NeoGeo Pocket Colour Selection Vol.1 is the latest compilation from the guys and gals at SNK. One hoping to bring a bit of light on some rather unappreciated gems from their obscure and ill-fated handheld.
Releasing as the time of the GameBoy Colour came to a close, the Neo Geo Pocket, followed by its Colour revision released to little fanfare. There was even less 3rd party support but had such an interesting back catalog of games seemingly lost to time, until now.
SNK have brilliantly brought in the Emulation masters known as Code Mystics to port over a handful of the best titles for the Pocket Colour, over to the Switch in their full glory. Is this a worthy purchase or will history repeat once again? Batteries in, we’re going live.
NeoGeo Pocket Colour Selection Vol.1 complies the following games from the life span of the NeoGeo Pocket & Colour variation.
- SNK GALS’ FIGHTERS
- SAMURAI SHODOWN! 2
- KING OF FIGHTERS R-2
- THE LAST BLADE: Beyond the Destiny
- FATAL FURY FIRST CONTACT
- SNK VS. CAPCOM: THE MATCH OF THE MILLENNIUM
- METAL SLUG 1ST MISSION
- METAL SLUG 2ND MISSION
- DARK ARMS: Beast Buster 1999
- BIG TOURNAMENT GOLF
Every title here is also available to download separately aside from the two Metal Slug titles, Dark Arms and Big Tournament Golf (Pocket Turf Masters!). What you’ll notice if you’ve got a keen eye and know your gaming is that six of the titles are fighting games. Neo Geo fans should expect this but for newcomers, I can imagine it’s a bit heavy on the fisticuff side.
NeoGeo Pocket Colour Selection Vol.1 greets you with a menu presenting all 10 of the titles with a snazzy digital recreation of their NGPC cartridge. Each game has a digital manual for you to feast your eyes over. Not quite like smelling it before reading on the bus ride home! You are also given the option to choose which Neo Geo Pocket you use, the original black and white model or the color, it doesn’t affect much other than visuals but it’s still a fantastic little detail. Some games can’t be played on the original model but have special artwork to tell you so. It’s a must-see for SNK aficionados.
Each game is wonderfully emulated as closely as possible to their original release, Code Mystics have added in a few features to aid modern gamers but these are pretty faithful recreations on display.
First off, you can save and load at any time. Suspending your game and come back another time isn’t a problem. Of course, it also included the latest trend in retro collections – you can rewind your gameplay at the touch of a button if you mess up and want to rectify.
You have various display options. This means that you can zoom in and out for a pixel-perfect time or something more filling of the stream. You can also choose which “skin” your Pocket has; These are all little things that really show the care that has been put into this collection.
The final two aspects that I thought were brilliant were the touch screen and multiplayer options. If you choose to have your “skin” visible on the handheld mode, you can press the screen where the control stick and buttons are to get the same results as pressing them. Yes, I know that the stick is not quite the same as the glorious clicker of the NGPC but the smile this brought to my face was worth it.
The controls translated well on this package. It’s as you would expect from a console with a control stick, a start button, a power button, and 2 action buttons. For the fighters to switch between light and heavy attacks, this is done if you tap or press the button. It sounds more awkward than it is and works fine for the most part – just don’t expect to be an on-the-go combo master!
Finally multiplayer. While none of the games have an online option and this is a sore subject, you have the local option and this time it doesn’t require a link cable! The multiplayer in this collection simulates 2 NGPC units as seen in the screenshot below and is absolutely perfect for the Joycons and some portable brawling.
Now what I’m going to do here is separate this bundle into the fighters and then the other games, there are two reasons for this.
- I’ve already covered the fighters elsewhere and will provide links.
- They are all for the most part, very similar.
It’s worth noting that all the fighting games on this list all control pretty much the same, move lists are translated well over from their arcade counterparts and it’s only really 2 of the titles that play differently enough to make note of.
Neo Geo and SNK are historically very fighting game focused and most of their better-known titles are fighters which is why there is a large focus of them here in NeoGeo Pocket Colour Selection Vol.1.
