Year Released: Pocket Color 1999 (UK)
Original Price: £59.99
Buy it now for: £20 + depending on model
Associated Magazines: No specific titles
Why the NeoGeo Pocket was great… Solidly built with a ridiculously large battery life, the NGPC could and should have posed a serious threat to Nintendo’s handheld dominance. Go back to it tod ay and you find a small, but varied back catalogue that has something for everyone. Highly recommended gaming on the move.
Although Nintendo has seemingly been the dominant force in the handheld sector, there was a rival that had the potential to succeed where others, like the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear, had failed. The Neo Geo Pocket Color was a great piece of kit that offered extensive battery life, high quality visuals and reasonable software, yet it failed to take the world by storm. Retro Gamer takes an in-depth look into the company behind the handheld marvel, the subsequent launches of the machine in different territories and the cock up that led to the downfall of a fantastic handheld.
Shin Nihon Kikaku (SNK) first began July 22 1978 and was initially founded to develop software and hardware components for business clients, quickly turning to the world of arcade development. Its first arcade titles were Ozma Wars (1979), Safari Rally (1980), and Vanguard (1981). Around this time frame, SNK created SNK Corp of America founded in Sunnyvale, California. While SNK still developed coin-op titles it shifted its focus to console games and signed up as a third party licensee for Nintendo in 1986. SNK released Ikari Warriors in 1986 for a variety of formats including the NES, but then decided to return to the arcade industry.
In 1989, SNK aimed to re-invent the arcades and manufactured interchangeable game cartridges. Christened Multi Videogame System (MVS), this arcade cabinet could allow up to six separate games to be installed into one machine. This innovative invention proved to be vital in keeping the arcades alive, and it meant that SNK went on to release its own home console using the motherboard from the arcade system which was flexible enough to adapt to home use.
The console was the Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System (Neo Geo), and although it was the most powerful home videogame console, its high price tag and expensive games meant it was only ever purchased by the mega-rich. Even today, Neo Geo titles can fetch colossal sums of money, with rare titles selling for thousands of pounds. The release of the Neo Geo CD in 1994 saw the first batch of 25,000 rapidly sell out in Japan but complaints of slow loading times meant sales tailed off and the American launch in 1995 was mostly ignored.
SNK’s mono handheld the Neo Geo Pocket (NGP) launched in Japan on October 27, 1998. Featuring a liquid crystal display screen that could produce eight shades of grey, a stereo headphone socket, over 20 hours battery life and internal battery for game saves meant it was technically better than the Game Boy. The handheld also included volume and contrast buttons as well as some basic PDA functions such as a clock, calendar and horoscope generator. Unlike the Game Boy, which was held vertically, the NGP was held horizontally and included a finger groove indentation for better grip. Like the Game Boy, cartridges would slot into the back of the unit, and the handheld featured two action buttons as well as Power and Options buttons.
The retail price of the NGP was 7,800 Yen, with cartridge prices varying from 3,500-4,500 yen. Tsunagete Pon! was part of the first wave of software to hit the market along with The King of Fighters R-1, Dokodemo Mahjong, Neo-Geo Cup ‘98, Shogi No Tatsujin, Pocket Tennis and Melon-Chan’s Growth Diary. Whilst it initially had some success, the lack of releases meant the public began to lose interest. SNK made a classic mistake; in its desire to beat the Game Boy, it failed to keep a close eye on the competition, and two months after launch, the Game Boy Color was released to universal acclaim.
4 GREAT NEO GEO POCKET GAMES
Melon Chan’s Growth Diary
Read the full feature in Retro Gamer issue 20, on sale digitally from GreatDigitalMags.com
Retro Gamer magazine and bookazines are available in print from ImagineShop