SNK Gals’ Fighters – The Neo Geo Pocket Smashes Onto the Switch

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One need only look as far as my Nintendeal bio to see my everlasting fandom for the Neo Geo. Now, I’m normally a MVS guy, and I have a few SNK arcade PCB’s as well (P.O.W. being my favorite of the pre-Neo era). That said, I never gave their handheld, the Neo Geo Pocket Color, much thought. It was a non-backlit oddity that arrived late to the party and never got a foothold in the US, facing off against the juggernaut that was the Game Boy line of consoles.

That is, until a few years ago. I am a collector of Japanese gaming oddities, and among that, the WonderSwan, an ever further afield handheld gaming console. I was negotiating a small order of WonderSwan games and consoles when my buddy in Japan mentioned he had an excellent condition Neo Geo Pocket Color that wasn’t moving, and I added it onto my order as an afterthought. The console feels well made, not surprising for SNK, and I purchased a few inexpensive games off of eBay over the ensuing months to have something to play on it.

I have enjoyed it, but I have no desire to mod this particular console, and fighting with an unlit screen at this point in my life isn’t something I’m interested in doing. So when we were told of the release of Gals Fighters for the Nintendo Switch, I was curious… very curious.

The Neo Geo Pocket is a quirky but awesome handheld, but I’m glad it’s finally getting some modern love.

OVERVIEW

As I imagine most of you probably don’t know, Gals Fighters is the holy grail among Neo Geo Pocket Collectors. The English version regularly sells for north of $400. Originally released in 2000 as one of the last titles for the system, the opportunity to own a copy of this unattainable game for $7.99 is shocking. And it’s a solid, solid game for what it is. Gals Fighters is a predecessor to the stunning SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy (watch for my upcoming review and comparison), released in late 2018.

What it is, is a 2 button fighter, which on the surface seems like it would be a terrible experience (see Street Fighter II for the Game Boy). However, SNK is the king of  fighting games with more minimal control schemes, and still making those experiences seamless and deep. And Gals Fighters is surprisingly deep, with characters having up to 20 distinct moves available through different button and stick combinations. (While we are on it, I do miss the clicky stick of the NGPC while playing on the Switch, but that’s a minor quibble.) Special moves (Mighty Bops!) are easy to pull off, there’s a cool item system, and the game provides a surprising challenge.

Graphically, this is the NGPC at its finest. The animations are fluid, and the game is very popping with color, especially on the bright, crisp screen of the Switch. The music is catchy and light, and the “cut-scenes” are chuckle-worthy at points with their over-the-top drama. Code Mystics did a bang-up job with this port and platform build, and the game runs without a single hitch I can see anywhere.

This is a colorful game, even its simplicity.

FEATURES AND THE FUTURE

The most welcome addition to Gals Fighters is a convenient single-screen multiplayer. It’s hard enough to find someone else with a NGPC, and I’d say nigh impossible to find a pair of someones who have a system and both have a copy of Gals Fighters. The local multi is a breeze to use, and playing Gals Fighters head to head on my TV is something I honestly thought I’d never experience in my life.

There are some great features in this package, which does lead to some speculation, but more on that in a second. There are a slew of display and zoom options, with your expected pixel grid (which really replicates the in person look of the NGPC screen), and you can cycle through what seems to be every NGPC system variation as a border of sorts. It was quite unexpected when I booted the game up for the first time. There’s also a handy rewind feature which, when we are talking about emulation, why not; and a digital version of the manual, which in itself is a treat due to the rarity and price of the original.

The pixel filter is an astonishingly true-to-life depiction of a NGPC screen… I have to squint to see it!

Let’s look at those system borders a little more closely. If this was to be a singular release from SNK and Code Mystics, I honestly don’t know why they would have included all these extras, especially the system borders. It’s my opinion that this is the first in a line of NGPC releases set for the Switch, and I for one, am very excited at that prospect. And why shouldn’t they? The Neo Geo main system games have done very well for them, and while I wouldn’t necessarily buy a NGPC game on PS4, for instance, it makes perfect sense on the Switch for on-the-go gaming.

Gals Fighters is not without its offbeat visual humor, which lends charm to the experience.

CONCLUSION

Gals Fighters is an unexpectedly engaging game for a 20 year old handheld release, and it’s a geeky delight to have it available on the Switch in such a wonderful package. The presentation is excellent, the concept of the platform is welcome (where is Game Boy Online, Nintendo? Huh?!), and the chance to own such a marquee and sought after title for dollars is fantastic. This game is well worth the $7.99 price tag, and if it’s a sign of things to come, well, what a way to kick things off.

Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Publisher– SNK
Price – $7.99
Genre – Fighting
Size – 113MB

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