NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 (Switch) Review

With the help of Code Mystics, SNK has been releasing NeoGeo Pocket Color games on the Switch eShop over the last several months, trickling their releases leading up to the spectacular Match of the Millennium. Now available in one bundled compilation, the NeoGeo Pocket Selection Vol.1 includes all the previous eShop releases plus four more.

Here is a list of the 10 included games and links to our previous reviews:

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
DARK ARMS Beast Buster 1999
Big Tournament Golf (previously released as Neo Turf Masters)

Both Metal Slug games, Dark Arms, and Big Tournament Golf were not previously released as a stand-alone download on the eShop and are exclusive to this compilation. Also, not sure why the name of Neo Turf Masters was changed to Big Tournament Golf but guessing maybe there was some type of trademark issue..?

Here is a quick review of the four exclusive games unique to this compilation.

Metal Slug 1st Mission
While not as explosive and action packed as its arcade brethren, Metal Slug 1st Mission is still a solid game that was specifically designed as a handheld single player experience. There are moments where the frame rate chugs to the single digits, the soundtrack can pierce a few ears, and the parachuting mini game might sound fun on paper but winds up being impossibly tedious. Sometimes the stage design doesn’t play nice either. For example, you might want to press up to shoot that enemy but wind up going through the door. However, make no mistake, despite the obvious blemishes this is still a really fun game and a great run-and-gun experience.

Metal Slug 2nd Mission
A massive leap over the 1st Mission, Metal Slug 2nd Mission is actually my favorite Metal Slug game in the entire series. With two playable characters, an expansive map, secret exits, and tons of hostages to save, there is a ton of replay value here. It also plays significantly smoother than the original in every way. Honestly, I bought a physical version of Metal Slug 2nd Mission in a hard shell case when it was first released over 20 years ago for $50 and still consider it to be one of my best game purchases of all time. To me, the cost to download this compilation is worth it for this game alone.

Big Tournament Golf (aka Neo Turf Masters)
Outside of the Mario Golf titles, Big Tournament Golf is one of my favorite handheld golf games. There is no RPG mode but the expected tournament modes play exceedingly well.  Each hole is varied and easy to read, the UI is clean and displays all the information you need at a glance, and the swing mechanic is accurate. It just feels right and always puts the player in control. My only complaint comes from short chip shots; it is easy to doink one off the flag pole and send it backward when just a few yards away. Also, when the ball is within inches from the hole, sometimes too much strength can accidentally be used even when tapping the swing button as fast as possible.  Even though there are some annoyances, it is still a worthwhile golf title. The developers also included the two-player link mode on one console, a feature that was totally under-utilized when this game was originally released. Now it is easy for players to swap unlocked clubs and play against each other.

DARK ARMS Beast Buster 1999
Beast Busters is an arcade rail shooter that SNK originally released in 1989 and is available to play on the SNK 40th Anniversary compilation title. DARK ARMS is a spin-off of this forgotten IP and gives up the shooter gameplay in favor of top down action that plays almost like a classic Zelda game.  Gameplay is an entertaining loop where players level up weapons and create new ones by absorbing defeated monsters. The day/night cycle also comes into play as certain things only happen during specific times, which actually reminds me a lot of Boktai. The translation might be a little rough but isn’t too difficult to decipher once you understand the gameplay loop. Personally, I originally beat this game when it was first released on the NeoGeo Pocket Color and had a smile on my face the whole time replaying it here in this compilation. Another solid game and the devs even incorporated the neglected two-player link mode on one system. There is even a gauntlet at the very end of the game for dedicated and skilled players to enjoy.

To quickly summarize, this compilation features a strong line up.  Every game is quality.

From a presentation stand point, the devs went a little above and beyond with this package, including things that are totally unnecessary but completely awesome. From the main menu, the player has the ability to check out the box art, case, and cartridge from a rotatable 3D model.  Each game features high res scans of the original instruction manuals but being able to see the original box, complete with an opening/closing animation, is a perfect example of something so small but adds that level of care so few developers include.

Taking it one step further, games can be played in monochrome or in their original color version when available.  As a quick history lesson, the NeoGeo Pocket was only released in Japan and featured a black and white display.  Shortly after this original console released, SNK released the upgraded NeoGeo Pocket Color, the only version America received, which featured a color display. As a secret, if a NGPC game is inserted into a NGP system, the player is greeted with a brief message that essentially says “hey, sorry, you need to play this cart in a Color system, it doesn’t work with this B&W one.”  So if the player selects the black and white option for an exclusive color title, the player can experience these warning messages here in this compilation.  Again, totally not necessary but super cool that it is there.

My only complaint with the overall UI is the lack of music found on the game selection screen. This main screen is oddly quiet and could have benefited from a tune found in one of the games, or better yet, the console’s main menu musical loop could have been used when selecting a game from the main menu interface here in this compilation. Seems like a missed opportunity.  It would have been cool to experience the console’s main menu interface too, so users could get their daily horoscope but can understand why this feature was not included.

Make no mistake, this is a stellar, top-tier compilation that every Switch owner should download.  However, there is one oversight that cannot be ignored – save data doesn’t transfer from the individual games when playing on the compilation. For example, Match of the Millennium was released a few weeks ago as a stand-alone game for $7.99. Say you spent hours unlocking new fighters and worked up a good Win/Loss ratio from this stand-alone digital download.  When you boot up Match of the Millennium within this compilation, your save data is nowhere to be found. This is a bummer because dedicated fans who double dip get punished instead of rewarded. It doesn’t look like this feature will be patched either. If you didn’t previously purchase any individual releases though, then obviously nothing to worry about.

The NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 is one of the favorite compilations of all time not just for the stellar roster of games but the detailed and thoughtful extras fans will appreciate.  Also, naming this “Vol.1” provides hope that a Vol.2 could be in the works. Could we see fan favorite puzzle games like Bust-A-Move or Puzzle Link in a future compilation?  What about the multiple Dive Alert games? Biomotor Unitron 1 and 2 are decent RPGs and are the closest thing the system ever saw to Pokemon-style gameplay. Faselei is an underrated gem of a tactical strategy game. Or what if the NeoGeo Pocket Ogre Battle title was translated to English and also released in a future compilation?  Oh man, we can dream, right?! The NGPC library isn’t large but the quality of each title is very high. Hopefully enough people buy Vol.1 so SNK will have incentive to receive a coveted second (or third) Volume.

SCORE: 9.5/10

Also Try: the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection  
Better Than: other compilations that have a few good games with many sub-par titles
Wait For It: Vol.2 with a translated version of Ogre Battle

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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