Is That a Neo Geo in Your Pocket?

Goodness, this one was a long time coming. For ages I’ve done this thing where I would look at Neo Geo Pocket systems on eBay, maybe bid on one and get outbid, forget about it for a while, then start the game all over again. For those who don’t know (and that’s probably most as it wasn’t a particularly popular or long lived system, here’s some back story to it.

SNK, known for making reams of fighting games, arcade machines and the Neo Geo and Neo Geo CD home consoles (mostly used to play ports of arcade fighting games) got into the hand held market a bit late. They launched the Neo Geo Pocket in 1998 in Japan. The screen was black and white and the system was canned a year later. As soon is it was in the bin, SNK launched the Neo Geo Pocket Color in 1999. This was a nice bit of hardware. Its only downfall is that it doesn’t have a back lit screen, but hey neither did the GameBoy Colour or the GameBoy Advance. Nevertheless, the NGPC was killed off by Nintendo’s firm grasp on the portable gaming market. The system wasn’t helped by the lack of a proper launch either. For some bizzare reason, rather than being sold in proper shops at launch, a deal was made with the website eToys to be the exclusive retailer before it was eventually available in brick and mortar shops. Oh the heady days of the late 90’s.

Like its black and white predecessor, the NGPC was only on the market for a year. It was pulled in 2000 (2001 in Japan)  after SNK was bought out. All the North American stock was sent back to Asia where the remaining systems and cartridges were repackaged and sort of rebranded to be sold as a budget ‘pocket arcade’ in Asia as well as North America.

Now as of this week I’m the proud owner of one of these lil’ guys. I’m pretty impressed with the hardware itself. Not surprising with SNK building it that the controls have a nice hefty, arcade feel to them. Rather than a D-pad there is a thumb stick which is basically like an arcade stick for your thumb. Its clicky-ness is rather satisfying. The A and B buttons have a good chunky click to them as well. You feel that you can mash the buttons on this thing and it wouldn’t even blink. Which is good what with all those fighting games available for it.

My Neo Geo Pocket Color starter kit

My ‘starter kit’ included a blue system, Metal Slug, Sonic Pocket Adventure and Pac-Man for games, and a nice case.

Neo Geo Pocket Color

Neo Geo Pocket Color Cartridge

Snug in the case.

And just because I can’t convey how clicky the controls are in a photo, here’s a brief video:

The Newest Member of the Collection

The Newest Addition

As recently mentioned, I’ve been keen on collecting Gameboy games as of late. They’re tiny and don’t seem to be quite as popular (ie: pricey) as some other older consoles and games.

For whatever reason the idea of getting a Gameboy Micro popped into my head last week. I can’t even recall why. When they first came out six years ago I was a bit intrigued but dismissed them as being too small. It didn’t help that in North America they were packaged with three kind of ugly faceplates.

I started looking on eBay for them. Ah! In the UK not only was the packaging different, but the colour schemes were as well. You had your choice of four metallic colours rather than having to go with whichever faceplate you found the most agreeable (or buying another one). There sure were a lot of pink ones on eBay. I wasn’t having that though. The blue, silver and green were all really nice looking so I loaded up my watch list.

After a few days of them going for what I thought was too much, I realised that I’m probably not going to get one cheaper than the standard going rate of £30. Not if I wanted one that wasn’t banged up and/or missing parts. I ended up getting a blue one, with the original packaging (velvety carry pouch ahoy!) for just under the going rate. Smashing!

It arrived yesterday and I must say it was love at first sight. The build quality is really quite nice. I much prefer the buttons and D-pad on the Micro over the Gameboy Advance SP. It’s also really comfortable to hold for long periods of time… confirmed by a couple of hours of Castlevania Aria of Sorrow last night. And the screen… well yes it is tiny but that doesn’t make it hard to play at all. If anything it makes the GBA games look better. Both the SP and micro have 240 x 160 px resolution but on the Micro those pixels are pushed closer together.

The speaker quality and volume isn’t that impressive, but I’m really not surprised. What is nice though is the built in headphone jack. No more having to use a goofy adapter with my SP to use headphones. (yes yes, I could use my DS Lite, but it’s just not the same as usually original hardware remember!).

Not sure how well it would work if you had overly large hands, but for me this lil’ guy is perfect. Only thing left to test is how good the battery life is. Only one way to do that… back to Castlevania 🙂