Your brother has been selected to be a sacrifice, and that’s not something that sits right with you. In you go after him, without so much as a weapon by your side. Probably not your best plan. Well, at least the dungeon is only… 100 levels deep. And these aren’t like the floors of your local dying shopping mall, either. Each one has at least one way to kill you, and most have a few. Sometimes you’ll be quickly dodging around fireball traps activated by pressure plates. Other times you’ll be doing the combat dance with some goblins. Most monsters can kill you in a single swipe, so you’ll have to be light on your feet. Luckily there are a few traps you can use to your own advantage if you play things right.
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.
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.