If you were a young-ish gamer in 1999, then chances are you had a Game Boy Color (and extra batteries) at your side whenever you went on long car trips, plane rides, or any other sort of travel. I know I had mine – usually with one of its few-and-far-between RPGs – during those moments. You also might remember seeing ads in gaming magazines or at kiosks for the NeoGeo Pocket Color. Again, I know I did. At the time, anything non-Nintendo had no place in my portable palace. Little did any of us know how much of a cult following and how elusive SNK’s adorable portable would become. This was one area of gaming that I never bothered to try to get into. Luckily, casual fans and diehard SNK fans alike can experience a solid collection of ten of its games thanks to the NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Volume 1 for the Switch.
This collection has emulated the look, feel, style, and gameplay of these ten games. Gamers can take advantage of multiplayer with one cartridge, handy rewind and save state features, and various virtual exterior designs. Buttons can be mapped to your liking, too. Finally, each game comes with its own virtual instruction manual so you can learn the ins and outs of each game. With the logistics out of the way, we can focus on the real meat: the games. I won’t go into each game but I will highlight a few favorites and give an overall take on the collection as a whole. The first game I played was SNK Gals Fighters. This was a good way to get initiated to the system since fighting games are its forte. You select from a roster of SNK’s heroines and go heel to heel in classic matches in hopes of obtaining an ultimate prize. Favorites such as Athena, Shiki, and Nakoruru are included. Every character has a variety of special moves, there’s a bar that lets you unleash super-special moves, and more. It’s solid, classic fighting that SNK is known for. They captured it well for a portable console.
The next game I played was Samurai Shodown 2. Perhaps my favorite fighting series of all time, this pocket sized version had its work cut out for it since I would invariably be comparing it to the OG version. The NeoGeo Pocket Color version wasn’t nearly as flashy or frantic as the original. But, once again, the game captured classic SNK fighting. By and large, this is my favorite game in the collection. The roster is robust, the moves are clean, the inputs are tight and there’s a lot of stage variety. Any instance I can play Samurai Shodown is a win in my book; getting to play a modified version of what’s often considered the best in the series adds extra points.
The last game I completed before hopping on to write a review wasn’t a fighting game. SNK staples like Haohmaru, Geese, and Athena were nowhere to be found. There weren’t any countdowns on the top of the screen, nor were there any hidden characters to unlock. Indeed, Dark Arms: Beast Buster is an action RPG that takes place in The Dark Realm. You take control of a brooding hero that travels to various areas of the realm to capture demons, mold them into weapons, modify them with pieces from other demons, and learn more about why you’re there in the first place. In the process, you’ll obtain an ultimate power as written by a contract with a being simply known as The Master. Dark Arms is the game that surprised me the most. It was released in 1999 and I never heard of it until now. The gameplay is a mixture of Crystalis and Diablo. Your hero is able to obtain a variety of unique weapons, some of which can be infused with elemental energy. There are puzzles to solve and NPCs to chat with. Of all the games in the collection, Darks Arms is the most unique. It’s also the longest with a playtime of 10 hours.
So, that’s three of the ten games. What else is included? The collection also includes King of Fighters R2, The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny, Fatal Fury: First Contact, The Match of the Millennium, Metal Slug 1st Mission, Metal Slug 2nd Mission, and…Big Tournament Golf. You’ve got a good selection of fighting games, some classic run and gun action and a golf game. Personally, I don’t see me playing that last game ever. Golf in real life is dull so I don’t see how it could be more exciting in video game format. But, the variety is there. SNK is known for its fighters so having something non-fighting included is a good thing.
All that is to say that this collection is worth checking out no matter your familiarity. The NeoGeo Pocket Color is getting a much needed resurge in popularity thanks to this. I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it up on a whim. Obviously, not all games are winners, and everyone will battle over which is considered the “best” one. The only way to see which one is your favorite is to pick it up yourself. Enjoy an obscure walk down memory lane with the first NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Volume.
Overall, 8/10: NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Volume 1 offers historic variance on a contemporary level. Whether you’re reliving the classics or entering without any knowledge, there’s sure to be something worth checking out within the collection.