NEOGEO POCKET COLOR SELECTION Vol. 1 Steam Edition
Following its release on the Nintendo Switch, PC fans can finally join in on the retro fun with NEOGEO POCKET COLOR SELECTION Vol. 1 Steam Edition. The name is a mouth full, but it is an apt description of the ten handheld titles included in this compilation. What makes it even more enticing is that while some of the games in this collection were released individually on the Switch, this is the first time any of these titles appear on PC.
Anyone familiar with the history of handhelds will know that the Neo Geo Pocket Color was released in 1999, only to be discontinued a scant two years later. Don’t let the failure of the hardware fool you into thinking that its software lineup was lacking, though. Despite its short lifespan, the Neo Geo Pocket Color received plenty of great titles, with many of them included in this compilation.
SNK was known for its arcade titles, especially 2D fighting games, so it’s no surprise that these featured prominently on the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Half of this compilation consists of fighting games with the likes of SNK Gal’s Fighters, Samurai Shodown 2, King of Fighters R02, The Last Blade: Beyond The Destiny, and Fatal Fury First Contact all being present. However, players familiar with the Nintendo Switch version of the compilation will immediately notice that one of the biggest titles, SNK Vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium, is conspicuously absent. Instead, for this Steam release, it was replaced by Crush Roller. While this is obviously rather disappointing, the good news is that the missing title is available on Steam as a standalone purchase. This is fine for players who are only interested in SNK Vs. Capcom: TMotM and not the rest of the titles, but we would have liked to see the option to purchase it as a discounted DLC for the compilation simply to keep everything neatly together.
Nevertheless, the fighting games that are included in this collection are some of the finest ever to grace a handheld and hold up surprisingly well, considering their age. The Neo Geo Pocket Color was a 16-bit device, so it can’t really compare with the more advanced handhelds released since then by Nintendo, but it was an excellent device for its time.
Although the backgrounds in the fighting games are relatively sparse, the characters’ sprites are large and detailed. The animations are also really smooth, and the miniature characters are a perfect match for the style of the handheld. The other half of this compilation consists of a more varied assortment of titles. In addition to the platforming and shooting of Metal Slug 1st and 2nd Mission, there is also the aforementioned Crush Roller, which is a type of Pac-Man-style game featuring a paintbrush getting chased by fish. Then there’s Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999, a surprisingly playable RPG and Big Tournament Golf, which most Neo Geo fans will recognize as Neo Turf Masters. Having never owned a Neo Geo Pocket Color, we were not drawn to this compilation for nostalgic reasons but still ended up enjoying it far more than expected.
NEOGEO POCKET COLOR SELECTION Vol. 1 Steam Edition doesn’t just contain ten games but also a couple of extras. Each game has 3D models of their boxes and the cartridges inside, which can be viewed from any angle. In addition, players can also view high-resolution scans of each game’s manual. We would have liked to see some behind-the-scenes information or history of the games included as seen in other retro compilations, but there’s nothing of the sort here. There are other neat touches, though, such as being able to switch between the English and Japanese versions of the games, which then also change the boxes and cartridges. Some of the games in this collection were compatible with the Neo Geo Pocket Colors monochrome predecessor and can be played in black & white too.
The Neo Geo Pocket Color had a 2.7″ display with a resolution of only 160×152 and slightly less than 150 colors on screen at a time. Due to this small resolution, the games in this compilation features an overlay of the Neo Geo Pocket Color for extra authenticity. Players can even choose from a selection of skins representing the different variations of the actual hardware that SNK released. In addition, it’s possible to disable these skins and simply zoom in on the screen if you prefer a closer look at the action. Although the graphics will never be able to compare to what can be seen in Neo Geo arcade titles of the same era, they were quite impressive for a handheld, especially one that could last for more than a day between charges.
As with the visuals, the audio found in these games is not as impressive as their arcade counterparts. Remember, these games originally ran on cartridges, which could only hold about 4MB of data. Despite this, most of the titles still managed to squeeze in some decent music, and in the case of Metal Slug 2nd Mission, some digitized speech too. We didn’t encounter any issues playing any of the games using a controller, and some of the games even support local multiplayer. While the collection only has one achievement per game, a few of them are surprisingly challenging to get, which is a good thing. Although the compilation does not make use of save states, it is possible to exit a game and continue right where you left off when you return, provided you don’t switch to a different color mode. Another feature that players not used to the difficulty of older titles will enjoy is the ability to rewind at any point and then continue.
Although it might make more sense to have a compilation like this on the Nintendo Switch, which itself can be used as a handheld device, the games don’t look that bad on an HD computer screen either. Players looking for an authentic handheld experience can also make use of the Steam Link feature to stream the games to their phone or tablet for playing on the go. There’s also the upcoming Steam Deck, which will be perfect for playing compilations like this one.
NEOGEO POCKET COLOR SELECTION Vol. 1 Steam Edition is obviously not going to be for players who are only interested in the latest and greatest games that can showcase their state-of-the-art hardware. However, if you loved the original hardware or can appreciate great retro titles, there’s a lot here to keep you busy. The commission of SNK Vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium is unfortunate as Crush Roller doesn’t quite have the same impact, but this is a matter of taste. We definitely enjoyed playing all the games in this collection, and the emulation was rock solid for the most part. Hopefully, a second volume is not too far off, as there are plenty of other great Neo Geo Pocket Color titles waiting in the wings for an opportunity to shine again.
- OS: Windows 7 (32/64bit)
- Processor: Intel Core i5 @ 2.0 GHz
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 560
- DirectX: Version 9.0
- Storage: 2 GB available space