The Neo-Geo Pocket Color - A Review

SNK's colour handheld gets a good seeing-to

Oberon:

Nintendo might have been the number one handheld manufacturer, but they're not the only one...

The Neo-Geo Pocket Color was available
in a variety of colours.

For those who don't know, SNK were the company behind one of the longest-lived consoles of all time - the Neo-Geo. Combining their skills as an arcade games manufacturer with a few nifty ideas as to what makes a good system, they had been steadily selling Neo-Geo games to both arcade and home users for almost 10 years before they decided to enter the handheld market. Their first machine, the Neo-Geo Pocket, was only available in Japan - and monochrome.

But when they decided to take it worldwide, the fledgling system was given a technicolour shot in the arm. The Neo-Geo Pocket Color, or NGPC for short, one-upped the reigning champion, the Game Boy Pocket, in almost every way. Its display is a 2.6inch colour LCD, offering four colours per sprite, and a total of 146 for backgrounds from a palette of 4,096. Compared to the one- or two-colour sprites commonly seen on the Game Boy, this looked gorgeous.

The NGPC's controls are handled by the usual A and B buttons - but these are pressure sensitive. Pushing the buttons harder in games like The King of Fighters meant your characters did stronger attacks. For movement, the NGPC excels with a digital joystick in place of the normal D-pad. This may seem odd at first, but it offers incredible precision in-game and makes the arcade ports that make up much of this system's library much more authentic.

Power is handled by a pair of AA batteries, with a smaller CR2025 battery providing back-up power for maintaining clock settings, etc. The NGPC has a built-in alarm clock, horoscopes, and calendar which can be accessed by powering up the system without a game. It's the little
touches like these that make the machine so nice to use.

The actual library of games released for this system is, admittedly, rather small. SNK took the console off the market in 2000, a year after its release, meaning it only has a library of about 100 games total. However, there are some absolute gems, including ports of many of SNK's famous arcade games. Playing Samurai Shodown! on the bus, or Metal Slug when you're meant to be doing some work, or even an amazing port of Sonic the Hedgehog for when you just want to have some fun - the NGPC doesn't disappoint.

I give the SNK Neo-Geo Pocket Color a total of 9/10.