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Review: The NEOGEO POCKET COLOR SELECTION Vol.1 Is a Treasure

Screenshot: Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection vol 1.

Ever since SNK has been releasing Neo Geo Pocket Color games on Nintendo Switch, I’ve been a huge fan. I never had a Pocket Color when I was younger, so it’s a great way for me to experience those games without having to pay sometimes exorbitant prices for a used console and games. And they’re surprisingly good games, too. SNK was legendary for its fighting game line-up, and they are well translated into handheld form. I’ve already reviewed several of them: The Last Blade Beyond the Destiny, Fatal Fury First Contact, and The Match of the Milennium SNK Vs. Capcom, and I’ve enjoyed them all—with the latter being the standout. Now, you can play all of the previous released SNK fighting games for the Neo Geo Pocket Color, as well as four other games not previously released, in the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1.

I’m a huge proponent of video game preservation, and while just the act of rereleasing an older game on new hardware goes a way towards preservation, SNK has gone out of their way with their presentation of the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1. Each game has a fully rendered 3D box that you can look at and open, and you can even pull out the cartridges. For those without access to a Neo Geo Pocket Color, this is the next best thing to being able to physically handle them. Each game is accompanied by a full color manual as it appeared in the box, too.

Screenshot: Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1.

As with the other Neo Geo Pocket Color releases, you can customize a few aspects of how the game is presented and played. You can choose to have an almost 1:1 Neo Geo Pocket Color experience by playing in handheld mode. If you have a non-Lite Nintendo Switch, the screen is just big enough to fit the actual-sized Pocket Color inside. You can even take off the Joy-Cons and use the Pocket Color’s buttons via touchscreen—though this is definitely not the preferable way to play. There is also a screen effect that mimics the Pocket Color’s low resolution screen. But if you want to zoom into the screen and remove the grid-like effect, you can do that too. There’s even a rewind function to undo the last few seconds of actions—something that can come in handy if you make a mistake. There’s also two player mode available in most games–all without the hassle of a link cable.

Most of the games included in the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 have some sort of two player component. If you wanted to play with a friend when the Neo Geo Pocket Color was released, you’d have to own two consoles, two copies of whatever game you wanted to play, and be in possession of a link cable. With the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1, local co-op is available. Its implementation is different depending on the game—some games have two screens side-by-side, with the fighting games having the players duke it out on the same screen.

Screenshot: Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1.

There have been six Neo Geo Pocket Color games released for the Nintendo Switch so far. They’re all handheld versions of Neo Geo fighting games, except for SNK Gals’ Fighters—the all-girl fighting game featuring many crossover fighters. Each of these fighting games aptly reproduces their mainline counterparts, with concessions made for the Neo Geo Pocket Color’s limited technology. But even with concessions, these are pretty great fighting games—though they’re definitely a product of their time. The best of the bunch is easily SNK Vs. Capcom:  Match of the Millennium—a crossover between Capcom and SNK fighting games, it features favorite fighters from multiple franchises. The four previously unreleased games are an interesting selection of games.

One of the biggest draws for me in covering this collection was the four non-fighting games, two of which I hadn’t even heard of before: Big Tournament Golf and Dark Arms. There are also the two handheld Metal Slug games, which, for me were something I knew existed but had never actually had a chance to play. Each of these four games are new to the Nintendo Switch, none of these were sold for the Nintendo Switch Neo Geo Pocket Color selection previously, and all are unavailable outside of the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1.

Screenshot: Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1.

Two of the four games released for the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1, I hadn’t even heard of: Dark Arms and Big Tournament Golf. First of all, Dark Arms is probably the most interesting title in the line-up.  It’s actually a spin-off/sequel to an arcade light gun game called Beast Busters, though it bears little resemblance to the arcade title on which it’s based. Instead, it’s a top-down action game—you play as a Beast Buster with a goal of finding different weapons called Arms, and increasing their power. Another title I hadn’t heard of before its release in the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 is Big Tournament Golf. Sure, it’s a golf game with a generic title—but it actually turned out to be one of my favorite games in the collection. It’s actually a pretty damn competent golf game.

My biggest draw to the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 was the two Metal Slug games. I’m a huge Metal Slug fan, though I’ve never gotten a chance to play these handheld versions. Arcade/console Metal Slug is known for its difficulty, smooth gameplay, and incredibly detailed visuals.  Metal Slug First Mission and Metal Slug Second Mission don’t really have any of those things. First of all, the games run sluggishly, with slowdowns happening during gameplay. This is obviously a holdover from  the Neo Geo Pocket Color’s technology limitation, but it makes these games a little unpleasant to play at times. Metal Slug Second Mission is the smoother of the two overall, but its inclusion of a (super low fidelity) real voice slows down the action even more—but in a predictable way, since it happens when you gather a power-up. Despite their technical limitations, these two Metal Slug titles are worth playing for those who are fans of the series—like me.

Screenshot: Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol 1.

I absolutely love this collection—and it’s a great value when purchased in the collection format. Not only that, but the collection has four games you can’t get for Nintendo Switch otherwise: Dark Arms, the surprisingly good Big Tournament Golf, and handheld classics Metal Slug First Mission and Metal Slug Second Mission. Don’t go into this collection expecting modern games, but even for their technological limitations and time they were developed, there are some really great games here—especially if you look at it from a game preservation standpoint. I’m curious what titles will be included in the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 2.

 

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

 

 

 

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