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Vol. 2, Issue 6
December 15, 1999

Pocket Full o' Love:

Still Chompin' After All These Years

by Jason "loonyboi" Bergman




o if you haven't seen the commercials, the Neo Geo Pocket Color is out here in America, and hopefully it's selling well. Frankly, I'm really rooting for the system, since having a single company in control is never good for us gamers, and in the case of the NGPC, it's just a really cool piece of hardware (check my last column for a rundown of its features). But, I promised you that I'd share some thoughts on NGPC games, so let's get into that, shall we?

Last time I spoke about Bust-A-Move Pocket, which I consider to be the system's "killer app" (to quote the book of Jobs). This is true, but don't let that make you think there aren't any other great games for the system. There are several great games (and a bunch of decent ones). Taking a quick look at the top three games over at Amazon.com, you've got Bust-A-Move (ooh yeah), Sonic's Pocket Adventure (look for an in-depth look at this in a future column - I'll be comparing it to the old GameGear Sonic game) and the always classic Pac-Man.

Yes, Pac-Man. And no, this isn't some fancy-schmancy anniversary dealie, and it's not a tacky side-scroller like the failed Lynx game Pac-Land. This is Pac-Man. In all his no-bit glory. Actually, considering that this is a simple port of the arcade version, it's pretty impressive. Granted, it's Pac-Man. If you didn't like it the first six thousand times, you're not going to like this very much. But, if you're a Pac nut, then you simply can't live without it.

When you start the game, you'll be presented with the option of playing it "full screen" or "scrolling". What this does is address the simple issue of the game's aspect ratio. This is a concept familiar to movie buffs, but it's only classic games that run into the aspect ratio problem. See, the original Pac-Man arcade was played on a vertical screen. Not a square, like the NGPC's or your television. So, when previous versions of the game have been released, the designers had to implement a "scrolling" feature, that made the game work, but deprived you of seeing the entire maze all at once.

Thankfully this version allows you to choose whether you'd like the full screen effect, since when enabled everything gets really, really small. Personally, I prefer to play full screen, but I find it very difficult to do this for an extended period of time. Sure it looks great, and it does change the gameplay, but everything just gets way too small for my eyes.

Beyond that, what you get is a literal exact replica of the arcade. All the stuff you remember is in here...the little "coffee break" intermissions, the cameos by Ms. Pac-Man, the oddball intro that introduces the characters. It's all here.

The one problem with Pac-Man comes from the Neo Geo Pocket's joystick. Because the game was really designed for the old four-point joysticks, the NGPC's more precise stick runs into some problems. Whereas usually you could only press "up" with the NGPC, you've got "up and kinda right" and "up and kinda left" making it much more difficult to maneuver around some of those tight corners (and keep going in the direction you actually want to go in). Fortunately, the fine folk at SNK thought of this, and they included a bizarre little adapter.

Called the "CrossRing", this little red ring of plastic gets placed in the hole around the joystick, and constrains the movement to the four standard axis. Even with the adapter you're still going to run into some problems from time to time, but it does make a world of a difference. The only other problem is remembering to take it out when you play other games - it really doesn't make life any easier in Bust-a-Move. And, because you're likely to loose the little things, they've even included three of them. Smart one.

That's all the time we've got this week, but come back next time for a special look at handheld golf games. We'll try out Neo Turf Masters on the NGPC, Tiger Woods on the Palm Pilot, and Mario Golf on the GameBoy Color.


- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief here at loonygames. Yes, that's a GameBoy in his pocket, you pervert.


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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Pocket Full o' Love is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, you weirdo.