You have to wonder what SNK is thinking, sometimes. Releasing six individual Neo Geo Pocket Color titles on Switch eShop was a good idea, and Samurai Shodown! 2, The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny, SNK Gals’ Fighters, SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millennium, King of Fighters R-2 and Fatal Fury first contact was – quite rightly – received with tremendous warmth.
Now, however, we have the collective release Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. A great idea on paper, but was it really wise to cannibalize sales by including the previously released six games, as well as including four more that have never been released until now? While we are grateful to have access to Neo Turf Masters, Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1
But we are not here to complain about the circumstances of this release. We’re here to review it. And when we remove our concerns about the value, Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 is an absolute treat, and all the better if you have not yet tried any of the included games.
Since six of the accompanying titles have already had the Nintendo Life review process, we think it’s best to focus on the four titles that are exclusive to this collection and the production itself. Which by the way is quite nice. It’s to a degree it’s form over function, but you have an airy little menu for the eight games and visible 3D models of the game’s original clamshell cases and even the ink cartridges.
You can also see the original scanned manuals – this may sound rather mundane, but it is worth doing as the Neo Geo Pocket Color manuals were often as characteristic as the games themselves. Throw away the now standard rewind feature and the ability to play the original (non-colored) Neo Geo Pocket games in monochrome form, and you have a fairly well-equipped small pack. But those are the games we are really here for.
The first of the new batch is Neo Turf Masters, also known as Great tournament golf, a brilliant pocket version of the absolutely superb arcade golf game, which is also available in its original form as part of the Arcade Archives series. It wraps up pretty much all the gameplay of its bigger brother, but scales down to the super-deformed and hugely appealing anime presentation of the vast majority of NGPC’s libraries. It’s a bit redundant in a way because you (as mentioned) can pick up the original game on Switch at a pretty low price, but it’s still nice to have this miniature fairway classic as part of the collection, given that it has never before been seen some kind of re-release.
Next time is the strangest game in the pack, one Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999, a kind of sequel to the arcade light-gun game in 1989 Beast Busters, though here thought of as a kind of cross between an RPG and SNK’s own Ikari Warriors. And while it’s very cool that obscurities like this get a new twist in the spotlight, we have to declare Dark Arms as the weak link in this set. It is not terribly, but it’s surprisingly charming – almost an achievement, given how obviously charming most games on SNK’s handheld system actually are. It is a weapon development system that allows you to upgrade your arsenal, but it is not enough to make this game more than a distracting curiosity, with unattractive graphics and a bit difficult controls.
The delimitation of this rather beautiful collection, we have the absolute crown jewels and – in this author’s humble opinion – the best games in the entire Neo Geo Pocket Color library. Metal Slug 1st and 2nd Mission are downplayed taking on the hugely popular arcade run n ‘gun series, but changed in a way that makes sense and fits their handheld format.
Instead of individual lives, you have a health bar that can be replenished by collecting hidden items, but in addition to this change, it retains everything that makes the main games so fun. Missions are medium-sized and plentiful, with more platform focus than the main titles, but in no way compromises the hectic explosion or secretive fun. There is not much difference between the two games, although the use of the “Option” button – mapped to the + button on the Switch without seeming to redefine the specific command (?!) – switches you between bullets and grenades in the 1st mission while quite simply, it makes sense to throw a grenade at a crane in the 2nd mission. Although this control option is true to the original hardware, we really can not see a good reason why it could not be possible to map the radio button to one of the unused face buttons, or even one of the shoulders.
A strong performance for Neo Geo Pocket Color, this is an eight-game compilation with seven legal recommendations. It’s a pretty high ratio, and the tantalizing “Vol. 1” in the title makes us hope and pray that more SNK handheld goodness will come. Now that the Millennium Match has been accounted for, there is after all no reason to persevere with us against Card Fighters Clash, den absolutely best game on the system. Sonic Pocket Adventure would be ace too. But that’s all speculation – in the here and now, the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 is a great little collection and all the better if you did not buy all the previous standalone releases. If you did, is it worth the money? To this author, yes, but you can quietly boil over the financial order.