of Fighting 3 in the works, as both are definitely worth checking out.

 

Title as it appears on the US PlayStation Network – ACA NEOGEO FATAL FURY
Original Release – 1991, Neo Geo
US PlayStation Network Release – 1/12/2017
PlayStation Network Price – $7.99

Geese Howard, an incredible fighting game
character, debuts in this game.

As with Art of Fighting, this is a cool series but Fatal Fury: King of Fighters is the worst game in it. Stiff controls and only three playable characters8 make for a game that will get old very fast. It does actually let players fight cooperatively in two on one matches against the computer, but this coop mode is a bit half baked as after just one bout both players will have to defeat each other like in a typical fighting game. The cooperative play is only there because Fatal Fury began life as a sequel to an older SNK fighting game called Street Smart.9 Like Street SmartFatal Fury is more interesting to read about than to actually play. Despite how dated it is, it was a very formative game for how SNK fighters work, with a few of its quirks and visual details still popping up in some SNK games even today. If it were available as part of a compilation it’d be well worth playing through to see all the cool backgrounds that change from round to round – the first fighting game to do this – and hear all of the awesome music. But it’s hard to justify dropping $7.99 on this one since there are much better games with Geese Howard in them.

 

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  1. It’s not even acknowledged on SNK’s official websites!
  2. This 2010 Arcadia Magazine article goes into depth about the Neo Geo’s creation.
  3. The “Kombat” may make you think of Mortal Kombat but the title is actually an acronym of the game’s developer, ADK / Alpha Denshi Kikaku. :)
  4. A game about obsession or just a badly translated title? In the world of SNK it’s both at the same time!
  5. Joe Tiger from Ninja Combat returns along with newcomers Ryu Eagle and Rayar Dragon.
  6. Amusingly in Japan this series is titled ASO: Armored Scrum Object.
  7. Art of Fighting‘s own superficial similarities to Street Fighter II are more understandable, Hiroshi Matsumoto played a very prominent role in the creation of Street FighterArt of Fighting, and several other major fighting games including Street Fighter IV.
  8. If you happen to come across the SNES or Genesis ports, player two can actually use any of the game’s characters in their versus mode.
  9. You can buy Street Smart on the PS3 for like $2.99, it’s not very good but is an interesting glimpse into the pre-Street Fighter II: The World Warrior fighting game.
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Chris Rasa
Chris’ only known functions are learning about video games, watching movies, and writing about both. Much of his published work can be found on Hardcore Gaming 101, where he has worked as a contributing editor since 2004 and, more recently contributed to HG101’s ever growing selection of books.