Neo Geo Pocket Reviews M-Q

Metal Slug First Mission
Grade: A
Publisher: SNK (1999)
Reviewed: 2004/4/7


screenshotHoly 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 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.

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1 player 

Neo Geo World Cup '98 Plus
Grade: B
Publisher: SNK (1999)
Reviewed: 2006/9/5

screenshotNeo 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 who 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 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.

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1 or 2 players 

Pac-Man
Grade: C
Publisher: Namco (1999)
Reviewed: 2004/4/7


screenshotThe 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.

Our high score: 15100
1 player 

Pocket Tennis Color
Grade: B
Publisher: Yumekobo (1999)
Reviewed: 2020/4/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAccording to my site it's been five years since I last posted a Neo Geo Portable (NGP) review. That is criminal. So I picked up my little light-blue NGP and hit the power button. It came right on! The batteries are still working! The screen looks a bit dark but that's because my system isn't back-lit (*sad face*). So I cranked up the lights and discovered a little tennis game that plays like a champ! Unlike so many convoluted modern tennis titles Pocket Tennis Color is pure pick-up-and-play.

You choose from nine anime-style players and five "fantasy" courts. The courts are colorful but not particularly interesting. Each is about one screen in size but the screen still scrolls to keep the ball in the center. The controls are refreshingly simple with a hit button and a lob shot. Holding in a direction when you strike the ball lets you aim to some degree. Your player automatically dives if the ball's a bit out of reach, or smashes a lob if it's in his wheelhouse. On the downside you can't really execute any fancy moves or wide-angle shots, so the volleys tend to be predictable.

Pocket Tennis Color has a great tournament mode. The idea of playing full sets over multiple rounds might seem a bit much on a handheld, but the matches progress quickly because the game doesn't waste your time with victory animations or replays. It would however be nice if it showed the score between games. And is there a reason why the court changes color halfway through each match?

When I reached the finals I was surprised to see my next opponent was a red blob called "Amiba". I beat him pretty easily, which is probably why you don't see many single-celled organisms in professional tennis. I was then presented with the Delta cup dated 4-12-2020. Hey wait - that's today! Sure enough the system has a clock! I expect to win many more cups in the future because Pocket Tennis Color may be the most sensible tennis game I've ever played. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Puzzle Bobble Mini
Grade: B+
Publisher: SNK (1999)
Reviewed: 2020/4/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI wasn't sure what to expect from this, but Puzzle Bobble Mini turned out to be the Japanese version of Bust a Move. I'll never forget how obsessed my friends and I were over Bust a Move 2 (PS1, 1996) back in the day. I don't recall even trying its single-player mode, but on the Neo Geo Pocket you don't have much of a choice.

Fortunately the main puzzle mode is madly addictive. I made it through the first 12 levels, and the game remembers so I can always pick up where I left off. The other two modes, cpu versus and survival, are just as engrossing. Like Tetris, the idea is to clear the screen, but this time by popping balloons.

You have a little arrow-shaped gun on the bottom that fires colored balloons toward the top. When three balloons of the same color are next to each other they pop, and any balloon connected to them below falls off the screen. There's not much eye candy except for a green cartoon dinosaur cheering you on. You can aim with surprising accuracy as you try to squeeze in shots or carom off the walls.

This could easily be an "A" game if not for a little problem. On my non-back-lit Neo Geo Pocket the colors don't exactly jump off the screen and I had to really strain my eyes to differentiate close colors like gray and green. In a game where you need to make split-second decisions, color confusion can cost you big time. Other than that, Puzzle Bobble Mini is pretty awesome and you don't need to be a cerebral puzzle geek to enjoy it either. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Puzzle Link
Grade: A-
Publisher: Yumakobo (1999)
Reviewed: 2015/4/15

screenshotIn the 1990's every game publisher was looking for the next Tetris. There were so many block-smashing games, they all started to look the same. That said, I was cynical about Puzzle Link. When I started playing it I had no idea what was going on. You shoot at a wall of colored blocks that encroaches toward the bottom of the screen. When you shoot blocks, colored pipes are created. The idea is to connect groups of like-colored blocks, causing them to disintegrate.

Puzzle Link is a little hard to grasp and that's its biggest problem. Also, the limited color palette forces you to differentiate striped yellow blocks from normal yellow. It's easy to write this off as an awkward variation on Tetris but the more I played Puzzle Link, the more I liked it. You need to think and react quickly to connect the right colors. Often you'll get one side under control only to discover the other side is piling up.

What makes the game exciting are its chain reactions, which are more the rule than the exception. I like how they unfold slowly enough for you to enjoy them. You can be teetering on the edge of oblivion, and then a single well-placed pipe brings the entire wall down. There are several skill levels and variations, and high scores are recorded. The game also features anime-style intermissions and unlockable Pokemon-style "cards". Unique and addicting, Puzzle Link is the sort of game every portable system needs. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 40460
1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, GameSpot, Moby Games