In the year of 1998, SNK, known for its arcade systems, decided to venture into the world of handheld consoles. They came out with the NeoGeo Pocket, a monochrome system that was met with less than ideal sales, being released at the same time as the more vibrant Game Boy Color. The next year they released the Neo Geo Pocket Color to compete with the Game Boy Color. While the console didn’t enjoy the same success that the Game Boy did, it spanned a total of 82 games, many of which were well acclaimed such as SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash and Sonic Pocket Adventure.
The NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 offers 10 of those 82 games, from franchises such as King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, Metal Slug, and more. The rise in retro games getting scalped has made it nigh on impossible for many to enjoy these classics, especially for a console as niche as the NeoGeo Pocket Color. Through the NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1, many, including me, can experience these games for the first time, and that too in a manner that is faithful to playing it on the handheld itself.
All Bundled Up
The NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1, while dominantly made of up fighting games, features a good mix of genres to choose from.
The fighting games consist of King of Fighters R2, The Last Blade, Fatal Fury First Contact, SNK Gals Fighters, and Samurai Shodown 2. You’re probably thinking “That’s a lot of fighting games for a handheld console,” and you would be right. A little fun fact about the NeoGeo Pocket Color is that it had, what was dubbed as, a ‘clicky stick’ style joystick. Whenever the joystick hit one of the 8 directions it could go, it produced a satisfying ‘click’ noise, and this was designed primarily in mind for all the fighting games the console would boast.
While a lot of these fighting games feel a little similar, they each have their own quirks. For example, The Last Blade, a game that takes place in the Bakumatsu era of Japan, allows you to choose between a Speed build and a Power build for your character. Another game that I’d never heard of before but was pleasantly surprised by was SNK Gals Fighters, an all-girls fighting game where SNK’s female fighters duke it out in the Queen of Fighters tournament. Female characters in fighting games were incredibly sparse and an all-girls fighting game was completely unheard of. It played just like Fatal Fury First Contact but was more bubbly and charming.
From the selection of action games, you have Darks Arms: Beast Buster, Metal Slug 1st Mission, and Metal Slug 2nd Mission, all of which are spin-offs of their original titles. Dark Arms: Beast Buster presented an interesting weapon system. You upgrade your weapon by feeding it the enemies you’ve killed and can evolve them with seeds and turn them into hybrid weapons. The characters and gothic aesthetic give it a certain appeal, but the translation is wonky and riddled with grammatical errors, and the combat isn’t the most enticing thing in this day and age.
The Metal Slug titles for the NeoGeo Pocket Color play quite the original ones with their run-and-gun style combat. Metal Slug 2nd Mission ended up being a lot more graphically impressive than its prequel and had a lot more detail going on with its backgrounds and sprite work. It even has a little bit of voice acting. Although shoot ‘em ups aren’t exactly my style, I ended up playing a fair bit of both games and enjoyed picking up new weapons and blasting enemies while riding a tank.
Initially an arcade game, Crush Roller is part of the many games ported to the NeoGeo Pocket Color. It’s like Pac-Man but instead of eating dots, you paint the whole maze. A cute yet annoying addition is the aptly named Irksters, adorable creatures which appear at every level and make footsteps all over your hard work. If you catch them you get bonus points. Additionally, the ones that you find at every level can be viewed in your collection. Basically, Pac-Man but cute and vibrant. What’s not to like?
Last, but definitely not least, is Big Tournament Golf. My only experience with golf video games has been in the form of Wii Sports, so it’s not like I have a ton to compare it to, but I was impressed with this pocketable form of golf. There’s a number of golf clubs to choose from, wind to take into account, and rivers and lakes running through the golf courses. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from golf on a handheld, but I was pleasantly surprised with all the mechanics put into it.
Now In Color!
The actual emulator itself has an impressive number of features, with the ability to switch between the various NeoGeo Pocket Color console colors or just have the screen itself, and a filter for the screen to give it more of that old-school feel. You can even toggle the color on and off if you like the monochrome look on the games. There’s even the rewind feature most retro emulators have now. That being said though, I would have appreciated multiple save slots for the games built into the emulator, like the NES and SNES libraries on the Switch.
My favorite addition was probably, the inclusion of the scanned original manuals for all the games, pretty neat considering the art for some of these games is top-notch. You can also view the 3D models of the games’ boxes and cartridges. It would have been a lot more convenient if the manuals could be viewed at the side when playing the game. Having to pause the game, flip through the manual, looking at the combo inputs, going back, and then unpausing was quite the chore when playing through the fighting games.
The NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 supports not just local co-op, but also Steam Remote Play. Although, both players will need to use the same input method because the emulator won’t register both at the same time for some reason. So, one player can’t play from their keyboard while the other uses their controller.
All-in-all, the NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 is a pretty sweet deal with 10 games to choose from, and is a must-have if you’re a fan of classic fighting games. Even if you’re a fan of retro games or missed out on the NeoGeo when it was around, I’d recommend picking it up and giving it a whirl.
TechRaptor reviewed NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 on PC with a code provided by the publisher. The collection is also available on Nintendo Switch.
- Good variety of fighting games, as well as other genres
- Lots of customization options for the emulator
- Original manuals, game boxes, and cartridges can be viewed
- Multiple save slots for games aren't available
- Emulator UI needs some work