The Neo Geo Pocket is quite rightly looked upon fondly by gamers due to its excellent line of portable SNK classics ranging from Fatal Fury to Metal Slug – the system even generated some quality third party support, Sega’s Sonic Pocket Adventure possibly being the most noticeable example at the time. Despite the small and rather well picked over library this little handheld still has a few surprises tucked away, here are just a few of them:
Densetsu no Ogre Battle Gaiden: Zenobia no Ouji (伝説のオウガバトル外伝: ゼノビアの皇子)
All new and still a Neo Geo Pocket exclusive to this day, Zenobia no Ouji (often translated as “The Prince of Zenobia”) does a remarkable job of porting the full Ogre Battle experience onto SNK’s handheld. The game plays very much like the Super Famicom’s March of the Black Queen so anyone who’s had the pleasure of playing that will feel instantly at home here. The main character of the story is the titular Prince Tristan, the very same character that also appears in both Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together.
As the events in this game are set before and around the events of MotBQ there are times when the familiar faces of recurring series characters such as Warren, Deneb and Canopus will pop up. Although not as long as the console games (not necessarily a criticism or a surprise considering the format) the game still contains a total of thirteen regular stages with another four secret ones.
Densha de Go 2 (電車でGO!2)
Train simulations aren’t really the go-to genre for either handheld gamers or the typical Neo Geo fan, yet Taito were able to release not one but two onto the Pocket! It’s easy to see why – the games are immediately engaging and suit themselves well to short bursts of play. The aim of the game is simple, arrive at the station on time and stop the train by the platform. The difficulty is in the details: speed limits and rail safety must be observed (pulling away from the station at top speed is a definite no-no) and passing a station just a few seconds late is enough to be docked a significant amount of points at the end of stage tally.
There are two modes of play, arcade and original. Arcade is the standard mode and as expected is closest to the regular arcade game. In this mode you simply pick your route (the routes themselves are replicas of portions of the Akita Shinkansen, Hokuetsu Express Hokuhoku Line and the Keihin-Tōhoku Line) and aim for the most perfect train journey possible. Original mode still has the same trains and tracks, but offers a very different experience by randomising the time of day and the weather each time. If that’s still too easy the player can turn on professional mode while driving – this covers up the distance to the next station, requiring the player to learn the route by sight.
Mizuki Shigeru no Youkai Shashinkan (水木しげるの妖怪写真館)
Mizuki Shigeru is probably most famous for his work on Gegege no Kitaro, although this demon-snapping RPG still makes good use of his talents. Armed with little more than a camera capable of taking photos of Japan’s spirits and apparitions (two years before Tecmo scared us all with the same concept in Project Zero/Fatal Frame), the player’s job is to wander about the land finding ghosts and spirits to snap.
This is complicated by a swift day/night cycle amongst other things, making it possible to be in the right place at the wrong time. The game generally plays much like an RPG – there are shops to visit and plenty of people to talk to – but the actual demon photography is done in short action segments. Unwanted photos can be sold (to Kitaro, no less) leaving you with a powerful set to battle characters and even other players with.
The Neo Geo Pocket port of Cotton actually had a PAL release… but it’s so rare that this game may as well be import-only. Although obviously not as pretty as the arcade original or the other home ports the areas and bosses are immediately recognisable and the game plays very much as it does elsewhere.
The humorous cutscenes are also still present and correct, charting Cotton’s ceaseless search for tasty Willow.
RockMan Battle & Fighters (ロックマンバトル&ファイターズ)
Another arcade port, this time a two-in-one pack of Capcom fighting games – Rockman: The Power Battle and Rockman 2: The Power Fighters. There are three playable characters to choose from (four in The Power Fighters, thanks to the addition of Duo) who can then tackle the Robot Masters in any order they like. As with regular Rockman games, certain weapons are more effective against certain enemies, encouraging the player to find the most effective route through the game (or to read a FAQ). Stages can include unique hazards like forced scrolling or warp pipes, as the stages are themed around each Robot Master there is generally an obvious link between the effect and the Master’s ability.
A database is included in this Pocket port, it starts empty but slowly fills up with information on each boss character as they are defeated. The official webpage is still up and can be found here.
The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise (THE KING OF FIGHTERS バトル DE パラダイス)
Battle de Paradise was the final King of Fighters on the Neo Geo Pocket, released in July ’00. Unlike any other King of Fighters title this one is a party-style board game that also has the pleasure of linking up to the Dreamcast version of King of Fighters ’99.
The game is quite simple – games are played over 30, 60, or 99 turns and the person with the highest number of stars at the end wins. There are four boards to choose from at the beginning with a further two unlockable as the game progresses: these boards are laid out as routes lined with tiles that the player’s character moves along using dice rolls. Each tile has a different effect – some beneficial, some harmful. Special tiles can give random coins, move the player to another area or start a minigame. Minigames come in a variety of flavours, some are skill based (such as Mai’s dance routines or the “match the silhouette to the character” game) and some test the player’s knowledge of KoF trivia. If a second KoF board game fan isn’t present within link up distance the player can challenge the CPU instead.
NB – title image is attributable to Wikipedia user Alkex.