There are a lot of reasons to get SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for the Nintendo Switch. Some people might want a lot of classic games on hand at once. Those into game preservation may appreciate how it shows how SNK grew as a company. But a major highlight here is the inclusion of Crystalis. This is one of SNK’s few meatier games, as it is an action-RPG that requires you to get better weapons, learn to use magic, and complete various challenges as you attempt to save the world.
What is really cool about Crystalis are the directions the story takes. Since some people might be playing this game for the first time, due to it originally appearing on the NES, then the Game Boy Color, I am going to avoid spoilers. But let’s just say that the world “ended” on October 1, 1997, but your avatar wakes up from some futuristic chamber in a cave outside of what seems to be a medieval, fantasy town. Monsters abound, magic is a thing, but people called Sages seem to be well aware of who you are and claim you are some sort of chosen one who will save the day. Given that is exactly what you are going to get the chance to do, they aren’t wrong!
An important thing to remember when playing Crystalis is that while this was revolutionary for the time, it will require people playing it now to think about how such games were played in the old days. The objectives might seem simple, but you often have to pay attention to things said by NPCs, carry out actions in a certain order, and level grind a bit to get the items you need. The very first few steps in the game offer a good example of how the game works.
Let’s go through the first few steps of the game, as an example. Once you awaken and enter the town of Leif, you have to visit a few people before you can even think about leaving town. One person in the upper right-most house has $100 for you, and the chief in the house in the upper left corner will give you your first sword. (It is the Sword of Wind.) If you don’t pay attention here, you won’t get the hint that the Windmill operator has a habit of sleeping and slacking off, and that an Alarm Flute can wake up anyone. From here, you need to spend $50 on the one-time use flute at the item shop. Then, you need to visit the Sage Zebu in the cave in the West. If you don’t, the windmill operator won’t appear in the cave that leads to the windmill. All of these steps are building to your unlocking the Refresh spell, acquiring the Ball of Wind, and defeating the first boss.
As with all the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection games, there are some special features here. I recommend going to the input customization option and changing confirm to A right away. It is set for B at the start, and that can get very frustrating when visiting shops or equipping items. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help with other confusing control options. Want to save in-game? Bring up the item menu in a town or on the overworld map, then press the + button to bring up the save screen. But then, you can press the – button to bring up the options menu that lets you make a single save state. There are filter options and you can have a border around the screen.
I found the rewind option is most helpful here, though. Since this is a The Legend of Zelda-style action-RPG, you have an idea of where attacks would land or where hitboxes are after making an attempt or taking a hit. Also, if the hero loses all of his health, there is a bit of an extended death scene. Both of these can be exploited by pressing and holding rewind to get to the point before that hit, noting where you shouldn’t go, and hopefully doing something different the next time around.
As for bonus content, Crystalis has a little bit to offer people. There are a few pictures showing preliminary character designs for characters and opponents. We can listen to its 28-track soundtrack. The timeline entry offers a look at different areas of the game, talks about design decisions when making the Japanese box art, reminds people that characters like Athena Asamiya, Clark, and Ralf appear in the game, and notes that a Game Boy Color port with some major changes to it exists.
I would say Crystalis is the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection’s must-play game. While a game like Athena is interesting, due to the way it handles equipment and its differences between the arcade and console versions, Crystalis matters because SNK did not make many games like it and it is a pretty complex NES game. There is a lot to do here and, while it may take people some time to adjust to some of its design choices, it is very enjoyable even now. I would say it does a good job of withstanding the test of time.
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection will release on Nintendo Switch in North America on November 13, 2018 and in Europe on November 16, 2018.