Initial release date: November 9, 2022
Developers: Code Mystics, SNK
Publisher: SNK Playmore USA Corp.
Genres: Puzzle, Fighting game, Role-playing video game, MORE
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
"Review Copy Provided By SNK"
SNK and Code Mystics have been working to bring the Neo Geo Pocket library to various platforms, which has been a positive development. The first group of releases were included in Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1, which was a great collection that included some of the best portable fighting games and a few solid Metal Slug releases. A second group of releases have since been released and are included in Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 2. However, unlike the first compilation which felt like a collection of the best titles, this follow-up feels more like a collection of lesser-known titles with a few noteworthy games included.
The games in the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection have been preserved nicely, with virtual versions of the original boxes, manuals, and cartridges included. The emulation is also solid, with various filters and display settings available to customize the experience. It is also noteworthy that games can be played on different versions of the Neo Geo Pocket handhelds, such as the original monochrome Neo Geo Pocket, the standard Neo Geo Pocket Color, and even the uncommon NEW Neo Geo Pocket Color. However, the latter was a final hardware revision which did not offer significant improvements, so it may be difficult to notice a difference in the emulation. Some of the games featured in Vol. 2 have already been released individually, like SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters’ Clash which is a fun tabletop experience, and Biomotor Unitron, a fun portable RPG experience.
Surprisingly, the most enjoyable games in this collection are the sports games, with Pocket Tennis being a standout. It's a simple game to get into, but the mechanics work smoothly. The baseball and soccer games are also fun and robust. These games are great examples of how a sport can be condensed into a bite-sized video game experience. They're easy to get into but still have the necessary quirks to make them accurate to the real thing. Another sports-related game included is Big Bang Pro Wrestling which leans more towards being a fighting game. There aren't many pro wrestling games on portable consoles that have stood the test of time, so this one is a welcome inclusion, even though the grapple system isn't the most interesting. The character sprites are detailed and the game tries to capture the presentation of pro wrestling.
Another fighting game in Vol. 2 is Mega Man: Battle & Fighters, which is mostly based on Mega Man: The Power Battle, which can be found in Capcom Arcade Stadium 2. It's interesting for what it is but not a game that will be played repeatedly. Some of the best portable experiences are puzzle games. While it would have been nice to see more puzzle games included in Vol. 2, there is at least Puzzle Link, a simple game where you link and chain tiles to create a simple and engaging puzzle action game. It's not as good as Tetris or Puyo Puyo, but it's still a good game to play.
What makes Vol. 2 particularly interesting is also the reason why this package feels like a missed opportunity. There's a board game based on The King of Fighters and a strange experimental simulation called Ganbare Neo Poke-Kun. Unfortunately, both titles are entirely in Japanese and only their instruction manuals are crudely translated. There are online walkthroughs that can help, and it's nice to see games like Ganbare Neo preserved, but for most players, these will be largely inaccessible and unplayable experiences.
Overall, Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 2 is a mixed bag of games, featuring some enjoyable sports and puzzle games, and some odd and experimental titles. The emulation and preservation of the games is solid and the ability to play on different Neo Geo Pocket handhelds is a nice touch. However, the inclusion of games that are entirely in Japanese with only crudely translated instruction manuals, makes it difficult for most players to fully access and enjoy these games. While some of the games in this collection are enjoyable, it feels like a missed opportunity for a more cohesive and fully accessible collection of games. For those getting into the Neo Geo Pocket library for the first time, it is recommended to start with Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1 instead, as the handheld did not have a large library to begin with, and Vol. 2 feels like a limited selection of games.