Format reviewed: Neo Geo Pocket Color
Submitted by: Chris Murphy
I'm just going to come out with it straight off the bat: SNK vs Capcom may possibly be the best handheld beat-'em-up ever created. Controversial, I'm sure, but after playing it you may just agree.
Firstly: control. Despite only having two buttons, the six-button method is replicated very well here, by the strength of each button press on either the punch or kick button determining the action carried out. This isn't the real reason that the control is so sublime, but the NGPC's fantastic microswitched thumbstick. You won't find a more accurate d-pad or stick on any other handheld, and you have to go to the arcade or buy a stick from Hori to rival this. Because of this, all your moves are easy to pull off, and the on screen action is instantaneous.
Next, the roster. Both companies have some of their best (and best known) fighters in here. Capcom are well represented by the likes of Ken, Akuma, Sakura and Zangief to name but a few. Likewise, amongst many others, you'll find Iori, Athena, Mai and Terry Bogard holding up the SNK side. They aren't cut down versions of the characters either. They have all their famous moves that you remember, and a couple of super moves that can be added to by spending points won by playing some of the many minigames which are reason number three.
These minigames include dummy slashing and a curious bemani style game, and some famous faces are present in these. My personal favourite is a simple game, but elevated by the simple fact that you control Arthur from Ghosts 'n' Goblins, collecting treasure while avoiding Red Arrimer.
The bouts themselves are fast, furious and supremely fun, and the story mode can be tackled either solo, tag-team or team. One superfluous but inspired addition is the ability to edit your own force, teaming any characters you fancy together, and then giving them your own victory slogan. I am ashamed to admit that I still chuckle every time I win and see Ken invite his fallen foe to 'Suck my balls!' Just childish, I guess…