Before I could get my hands on my own console (the lovely PS2) my best bet to play a video game was on an arcade machine. Sometimes it was the odd machine sporting King of Fighters in the corner stores of my town. Other times I had to convince my parents to take me to the arcade at the mall and bless me with tokens.
NEOGEO, without me even realising it, was a part of my love for gaming’s origin story. King of Fighters was the source of some great afternoons. Getting out of school and heading to the store to get a packet of chips, a popsicle and a couple rounds with the change. And then there was one of the titles that really did guide me onto this path, Metal Gear. My absolute number one go-to whenever a machine had it loaded. So imagine my surprise when I see that three entries from these certified classics are part of the NEOGEO Pocket Colour Selection Volume 1: Steam Edition. What a mouthful that name is.
The Pocket Colour Selection is packing ten of it’s classic titles. Namely, SNK Gals’ Fighters, Samurai Shodown 2, King of Fighters R-2, The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny, Fatal Fury First Contact, Metal Slug 1st Mission, Metal Slug 2nd Mission, Big Tournament Golf, Dark Arms: Beast Buster, and Crush Roller. So clearly you’ve got a lot to look forward to playing, and rest assured there are a few great games to enjoy in this collection.
However, this brings us to our first problem. Half of these games are fighters. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoy playing a good fighter. But in a bundle of ten entries, what one might expect is variety. When five out of ten belong to the same genre there will inevitably be overlap in experiences, gameplay and mechanics. What doesn’t help this aspect is the fact that it’s a classic set of games from a system with only two buttons used to play. While two buttons aren’t inherently bad, they make that fighter overlap painfully obvious.
Choose Your Fighter
Although, even with my complaints of an overabundance of fighting games I still can’t help but enjoy myself. They are some well made classics, and it’s easy to see why they were included in the collection. After all, SNK the manufacturer and publisher of the NEOGEO line did excel at pumping out fighting titles. However, the stand outs for me have to be Fatal Fury First Contact and Samurai Shodown 2. Fatal Fury felt like the culmination of the previous entries in the collection coming together. Lending their strengths and sweet combo animations, while being improved upon as well, to become the best version of themselves. Plus it had Geese Howard as a playable character, who had become a favourite of mine not too long ago as a DLC fighter in TEKKEN 7.
Samurai Shodown stood out to me as it had a bit of a different feel to the other fighters in the collection. I’m also a sucker for the whole Samurai theme and combat style, so that may have played a part. Fights feel more technical, restrained and just a tad tactical. I mean, you’ve got a button dedicated to fake outs that, against a real player, can come in real handy to bait an approach in order to counter attack.
Speaking of real players, you can also play through many of the games in the NEOGEO collection with a friend via remote or local co-op. This is where the range of fighting titles really makes sense. Out of all the games here, these would be the most fun with a friend. Especially if the two of you played some of these titles back in the day. The nostalgia alone could be worth the purchase.
I Love You, Metal Slug
My favourite game out of the entire Pocket Colour Selection has to be Metal Slug. I may have played more King of Fighters with friends. But Metal Slug will always trump that as my favourite. When I was a kid we’d go to this family restaurant called Spur that had a play area for children. Inside this play area they had set up some games. There were couple of PS2 titles which was great of course, but there was always a line. So instead of waiting in line, I opted to go to some of the less crowded arcade games. This lead me to the holy grail. Metal Slug (though I can’t remember which). I swear I enjoyed Spur for this game more than the food. As soon as we’d grab a table I’d ask if I could go play.
Therefore, I more than enjoyed playing through a childhood classic again. And honestly, both Metal Slug 1st and 2nd Mission really hold up well. It was and still is a great run-and-gun game, with a surprising amount of variety to it. When your boots are not on the ground, you can find yourself in a jet, tank, boat, submarine, or even rocking a jetpack. The game is just non-stop frantic action that rewards careful maneuvering and quick decision making. It’s safe to say that Metal Slug elevates my score for this collection. However, we still have a couple more games to look at.
Golf, Tentacle Guns and (not)Pacman
Big Tournament Golf really surprised me. I was so ready to just write it off. It’s just golf. There’s not too much to write home about. You pick the best golf club for the distance of the hole, adjust your angle for the wind conditions and shape of the course, and swing. From that description alone, I’m already yawning. And yet, there was something that drew me in. It’s a really simple, but really fun and relaxing experience. I put on some good music, and lost an hour trying to shave a couple of strokes off my game.
And then there were two. Dark Arms: Beast Buster and Crush Roller. Let’s begin with Dark Arms. When I first loaded it up and saw that it was an action-RPG with firearms I was genuinely excited. It starts off a little slow. In fact, at first I was convinced that the game just wasn’t for me. However, as you progress and gather the resources to develop and improve new weapons, it starts to really come into its own. It’s definitely different compared to the other games, which makes it a breath of fresh air after the plethora of fighters and the side-scrolling Metal Slug. And it’s got a tentacle arm weapon, so that’s a plus.
Finally there’s Crush Roller, which was probably my least favourite game. Not necessarily bad, but nothing you haven’t seen before. It’s essentially a Pacman variant. It does take a couple steps in a different direction, such as paths that overlap like an underpass and bridge. This makes for a bit more variance in maneuverability. However, it didn’t feel all that enticing, especially when you could just go play Pacman.
Overall the NEOGEO Pocket Colour Selection is a solid lineup of some classics that you may have missed, or played a bunch when they first released. Sure half of these are fighting games, and there may be one or two games that don’t interest you at all. But those that do may be enough to check this collection out. Metal Slug alone is enough to convince me, if that wasn’t already clear. Either way you should be in for a reasonably good time, which might turn into a great time with a friend.