So many “new” classic game projects have been released in the past few years, proving that there’s still merit in preserving classic games. The Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection has been an effort to preserve a chapter of gaming history that hasn’t been revisited yet.
We’ve seen plenty of Neo Geo arcade ports over the years, but SNK’s ill-fated handheld platform has laid dormant. The Switch’s unique success has been a part of getting these games back out in the open, or at least it seems that way on the surface.
Fatal Fury First Contact Review
We’ve seen several games released under this label now, in a sort of Virtual Console-like, branded format. Fatal Fury: First Contact is the latest release, which is a colorful NGPC adaptation of Real Bout Fatal Fury 2.
What made the SNK handheld library special was special care taken to make these fighting games work on a two-button, underpowered handheld system.
Rather than trying to “port” the games, SNK established a different, handheld house style that changed the traditional Street Fighter-like art style to something more cutesy and visually legible on a small screen.
You see this style throughout the NGPC’s fighting game offerings, and while the platform ultimately fizzled, it retains its distinct identity to this day thanks to those efforts. That said, on an individual basis some of these games have aged more gracefully than others. Fatal Fury: First Contact is certainly cool, and deserves its spot in the library.
But it’s also the first one of these to be released, with everything that comes with that. Iterations and improvements made subsequent NGPC games much more substantive and memorable, making its appearance on the Switch after those later games feel strange.
At this point we’ve already seen all-time greats like SNK Gal’s Fighters and The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny appear before First Contact. There’s just less going on with this game in comparison, and it has more issues with things like special move commands.
If you’re a collector or longtime SNK nut there’s no reason not to pick First Contact up as part of the set. But if anything, the timing here shows that Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection would be amazing as a compilation-style release. But as individual drops, it becomes harder to recommend those piecemeal buys.
That’s only one way of looking at it, though. Obviously these games are part of a whole, and the release order of games that already exist doesn’t really mean anything. You know if you want these games or not, even if you’re new to the scene.
But when it comes to evaluating each game by itself, it would be dishonest to suggest they’re all equally great. From the historical standpoint I’d consider each game a worthy purchase, including Fatal Fury: First Contact. But if you’re looking to just pick up one or two of the Neo Geo Pocket Selection titles currently available, this one’s at the bottom of the list.
That said, roots are roots, and it’s just as valuable to play this game to see how the Neo Geo Pocket style came to be, what concessions were made and what ideas were tried.
Fatal Fury: First Contact does a lot with a little, coming up with ways to give players access to as much as the arcade experience as possible. That includes long and short presses on the punch/kick buttons, and a fascinating meter system that resembles a Capcom Versus game more than a SNK original.
This review is all over the place! But that reflects my experience checking out Fatal Fury: First Contact in 2020. I’ve already played King of Fighters R-2 and SNK Gal’s Fighters, and both of those are more gratifying to play. If this were a compilation release, those are the games I’d come back to, while First Contact would be, well, a First Contact before moving on.
I’m glad this game is part of the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection set, and it’s certainly an essential piece of the library. It provides important context, and makes sure to represent the OGs on their home turf.
At the end of the day, much like last year’s Collection of SaGa, I wish these were more celebratory releases. I can’t understate how great it is to see these games back and easily playable, but there could be much more.
It particularly stands out here, as SNK has worked with Digital Eclipse on some truly amazing compilations before. Code Mystics are absolutely contributors to SNK’s contemporary standing though, and this work is valuable (and all the rollback stuff; shout outs). I’m just spoiled!
At the end of the day, I have to stick to my convictions. Fatal Fury: First Contact is an awesome game. It doesn’t look good if you compare it, as an individual purchase, to its peers that are also available. But those games don’t exist without this one.
These are all games that have been super deserving of modern ports, and I really hope the releases continue with the GOATS, like Card Fighters. A retail package of everything at once would be the ideal, but I’m glad the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection exists regardless. Also, you don’t get to play as Wolfgang Krauser in KoF R-2.
- Another one of these! The NGPC border is awesome, the emulation is rock-solid, the price point is good
- Fatal Fury characters on the roster you don't see as often elsewhere
- Historical context is tangible in play
- Doesn't have the same muscle or depth as the other NGPC offerings
- I wish this was part of a singular set so this review could be less awkward
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review