Every month a smattering of classic Neo Geo games comes to modern consoles thanks to Hamster Corporation's Arcade Archives program, but some of the system's most unique and unusual games have yet to make the leap.
Image credit: Christian Södergren
I pour over the lists of upcoming games every week and I know full well how easy it is to write-off a new release when "ACA" appears in the title. If you've played any of the recent ones like Super Baseball 2020 or World Heroes, however, you quickly learn they're worth taking seriously.
In porting the games to modern consoles, Hamster has done its homework, trying to recreate the games' classic arcade experience rather than simply emulating the code that eventually made it into the eventual Neo Geo cartridge aimed at home audiences.
The list of ACA Neo Geo games has been growing for a couple years now, but there are still plenty that haven't yet been re-released. While I'm not biased (humble brag: I have access to every current platform), it would be especially great to be able to play any of the following on my Switch.
A side-scrolling shooter, Cyber-Lip falls somewhere between being a Metal Slug clone and a Contra rip-off that nevertheless achieves its own unique blend of punk irreverence and chaotic sci-fi. Can horror punk be its own sub-genre? If so, Cyber-Lip fits the category perfectly. How else to describe an unpolished 2D shooter whose controls are sub-par and whose final boss is literally a pair of, wait for it, cyber lips.
FIFA and Pro Evo Soccer have perhaps never been better at what they do, but I can't help but feel like soccer video games have left lots of interesting alternatives on the table in their pursuit of big name licenses, realistic facial ticks and complex physics. Soccer Brawl has none of those things. It's cyborgs kicking the hell out of a ball and rarely hitting the back of the net in the process. There are no fouls though, making it feel like soccer augmented by the brutal logic of a 2D fighting game. There's no telling when Nintendo will revive Super Mario Strikers. I'd be willing to settle for Soccer Brawl.
Long before Housemarque had taken over the voxelised twin-stick shooter space, a small Japanese outfit called Aicom developed Viewpoint, a game where you collect power-ups and fight giant enemy crabs while a wall of fire chases you from behind. It was popular enough that it got ported to the PS1 and was at one point even planned for the Nintendo 64. It had a solid campaign and the game's look still holds up, but more than anything the game stands out to this day for its fantastic soundtrack, which made fluctuating between funk, 90s lounge muzak, and synthy techno feel completely natural.
A first person fantasy adventure game that plays like Punch-Out!!, there weren't many games like Crossed Swords at the time and there haven't been many since. Also more giant enemy crabs. There's even a co-op component, since Crossed Swords began as an arcade game. There's something beautiful in how garish it looks, like a perfect distillation of the cover art for a million fantasy paperbacks you never got around to reading.
The Super Spy
OK, remember how I said Crossed Swords was totally unique? Well The Super Spy is somewhat similar, but with the trappings of a late 80s action movie. Instead of goblins and crabs you fight brightly dressed terrorists, kind of like if Arnold Schwarzenegger spent all of Commando fighting people cosplaying as the Foot Clan instead of generic South American rebels. Unlike Crossed Swords, however, The Super Spy, for obvious reasons, also includes guns.
Mad scientists. Exploding labs. Biological experiments. Mutation Nation has it all. While as a side-scrolling beat 'em up it looks a lot like hundreds of other games, Mutation Nation benefits from a plethora of Running Man-inspired enemy designs that make each level feel like specific and unique rather than a prolonged brawl with a bunch of repetitive randos. Plus there are power-ups that you can unleash, not unlike in the X-Men arcade game, that help break up the monotony that plagued so many other beat 'em ups of the same era.
Legend of Success Joe
This last one is a game I've never actually played, or seen anyone else play. It was never released outside of Japan, and for good reason. Joe might have been successful, along with the manga he was based on, but the game he headlined was not, widely regarded as one of the worst ever put out on the system. So it's morbid curiosity driving this pick, rather than quality, nostalgia, or the likelihood of it actually ever happening. It's a boxing game but also a classic beat 'em up, with fights taking place inside the ring and out on the streets, making it like the Rocky V of video games in more ways than one. Legend of Success Joe is a disaster we should all be able to get our hands on.