Fatal Fury First Contact.
Fatal Fury was one of the first titles available for the Neo Geo Pocket. As such, it doesn’t feel as refined or as robust as other titles in the collection. I reviewed this title over at Otaku Gamers UK, to gloss over it, it’s only for die-hard fans.
The King Of Fighters R-2
R-2 is the sequel to another early NGP title KoF R-1. This title has a much bigger roster than the original and the above game, unlockable characters, and a character editor to keep you coming back to this one. It’s not quite a patch on the console/arcade KoF titles but will hold your interest and surprise you at how accurate it is.
Samurai Shodown! 2.
While sharing its name with one of the most well-known and respected titles of the Samurai Shodown franchise, this title is not only a curiosity, but also one of the brightest hidden gems of the entire SNK back catalog. Samurai Showdown! 2 is in fact a “demake” of Samurai Shodown 64: Warriors Rage which was only released on the Hyper Neo Geo 64 arcade cabinets in Japan.
This version of the game manages to capture Samurai Shodown and transfer it perfectly to the handheld market. Addictive gameplay and a massive selection of cards to unlock in the game sees Samurai Shodown! 2 firmly at the top of the pile.
The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny.
This is a faster-paced version of Samurai Shodown, having more in common with titles like KoF and FF but don’t let that fool you, this title holds quite the secret. The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny is in fact two games in one, at least from a narrative/roster perspective. For more details head over to my review on Otaku Gamers UK.
SNK GALS’ FIGHTERS.
Gals’ Fighters is an interesting title in that it’s one of the more original fighters on the handheld. A totally female cast made up of SNK properties, a tournament hosted by the mysterious Miss X, plenty of items to unlock, and some interesting unlockable characters on offer.
This title was one of the later titles in the systems life and as such handles like an absolute beauty. Personally, this one has always been a favorite of mine and was the inspiration for the less impressive SNK Heroines, an important part of SNK history.
SNK Vs Capcom: Match of the Millennium.
The re-release no one thought possible. While most have heard of Capcom Vs SNK 2 or even SNK Vs Capcom: Chaos, this little-known gem is one of the earlier collaborations and is the most robust and perfectly executed of all the fighters on this list.
For more details hit the link to head over to another one of my reviews at Otaku Gamers UK.
Why not call them Tanks?
Right then, that’s the fighters out of the way, next we will tackle a little-known set of titles called Metal Slug.
What is a Metal Slug I hear you ask! Well, it’s a funky name for a tank, I just felt we should get that out there. Metal Slug is a 2D platforming run and gun title, mostly focused on warfare, and has our budding military cast savings POWs and defeating the evil General.
This collection provides gamers with both Metal Slug titles that were released on the Pocket system; Metal Slug: 1st Mission and Metal Slug: 2nd MIssion are here and aim to bring arcade run and gun into the palm of your hands!
Both games manage to present a core Metal Slug experience that is only slightly held back, each game in different areas which is strange. In terms of core gameplay, they have chaotic run and gun action with more of a focus on platforming than usual to compensate for the smaller enemy count.
On the control front, things work as well as expected from a two-button system. It’s responsive but pressing start to switch over to your grenades isn’t the most intuitive. This can make high-pressure boss fights either longer because you forgot or tougher because of the button placement.
The music and sound in Metal Slug: 1st Mission is frankly just about passable. The songs are all a special degree of repetitive and the sound of gunfire and explosions are enough to make your ears bleed.
On the visual and performance side of the scale, Metal Slug 1st and 2nd Mission look great but aren’t anywhere near the vibrancy of the arcade counterparts which is a big factor of Metal Slug. The visuals are more of a limitation from the original hardware, but the games still animate brilliantly and convey the sense of humor the game is known for. There is one notably issue though…
Sadly Metal Slug 2nd Mission while being the better-sounding game stemming from better sound effects, music, and voices, commits a grave sin. This is in the form of slow down and stuttering. Whenever you pick up one of the weapons in 2nd Mission the game tells you what it is. From what I can fathom, this slows the game to a crawl and destroys the fluid pace of an otherwise improved game.
