Review: NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 (Switch)

An exceptional compilation that brings new games and some fun extras for NGPC fans of all stripes.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 03/30/2021 20:24 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Lots of features and filters to help fans experience these classics in a variety of different ways; solid selection of games; the four new additions are worth the price of entry; the cartridge and box viewer is awesome
Poison Mushroom for...
Dark Arms can be an acquired taste; some frustrations with button layout

The NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection is a series of rereleases of classic NeoGeo Pocket Color (NGPC) games. SNK has been releasing these titles since summer of 2020, with a number of titles now accumulated as part of the lineup. For those who might not know, NGPC was a competitor to Nintendo’s Game Boy Color. A handheld that boasted arguably superior graphical capabilities and even some onboard software including a clock and daily horoscope, NGPC was let down by poor marketing and an online-only sales model at a time when the Internet was an irregular feature in most people’s homes. Despite never making a huge dent in the competitive handheld scene, NGPC has a devout following thanks to the excellent games that graced the console.

Now, SNK has elected to offer fans a special compilation of the games released so far, alongside four new additions. Dubbed NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1, it brings together the following ten games:

  • 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
  • Big Tournament Golf

Of the ten, Big Tournament Golf, Dark Arms, Metal Slug 1st Mission, and Metal Slug 2nd Mission are all-new for this compendium. To start things off, the addition of these four games does a lot to help diversify the NGPC Selection lineup, which has skewed heavily towards fighting games so far. It’s not the biggest issue, particularly given that SNK is known for its fighting games, but NGPC has a fairly diverse software library, so it’s nice to see that finally being represented here.

In the interest of cutting to the chase, let’s be clear that while NGPC Selection Vol. 1 brings notable extras to the table along with the four new games, but overall the releases here are largely identical to what has been previously released as part of the NGPC Selection lineup. However, the extras and these four additional games help to make this collection a worthwhile purchase, which we’ll launch into below.

To begin, let’s go through each of the four games and provide quick takes on what makes them notable, how they play, and so on:

Big Tournament Golf

This is ostensibly SNK’s answer to Mario Golf on Game Boy Color. However, while the two games are similar from a superficial standpoint, Big Tournament Golf is a fun, challenging golf game that stands on its own two feet. This is thanks in large part to its intuitive control scheme. Anyone who’s played a round of Mario Golf or even modern fair like the PGA 2K series will be able to rapidly acclimate to the setup. Pick a club, get your charge meter at the sweet spot, and swing away. Gameplay is complimented with a roster of chibi-styled pixel art golfers and courses that somehow make a game as placid as golf far more exciting than one might expect. While there are certainly more feature-rich golf games on Switch, Big Tournament Golf is not a title to take lightly.

Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999

Dark Arms is a mix of a top-down, arcade-style shooter and some lite RPG elements. It’s arguable that of all the games in this collection that Dark Arms is the weakest offering, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad by any stretch. There’s a fairly robust weapons system involved that allows for quite a bit of modification and upgrading. The animations and color palette in Dark Arms leave a bit to be desired, but this game also serves as a nice break of pace from the rest of what’s on offer. Definitely consider giving it a play.

Metal Slug 1st Mission & Metal Slug 2nd Mission

For many a player the opportunity to play both Metal Slug 1st Mission and Metal Slug 2nd Mission will undoubtedly be the biggest draws of NGPC Selection Vol. 1. These are two of the best games on NGPC whether represented in this compilation or on the original hardware itself. The Metal Slug formula is very faithfully shrunk down to accommodate for NGPC’s diminutive form factor as well as with brief play sessions in mind. Single-shot kills for the player are replaced with a health meter, but otherwise everything fans love about Metal Slug is here. This includes some mind-blowing animation and detailed visuals that handily demonstrate how, had NGPC been provided more third-party support and a better distribution model, it very easily could have challenged Game Boy Color for the throne as the number one gaming handheld on the market.

As is customary with NGPC Selection games, this compilation boasts a number of quality of life features that make playing all the more convenient for today’s audience. Rewind is present, as well as a number of different boarders (or none at all) featuring an array of different NGPC handhelds. Seeing the numerous color variants that were once offered for sale is a major treat. What makes NGPC Selection Vol. 1 especially special is the fact that each game cartridge and box can be viewed as in-game 3D models. While it’s not possible to actually touch and hold the games assembled here, it’s the next best thing. It would certainly be nice to see Nintendo take such care with its own rereleases (we’re looking at you, Super Mario 3D All-Stars). It’s also possible to check out the individual instruction manuals for each game. A lot of care was put into these booklets back in the day, which makes this collection all the richer for their presence. Sadly, there is still no way to customize the buttons to properly take advantage of the greater number of inputs on Switch, but overall the setup works as-is.

The elephant in the room for some will be, “is it worth buying these games again if I already have them?” Now, taking the collection for what it is, considering both the quality of the games as well as the new additions, alongside the features that have been included, it’s a resounding yes. For those who already own the games that have previously been released as part of the NGPC Selection lineup on Switch, there is still reason to pick up this compilation. At $40, it covers the cost of the four additional games and all of the extras exclusive to NGPC Selection Vol. 1. Anyone who has yet to purchase the other titles individually is getting quite a library of software in one haul, while everyone else is able to expand upon what they’ve experienced of SNK’s handheld so far. Still, if these four games don’t interest a player or the features that accompany them, then NGPC Selection Vol. 1 might not be for them.

There’s one other feature that is fun and worth mentioning, which is that it’s also possible to play the black and white versions of these games thanks to the color filter options. If you’ve yet to read our history of NeoGeo Pocket Color feature, SNK originally launched a colorless version of NeoGeo Pocket—only to be aghast to learn that Game Boy Color would debut soon after. Not wanting to be instantly outstripped by Nintendo’s latest handheld, SNK swiftly updated to NGPC soon thereafter, and the rest was history. SNK has been doing wonders keeping its back catalogue of games alive through retro hardware and compilations like NGPC Selection Vol. 1, and we sincerely hope that fans take the time to pick this one up for themselves.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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