Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1
Introducing The King of Neo Geos
Originally released in the summer of 1999, the Neo Geo Pocket Color was a "blink and you missed it" ordeal during its launch. One of the major core reasons for its downfall was the very limited support the handheld had. It was only available in the states for a year until support was discontinued. At the time, SNK was going through severe financial troubles and the unfortunate downfall of the NGPC was a result of it. It was an ambitious handheld with multiple launch titles, specifications that gave the Game Boy Color a run for its money, and it felt nice to hold as well.
At least one title that debuted on the console, specifically SNK vs Capcom Card Fights Clash, would receive a sequel on the DS known as Card Fighters DS. While Capcom and Sega released Mega Man and Sonic games on the console, the latter being the precursor to Sonic Advance, SNK had released several notable titles. While the majority of the titles featured in the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection are "portable ports" of existing IPs, at least three are unique to the NGPC. As usual, I've played each of the ten games featured here with my thoughts on all ten games.
Big Tournament Golf + Presentation
The packaging for Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1 is charming both in-game and physically courtesy of Limited Run Games. The packaging is colorful and includes a manual featuring each game within the collection. In the main menu, as the player selects a game they will be greeted with an option to view a 3D box art of the game itself. The NGPC box is fully 3D, complete with a model viewer and a 1:1 recreation of the box itself. This also comes included with the game cartridge and regional differences, including a full manual. SNK really went above and beyond to ensure players owned digital copies of these titles and it's a great gesture.
Big Tournament Golf is the Neo Geo Pocket Color handheld port of Neo Turf Masters, an arcade golf game originally released in 1996. For each of the games that are "ports," expect to see this a lot. Rather than rely on realistic art, NGPC titles instead opt for a cartoony look. The gameplay is also simplified from its arcade counterpart, using only two buttons instead of four. My only real complaint is that it's hard to gauge the distance of the tee with the limited information available. There were several times when I overshot and ended up getting a triple bogey.
Fatal Fury First Contact
Along with showing off the various "shells" that players can choose from during the pause menu, Fatal Fury First Contact is a port of Real Bout Fatal Fury 2. The inclusion of Rick Strowd and Li Xiangfei serves as proof of this as they were first introduced in that game. The gameplay, like every fighting game that will be featured on here, is heavily simplified.
Instead of a "Light Punch, Heavy Punch, Light Kick, Heavy Punch," these games feature only a "Punch" and a "Kick." Depending on the strength with which the player taps the button, they will either do a "light" or "heavy" variation. For this playthrough, I decided to do a few rounds with Kim Kaphwan on behalf of the eventual release of The King of Fighters 15. I know, I'm a bully. I'm positive Kim will return as DLC though, I promise.
SNK Gals Fighters
The first original Neo Geo Pocket Color in the compilation is SNK Gals' Fighters, a spinoff of The King of Fighters. An all-women fighting game taking characters from various SNK fighting games where the winner is granted a wish for winning. Reading the manual, some of the wishes are humorous. Leona's wish for example is a fix for her tooth cavity, which is the "reason" behind her "grumpiness."
The gameplay is similar to other fighters, but the aesthetics are even more cartoony. Yuri hits her opponents with a hammer and her hand enlarges after certain attacks. Upon defeat, a montage of the defeated character's dreams flashes before their eyes following the words "KO." Kind of brutal if you ask me. This game would get a sequel in SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, almost two decades after this release.
The King of Fighters R-2
Short for "Round 2," The King of Fighters R-2 is the sequel to R-1, released exclusively on the original Neo Geo Pocket. This game is roughly based on The King of Fighters 98 with a heavily cut roster. It's to be expected as 98 was a "dream match" which featured almost every fighter up to that point. The limited roster made for some interesting teams, including Ryo, Mai, and Terry, and the gameplay is faithful to the original. The music especially so, as hearing 8-bit versions of iconic KOF themes are always a treat. The King of Fighters portable games would carry on to the GBA, serving this as the catalyst.
The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny
Of the games featured in the collection, this was one I was the second to least familiar with. Apparently, The Last Blade: Beyond The Destiny was based on the first two Last Blade titles. The Last Blade is SNK's other weapon-based fighter, second to Samurai Shodown like Art of Fighting was to Fatal Fury. There's not much to say about this title although Capcom vs SNK 2 players will recognize Hibiki, who is one of the unlockable characters in the game. I don't think SNK knew the potential popularity this character would have, hence the requirement to unlock her first. There's not much else to say. It's another fighter on the collection.