Both games take around an hour and a half to two hours to complete. There are some extras to find within the games, but the fun and addictive run and gun gameplay is what will bring you back. What I did enjoy with these titles is how some stages were vehicle-based and had me controlling an aircraft in Shmup sections. It broke the game up a little bit and managed to fit the tone brilliantly.
That got your attention, didn’t it! On a collection consumed by arcade-style games, there is but one pillar of darkness and it is known as Dark Arms: Beast Busters.
Dark Arms sees you naming your character who then stumbles across “The Contract of Death”, cursed with the power to fight evil; It is now your obligation to travel to the dark realm and create the ultimate “Dark Arm” and be back in time for tea.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice this is a little darker than your standard handheld RPG affair, especially for a game that released in the late 90s. It has almost an ATLUS feel to it and this carries throughout the game.
So how does one create a Dark Arm? Well with an egg found in the Dark Realm! Your first one is an easy find but the others and guarded by tough bosses throughout the 4 areas available.
Once you’ve got your egg you can pick what type of arm the egg grows into. Maybe a handgun, maybe a sword? There are around 20 different weapon types through the base arms and the evolutions.
Obviously, the way to evolve a Dark Arm is by using the souls of defeated creatures of the night, everyone knows that right? You can store one hundred souls before you have to feed your egg. After a certain amount, it can evolve into a new Dark Arm. This gives you new ways to smite foes and gain more power.
The game is a top-down action RPG much in the vein of the classic handheld Zelda games. The theme of the game keeps it interesting, and it only lasts around four hours so doesn’t outstay its welcome. As the only RPG of NeoGeo Pocket Colour Selection Vol.1, it’s well worth having a look over the Dark Contract.
It’s all in the hips
Big Tournament Golf is the title that rounds off NeoGeo Pocket Colour Selection Vol.1 and I feel is the most marmite of all the titles. You’ll love it or hate it!
Turf Masters Neo is an arcade golf game that has a really strong cult following. Big Tournament Golf is the handheld version, that hopes to give you your golf fix on the go.
The game is a very colorful and well-animated game that oozes charm with its Chibi characters. It even has a surprising amount of detail for a handheld golf title.
You have 3 modes in single player. This includes stroke play, handicap and triple crown. There are two further modes in multiplayer. Stroke play (again) and match play. I assume those modes mean more to anyone who knows anything about Golf!
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I know nothing about Golf, its rules, or the attraction some have to it. I did give this title a try. It controlled well and wasn’t too complex, but it’s not a title I personally would invest any time into. It’s just not for me and sometimes that does happen with collections.
All in all the NeoGeo Pocket Colour Selection Vol.1 is a fascinating, if not slightly unbalanced look into the history of SNK and its short-lived foray into handheld gaming. What is commendable is the dedication to getting fighting games working well on their handheld project, but also putting out stuff like Dark Arms which was quite unexpected for the market at that time.
Being it has Vol 1 in the title makes me very hopeful for a second collection. One which shouldn’t be drowned out with fighting games. Perhaps the SNK Vs Capcom card battler? Maybe they could reach out to the third parties for Sonic the Hedgehog and Rockman Battle and Fighters to give it some impressive star power.
While this is a A+ emulation collection with some nice extras, filling it with 6 fighting games really puts this title into a niche. If you’re a fan of SNK/NeoGeo history and curious about the Pocket this is an easy purchase.
On the other hand for people less versed or not interested in fighting games, it’s a rather pricey lesson in death by excess. It’s a quality product – just laser-pointed directly at a certain audience.
NEOGEO POCKET COLOUR SELECTION VOL.1 IS RECOMMENDED
For another port from the past, perhaps you’d like to take a look at Shiren the Wanderer.
Many thanks goes to SNK for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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Pride of utopia & greatest thing ever, I found the One Piece, Collected the Dragon Balls & won the Mortal Kombat Tournament in one night, it was quiet for me that night! Follow me on Twitter @powahdunk