Baseball Stars Color
Publisher: SNK (1999)
Considering SNK's great track record for baseball games, I was expecting this portable version of Baseball Stars to be 'A' material, but after playing it a few times, I must say I'm fairly disappointed. The graphics aren't bad. The batter's view gives you a good look at incoming pitches, and small windows let you keep an eye on the base runners. When a ball is put into play, an overhead view kicks in. This angle makes the fielders look small, but a mark shows where the ball will land, and the high angle makes it easy to see what's going on. Surprisingly, throwing the ball is the worst aspect of the game. For some reason, it seems awfully hard to get the ball out of your glove, and throws tend to be weak, barely exceeding the speed on the base runners! Long throws from third rarely make it to first base on time, and turning a double play is nearly impossible. I also hate how your fielders hesitate before diving, making it extra tough to snag hard ground balls. The players themselves are short and pudgy, but their animations are noteworthy. Each pitcher has a unique wind-up, and the strikeout animations are very funny. When a runner crosses home plate, hearts appear over him, as if he just fell head-over-heels in love with the catcher. C'mon - that hardly ever happens in real
baseball. I should also mention that the difficulty is excessive. The game automatically ends if one team goes up by ten runs, and I was lucky to make it to the third or fourth inning when playing against the CPU. The teams and players are fictional, and two stadiums are available. Baseball Stars Color should have been a grand slam, but instead it's just a long foul ball. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Card Fighters Clash: SNK Vs Capcom
Publisher: SNK (1999)
It seems like a long shot, but this virtual card game is one of the best titles for the Neo Geo Pocket. If you're familiar with actual card "battle" games like Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh, you'll quickly pick up on Card Fighters Clash. Its rules are scaled down, but that doesn't mean it's simple! There's plenty of strategy involved and many contests boil down to a battle of attrition. I would definitely recommend playing through the brief tutorial before diving in. Clash is played in turns as you draw colorful cards featuring various SNK and Capcom personalities. There are plenty of well-known characters like Fei Long, Terry Bogard and E. Honda. Even more interesting however are the more obscure fighters such as Mature, Cham Cham, and Baby Head. You position the cards on a table, lining them up for head-to-head battles. Certain cards conjure spells that let you attack your opponent directly or augment a character's abilities. It's fun to see what each new card has to offer. The matches have a nice flow and tend to be short, which is key to a good on-the-go game. Some of the concepts can be hard to grasp, but you don't have to be an expert to enjoy the game, thanks to a gently-ramping difficulty. You challenge CPU opponents in a virtual world with locations like the mansion from Resident Evil. Fun to play and loaded with replay value, Card Fighters Clash delivers an ideal portable gaming experience. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Fatal Fury F Contact
Publisher: SNK (1999)
SNK did a respectable job of shoe-horning their Fatal Fury franchise into the little Neo Geo Pocket. I'm assuming the "F" stands for "first", but who the hell knows? While it lacks the visual splendor of the console version, this one-on-one fighter still maintains the same solid core gameplay. The characters look like caricatures with their oversized heads, but their movements are surprisingly fluid. Although each of the eleven fighters is rendered in a mere three colors, SNK did a decent job of providing each with a distinctive look and unique set of moves. The two-button kick/punch control scheme works well, and I found it very easy to execute special moves. The game has more depth than you might expect thanks to its combo and reversal systems. The exotic temple and city backdrops are somewhat bland, but at least they give you something
to look at. Ideally, Fata Fury F Contact is played against a friend via the "link up" mode. For the single player, there's no scoring system and the replay value is minimal, prompting many to refer to this game as "Fatal Fury: F This!" © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
King of Fighters R2
Publisher: SNK (1999)
Much like Fatal Fury F Contact, King of Fighters R2 is a decent portable one-on-one fighter that's severely lacking in replay value. Both games offer a roster of eleven cartoonish characters and both use the same fighting engine. Let's face it - they're basically the same game. In spite of the Neo Geo Pocket's limited color palette, SNK somehow made each character appear somewhat distinctive. The attacks tend to be exaggerated for the benefit of the small screen, so you'll see plenty of long kicks and flaming punches. The background graphics and music are relatively sparse but serve their purpose. You'll want to keep an eye out for poorly-translated dialogue like "Ha ha! Let's burn fool!" (I don't even know what that means) In addition to one-on-one matches, King of Fighters R2 lets you assemble "teams" of three fighters each. The cartridge saves your win/loss record, but the lack of a scoring system makes the single-player experience rather pointless (literally). It's possible to "link up" with another Neo Geo Pocket owner in "versus" mode, but for most people, the chances of that happening are not very good. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: SNK (2000)
