Review – Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1

The Neo Geo Pocket Color was originally released in 1999 with the insane mission of competing with the Game Boy Color (and later the Advance) at a time when every living thing owned a console designed solely for playing Pokémon. Needless to say, despite the impressive setting and fantastic library of titles, it was unimpressive. Like the WonderSwan, the NGPC has become an expensive collector’s item, a grail for collectors around the world. If you love retro games, but don’t feel like spending nearly four figures on a brand new Neo Geo Pocket Color with a handful of games, SNK has a solution for you: a brand new Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 compilation for Nintendo Switch.

Sure, there are a lot of fighting games in this collection, but we’re talking SNK here. They are among the best in the business.

Developed by Code Mystics, the same people behind the excellent PS4 remaster of 2002’s King of Fighters: Unlimited Coincidence, Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 contains ten of the most popular games released for SNK consoles. But before you make the most predictable joke of all, no, not all the games listed here are arcade fighters….. only 60% of them. Hey, they’re all good at fighting, so I don’t mind!

Let’s start with the fighting games, because they’re the best ones out there, not just on this collection, but probably on the Neo Geo Pocket Color in general. They all share the same charming chibi art style that masterfully transforms their punky fighting characters into super misshapen anime children, no matter which title you choose. The jewel of the collection is the SNC v. Capcom: The Millennium Game, with twenty-six fighters (a huge number for a handheld), a wide range of modes, and an operating system that is easy to learn, but difficult to master. The console was known for its excellent snap stick, which made fighting games on the go very easy. The analog Joy-Con sticks may not be Nintendo’s best, but they manage to implement these controls well.

This is all the collection has to offer: a polygonal replica of the original boxes.

Other highlights include King of Fighters R-2 and the NGPC version of The Last Blade, an even more serious look at SNK’s feudal Japan, as if Samurai Shodown wasn’t enough. It’s fair to say that most of these games play the same way and look the same, they differ mainly in composition and origin, but they’re still pretty fun to play. There was a reason why there were so many fighting games in the console’s library: SNK made them well.

The other four games in the collection that are not fighting games are also excellent. Two Metal Slug titles are masterfully adapted to a portable system with a small screen and two buttons up front. There’s also a totally new golf game called Neo Turf Masters that makes the Game Boy version of Mario Golf look like an Atari 2600 game. Finally, the strangest game in the entire collection, Dark Arms: Beast Buster, an action RPG that consists of killing zombies and giving their souls to your weapons to upgrade them. It’s also an RPG grenade from SNK’s first attempt to compete with Sega’s House of the Dead series.

This is actually one of the coolest golf games I’ve ever played.

All of these games look and play well, given the limitations of the system. Code Mystics has done a good job with the port, so even the annoying delays have been preserved. It is a faithful reproduction of the Neo Geo Pocket Color from the past, with a much higher resolution and some additional screen options. These include various filters and the ability to run the game in full screen, a recommended option as the default setting only uses part of the Switch’s already small screen.

The selection of games is excellent, but the collection itself isn’t really exciting as far as additional games go, as there isn’t much other than the games themselves. There’s not even any music in the main menu. All you can do besides play is look at the original game manuals and polygonal reconstructions of the original boxes and cartridges. I wish there was something else, like seeing the original concept art for something like this, but I can’t complain. The collection itself is pretty good, where it should have been.

If only I had known there was a portable Metal Slug in the year 2000….

Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 is a fantastic (and cheap) way to play some of the best games available on perhaps the best handheld you’ve ever owned. I wish they would add another cult classic, like SNK vs Capcom: Card Fighters Clash and Sonic Pocket Adventure, but I’m sure SNK and Code Mystics will release them in a second volume at some point. In any case, I’m looking forward to it.

All the games in the collection are really colorful and visually appealing considering the limited material. You have to think about the game’s display system though, because the default display setting is terrible. With the exception of an occasional but annoying slow-motion battle, all the games in this collection are surprisingly responsive. Considering the small number of buttons on the original PDA, the layout of the controls is decent.
Aside from the fact that the main menu is completely off, the rest of the collection consists of the original soundtracks for each game. They’re far from bad, but they’re not particularly memorable. This collection shows well the quality of the Neo Geo Pocket Color library and proves that the Neo Geo is not limited to fighting games.
Last block : 8.0

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

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

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