Metal Slug 1st Mission
We're finally leaving the fighting game genre (for now) and entering some good ol' run-and-gun action with Metal Slug 1st Mission. The game is a heavily stripped-down version of the original Metal Slug series. However, the basics are still there, allowing players to run, shoot, and throw grenades. As there are only two buttons, players have to press a button combination to throw grenades, something that would be made easier in the sequel. In the beginning, only one character is playable and he never goes by a name. Metal Slug fans can deduce that this character is Marco, the leading male of the series.
Metal Slug 2nd Mission
Much of the original is retained in this version, yet it's vastly improved in many aspects. The first, most important, addition is the return of the announcer. Hearing "Heavy Machine Gun!" and various weapon names as the player picked up power-ups was greatly missing in the original. Fortunately, this returns as well as the HUD being more concise. Players can actually see exactly how much health they have remaining and the visuals are cleaned up. Players can also choose between a male and a female protagonist, both with different stories. Much like in the original, the female character is heavily based on Fio, the leading lady of Metal Slug. As it turns out, the playable characters in both titles are original characters unrelated to the core protagonists!
SAMURAI SHODOWN! 2
Now is a good time to discuss what is actually in the manuals for these titles. I like to think that the manuals are all scans of existing NGPC games, with a dead giveaway being the colorful language. Each game has a very distinct choice of words, attempting to excite the player with personalized language. The problem is when descriptions become awkward in word choice. It's even worse when character names are completely misspelled. A shining example is Samurai Showdown! 2's misspelling of Haohmaru, Haohmal.
SNK's second weapon-based fighter on the system is their most well-known of the two, Samurai Shodown! 2, being a sequel of a game that doesn't exist in this compilation. Judging by the character roster, this seems to be based on Samurai Shodown 4, with Kazuki and Sogetsu featured. What's most interesting is that Charlotte, the leading lady of Samurai Shodown, appears in this game but not in the original. Nakoruru had arguably surpassed her in popularity at this point so I guess it's not as surprising. What's interesting is that picking the referee serves as a "random select," changing the character of each match and serving as this game's "Mokujin" from Tekken.
SNK vs Capcom: The Match of the Millenium
If a Neo Geo Pocket Color compilation had a killer app, it'd be this one, as it was also the first NGPC game to be released on the Switch. SNK vs Capcom, contrary to popular belief, was the second time SNK developed the two franchises together. The first would be Card Fighters Clash which unfortunately is not included in this comp. This game would be the direct response to Capcom's Capcom vs SNK. After this title, arguably the best fighting game of all time would take center stage in Capcom vs SNK 2000.
For a portable fighter, this one is the best of the compilation mainly because of the love SNK placed in both franchises. The attention to detail is amazing, taking iconic stages from both Capcom and SNK's fighting games. I counted at least two Capcom stages from Alpha 2 and Alpha 3 respectively. Certain combinations have team names, like Terry and Ken being known as "USA Heroes." Characters play exactly like their original counterparts and there's even a bit of a story.
DARK ARMS: Beast Buster 1999
Of all the titles on the list, this is the only completely original title on this list. While SNK Gals Fighters and SNK vs Capcom use assets and characters from existing titles, Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 uses an original IP. Or so I initially thought. Apparently, this is a spinoff sequel to a rather obscure SNK arcade game known as Beast Buster, yet considering how obscure it is, it's safe to call it original. Touted as an Action RPG, the game takes elements of Zelda, played in a top-down perspective as the player eliminates zombies, skeletons, ghosts, armor, and other medieval creatures.
The twist here is that for every enemy defeated, you actually capture them. There's a hard limit to how many enemies the player can capture. These enemies can be used to upgrade your weapons, making them powerful and even mutating them. With what little I played of this game, it captures what a "portable game" should be about. Mindless shooting and progression lead to mindless shooting towards powerful enemies. It's a "Zelda clone," but it's an honest fun game.
Is It Worth It?
The answer to this question depends on whether or not the player already owns some of the games in the collection. Of the ten games featured, eight are available for purchase individually before the release of the compilation. If one were to buy the games individually at 8 dollars a pop, this would equate to approximately $64 dollars. This already makes buying the collection worth it, plus two bonus games, as it's like buying each game at half price.
Forty dollars for 10 games is a steal, especially if hesitant players will wait for a sale. There's a decently sized collection and new old favorites are waiting to be discovered. Fans of video game history would enjoy the attention to detail SNK had achieved with its "3D Game Cases" and manual scans. Even buying the digital copy of Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1 is enough to warrant a purchase for your digital collection.
Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1 is available on the Nintendo Switch