The one thing that I like about the Neo-Geo Pocket Color is the way that it handles fighting games. Being that SNK banks most of its money on its popular fighting series, a good engine for fighting games is important. If you have played Mortal Kombat 4 on Game Boy Color or any fighting game on a portable system for that matter then you know how horrible a portable fighting game can be.
I was a little hesitant when I first popped in Samurai Showdown. After all, this is one of my favorite SNK fighters. I did not want to be let down. After getting my ass beaten repeatedly I am happy to report that this is a very good translation. Of course it is nothing compared to the real thing, but you can use this on the bus (or in a car or a train).
The main difference between this game and other games on other platforms is the graphics. We are talking great animations, clear movements with the other characters, and some really nice effects with the special moves. For being on such a small screen the characters move really fast and their moves are very detailed. It is not like on Gameboy where characters seem to be overly pixilated and when they fight it is just a mesh of graphics. No, here the characters have the same kind of beautiful 2-D animation that made their predecessors so popular except here they are squished down.
If you are unfamiliar with the way Samurai Showdown is laid out, it happens like this. First you choose a character from a list of 14. In the NGPC version there are three new characters to the lineup Asra, Taizan Morosumi, and Charlotte that are ready to show their samurai skills. Then you choose a fighting personality. This option is a bit of originality that sets Showdown apart from other fighting games of this sort. There is the "Slash" method, which is cleaner and more honorable characterized by a personality of chivalry, and then there is "Bust". Characterized by a treacherous personality, Bust has more of an edge for the bad guy in you. The great thing about the choice is that each fighter has different ways of doing moves, and therefore different ways of fighting. This gives the game length and re-play value.
It is in the actual fight that you will really see the true advantage of the controller on the NGPC. The stick makes a clicking sound as is passes each direction so it is clear when each section of the joystick is passed. This allows for the half circle and quarter circle fireball motions to be made with ease. Plus, since the stick is raised, it is much easier to feel when it is pointing in a certain direction. No more will lousy control affect your fighting skills. Now you can get beaten up fair and square by the opponent.
Speaking of difficulty, this game is challenging enough to task some of the greatest fighters. However, with a little practice and some special moves, the computer will fall. Still it is a hard climb to be the champ. There is a reward waiting for you at the top of the game though and that is where the collection card system comes in. Upon winning, the game will reward you with a card, which has a special move on it. Collect enough cards and you could learn all of the special moves. Use them to take on your friends with a link cable.
If you are a SNK fighting games fan, then I think it is worth your while to get one of these systems and this game. When it comes to handheld fighting, you can't beat it. Except maybe thumb wrestling.
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