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 ‘starter kit’ included a blue system, Metal Slug, Sonic Pocket Adventure and Pac-Man for games, and a nice case.
And just because I can’t convey how clicky the controls are in a photo, here’s a brief video: