The NeoGeo Pocket Color was one of those handhelds that I read a lot about in gaming magazines when I was younger, but never actually played. It was an obscure system and one that a lot of my friends hadn’t even heard of (let alone owned), so the opportunity never arose for me to try any of the titles that released on it. It’s a shame, especially since SNK brought some of their most popular titles over to the handheld whilst companies like SEGA and Capcom showed some support too.
What better time is there than twenty-two years later to actually play some of the system’s most popular games? Yep, SNK have amassed a collection of ten of the system’s releases into one bundle in the NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1, with favourites such as King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, Metal Slug, and Fatal Fury showing off their handheld endeavours. It makes for a really cool collection too, with some neat extras and modern features complimenting the nostalgic (and undoubtedly obscure) package.
The NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 includes ten games: 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, Big Tournament Golf and Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999.
The first six of those titles listed there have previously released on the Nintendo Switch before, so we won’t focus on those too much here. They’re all fighting games that embrace the NeoGeo Pocket Color’s minimalistic yet charming visual style, whilst they’re all simpler than their console and arcade counterparts thanks to the fact that the handheld itself only had two face buttons. That didn’t make them any less fun to play though, with each showing that those handhelds of yesteryear really could make fighting games fun with a bit of care and effort – yes, I’m looking at you, Mortal Kombat on the Game Boy…
Don’t get me wrong, they lack the combo-busting gameplay seen in the fighters of that era, but they still make for an interesting knuckle-busting romp today – especially in multiplayer. I especially enjoyed playing around with SNK vs Capcom: The Match of the Millennium, with the mash-up of iconic fighters proving to be a delight to play even in a handheld form.
Of course, you could grab those six titles individually before, so you might have already played them on your Nintendo Switch before now. Metal Slug 1st Mission, Metal Slug 2nd Mission, Big Tournament Golf and Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 are all new to the package though, with each giving gamers a unique handheld gameplay experience that manage to hold up well today.
Metal Slug 1st Mission and Metal Slug 2nd Mission offer the classic run ‘n gun gameplay you’d expect of the series, only in a simplified and handheld form. On paper, this sounds fine, but I couldn’t help but to find that the first game felt a little clunky to play in places, especially during those tense shootouts that demand a bit of precision from the player.
It’s something that does see an improvement in the second game though, with Metal Slug 2nd Mission easily standing out as the strongest of the pair. The controls feel more precise, it’s easier to throw grenades, the power-ups are improved, there’s more variety to the missions you encounter, whilst it even manages to look prettier too. It’s just a fun romp that lives up to the Metal Slug name.
Unfortunately, I noticed a bit of slowdown when playing both games, especially in the busier sections. I’m not sure if this is for ‘authenticity’ or if there was a problem with the emulation, but it felt a little unusual that the technically undemanding games would have issues like these on a modern piece of hardware like the Nintendo Switch. Hopefully, it’s something that might get improved upon in the future.
I love a good old-school golf game, so Big Tournament Golf really appealed to me. It’s easy to play thanks to the simple controls, whilst it comes with all of the typical modes you’d expect from a golf game. It features three different courses made up of eighteen-holes each so there’s a decent amount of content to get through, whilst fine-tuning your aim and power to hit those perfect scores will keep players coming back for more. Don’t get me wrong, it lacks the depth seen in modern golf games and it’s VERY simple in scope, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less addictive.
Finally, we have Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999. Whilst most of the other names featured in the package were at least recognisable to me, this is one that I hadn’t even heard of before – it’s surprising too, because the action-RPG gameplay and horror themes really tick plenty of boxes for me. I was impressed with the upgrade system that allows you to improve your weaponry (it feels ahead of its time), whilst the gameplay felt like a blend of The Legend of Zelda, Zombies Ate My Neighbours, and Gauntlet… a good little mix, right?
Like a lot of the releases in the package, it does feel a little dated, but what would you expect from a selection of games that launched over twenty years ago? Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 was a pleasant surprise and one of the games I found myself playing the most in the collection.
Whilst the games are the stars of NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1, I’d be remiss not to mention some of the cool extras that it brings.
Multiplayer is handled by dividing the screen in two and assigning controls to each JoyCon, meaning an extra player can join in on the fun in supported titles. It was something handheld consoles struggled with years ago, so it’s nice to see it’s so intuitive here.
You can even customise the appearance of the games, with smooth visuals available for a clearer image or a more authentic filter to make it feel like you’re playing on an old handheld screen. The latter is surprisingly charming and I found myself using it for the most part… nostalgia is a funny thing, huh?
You’re also able to rewind gameplay if you want to quickly rectify a mistake you’ve made (a feature I ALWAYS appreciate in these old-school collections) whilst you can also check out 3D models of the game cartridges and cases or even read the manuals. SNK have really gone all out in the nostalgia factor and it really makes the whole collection all the more endearing.
The NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 is a real treat, with its nostalgic selection of portable iconic titles certainly standing the test of time. Don’t get me wrong, they can feel dated in design in places and it’s clear that the limitations of the hardware means that you’re playing simplified versions of some popular releases, but the fact that they still manage to be fun to play today is impressive. Add to that the neat extras that are included and it becomes clear to see that this is a doozy of a throwback.
Whether you owned the system yourself or only read about it like I did, the NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 is certainly worth paying attention to if you enjoy yourself some good old-fashioned nostalgic gaming.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Click here to visit the official website.