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.
SNK fans probably know the company’s tumultuous history, but the short version is that the company hit some financial skids in the late 1990s and got bought up by a pachinko company named Aruze. That company was mainly interested in using their newly-acquired brands for their pachinko business, but they did continue to manage the NEOGEO platform. Some new games in the more popular NEOGEO franchises were outsourced to mixed results, things went badly, and SNK’s former owner managed to buy most of the company’s assets back. Largely a happy ending, for a while.
So far in the new mobile ACA NEOGEO line, we’ve seen a decent mix of games released. Some popular titles, some not so well-known. Some great games, some a little more average. Some that suit touch controls, and others not so much. A couple of them are the best of all worlds. But with the release of Puzzled ($3.99), I believe we have our first “worst of all worlds” situation. Even with the generally excellent work Hamster does on these releases, there’s only so much that can be done for some games.
SNK’s NEOGEO platform played host to a great many classics, both famous and under-the-radar. The Metal Slug games. The King of Fighters series. Magician Lord. Shock Troopers. Sengoku 3. NEO Turf Masters. Fatal Fury. Samurai Shodown. Twinkle Star Sprites. Blazing Star. Truly, the system was a treasure trove of arcade experiences that kept players coming back again and again, and still do. And then there are NEOGEO games like Zed Blade ($3.99). Almost entirely unremarkable. Eminently forgettable. The nicest thing you could say about it is that it’s serviceable. Nevertheless, it’s the latest ACA NEOGEO release on mobile from SNK and Hamster.
The Mana series has had a complicated history in the West, and it’s one that we’ve gone over to varying degrees in articles about other Mana games. It’s a tale of confusing branding, lightning caught in a bottle, tough business choices, and a creative team that seemed to perpetually have different ideas than what its fans may have hoped. While the series would continue for many installments after, all of that appeared to come to an unfortunate head with the Western release of Legend of Mana ($27.99) on the PlayStation.
The latest release in SNK and Hamster’s new mobile Arcade Archives NEOGEO line is one of the launch titles for the NEOGEO itself: NAM-1975 ($3.99). While the console would come to be known mostly for its fighting games and the Metal Slug series of run-and-gun games, things were less obvious at the start. A scatter-shot spread of nine games in various genres arrived with the NEOGEO when it hit in 1990, and one of the clear favorites of the bunch was this very game. A gallery shooter set in the Vietnam War, NAM-1975 offered plenty of action for one or two players.