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.
It seems as though we’re rolling along with the ACA NEOGEO releases. Hamster keeps a weekly schedule on other platforms, and that could be what will happen here. That means you’ll be getting a lot of opinions on NEOGEO games from me in the future, I suppose. Today we’ll be looking at Shock Troopers ($3.99), a 1997 top-down shooter that came during a time when the genre was a bit on the wane. This ACA NEOGEO version comes in a similar package as the previous releases, which we already know to be a good thing.
Unlike the Metal Slug series, SNK’s popular Samurai Shodown hasn’t seen much representation on mobile. A bit over eight years ago, Dotemu did a mobile version of Samurai Shodown II for SNK. A solid choice, as it tends to be the most popular installment. As part of its opening line-up of mobile Arcade Archives, Hamster has opted to bring us Samurai Shodown IV ($3.99), another series favorite.
Historically speaking, SNK isn’t shy about spreading its NEOGEO catalog around. Even when the console was active, ports of SNK’s biggest hits made their way to other consoles. Mobile devices have seen their fair share of NEOGEO love from SNK, largely through a line of releases handled by Dotemu. Still, that’s nothing compared to what we’ve seen on consoles and PC from Hamster through its Arcade Archives line. The company has managed to get just about every NEOGEO game possible up on those platforms, and it seems it’s bringing its show to our mobile shores.
Of the three games that Hamster has selected for its initial spate of Arcade Archives releases, Alpha Mission II ($3.99) is the oddball of the bunch. Metal Slug and Samurai Shodown are both iconic franchises that were born on the NEOGEO, endured through its lifetime, and still see new releases in some form or another today. Alpha Mission II, on the other hand, is a sequel to a modestly successful 1985 shoot-em-up that dropped in the NEOGEO’s first year and served as the franchise’s final chapter. A decent game, but not the sort to appear in a list of the console’s best.