Which games are worth tracking down the original retro copies and which are best to simply download?
I’ve been collecting all of the Neo Geo Pocket Color PAL released games for a few years now and it has been wild how drastically the prices have shifted over the years. Unlike other retro games the NGPC games vary wildly depending if they come in the box with some games jumping into the hundreds of pounds. Thankfully the cases are chunky VHS-like plastic beasts so they tend to have survived better than most Game Boy boxes. A few of the best NGPC games have been ported to the Switch and there’s a huge issue with purchasing SNK games given their owners (I wrote about this in the recent KOF review) Regardless of the questionable owners of SNK the team at Code Mystics have emulated the NGPC games superbly and at a push that’s your first port of call.
The actual hardware is something special and worth tracking down with the ergonomic lightweight form, simple buttons and incredibly accurate and comfortable microswitch thumb stick. Everything about it makes the NGPC a nifty little beast. A mod can replace the screen with a backlit LCD and you can purchase a game drive or flash cart to run roms on the handheld but these go for around £90+ (or knock off Ali Express ones that you roll the dice on for around £50) With a wide range of ways to play the games and plenty of emulators on plenty of systems lets have a look at what games you should keep an eye out for!
Emulate – Bust-a-Move Pocket (Puzzle Bobble Mini)
The NGPC has plenty of arcade games that you’d think wouldn’t translate to a small handheld screen but what sets the NGPC apart from the Game Boy Color is how these games are shockingly playable fun. Puzzle Bobble Mini is one of the best of them and for £20 it’s a relatively affordable NGPC cartridge to find and with a case it’s still only £35 but they’re becoming more and more rare these days. If you could locate it I’d recommend it but you’ll be lucky to see a listing and it still holds up nicely even on a phone or small handheld retro device.
Locate – Metal Slug 1st & 2nd Mission
The NGPC versions of Metal Slug are great action platformers and show what the system was trying to offer in comparison to the mighty Game Boy Color. Given the games typically go for £25 and £50 in a case for PAL copies you’ll usually find you can get the American versions going for much cheaper, the games were often bundled with the handheld in a large blister pack. As the NGPC is region free you can play whatever you fancy as long as you have the AA’s to power it!
Emulate – Dive Alert (Becky or Matt’s Version)
As Dive Alert is a slow paced submarine RPG this isn’t really a game you want to dive into without a good heads-up. Dive Alert is possibly the most unique game on the system and for £35 if you’re lucky enough to find a copy or at an eye watering £180 for either version in a case you’re best off finding out if it’s right for you another way. The two versions are almost identical aside from the ships so pick the gender you want to play as and have a blast!
Locate – King of Fighters R-1 & R-2
Now we’re getting into the genre most people think of with the NGPC and SNK in general. Every owner will either have or had played a 2D fighter on the NGPC as the iconic look, sound and feel of these games has stood the test of time fantastically well. The combos and mechanics feel as responsive as the big screen arcade counterparts and for £15 for the game or £50 with a case you can easily find room for R-1 or R-2.
Emulate – Faselei!
I’m quite surprised at how much cheaper Faselei! has become. At one point in the past you’d be looking at the £130 case price for the game alone but now Biomotor Unitron has taken up the mantle for crazy priced RPGs on the NGPC. You could hypothetically get the cartridge alone for around £30 if you want a copy in English (as the Japanese version tends to go for a bit less but isn’t translated) but it’s incredibly rare and still an enjoyable tactical mecha RPG regardless.
Locate – Pac-Man
Pac-Man is the stand out easiest to buy NGPC classic that was thankfully made in bulk and is the same game in any language. You can expect to pay around £5 for the cart (or less) and £28 if you’re feeling fancy and want the case but the game itself is worth a go. The impressively playable slightly zoomed in view can feel like a new challenging way to play the game but there is a scaled down full screen version if you’re chomping at the bits to see what’s going on.
