Samurai Shodown NeoGeo Collection Eclipses other compilations
Another sterling effort solidifies Digital Eclipse as "the best at this"
It might be heresy in some ways, but I only want Digital Eclipse to make retro compilations from now on. Yes, yes, blah blah blah, M2. Whatever. In recent years, the best examples of the neglected art of putting a bunch of games in a Big Thing of Games have all come from Digital Eclipse, if you ask me. The first Mega Man Legacy Collection, which established a template so good that Capcom reused it wholesale for their following Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero/ZX releases. The astonishing Disney Afternoon Collection, which gave us a clutch of titles that hadn't graced consoles since their original bow - not to mention a brilliant clutch of rare production art. Ditto their Disney Classics: Aladdin & The Lion King, an astonishing package that showcased a new way to present the "stories" of the production of classic videogames, almost like an interactive museum. Those particular Disney games don't do a lot for me - and nor did much of the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection - but they demonstrate that the actual games on offer aren't as important to me as the collection and archiving of all that supplementary material.
Samurai Shodown NeoGeo Collection is, from my personal perspective, not far different. I have no real experience with Samurai Shodown; a vested interest in SNK, and knowledge of some of the major characters thanks to crossovers such as SNK vs Capcom: SVC Chaos or NeoGeo Battle Coliseum, but no real understanding of the actual mechanics or gameplay. It's a fighting game series, yes, with weapons and something called slash/bust... and there are items in some of the games. It's not really good enough, is it? But then, with Digital Eclipse packages, my interest is in the museum content, and the approach here is as exhaustive as ever.
Booting the game gives you "Arcade" and "Museum" options right there, giving the two sides of the package equal billing. Deservedly, because I leapt straight into "Museum", and was met with an incredible amount of fascinating content; concept/production art from every game in the series, and I mean every game. This collection includes the original Samurai Shodown thru the newly-completed revision Samurai Shodown V Perfect for a total of seven games, but the museum covers every single game that's even tangentially related to the series - there's art from the likes of Quiz King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown 64 - even the related art from SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash is included. It's absolutely incredible to me just how exhaustive this high-resolution treasure trove is, and that's just the first option in the Museum. Selecting "Characters" lets you pick a fighter from each game's roster and browse even more art, sorted by game. There's so much care, time and effort gone into this that I've spent more time here than I have playing the games!
There are hours of video interviews with artists, designers, directors. A feature that lets you play the music from any game you please. A huge archive of behind the scenes info, design documents, and unreleased tidbits (most interestingly, something called Chou Samurai Spirits Cyber crops up, which seems to feature the likes of Haohmaru in mecha form - Google yielded nothing!). Videos of pro matches are included, so you can study them in the eternal pursuit of Being Good At Games.
Honestly, I've never seen a more extensive, exhaustive, thoroughly brilliant set of extra material in a retro compilation. This feels above and beyond even the previous sterling efforts of Digital Eclipse, and that's without even taking into account the usual excellent emulation, option to change the game's region, and online play for each of the included titles.
Me, though? I barely even play the games (as good as they are!) - I just look at the amazing Museum section. I can't even imagine not buying every Digital Eclipse collection if they're going to keep this standard up. An absolutely sterling effort.
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher. All screenshots taken from the Nintendo Switch version in handheld mode.