Having recently played Last Blade 2 on the Dreamcast, it's interesting to see how SNK managed to shoehorn this game into a tiny Neo Geo Pocket cartridge. I haven't been impressed with other fighters for the system, but Last Blade won me over with its playability and rich feature set. You get a nice selection of ten martial artists, and while they're rendered as squat cartoon characters, each retains a unique style. The detailed backgrounds include a scenic river trail, a bustling market, and the interior of a burning house. The fighting action is about as good as it gets considering the graphic and control limitations. One button slashes and the other kicks, and together they perform some kind of repel. With only two buttons, it doesn't take long to figure out the special moves and determine which combos are effective. Your reach is minimal though, so you really need to get up in your opponent's grill to lay the smack-down. A nice blur effect punctuates a hit, and it's fun to see an opponent go spinning through the air. I prefer to use the green guy with the big hat (Zantetsu), even though his invisibility move seems to confuse me more than my opponent. After each match the winner tosses out the obligatory quote like "You're not worthy to be slain." That's cold. Last Blade goes the extra mile by including plenty of unlockables, including special play modes and a gallery. If you're going to play a fighting game on your Neo Geo Pocket, it might as well be Last Blade. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 750
1 or 2 players
Metal Slug First Mission
Publisher: SNK (1999)
Holy cow, this is one amazing portable game! This side-scrolling masterpiece offers rapid-fire shooting action, branching paths, and one surprise after the next. You control a soldier who's a one-man army, blasting his way through enemy soldiers, tanks, and aircraft. The animation of the characters is amazing. Your soldier can be seen breathing heavy when he stops, and enemies keel over with dramatic style. Soldiers on the lookout even alert the others by shouting with dialogue "bubbles". The background graphics are eye-catching, and depict huge towers and hulking aircraft carriers. Your basic weapon only lets you aim sideways or straight up, but certain weapons allow you to "spray" bullets over the whole range. Metal Slug First Mission has some very innovative elements. For example, getting captured might send you to an "escape from prison" stage, and when your plane gets shot down, you play a parachute sequence. Metal Slug took me by surprise by its high quality and playability. It's a very well designed game. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Neo Geo World Cup '98 Plus
Publisher: SNK (1999)
Neo Geo World Cup '98 Plus sure is a long title for such a tiny little soccer game! With responsive controls and a simple learning curve, World Cup is definitely an arcade-style experience. Played on a vertical scrolling field, the players are quite large and execute their moves in a fluid manner. On offense, the buttons are used to pass and shoot, and holding them down lets you "charge" your kick (at the risk of a steal). On defense, you can steal or slide to gain possession of the ball. When the ball is airborne, you can execute headers, volleys, or trap blocks. The pacing of the game is just right, and the penalty calling is mercifully restrained. Only a few flaws prevent Neo Geo Cup from achieving greatness. For one thing, your "window" view of the field is so small that you can rarely see whom you're passing to. SNK tried to address this issue with an "outside pass cursor" (an arrow that runs along on the edge of the screen), but it's not very effective. Also, the automatic player switching can be erratic. You can always link up with a friend, but Neo Geo Cup also offers a rewarding single player experience. The well-designed story mode lets you to progress through a tournament, purchasing items like spikes and bandanas to improve your attributes. I tend to suck at this game, but I always have a good time playing it, so that should count for something. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1999)
