A few months back, Video System’s Aero Fighters 2 ($3.99) arrived on the mobile Arcade Archives. I found it was a good fit for mobile play in my review, and gave it a hearty recommendation. At the time I noted that it probably wouldn’t be long before Aero Fighters 3 ($3.99) rolled in and, well, here we are. Originally released just over a year after the previous game in the series, Aero Fighters 3 is certainly a more confident game than its predecessor, but is it better?
If I can tie a common thread between all of the NEOGEO’s most popular games, that thread would be named “games you can enjoy playing with a friend”. Some of those games, like Metal Slug and Sengoku 3, were cooperative in nature. Others, like King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown, were competitive games. Some genres lend themselves more naturally to one style or another, of course. Cooperative beat-em-ups make sense. Competitive one-on-one fighters are another natural fit. Twinkle Star Sprites ($3.99) is a rare shoot-em-up that chooses violence between its players, and that’s exactly what makes it so great.
For our younger readers out there, it’s a bit hard to explain just how hot mutants were in the 1990s. Between Marvel’s X-Men hitting soaring heights and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles slicing and dicing their way into the hearts of kids everywhere, there was no better time to have genetic anomalies. It seemed like every company with mutant characters were pushing them forward, and every company without them was making their own. Just the word ‘mutant’ itself was enough to draw attention. So it was perhaps no surprise when SNK introduced Mutation Nation ($3.99) in 1992 for its NEGOGEO system. A beat-em-up filled to the brim with mutants to battle? Sure, why not?
A few weeks back, we took a look at Burning Fight ($3.99), one of SNK’s many early attempts at striking beat-em-up gold on its fledgling NEOGEO platform. It almost shamelessly cribbed from Capcom’s Final Fight, and it was perhaps that lack of thematic individuality that hurt it in the end. Well, no one can accuse Robo Army ($3.99) of not having its own identity. Robot warriors that can beat down their robot enemies with their own arms, and sometimes turn into cars for a while? Yes, I think SNK got to that particular well first.
One of the tough things about being a newcomer to the console manufacturing party is that you generally won’t get a lot of third-party support until you’re well-established. That means you have to carry your system with your own power, filling any and all gaps as needed. The NEOGEO was not a typical platform, of course. Indeed, the home console version was likely of secondary concern to SNK. But even in the arcades, it was selling a platform. If SNK couldn’t provide fresh titles in the genres players wanted on a regular basis, there was always going to be room for another company’s cabinet. It’s a big ask, and it’s a rare company that can handle that kind of demand with grace.
While I have given up on reviewing every single one of these weekly Arcade Archives releases from SNK and Hamster, I will occasionally be popping in for games that I really like. Aero Fighters 2 ($3.99) is one of those games, so here we are. Unlike many of the games we’ve looked at so far, Aero Fighters 2 wasn’t anywhere near the system’s launch window, hitting instead during the middle of the NEOGEO’s most active period on the market. This is also a noteworthy release in that it’s technically one of the relatively small number of third party games for the console, having been created by Video System.
Given the time and place the NEOGEO occupied, it’s surprising that it didn’t have more shoot-em-ups than it did. I mean, I know it had no small number of them, but the number pales next to how many fighting games were on the platform. Blazing Star is one of the better-remembered ones, and the Aero Fighters games certainly had a following. One that came somewhat early in the system’s long life supposedly came by way of some ex-Irem folks, and if that story is true it really shows. Last Resort ($3.99) is a staple of many of SNK’s NEOGEO reissue projects, so it’s not surprise it has also made its way to the mobile Arcade Archives line.
It’s taken a little while, but the final game in Square Enix’s Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster project has arrived. In some ways, it’s the game that people have most been looking forward to in this line. In other ways, there’s been a hint of dread about it. Given the scope of the other Pixel Remasters and the state of the original Final Fantasy VI, this game perhaps stood to benefit the least from this remake. Yet for mobile gamers, it’s not so much about taking the place of the original game but rather the somewhat maligned 2014 remake. That feels like an easier bar to clear, at least.
The first couple of years of the NEOGEO’s life were some of its most interesting ones. Once Street Fighter II hit like a megaton and SNK figured out one-on-one fighters were the way forward, we saw fewer of the odd experiments that characterized the platform’s early life. One of the more successful ones was King of the Monsters ($3.99), a wild fighting/wrestling game featuring giant monsters. It allows players to battle alone, against each other, or against the computer in destructible arenas. Hamster has now brought it to mobile as part of its ACA NEOGEO line, which has certainly seen its swings and misses thus far.
Big Tournament Golf ($3.99), formerly known as NEO Turf Masters, is the first of these releases where I can say it scores as high as possible on both scales. It’s an amazing game, one of the best to grace the NEOGEO hardware. At the time of its release you wouldn’t necessarily have thought a golf game could work in an arcade format, but it sure did. It perfectly rode the line between satisfying depth and accessibility, and its course designs were great fun. And wouldn’t you know it? This is one game designed around button controls that works perfectly well with touch controls.