While I would never call myself a NeoGeo connoisseur, I can certainly appreciate SNK’s efforts at making their go at portable gaming a success. And in the many years following its release and eventual death, I’ve come to discover how great of a gaming system the NeoGeo Pocket Color was.
And thanks to the company’s efforts at providing emulated versions of classics from that portable’s limited library in the form of NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 and now Vol. 2, I don’t have to go through the gray zone of having to download anything off the internet to appreciate all that colorfully juicy retro goodness on my Switch.
While the first NeoGeo Pocket Selection stuck closer to SNK’s bread and butter of fighting games and shooters, Vol. 2 is much more varied in genres, providing small tastes of a wide range of styles, dipping into puzzles, fighting, sports, RPG, and even a bizarre adventure minigame-like experiment. There’s a little bit of everything here and most are surprisingly playable.
The game list consists of: Baseball Stars Color, Big Bang Pro Wrestling, Biomotor Unitron, Ganbare Neo Poke-Kun, The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise, Mega Man Battle & Fighters, NeoGeo Cup ‘98 Plus Color, Pocket Tennis Color, Puzzle Link 2, SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters’ Clash.
Out of that bunch, I already spent some time talking about Biomotor Unitron, a weird little RPG that has you putting together your mechanical gladiator. It’s more of a curiosity than anything, but for historic archival purposes, it’s well worth having in the collection.
Similarly strange is Ganbare Neo Poke-Kun, which is easily the best looking game of the bunch and probably of the entire Pocket library honestly. It’s got a shocking amount of colors, huge sprites, and incredible animation that might fool you into thinking it’s an entirely new portable release. It’s a simulator of sorts that has you keeping track of Poke-Kun as he messes around in his apartment, offering you all manner of minigames for you to enjoy. It’s gimmicky for sure, but man, it’s absolutely beautiful.
The sport titles included, Baseball Stars Color, NeoGeo Cup ‘98 Plus Color and Pocket Tennis Color do justice to their respective ball-related activities, so to say. There’s only so much that can be done to make baseball enjoyable, even more so when it comes to videogames, and Baseball Stars Color is about as fun as it can be, and it’s got that very cartoony visual charm that’s a trademark of SNK games on the system.
Pocket Tennis Color is an excellent tennis game that’s got very tight controls and a whole lot of humor when it comes to its character designs. You get to play as a tennis playing French maid in it, for crying out loud. There’s not much going for it past what it is, though, so don’t get too excited.
When I was a kid, I was a sucker for soccer games on portables, and if I had a NeoGeo Pocket color growing up, I’m sure I would have NeoGeo Cup ‘98 Plus Color. It’s archaic for today’s standards, but it’s cute and has some of the most charming animation I’ve ever seen in a soccer game. Among others of its time, it holds its own for sure even though the zoomed in overhead camera can be a pain when you’re actually trying to win.
Rounding out sports, or as close as it can be considered one, Big Bang Pro Wrestling is a surprisingly good portable wrestling game. It’s simple to play and straight to the point. You punch, kick, and grapple your way through the wrestling circuit in very quick bouts. Good enough, I suppose.
The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise and SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters’ Clash aren’t fighters, per se, but card battling games. In them, you engage in one-on-one clashes against the CPU. These were huge in Japan back in the day and I can certainly see the appeal of hooking up systems and having schoolyard rumbles against your friends. For what they are now, though, they’re worthy additions to the collection for… well… collecting purposes.
Puzzle Link 2 is the sole bonafide puzzler of the bunch. It’s yet another twist on the Puzzle Bobble formula, this time you have to link up same-colored stones in order to clear the board. Combos play a big part in getting high scores, and building them up can be thrilling, but the controls might end up being a bit too fiddly for most.
Last but not least, Mega Man Battle & Fighters is exactly what the name implies. It’s a portable “demake” of the Rockman Power Battle titles released in arcades. As either Mega Man, Bass, Proto Man or a random big droid thing I couldn’t recognize, you take on a selection of Dr. Wily’s meanest machines robot-a-robot.
It’s a neat game, and it includes two different versions that have distinct enemies to fight against. Best part about it by far is the 8-bit Mega Man sprite and its new animation frames created specially for this portable version of the previously Japan-only arcade hits.
As with the previous entry, NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 2 includes a very basic interface and a handful of tweaks you can apply when playing in order to spruce up the visuals or make them as faithful as possible to playing on actual hardware. Sadly, some of the titles included aren’t translated and are presented only in Japanese.
There are a number of filters and borders that emulate the look of the system, as well as the option to play in black and white or color. Along with those, you can rewind your progress in case you mess up, and mess up you will, trust me. And that’s about it in terms of special features, if you don’t count manuals, of course, but those are par for the course.
Side-by-side with the first one, NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 2 has a more varied list of games and is as easy to recommend to anyone keen on experiencing one of the lesser known portables around. The games look good on the Switch screen and you sure can’t beat having them all packed up in one package to take on the go!