Nowadays, “portable fighting games” doesn’t really mean anything. You can just play the latest version of Guilty Gear and every non-HD Street Fighter in existence on your Nintendo Switch. Even back when the PSP was around you could grab totally serviceable ports and compilations for series like The King of Fighters. But before then, fighting games on portable systems was a wild west scenario, with nobody knowing if their guns would even fire when they needed them most. But SNK figured it out.
To be fair to everyone involved, the Game Boy series wasn't even remotely powerful. All the more baffling, really, that so many developers just tried to cram bigger games onto those carts. The likes of Killer Instinct, Street Fighter 2, The King of Fighters and even Mortal Kombat all showed up on Game Boy. You can guess how that turned out. From performance to controls, these games have not stood up to the test of time, and even later ports to the Game Boy Advance struggled, although efforts like Guity Gear X did some impressive stuff. But in-between the Game Boy and Game Boy advance was another platform, the one in which SNK was playing on its own turf: The Neo Geo Pocket Color.
The Neo Geo Pocket Color was the most tragically short-lived portable in gaming history, but the mark it made on fighting game fans remains to this day. That’s due to the style, adaptation and care put into the NGPC’s library, even in the late 90s when these characters were only so many years old. It’s that confidence in its own value that makes games like SNK vs Capcom: The Match of the Millennium so timeless and impressive, even today.
SNK vs Capcom: The Match of the Milennium Review
I’ve covered some of the Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection titles already, most recently the (somewhat) lacking Fatal Fury: First Contact. But even that game is only "lacking" when you stack it up to games like Match of the Millennium, still regarded as one of the best crossover fighters ever made. Sure, it doesn’t have the depth or fidelity of a Marvel vs Capcom, but what it lacks in that department it more than makes up for it in ambition, heart and originality. To be fair some of these characters appeared in previous NGPC titles, on the SNK side. But an entire, beefy Capcom roster and more SNK appearances make SNK’s charmingly cartoony portable house style the GOAT contender it really is.
Match or the Millennium has more going for it than just the characters and fighting. Sure, playing the story mode and against friends is the main draw of any fighter, and here it’s totally great. There’s a sense of humor, as well as the option to play as one character or in teams up to three. The game even assigns relevant team names based on the choices you make! But there’s some Pokemon Stadium-like flair on the side that helps push this title past the usual format.
Sure, I’m talking about a bunch of silly minigames. But these minigames go the extra mile to include characters, music and humor that couldn’t fit in the fighting part. Series like Metal Slug and Ghosts ‘n Goblins, well before either found their way into fighters with… fighters, appear here with as much love as the regular roster. Some of these minigames can be pretty tough, too! It’s almost like a souped-up SNK vs Capcom Game and Watch Gallery knockoff. And I mean that in the best way.
As part of the collection we’ve seen several releases of now, there’s nothing surprising here in terms of bells and whistles. Code Mystics’ emulation wrapper is awesome as usual, with all the different frames, visual tweaking and multiplayer options you’ll find in all the other ones. Perhaps most importantly, Match of the Millennium appearing here means that we don’t have to worry about the Capcom licensing being a barrier. So that leaves me with one more thought.
Card Fighters’ Clash, baby. Make it happen. Please?
- Everything? This is a platform-defining slice of software here.
- Still banging on the "I dearly wish the NGPC Selection was a physical collection" drum
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review