SNK’s Neo Geo Pocket Color Handheld console was released back in 1999 as a successor to the monochrome edition released the previous year. While it wasn’t as successful as the likes of Nintendo’s Game Boy, it still had a decent following of its own and a number of successful games – some of which you might not have even heard of – that have now been ported to the Nintendo Switch for new and old fans alike to enjoy.
This month saw the exclusive Nintendo Switch release of the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 – bit of a mouthful, I know. The volume includes six previously ported games along with four titles that are arriving on the Switch for the first time. With more than half of the games already being available on the eShop, it might be a little frustrating for those who have purchased any of them individually, but it’s a nice collection all the same. The addition of the newly ported games might make it a little less of a bitter pill to swallow, and the fact that it’s being marketed as Vol. 1 suggests there might be a second volume to come.
As I mentioned before, the collection includes six games already available on the Switch – SNK Gals’ Fighters, Samurai Shodown II, King of Fighters R-2, The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny, Fatal Fury: First Contact and SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium – all the fighting games. The four games that are new to the Switch are Metal Slug: 1st Mission, Metal Slug: 2nd Mission, Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 and Big Tournament Golf. SNK are known for their fighting games, but the four new games added some much needed variety to the selection because, let’s face it, fighting games get a little repetitive after a while. This is something that is especially true of older fighting games.
In addition to the games themselves, the collection includes in-game 3D models of the original cartridges and boxes, which you can zoom in on and rotate. This seemed a little gimmicky and redundant. Unless you’re an avid collector of cartridges, you probably won’t get much out of it, and even then, much of the appeal of collecting lies within the physical aspect of actually owning and displaying it. That being said, the physical cartridges can be pretty pricey and hard to get a hold of, and since it doesn’t take anything away from the game, it’s hard to complain, especially when you can have all the games in one place and on a more accessible console.
The original manuals can also be viewed for each game, which is actually pretty useful. They include details on the various modes within each game, how to play and even special character moves. The only problem is that as they are the original manuals, they refer to the Neo Geo Pocket Color handheld rather than the Nintendo Switch, so some of the controls are a little different. The controls are easy to grasp regardless – the Neo Geo Pocket Color was a pretty basic handheld, with only two buttons and a joystick for gameplay, and gameplay changes haven’t been made for the Switch. You’re basically playing the games exactly as they were but on the Switch.
This even extends to how it looks. Rather than being a simple port of the original games, the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 is designed to look like you’re actually playing on the original handheld. Basically, you’re looking at a handheld within a handheld and so, as you can imagine, the screen is pretty small. The Switch is smaller than your average screen as it is, so when you’re looking at something that only takes up a fraction of this – most being the model of the handheld – it can be hard to see what is going on. You can zoom in on the screen, but even then, it doesn’t take up the full screen. It’s definitely playable once you zoom in, but it’s more enjoyable hooked up to your tv, if that’s an option.
Each game can either be played in colour, new colour or black and white, and you can also choose between different Neo Geo Color skins, some of which are pretty cool. Unfortunately, the small screen size makes it hard to enjoy these skins as you end up cutting the majority of it out by zooming in for a better screen size.
All in all, the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 is a great homage to some of SNK’s most popular titles brought to a more modern console for new and old fans alike to enjoy. With a retail price of £39.99, value for money is mostly down to whether or not you’re a fan of the games and likely to benefit from nostalgia. If you’re not, the price tag might be a little off-putting for ten retro games, but it is a very good offering of some of SNK’s best games with a nice variation of fighting and other genres. Big Tournament Golf seemed a little out of place next to the others, but it was a nice change of pace for when I got tired of the more combat-heavy games.
Admittedly, some of the features – namely the 3D models – felt a little gimmicky, but the selection itself was solid, and my only real complaint was with the screen size when playing undocked.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 17th March 2021
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Neo Geo Pocket Color Collection Vol. 1 was provided by the publisher.