Neo Geo Pocket Color
|Product family||Neo Geo|
|Type||Handheld game console|
|Generation||Sixth generation era|
|Units sold||2 million, including Neo Geo Pocket units (as of July 30, 2007)|
|CPU||Toshiba TLCS900H core (16-bit) clocked at 6.144MHz, Zilog Z80 clocked at 3.072MHz for sound|
|Memory||12KB RAM for 900H, 4KB RAM for Z80, 64KB ROM|
|Display||2.7", 160x152 resolution, 146 colors on screen out of a palette of 4096|
|Power||2 AA batteries for 40 hours of play, Lithium CR2032 for backup memory and clock|
|Neo Geo Pocket|
|Predecessor||Neo Geo Pocket|
|Successor||Neo Geo X|
The Neo Geo Pocket Color (also stylized as NEOGEOPOCKET COLOR, often abbreviated NGPC), is a 16-bit color handheld video game console manufactured by SNK. It is a successor to SNK's monochrome Neo Geo Pocket handheld which debuted in 1998 in Japan, with the Color being fully backwards compatible. The Neo Geo Pocket Color was released on March 16, 1999 in Japan, August 6, 1999 in North America, and on October 1, 1999 in Europe, entering markets all dominated by Nintendo.
After a good sales start in both the U.S. and Japan with 14 launch titles (a record at the time) subsequent low retail support in the U.S., lack of communication with third-party developers by SNK's American management, the craze about Nintendo's Pokémon franchise, anticipation of the 32-bit Game Boy Advance, as well as strong competition from Bandai's WonderSwan in Japan, led to a sales decline in both regions.
Meanwhile, SNK had been in financial trouble for at least a year - the company soon collapsed, and was purchased by American pachinko manufacturer Aruze in January 2000. However, Aruze didn't support SNK's video game business enough, leading to SNK's original founder and several other employees to leave and form a new company, BrezzaSoft. Eventually on June 13, 2000, Aruze decided to quit the North American and European markets, marking the end of SNK's worldwide operations and the discontinuation of Neo Geo hardware and software there. The Neo Geo Pocket Color (and other SNK/Neo Geo products) did however, last until 2001 in Japan. It was SNK's last video game console, as the company went bankrupt on October 22, 2001.
Despite its failure the Neo Geo Pocket Color has been regarded as an influential system. Many highly acclaimed games were released for the system, such as SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium, King of Fighters R-2, and other quality arcade titles derived from SNK's MVS and AES. It also featured an arcade-style microswitched 'clicky stick' joystick, which was praised for its accuracy and being well-suited for fighting games. The system's display and 40 hour battery life was also well-received. Nevertheless, no system enjoyed a greater success as a Game Boy competitor since Sega's Game Gear in the early 90s.
U.S. release and marketing
The U.S. version of the Neo Geo Pocket Color had an exclusive launch on the website eToys in 1999. eToys also sold the initial launch titles in the plastic snap lock cases. The system debuted in the United States with six launch titles (twenty promised by end of year) and retail price of $69.95. Six different unit colors were available: Camouflage Blue, Carbon Black, Crystal White, Platinum Blue, Platinum Silver, and Stone Blue. In its first two months, the NGCP sold a successful 25,000 units.
Prior to SNK's acquisition by Aruze, the Neo Geo Pocket Color was being advertised on U.S. television and units were being sold nationwide at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Toys "R" Us, and other major retail chains. For the Christmas Holiday season in 1999, SNK spent $4 million on television advertisements that aired on channels including MTV, Comedy Central and Cartoon Network.
By May 2000, the NGCP had a 2% market share in the U.S. handheld console market; although tiny compared to the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, it was the first real breakthrough against Nintendo since the Game Gear almost a decade before.
On October 21, 1999, a redesigned, slimmer version called New Neo Geo Pocket Color was released in Japan, selling at ¥6800. It is 13% smaller than the original Neo Geo Pocket Color, with dimensions 125 x 73 x 27 mm, and also features improved sound output.
In June 2000, Aruze (parent of SNK) decided to discontinue all SNK operations outside Japan. As a result, remaining stock was bought back by SNK for repackaging in Asia. SNK were recalling most of the back-stock of systems and games to be flashed and re-sold in Asia where the system would continue to be sold and supported. Some of the back-stock of American NGPC hardware and software began to resurface on the American and Asian markets in 2003. These units frequently appeared bundled with six games stripped of their cases and manuals. Two games often included, Faselei! and Last Blade were never previously released in United States, meaning that they have no U.S.-localized box or manual; however, these titles did receive a European release, incorporating an English translation.
The cover boxes for Neo Geo Pocket Color were clamshell plastic boxes, similar to the Neo Geo AES. These boxes have been well received for their quality. In a cost cutting move, American games were only sold in cardboard boxes shortly after release rather than the hard plastic cases that Japanese and European releases were shipped in, which was met with negative reception. The Japanese versions followed soon after, but the European boxes have always been the plastic boxes.
Sega was the only major third-party developer to support the Neo Geo Pocket Color. It resulted in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure; the second ever Sonic game for a non-Sega platform after the poorly received Sonic Jam on Game.com, and the last before Sega's transition as a third-party developer, after which Sonic Advance came on Game Boy Advance in 2002. In addition, a cable linking the handheld with a Dreamcast console was released
Closely modeled 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 meant to be held horizontally (as opposed to the Game Boy's vertical setup) and features a color screen in the center of the unit.
Similar to the Game Boy and its successor, 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. The Neo Geo Pocket Color is unusual in that it requires two sets of batteries — two AA batteries for the system itself, and a CR2032 battery to retain backup memory and keep the clock active.
In addition to a clock and calendar, the Neo Geo Pocket Color has several other features such as generated horoscopes and an alarm system.
The system has an on-board language setting, and games display text in the language selected (provided the cartridge supports that language). Other settings can be set on the handheld such as 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 that featured this option include King of Fighters R-2 (links with King of Fighters '99 Dream Match and King of Fighters Evolution); SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium (links with Capcom vs. SNK); SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash (links with King of Fighters Evolution); SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters 2 Clash Expand Edition (links with Capcom vs SNK) and Cool Cool Jam (links with Cool Cool Toon).
There was a wireless connector released in Japan that allowed several players in close proximity to play together, with some cartridge molding reshaped to hold it.
- CPUs: Toshiba TLCS900H core (16-bit), 6.144 MHz, Z80 at 3.072 MHz for sound.
- RAM: 12 k for 900H, 4k for Z80 (shared with the 900H).
- ROM: 64 k boot ROM.
- Interfaces: SIO 1 channel 19200 bit/s, 5-pin serial port.
- Resolution: 160x152 (256x256 virtual screen).
- DMA: 4 channels.
- Colors: 16 palettes per plane, 48 palettes. 146 colors on screen out of 4096 (or 20 colors out of 4096 in monochrome mode).
- Sprites: 64 sprites per frame (8x8), 4 colors per sprite.
- Scrolling: 2 scrolling planes, 8x8 character tiles (characters matrix shared with the sprites), 4 colors per tile.
- Sound: SN76489 variant, T6W28 (3 square wave tone generators with limited stereo capability + 1 monaural noise generator + direct access to the two 6 bits DAC).
- Cartridges: Maximum 4 MB (32 Mbit) with 4 to 16 Mbit flash memory.
- Batteries: 40 hours on 2 AA batteries. Lithium CR2032 battery backs up memory and clock.
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