The Neo Geo Pocket Color is a 16-bit colour handheld game console manufactured by SNK, it was released in 1999 entering markets all dominated by Nintendo, competing with Nintendo’s Game Boy Color. The Neo Geo Pocket Color is a successor to SNK’s monochrome Neo Geo Pocket handheld which debuted in 1998.
Closely modelled after its predecessor, the Neo Geo Pocket Color design sports two face buttons on the right hand side of the system, and an eight-direction microswitched digital D-pad on the left. It is horizontally designed like the Game Gear, as opposed to the Game Boy’s vertical setup and the WonderSwan’s hybrid of both. Upgraded from the Neo Geo Pocket, it has a colour screen in the middle.
Similar to the Game Boy and its successors, the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance, the Neo Geo Pocket Color does not have a back-lit screen, and games can only be played in a well-lit area. Like the Game.com before it, the Neo Geo Pocket Color uses a CR2032 battery to retain backup memory and keep the clock active, as well as the usual AA batteries to power the system during usage. The Neo Geo Pocket Color has no regional lockout.
The system has an on-board language setting, and games display text in the language selected (provided the cartridge supports that language). Other settings include time and date, and the system can provide customized horoscopes when one’s birth date is entered.
Cables for linking multiple systems were available, as well as a cable to connect the NGPC and the Dreamcast, as part of a partnership between SNK and Sega. Games such as King of Fighters R-2, which links with King of Fighters ’99 Dream Match and King of Fighters Evolution on the Dreamcast
A total of 82 games were released for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Most of the system’s games were produced by SNK themselves, featuring well-received titles from franchises such as Fatal Fury, Metal Slug and The King of Fighters. Several large third-party developers also contributed to the system; the most well known of these is Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, a title heavily based on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that is often considered one of the greatest games produced for the system.
The system enjoyed a greater success than any Game Boy competitor since Sega’s Game Gear, selling over 25,000 Neo Geo Pocket Color systems in Japan and over 100,000 in Europe by the end of 1999. Despite a good sales start in both the U.S. and Japan with 14 launch titles (a record at the time), it was hurt by several factors, such as the Neo Geo heads’ notorious lack of communication with third-party developers, and anticipation of the Game Boy Advance.
In 2000, following SNK’s purchase by Japanese Pachinko manufacturer Aruze, the Neo Geo Pocket Color was dropped from both the United States and European markets. SNK recalled most of the back-stock of systems and games and re-sold them in Asia where the system would continue to be sold and supported until 2001.
The Neo Geo Pocket Color was SNK’s last video game console, as the company went bankrupt on October 22, 2001.
Despite its financial failure, the Neo Geo Pocket Color has been regarded as an influential system. Many highly acclaimed games were released for the system. The arcade-style microswitched ‘clicky stick’ joystick, was praised for its accuracy and being well-suited for fighting games. The system’s display and 40-hour battery life were also well received by many.