Review – Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1

The Neo Geo Pocket Color was originally released in 1999, with the insane task of competing against the Game Boy Color (and later on, the Advance) in a time when every single living being had a system just to play Pok√©mon. Suffice to say, despite the impressive hardware and fantastic library of titles, it failed to make an impression. Just like the WonderSwan, the NGPC became an expensive collector’s item, a holy grail for collectors everywhere. Well, if you’re into retro gaming but don’t want to spend nearly four figures for a mint Neo Geo Pocket Color with a handful of games, SNK has a solution for you: the brand new Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 compilation for the Nintendo Switch.

Neo Geo Pocket Color SNK vs Capcom Switch

Sure, there are tons of fighting games in this collection, but this is SNK we’re talking about. They are one of the best in the business.

Developed by Code Mystics, the same people behind the magnificent PS4 remaster of The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match, Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 features ten of the most acclaimed titles released for SNK’s ill-fated portable system. But before you make the most predictable joke of all, no, not all games included in here are arcade fighters… just 60% of them. Hey, they’re all good fighting games, so I’m okay with that!

Let’s begin with the fighting games, as they are the best titles available not only in this collection, but possibly on the Neo Geo Pocket Color as a whole. They all feature the same adorable chibi art style, masterfully adapting their edgy fighting characters into super deformed anime kids, no matter which title you decide to boot up. The crown jewel of the collection is SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium, featuring a jaw-dropping twenty-six fighters (a huge number for portable standards), a wide assortment of modes, and an “easy-to-learn, hard-to-master” control scheme. The system was known for its excellent clicky stick, which made playing fighting games pretty comfortable on-the-go. The Joy-Con’s analog sticks, while not the best Nintendo has created, do a good job translating these commands.

Neo Geo Pocket Collection Boxes

This is all the collection has offer when it comes to extras: polygonal recreations of the original boxes.

Other fighting highlights include King of Fighters R-2 and the NGPC version of The Last Blade, SNK’s even more serious take on Feudal Japan, as if Samurai Shodown wasn’t already enough. To be fair, most of these games play and look the same, varying mostly on their roster and backgrounds, but they are still pretty fun to play. There was a reason the system had so many fighting games in its library: SNK was pretty good at making them.

The other four titles available in the collection, the ones which aren’t fighting games, are also excellent. There are two Metal Slug titles, which were masterfully adapted into a portable system with a small screen and two face buttons. Then there’s the downright pristine golf game Neo Turf Masters, which makes the Game Boy version of Mario Golf look like an Atari 2600 game. Finally, the weirdest game in the entire collection, Dark Arms: Beast Buster, an action RPG revolving around killing zombies and feeding their souls to your guns in order to evolve them. Furthermore, it’s an RPG spinoff of SNK’s initial attempt at competing against Sega’s The House of the Dead series.

This is actually one of the coolest golfing games I’ve played in my life.

All of these games look and play well, considering the system’s limitations. Code Mystics did a good job when porting them, to the point that even the annoying bouts of slowdown were kept intact. It’s a faithful recreation of how the Neo Geo Pocket Color ran back in the day, with an obvious resolution upscale and some additional display options. These include various filters and the option to run the game with a full screen setting, which is the recommended option, as the default setting uses just a fraction of the Switch’s already small screen.

The selection of games is great, but the collection itself isn’t exactly exciting when it comes to extras, as there’s almost nothing else besides the games themselves. There isn’t even music on the main menu. All you’re able to do, besides playing the games, is take a look at the games’ original manuals and a polygonal recreation of the original boxes and cartridges. I wish there was something else to do, such as looking at original concept art of something like that, but I cannot complain. The collection itself is pretty good where it was supposed to do.

If I only know there was a portable Metal Slug back in 2000…

Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 is a fantastic (and cheap) way to play some of the best games available on possibly the best portable system you have never managed to put your hands on. I wish they have added some other cult classics like SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash and Sonic Pocket Adventure, but I’m pretty sure SNK and Code Mystics will eventually release them in a second volume. I for one, will eagerly look forward to it.

 

Graphics: 7.5

All games included in the collection are really colorful and visually appealing, considering the limited hardware. You will need to tinker a bit with the in-game display system, however, as the default display setting is downright horrendous.

Gameplay: 8.5

With the exception of infrequent but annoying bouts of slowdown, all games included in this collection are surprisingly responsive. They have neat control schemes considering the minuscule amount of buttons present on the original handheld.

Sound: 6.5

Besides a completely mute main menu, the rest of the collection is comprised of each game’s original soundtrack. They’re far from bad, but not terribly memorable.

Fun Factor: 8.0

This collection does a pretty good job at showcasing the quality of the Neo Geo Pocket Color’s library, as well as proving that there’s more to it than just fighting games.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 is available now on Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 was provided by the publisher.