The Neo Geo Pocket can play a mean game of Pac-Man, as evidenced by this cart's close resemblance to the original arcade game. You can choose to play on a scrolling screen or a less-detailed full screen, and both work great. Although the graphics are easier on the eyes in the scrolling mode, there's something to be said for being able to see the entire maze at once. Although the dark blue maze border is faithful to the arcade game, it's kind of hard to see on the non-lighted screen. The sound effects are virtually identical to the arcade, and rounding out the package are the "attract mode" screens and a full set of intermissions. The control could be better. The Neo Geo Pocket's tiny joystick isn't as responsive as it could be, so you'll need to begin your turn slightly before reaching an intersection. In addition, I was disappointed that this game doesn't save the high score. How hard would that have been? Pac-Man pales in comparison to other games for the Neo Geo Pocket, but it's still good, clean, old-school fun. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Samurai Shodown 2
Publisher: SNK (1999)
Compared to the lackluster Fatal Fury and King of Fighters for the Neo Geo Pocket, Samurai Shodown 2 isn't half bad. In fact, I actually enjoyed this one. The controls are pretty tight and the action is relatively smooth. Shodown's fighters wield weapons, which is far more conducive to playing on a small screen. Swords slashes leave streaks behind them, and clobbered foes tend to spin and tumble dramatically. There's even a decent one-player mode. It doesn't keep score, but it does convey a story, incorporate hulking bosses, and allow you to collect "cards". These cards not only look cool, but list special moves on the back! Shodown's graphics are as good as it's going to get on the Neo Geo Pocket, with scenic flowing streams and moonlit villages. The well-done background music is tinged with a traditional Japanese flavor. Samurai Shodown 2 can't compare to its big-screen counterpart, but this portable version still has all of the necessary ingredients for a playable fighter. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure
Publisher: Sega (1999)
I've always been a big Sonic fan, and Sonic Pocket Adventure really captures the spirit of those classic games on the Genesis. In fact, these stages are basically modified versions of those from the original Sonic games. If you've already played through those old games, this one will seem awfully familiar, but if you're new to the series, you're in for a treat. What makes Sonic so great is his exhilarating speed. Although there is a certain amount of precision platform jumping, you'll spend much of the time watching your hedgehog whip through corkscrews, tunnels, and loops, collecting rings and plowing through enemies along the way. As you would expect from a Sonic game, the graphics are sharp and the colors vibrant, although the curves are surprisingly angular in this version. The levels could be better designed. Many seem to double-back on themselves, making it tough to tell which direction to head next. And it's always frustrating to fall off the "bottom" on the screen. One great feature is the inclusion of 3D half-pipe sequence (first seen in Sonic 2) which you play between stages. This fun bonus stage challenges you to collect a certain number of rings while avoiding bombs. At first, Pocket Adventure seemed like a bit of a rehash to me, but then I discovered a few extra modes that take the game to the next level. A time trial mode challenges you to clear each stage in the fastest time, and the best times are recorded. There's also a variation that requires you to collect 50 rings before finishing, which really changes your approach. As you progress through the stages, you collect puzzle pieces you can assemble in the puzzle mode. There's even a two-player duel mode. Sega threw in everything but the kitchen sink. If you're looking for platform action on the Neo Geo Pocket, you can't go wrong with Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: SNK (1999)
You can't tell by the name, but Turf Masters is a golf game, and a very good one at that. Like so many SNK titles, Turf Masters has an arcade sensibility that makes it instantly fun and addicting. We're talking about fast pacing, simple controls, and crisp, smooth graphics. There are three 18-hole courses and eight golfers of varying abilities. The main screen displays two overhead views - one of the entire hole, and a closer view showing your current position. Hitting the ball is easy, thanks to two simple meters that determine power and accuracy. You can hook or slice the ball by varying degrees, but you cannot apply backspin. Turf Masters has a few odd features. If you hit the ball into the very edge of water, you are given the option to attempt a risky "water shot", which I've never seen before in any golf game. When you hit the ball onto the green, it's VERY easy to hit the pin. On one hole, my ball kept hitting the pin and rolling off the green, which was truly annoying. Putting uses a single meter that moves up and down with the ideal spot marked on it (Hint: For short shots, wait for the meter to come back down). The contours of the green are well defined and easy to read. The game moves along quickly, so you can squeeze in 18 holes in about a half an hour. What also helps to speed up the game is the fact that you can't exceed four shots over par. Turf Masters is a terrific little golf game that's easy to play and a lot of fun. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, GameSpot