One of the only real criticisms we levelled at the recent Mega Man Battle & Fighters, a re-release of a Neo Geo Pocket Color title included in this new package, was that nobody had bothered to translate the content from Japanese. It was an issue exacerbated by a fan translation already existing online for those willing to go the emulation route. Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.2, on the same basis, is equally disappointing.
There are ten titles on board this follow-up to Vol.1 — four of which are already available to buy separately on Switch eShop — nicely presented as little cartridges on the menu, each with a variety of options. The language barrier issue affects three titles, one of which is the aforementioned Mega Man Battle & Fighters. The other two are board game King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise, and minigame/sim curio Ganbare Neo Poke-Kun, both of which are fairly well-known to Neo Pocket aficionados as two of the system’s more intriguing titles.
In Battle de Paradise you can bring up the manual freely to decipher the text, although it resets to the first page each time you do. If you can figure out the structure of things (which involves choosing a character, a sidekick striker, and rolling a die) you can get started on the board’s squares until you enter a minigame. These consist of memory tests, target shooting and the like, occasionally based on classic SNK properties. But it's still a fairly text-heavy affair. Some of the minigames are quizzes, of sorts, where the only instruction in the manual is “depending on your response, your EX Striker’s alignment, etc. may be affected”. Not exactly ideal. The goal is to be victorious at the minigames and accrue more stars than your opponent before the number of turns ends, but it will require patience and regular manual referrals for a non-Japanese speaker to sync with it.
Ganbare Neo Poke-Kun’s language barrier is thankfully less of an issue, although one’s mileage will vary regarding its novelty appeal. A cross between a virtual pet and WarioWare, Neo Poke-Kun is a weird ant-like creature who lives inside the Neo Geo Pocket Color’s internal hardware, in a room littered with posters, consoles, toys, and other oddities. Not dissimilar to the Mega-CD’s Panic!, Poke-Kun lolls around the room while you press buttons, swing the analog dial, make various things go off and on, and sometimes demolish his house in the process. Eventually, you can call on visitors who burst in one door, run across the screen, and exit into the bathroom on the other side. The animated sketches are amusing, and occasionally suggestive, and the graphical style is great. The aim is to make Poke-Kun happy and keep him active enough to head off and get to work on the minigames he’s meant to be building. You can check the progress of these games — of which there are 30 — and access them when the percentage meter fills. The minigames are fine, basic reaction tests with an arcade slant, and mostly fun in short bursts, which is exactly how they’re meant to be taken. But, with no ‘happiness’ indicator to let you know how you’re doing, the twiddling-buttons-for-effect portion can become tedious while you wait for something to actually play.
Mega Man Battle & Fighters, as we mentioned in our full review, is good, solid fighting fun, remodeling two of Capcom’s arcade games for SNK’s handheld wonder. Again, translations, even if just for the menus, would have been nice, but they’re overcome with relatively little perseverance.
Big Bang Pro Wrestling (also available separately on eShop) plays similarly to most 16-bit wrestling titles of the era, but is actually rendered really well, featuring an interesting and extensive character line-up. It’s certainly good enough to appeal to fans who enjoy the genre. It scores points for squeezing surprising mechanical depth into the hardware’s diminutive format.
Baseball Stars works in a similar fashion to its arcade-based cousins, offering nine teams with varying abilities in pitching, batting, fielding, and running. The actual running bit is automated, so it all comes down to training your swing timing and positioning. It’s a tad crude, not hugely involving, but if you appreciate the sport you might sink a little time into it.
Biomotor Unitron is a neat dungeon crawler RPG with an emphasis on developing parts, building your Unitron, and seeing it improve when entering dungeons to do battle. It’s an interesting adventure if you’re willing to dedicate time to it, and its visual novel-styled over-world is graphically very fetching. It’s more likely to appeal to fans of the genre, but it's undoubtedly well-formed. (Read our full review for more details.)
Puzzle Link 2 is — you guessed it — a puzzle game, presented beautifully with a cast of great-looking characters. And, discounting the original Puzzle Link, it’s an excitingly original concept. As rows descend from above, acting as a timer, the player must create coloured links between corresponding icons, drawing lines across the screen to detonate clumps. It can be tricky at first to figure out all the available tactics, but once you get into it it makes for an engaging time-sink. There’s also a two-player battle mode available for local play.
Neo Geo Cup ’98 Plus and Neo Geo Pocket Tennis are sports titles, unsurprisingly, and they’re fine. Cup ’98 is your basic overhead football game, where every sprite is the same dude, and you’re limited to two buttons to do all your running, tackling, passing, and shooting. It works well enough for a few goes, but it might not hold your attention for long, especially when Germany keeps fouling you all the time. Pocket Tennis is a little better, although collision detection on the ball takes some getting used to. Still, with five courts, several tweakable modes, and a bunch of characters, it’s decent, if short-lived, fun.
Card Fighters Clash is probably one of the better-known titles in the collection, a card-battling game made more alluring by the involvement of SNK and Capcom's famous fighting characters. You’re dealt five cards automatically from a deck of 50, and then go about using limited ‘SP’ and other attributes to defeat your opponent’s deck. It’s a game that will require some manual reference, and not because of a language barrier. Rather, it’s quite deep strategically, with a variety of different attacks, including ‘union’ actions, counters, and abilities unique to each character card. When you have a handle on it, it's both fun and rewarding to strategise your deck and come out victorious, offering a little brain-teasing management to what initially seems like a mundane concept. (Check out our full SNK VS. Capcom: Card Fighters' Clash review for more details.)
Vol.2 offers a varied and solid selection of software, then. It auto-saves your game progress and offers two-player local action for several titles. Compared to the previous volume, featuring fighting games galore and both Metal Slug titles, the selection here is definitely a notch down. Interests in each title will vary player-to-player, and with such a broad variety of genres, one needs to consider whether you will really get your money's worth, despite the steady level of quality.
At the same time — and here comes the rub — we’re peeved that the opportunity to translate titles like King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise is still being overlooked. Nobody is buying that it’s a task too great in 2022, when fan translators have gone to work on great swathes of back-catalogue games for emulation purposes.
Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection Vol.2 is a perfectly able collection, albeit less enticing than the first volume. Several games in the library here — notably Card Fighters' Clash, Mega Man Battle & Fighters, and Biomotor Unitron — have already received standalone releases on Switch eShop, which may well dissuade you from a purchase if you already own them. Die-hard fans of everything Neo Geo Pocket Color will likely enjoy getting stuck into what’s here, but it’s not a must-buy.