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  •   Neo Geo Pocket Color Review by Prophet

    The Machine

    Well, I walked into EB and there it was - the Neo Geo Pocket Color! I immediately purchased one (Light Blue) along with Samurai Shodown 2 & Metal Slug 1st Mission. I had never actually played one of these before, but having owned several flavors of Gameboy, an Atari Lynx, Turbo-Express, GameGear & Sega Nomad, I was eager to try the new portable on the block! Especially since it was made by SNK - arguably the most prolific 2D arcade game company in the world. My first impression of the unit itself is very positive: it's about the same size of a Gameboy Pocket/Color, but is held horizontally and therefore more comfortable in the hands. The controls are great too. The little control stick is especially notable - a big improvement over the Gameboy cross button. It's sorta like the analog stick on the Nintendo 64 pad, but it's an 8 direction digital controller. It's very smooth and doesn't cramp your thumb like the Gameboy. It also "clicks" lightly as you hit each direction, making it possible to precisely execute moves in fighting games, for example. Hit the power button, and you're greeted by a wonderfully sharp, bright reflective color display. The screen is so good that it's visible even in relatively dim light. In a well lit area, it practically looks backlit! And considering you get 40 hours of playtime on just 2 AA batteries, I'd say the tradeoff on a backlight was well worth it. Trust me - the Nomad, Turbo & GameGear DEVOURED 6 AA's in barely 3 hours! Some other nice features of the NGPC are the internal clock, calendar and backup RAM. Overall, it's a beautifully balanced example of form meeting function. Nice work, SNK. :)

    The Games

    Well, I've only had a short while with these games, but I can tell you right now - if you buy a NGPC, you should also buy Samurai Shodown 2 & Metal Slug 1st Mission. Gamefan and others gave these two games the best reviews, and I can see why! They're both terrific! I played SS2 the most so far, and it rocks. The coolest aspect of the game, aside from the fluid animation and new characters (Asra Bust ROCKS) is the ability to collect cards as you progress. These cards give special powers and added abilities to characters. When I won the game with Asra Bust, I received a bunch of cards for other characters, which is a great feature since it makes the player really want to try every character using different card combinations. Best of all, your card collection is saved via the backup RAM. Overall, a very fun game and worthy of the Samurai Shodown heritage of quality, style (great art!) and playability. Next we have MS1M, a scaled down Metal Slug with a new twist - the game is no longer linear! To be honest, I only played the game briefly, but long enough to give it a major thumbs up. I can tell you this - it has lots of yummy MS style humor and violence, and tons of cool vehicles. Another cool thing about this game is the parallax scrolling in each level - clear evidence that the NGPC *is* indeed a 16-bit system. Good stuff.

    So... anything bad?

    No game system is perfect, and portables tend to be less perfect than consoles because they have to make more tradeoffs. In the case of the NGPC, I think SNK looked closely at the Gameboy and adopted everything that made that system such a huge success: inexpensive, long battery life, small and *truly* portable. They also have some great software support - you can't go too far wrong with SNK, Capcom & Sega involved in game development. However, there are a few negatives. The sound can be described simply as: Gameboy. And one can't help but wonder why they couldn't have added one or two more buttons... Some people may wish the screen was backlit. But overall, despite these shortcomings the NGPC is a terrific little machine. And NONE of those "negatives" impaired my enjoyment of SS2 coming home on the subway tonight!

    Conclusion! Victory!

    It's simple - if you have any interest in portable games then you MUST get one. The machine is relatively inexpensive ($60-$70), the games are SUPERB, and 40 hours on 2 AA's... you can't beat that! If you're a Neo Geo fan, and if you like fighting games, then it's definitely time to throw that Gameboy away. Conclusion: Buy one now!!!