Release Date: 08/06/1999
Colors: Carbon Black, Solid Silver, Blue, Platinum Silver, Clear, Crystal Yellow, Camo Blue, Crystal White, Stone Blue, White, Pearl Blue
Everyone has played at least one Game Boy in their life, but the more obscure handhelds that tried to compete just didn’t get enough attention. It sounds odd that SNK of all companies would try to release an 8-bit handheld to compete with the Game Boy Color, but they tried and they did a good job. Their first-party lineup on the system was incredible and they really pumped quality into the little handheld. There was some third-party support such as Sega, Capcom, and Namco, but it just wasn’t enough. SNK was having a hard time getting Western support for the system as it just didn’t appeal to that audience.
The system itself is the successor to the short-lived black-and-white Neo Geo Pocket. The Pocket Color was ahead of its time being the first 16-bit handheld system on the market and beating the GBA to the punch by a few years. While it still suffered from not having a backlight like many handhelds in the 90s it still had a clear and crisp screen. There wasn’t much in terms of I/O, also like the handhelds of the 90s, but there was a link cable for multiplayer. What made the Pocket Color unique was the clicky control stick. It was the first handheld to have an analog stick and it was meant to emulate an arcade stick. I love this thing and wish more handhelds had this even if it is really noisy, but man does it feel good and is perfect for fighting games which the Pocket Color was famous for.
There are only two face buttons (A and B) and a soft power button and an options button. That’s it. It’s a pretty rudimentary system and I’m surprised it had so few buttons having a lot of fighting games on its system. You can imagine that these games are very simple at their core which they are. The display is slightly larger than the original Game Boy at 2.7″, however, the system does have a sub battery that’s used for keeping the clock as there are a few built-in apps on here. This was also the first handheld to do this. There is a calendar, horoscope, world clock, and an alarm setting. I’m not sure why you would leave your NGPC on all night to use as an alarm, but it’s there. You can pick a background color as well. It’s very simple and basic, but it’s there and is cute.
A system is only as good as its library and the NGPC is widely loved for its small, but high-quality library. Only 82 games were ever released, and a surprising amount was released in the West. The games were fun, had great visuals, and just played and ran well, however, they are insanely expensive. Most complete games will cost on average $100 a piece. It’s also recommended to modernize the system by installing a drop-in LCD mod. This makes the system much more enjoyable and you can play in the dark!
Overall, this is the little system that could. There are a few Japanese-only games that had fan translations, but you need a flash cart to play these, and they are expensive (about $100). You also must like SNK games to really enjoy this system. The King of Fighters, Neo Turf Masters, Samurai Shodown, Metal Slug, and games of that nature. If you love those classic arcade games you will also enjoy this system.