The end of an era: a cruel look at what we missed
featuring evil game previews

SNK has received a lot of criticism in their handling of the NGP. People have criticised their PR, their presence in stores, even their decision to change packaging to cut costs. I'm not going to say they did things perfectly, but I believe they didn't do too badly. Facing a monster of an opponent in Nintendo's Gameboy Color, SNK could not afford to attack directly with aggressive and obnoxious advertising. Unlike Nintendo, SNK does not have deep pockets, and as a result, they had to set more realistic sales goals.

We here have maintained that the NGP was never intended to be a mainstream phenomenon, and never would be one. The NGP's software is not varied enough, and lacks the appeal so necessary to be like the Gameboy. I've personally seen people talk about how SNK could have dominated the handheld market and crushed the Gameboy in the marketplace. I wish it was true, but SNK had no chance to do this. All they could ever hope for was a nice little chunk of marketshare to allow them to make some money and continue operating. Sadly, SNK USA was able to stay afloat, but they were cut off from up above anyway.

Despite its lack of presence in advertisements, the NGP had a very good presence online. Unlike the Gameboy, The Neo Geo Pocket's presence was mostly on the internet. The internet is responsible for a system like the NGP to even be considered for a release here. Without the internet, few of us would have knowledge of the machine, and even fewer would have had access to it. It would have been so unprofitable, SNK would not have bothered with us. Sadly, SNK needed more marketing muscle, as retailers were not as kind to SNK as the internet was. One major reason for the end of SNK USA is lack of retail support. While stores did carry products, they refused to put out some stock, failed to reorder games, and gave it a miniscule amount of shelf space. As it is, I've only seen the Neo Geo Pocket in one store, and that was only three weeks ago. It's no surprise then that the software was selling at only about a 1:1 ratio with the hardware. That means that on average, most people who own a Neo Geo Pocket system only own one game. There's no way SNK could be making any money if software sales were so low. Things would have been far worse without a strong internet presence.

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The Last Blade - Beyond the Destiny
By default, any NGPC fighter is worthy of praise, but Last Blade offers arguably some of the best gameplay available. The Samurai Shodown-esque fighting engine is strategic and relatively slow, but each hit is more satisfying than the Shodown series. The parry system has remained intact during the translation process and is effectively utilized, even with out a dedicated button. The graphics aren't as spectacular as Match of the Millennium, but animate nicely with a few chunks of bonus eye candy here and there, like the animated pre-fight scenes in story mode, for example.

Sacnoth has learned from their mistakes, since it appears that Faselei! has corrected many of the problems apparent in Dive Alert. In Faselei!, you command mecha on tactical missions using series of pre-set commands to guide your unit through various tasks in whatever order you feel is necessary. For example, you can program your unit to walk right, fire weapon 1, walk left, reload, fire weapon 1, etc. Your mecha can be equipped with numerous weapons and other essential items using funds earned during missions. The concept of programming and equipping your unit is well implemented, being strategic but not overly complex. The proper mix of story and combat makes Faslei! easy to get into.