We see classic compilations of games all the time these days, usually for console and arcade stuff, though. You really don’t see a lot of rereleased handheld games, and forget about anything beyond Game Boy. SNK, however, has finally brought back its own brief handheld history, and has rounded several games up for a physical release. It’s a weird sell for some folks, but the additional historical features are a great touch that could justify double-dipping.

Related: SNK vs Capcom: The Match of the Millennium Review | Portable Fighting’s Finest Hour

By double-dipping, I mean the circumstances here are a little odd. Over the past year, SNK has been releasing games under this NEOGEO Pocket Color Selection label, but as individual drops. Six games, all of which are in this set, were released before this single download compilation. So for fans who have been picking up those, it’s probably going to hit different. 

There’s often no way to know what the plan is for stuff like this, but from a consumer perspective it’s a frustrating move to see this whole volume release after the sixth piecemeal game is still quite new. Still, there are unique features you won’t see elsewhere, and a physical release is on the way as well. If you’re a collector or historian of sorts, there’s plenty of incentive in that alone.

Along with the six games released before, there are four games added to the set. These NEOGEO Pocket offerings aren’t fighters, giving the Selection a better sense of variety. You get two Metal Slugs, a distinct action-RPG called Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 and a golf game as well. So there’s a lot here, especially considering the “Vol. 1” distinction and relatively small library size.

My favorite part of NEOGEO Pocket Selection Vol. 1 is, however, outside the games themselves. Developer Code Mystics has produced 3D models of each game, including super high resolution art. For many players, this could be the first time seeing things like a NEOGEO Pocket game box, and you can even pop ‘em open and see the inside. 

If that isn’t cool enough, each game also includes full instruction manual scans, so there’s a lot of classic content restored here. There aren’t any further extras like design documents, art or what have you, but there’s something that feels special about these models. It’s like being able to look at your collection on your shelf, or checking them out at a store. Being able to examine the box at your leisure, and read all the details in perfect clarity is something I never would’ve expected.

Otherwise, you can expect the same emulation features present in the other releases. You can rewind, play around with NEOGEO Pocket borders with touch controls, zoom, change your scanline filters and use that bizarre handheld multiplayer function. It’s all here, offering a pinch of “quality of life” stuff to help newcomers dip in more comfortably.

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I just wish the Switch had more fighter-friendly controls. The NEOGEO Pocket was known for its “clicky” joystick, which made hitting the spots for proper fighter play easy. The Switch’s Joy-Cons (or face controls for a Lite) just don’t allow the same kind of precision. A Pro Controller helps but it’s still easy to, for example, get smacked when you thought you were blocking because you didn’t quite push the stick far back enough. That isn’t the game’s fault, though.

It’s also easy to get those speculation juices flowing looking at the context. While the Vol. 1 in the title doesn’t necessarily guarantee a second set is on the way, it certainly signifies intent. It’s also important to note that SNK vs. Capcom is included, confirming that whatever licensing fans may have worried about ostensibly isn’t a problem. A NEOGEO Pocket collection simply cannot feel complete without games like Card Fighters, and the games Sega was involved with are still a question.

NEOGEO Pocket Color Selection Vol. 1’s timing has weird optics, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a quality compilation of underappreciated classics. The historical features are great, so is the emulation. And it helps that this is a pretty powerful set of games by themselves. The physical release is icing on the cake, and I hope this means the brand has been successful enough to keep things rolling.


Pros:

  • The box, cart and manual stuff rules
  • Excellent games! No fluff here at all. Yes, even Big Tournament Golf.
  • Same great emulation and features. 
  • Lower cost per game if you don't have the single releases

Cons:

  • If you bought the individual games already you might be upset (YMMV)
  • Genre imbalance; mostly fighters (YMMV)
  • Hard not to compare the contextual content volume to Digital Eclipse's SNK 40th Anniversary Collection 

Score: 9.5

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.