As you may know, a large part of my gaming soul was forged in the fires of arcades when I was a kid. As such, I’ve always admired (lusted after, really) SNK’s Neo Geo platform, from the first time I saw it in a magazine, to the big red 4-slot at my local bowling alley. But, despite having seen it in stores a few times, the Neo Geo Pocket Color totally passed me by during its short lifetime in the US.
It wasn’t until a visit to Japan where I happened upon a bundle of a Pocket console and a few games (and a few more unearthed at another store the following week), that it really caught my eye. The games are clever versions of their arcade big brothers, the system is charmingly chunky (but not too much, I’m looking at you, Lynx), the clicky stick is divine, and the screen is awful in that way only unlit LCDs can be.
And that’s really the big (and only) downfall of the system, but it was simply a product of the time. Seeing the library beginning to come to the Switch from the great team at Code Mystics, who have partnered with SNK here, has been a real boon for fans of the system. This is a niche platform, with a small, but excellent library, and seeing these games on a modern display is a dream.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO
I’ve always found the idea of bringing handheld systems, like the Game Boy, Neo Geo Pocket Color, or even the WonderSwan, to the Switch to be a no brainer. These systems all had a native display that was essentially the Neanderthal to our modern flat panel screens. There was no CRT blended dithering to argue over, these games really can live on modern displays and feel largely the same, but better.
The Neo Geo Pocket Library has never looked better than in this series on the Switch. The colors pop. Match of the Millenium is a beautiful game, much more varied than Gals’ Fighters in its design, and with a huge roster of characters (8 of which are locked, but just require playthroughs to reveal). All of your favorites from SNK and Capcom fighting games are here, and though the Chibi-esque look is something we never really saw from SNK outside of the Pocket, it does evoke a few Capcom titles (like Puzzle Fighter) in a familiar way.
The music is surprisingly good, featuring great chiptunes. Some of my favorite Street Fighter and SNK tunes popped up when I least expected it. This really added to the fun, light vibe of the game. Crossover fighting games have always been special for just this reason.
The thought of a two-button fighter makes most people cringe, but SNK managed to make it work in a way that no other company would. The highlights of everyone’s moves are here, hadouken, Terry Bogard’s ground energy, and Chun-Li’s flurry kicks. While I do, of course, miss the microswitched joy of the Pocket’s original stick, the game feels right at home on the Switch.
A highlight of Match of the Millennium is definitely the plethora of game modes. There are single matches, tag matches, tournaments, training, and an Olympic mode with some crazy minigames featuring some non-fighting game characters from both publishers. This is a deep game for a handheld, and I do appreciate the thought that went into this, making it more than a one-note experience, like many handheld fighting games of the era.
While games of this shared title appeared on a lot of systems during this era, the Neo Geo Pocket Color version really is a standout in how much is packed into such a small package. Once again, Code Mystics has brought us a flawless conversion of yet another Pocket standard. This series is perfect for the Switch, and the visual frames and customization of the look and experience brings the life and legacy of the Pocket to a new generation. Now, my only question remains, when are we going to get some other genres? Magical Drop, Neo Turf Masters, and Metal Slug await us! Come on Code Mystics, give us what you know we all want!
Charlie’s first attempts at gaming did not go well. Repeated, failed run-ins with the first Goomba in Super Mario Brothers 1 plagued his maiden gaming voyage. Undaunted, he would go on to become an avid gamer of all platforms, with Nintendo always sitting atop the highest pedestal. Except for that Halo 3 incident in 2007. We don’t talk about it. It never happened.
Currently, Charlie enjoys playing games on as many platforms as he can get his hands on, with current favorites being the Switch, 3DS and Neo Geo. When he’s not playing games, Charlie is a live sound engineer and manager for his production company, Clear Harmonies, based in Washington, D.C.
Charlie enjoys talking about games nearly as much as playing them, and loves meeting new people, so hit him up!
Plays: All of them games. Seriously.