Emulate – SNK Gals’ Fighters
Given how awfully cringe the attempt at a new SNK Gals’ Fighters was in SNK Heroines (check out that review here to see why) it’s quite fun to jump back find out why this title was even a thing in the first place. At the ridiculously high price of £75 for the cart and a ludicrous £450 for the box it’s best off emulated. Gals’ Fighters is another of the NGPC 2D fighters but there’s a reason the handheld is remembered for this genre’s gameplay and this is a good one.
Locate – Samurai Showdown 1 & 2
Fun fact, I got my copy of Samurai Showdown 2 by accident as it was in with my NGPC when I first got the handheld and the seller just let me keep it as a Christmas present, I haven’t stopped playing it since. At £25 for the cart and around £70 for the case it’s a little pricy but unlike the fast paced button tapping fighters on the NGPC Samurai Showdown is a lot slower and powerful. Matching its arcade counterpart it manages to retain the feeling that hits matter and you’ll be making good use of the microswitch stick in each showdown.
Emulate – Dark Arms: Beast Buster
Most people know of Dark Arms as Pokémon but if the monsters were guns and you do collect monster spirits for weapons but there’s a lot more to Dark Arms than the comparison allows. At £45 for the game and £95 for the case you’re probably best off playing it another way but Dark Arms is definitely worth playing. A unique top-down shooter RPG that gets more compelling the deeper you go it’s definitely one of the best reasons to have a look at that Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.1 on Switch.
Locate – Sonic The Hedgehog Pocket Adventure
I’m aware of my bias towards Sonic games in general but the NGPC adventure is one of the best and least known ones. A unique take on the Mega Drive Sonic 2 game with unique stages and areas that get the feeling of 1 and 3 as well. The levels are made for the small screen and everything feels fast and responsive. For £20 for the cart and £100 for the case you’d think it was expensive but you can spend hours and hours searching for the hidden puzzle pieces in cleverly hidden locations and the music is some of the best on the system.
Either – SNK vs Capcom: Card Fighter’s Clash (Capcom & SNK Versions)
It’s frustrating the sequel never made it out of Japan and the DS games just aren’t the same. I’ve managed to resist buying the NeoGeo Pocket Color Selection and various ports as they’ve come out onto the Switch but with Card Fighters I finally caved. I’ve completed both the Capcom and SNK versions of both of these games multiple times as they are the best card game RPGs you’ll ever play of that generation (yes even better than that one) An easily picked up card system and addictive gameplay wrapped up in simple story that’s definitely worth the £20 for the game or £100 for the box. Each version has drastically different areas, cards and final battles making them unique games. For £7.19 you can play both versions on the fantastic port to Switch and if you only play one game on this list, this is it.
Locate – Neo Turf Masters
If you own any NeoGeo device eventually you’ll end up with some sports games. Neo Turf Masters is a great port of the arcade game and for £5 for the cart or £45 for the box you’ll likely end up picking it up with the handheld. I’ve ended up with copies of Pocket Color Tennis and Neo Geo Cup ’98 without even looking and Neo Turf Masters is no different. It was bundled with a lot of systems and it’s worth a go if you’ve ever enjoyed the Game Boy classic Golf.
Emulate – SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium
Here’s the biggie. There was a great feature on the game in April’s Retro Gamer Magazine and to be honest, there’s not a lot more to say about this game that’s not already been said. For £40 for the cart and £150 for the case (should you find it anywhere) you’re going to be in for a fun time and it’s incredibly packed with features, styles, minigames and content but given the emulated port is on Steam and Switch you can easily play this classic for much less. As with a few NGPC classics the Japanese version also has English text so it’s worth looking up a title before buying as you maybe able to play it regardless of the region it started in!
What do you think? Did I miss your favourite? Are you as surprised as I am to find some titles command ridiculous prices to this day? Let me know and be sure to like and share but before you go here’s a few more classics that are worth checking out if you have time!