The latest emulator for the classic handheld offers little more than a trip down memory lane with Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 2.
Back when The Matrix, I Want it That Way, The Sopranos, and Fight Club were fresh, back when the DVD was new and being cool meant having the biggest CD player in the group, and back when all most of us could do on a phone was call people and play Snake, handheld gaming systems were king. With this backdrop, SNK, the Japanese arcade giant, decided to try their hand at a handheld gaming trinket.
Enter the Neo Geo Pocket and its prettier cousin, the Pocket Color. Released in Japan in March 1999 — and in western markets later in the year — the handheld was meant to be a competitor for Nintendo’s Game Boy Color, which had come out the year before becoming an instant classic. While it never enjoyed the same kind of success, the Pocket Color was a decent gaming platform in its own right.
Although discontinued in 2001, the handheld maintained a cult following. Owing to this, some of its popular titles were released for the Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows in the form of Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection in March 2021. Almost 2 years on, another collection with the same name but with Vol. 2 attached, has been published. This one contains 10 games and might be worth your attention if you’re either a retro game aficionado or want to relive some long-lost memories.
- 1 Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 2
- 2 5.5/10 – Rough around the edges
Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 2
While the first collection was a pretty good deal with several popular titles, this one’s more for cult followers or hardcore retro handheld enthusiasts, for the uninitiated — such as yours truly — it’s quite underwhelming. The initial interface has a bit of charm to it, with cartridges used as icons for the game and easy access to all the options, and the fact that your progress with each game is autosaved helps greatly. Once you choose a game to play, however, you’ll quickly realize that three of the games don’t have an English version.
This wouldn’t be that big a problem if some of these games hadn’t been extremely dependent on language — such as King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise — but it’s practically impossible to understand some of the text-heavy games without the manual, and even while using it things are not fully clear. Nevertheless, we’ve tried to do justice to the games.
A pretty basic, bare-bones virtual rendition of America and Japan’s favorite pastime, Baseball Stars features nine fictional teams with varying stats. These don’t matter much, and while the game is a decent experience as far as late-90s handheld sports games go, there are just countless better options out there — even within the subgenre — unless a hit of nostalgia is your only goal.
Big Bang Pro Wrestling
The controls might be annoying and the AI wonky, but this title features a surprising amount of stuff, considering the very limited hardware it was designed to run on. These include a whole host of characters, a plethora of unique moves, the ability to climb in and out of the ring, grab chairs from the crowd, get up on the top rope, and our favorite — the ability to knock the referee out for a while. If you’re going to play this, though, we recommend playing against a human.
The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise
Unless you know Japanese or have played the game extensively during the Pocket Color’s heyday, you’ll have to constantly consult the manual — which invariably reopens on the first page each time you stray away from it — even to play this game. We won’t pretend that we understood much about this one, but it involves some well-known SNK characters thrust into the unfamiliar territory of a board game with minigames thrown into the mix. As long as you can win these minigames and get the most stars, you win.
If grinding through dungeons to upgrade your very own Unitron is your cup of tea, Biomotor Unitron offers as good a take on the genre as any other title on the platform. It’s an immersive experience, but one that is only really rewarding if you’re willing to put in the hours to beef up your character.
Mega Man Battle & Fighters
Despite the fact that you’ll be unable to trade on this emulated version, this action title still packs a punch and is one of the best games in the bunch. You’re given a selection of four characters with whom you’ll be up against a gaggle of bosses from the original Mega Man games. There’s even a bit of a story attached, but it’s barely related to what’s a pretty straightforward — albeit intense and often difficult — series of boss fights. You’ll also get character data after each win, and with 36 sets to get, this pretty much acts as an unofficial objective of sorts.
Neo Geo Pocket Tennis
Probably the title we had the most fun with. Pocket Tennis seems absolutely infuriating in the beginning, but once you get used to it, beating the AI becomes a piece of cake and you’ll need a human opponent to enjoy the game to the fullest. Like Baseball Stars, this game features several characters with different strengths and weaknesses, but this time the stats seem to matter noticeably. With five different courts on offer, you and a fellow tennis lover can spend hours on this old gem.
Ganbare Neo Poke-Kun
Ever wanted to have a less time-intensive and more entertaining, eventful version of a Tamagotchi? Well, if this curious combination is your cup of tea, feel free to dive right into this one. You’ll be tasked with taking care of your pet Neo Poke-Kun, and this involves playing and succeeding at a variety of minigames. Like Biomotor Unitron, this one also requires a lot of time to be truly satisfying.
Neo-Geo Cup 98 Plus
If EA Sports’ FIFA 94 was entirely top-down, controlled poorly and had the occasional interstitial screens to tell you how well or how poorly you were doing, it would be Neo-Geo Cup 98 Plus. It’s not like this game is awful. It’s just that it’s very hard to justify spending time on this in this day and age for reasons that don’t involve nostalgia because there are just so many better titles out there that do even the same thing much better.
Puzzle Link 2
This one’s pretty easy to figure out and would be right at home with the classic Microsoft Entertainment Pack titles. Icons in the shape of card suits begin falling from the top, and it’s up to you to connect matching ones and make them disappear like some kind of reverse Tetris. There’s a bit more depth to the game, and it can be played 2-player to enhance the experience. Overall, a simple, fun title.
SNK vs Capcom: Card Fighters’ Clash
A card game with a surprising amount of depth for a handheld platform, SNK vs Capcom: Card Fighters’ Clash has you trying to win fights with characters you’ve possibly used hundreds of times before but in a completely different setting. You’ll have to deal with a vast array of abilities, attacks, and tactics in order to come out on top. Be prepared for a long haul, because this game will have you consulting not just the manual but even online guides unless you’re familiar with it from the days of yore.
5.5/10 – Rough around the edges
All in all, it’s a decent collection of games from a bygone era, but there are just so many better options out there that are much better uses of your time that you’d really have to be specifically into these exact titles to want to invest the kind of time and effort they require. There are some bright spots, but overall it wasn’t something we’d set time aside for. It’s a 55/100 from us.