SNK’s Neo Geo Pocket Color (NGPC) was a massively underrated handheld system. It was deceptively powerful, had a great battery life, and possessed a satisfying clicky microswitched digital D-pad.
Sadly it didn’t stand a chance against the Game Boy Color, and the imminent arrival of the Game Boy Advance meant it barely lasted a year on the market.
This was before it built up a seriously impressive library of titles though – for what it lacked in quantity the NGPC’s softography made up for in quality. It may well have the biggest hit to miss ratio of any system ever released – some dodgy casino games aside it’s nearly all killer and no filler.
This Switch compilation – including ten of the handheld’s best games – demonstrates that very well indeed. It’s fighting game heavy, but that’s representative of the NGPC’s library as a whole.
Fatal Fury First Contact, Gal’s Fighters, King of Fighters R-2, The Last Blade: Beyond The Destiny, Samurai Showdown 2, and The Match of the Millenium are all massively impressive shrunk down versions of their home console/arcade counterparts.
The fact the NGPC only had two face buttons means they are a bit fiddly to control – and being able to map jump onto a new face button would have been welcome – but any button mashing usually goes unrewarded. Which is always the sign of a tightly designed fighting title.
In terms of the brawlers Match of the Millennium stands out specifically, arguably being the crown jewel in the NGPC’s crown. The number of characters, stages, and modes stuffed into the game is remarkable to this day.
So that leaves four other titles to round off the collection, including the still hugely playable side scrolling shooter Metal Slug First Mission – and its superior sequel Second Mission.
Both of them lack the fluid animation of their grown up iterations, but the fact they’re all new titles and not just ports mean they’re a must play for fans of the series. They capture the spirit of the arcade entries and arguably hold up the best of all ten games in this collection.
Then there’s Big Tournament Golf – which is a more cartoony and simplified version of Neo Turf Masters. It’s actually more charming as its arcade iteration as a result, and plays a very enjoyable and knockabout version of the sport – still holding up well today thanks to its simple but rock solid mechanics.
To round off the collection there’s Dark Arms, definitely the wildcard of the group. An overhead action RPG where you go around blasting away bad guys with a shotgun and capturing spirits for your skeleton boss it’s nothing more than a curio – although its dark sense of humour is definitely welcome.
So the games present are of a generally high quality, and work on a level beyond just throwaway retro curiosities. What’s also pleasing is the presentation, with the team at Code Mystics having clearly put some effort into making sure these titles are treated with the respect they deserve.
Every game’s manual is available to digitally browse through, and you can even play the black and white versions of each title – if such an iteration was ever released of course.
There’s the ability to rewind your session by ten seconds if you make a costly mistake too, although there are no multiple save states to use – which is a bit of a strange option to omit.
What is welcome though is the option to play most of the games with a second player via just one Switch system. Due to the NGPC’s small amount of buttons you can play tabletop style, with each player holding one end of the console. It’s a superb addition, although it is inevitably a bit of a fudge to use when it comes to the fighting titles.
So ultimately we can’t fault Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1, aside from the fact that it could have perhaps added a few more titles – or swapped in a couple that weren’t brawlers, such as Faselei! or the superlative Card Fighters Clash games. Hopefully those will arrive in Volume 2 though.
The price is fair considering these games in physical form will set you back a pretty penny nowadays, meaning this is a collection that’s worth investigating for those who are curious about a cult classic handheld – or are just looking for a blast of sweet nostalgia.