Gaming’s first great portable fighting game was on the…Neo Geo Pocket Color? Scoring an astounding 10-out-of 10 from IGN back in 2000, SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium was as close to the arcade or console experience as one could get on the go at the time.
Unfortunately, the game was trapped on the Neo Geo Pocket Color for decades, making it an experience most have never even heard of, let alone tried. At long last, it’s out for release on the Nintendo Switch eShop. Does this fighter still pack a punch?
Its most distinct characteristic is its presentation. Squeezing out every last ounce of power from the Neo Geo Pocket Color, Match of the Millennium possesses a distinct 8-bit look that still holds up today. Characters animate smoothly and have stylistic design adjustments to make their looks translate on the smaller screen. The game’s soundtrack is filled with chiptune renditions of SNK and Capcom fighting game tracks, which are a welcome treat.
One quirk with this port is that the game defaults to the native resolution of the Neo Geo Pocket. Playing the game in portable mode, the actual gameplay is presented on a portion of the screen that’s about the size of a large postage stamp. I struggled to find the settings in-game to adjust this, but it can be controlled by hitting “-” on the controller, which opens a system-level menu. From there, you can resize the gameplay, change the border to a different model of Neo Geo Pocket Color, or smooth out the graphics for a cleaner look.
Combining fighters from both SNK and Capcom, the 18-character roster out-of-the-box is actually above par for what passes these days. Including secret characters, it would rank as one of the more robust fighters out there strictly from character selection alone.
You’ll face off in 1v1, 3v3, and tag team battles. 3v3 is done King of Fighters style, where the winning fighter stays on while the losing player moves to the next on their list. Tag battles lets you swap characters on the fly, but don’t expect anything tag combos like the Marvel vs. Capcom series. Even so, it’s a lot of different ways to play and having these options is greatly appreciated.
All three combat styles are available in local versus mode and in the Tourney mode where you’ll fight against the AI. A standard arcade mode would have sufficed, but the game goes over the top with numerous cutscenes and pre-fight animations. Each character also has a proper ending after beating the Tourney mode, which again is a practice that has somehow gotten lost in many modern fighting games.
Since the Neo Geo Pocket Color only had two face buttons, you only get access to a single punch and kick button. Your move set is expanded somewhat through command normals and by holding the button down for stronger attacks. The trade-off is that this method of controlling strength is imprecise, as being mindful of how you hold a button can be really tricky to do in the heat of battle. You can still pull off some crazy combos and get good bouts going, but you never feel like you’re in full control of your actions.
This is where the modern adaptation could have gone a step further. The game does allows you to remap your buttons, but it could have also allowed for separate weak and strong button inputs across the four face buttons on the Switch. In its current form, it’s a struggle to take it as seriously as you may want to.
SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium still stands as a fighting game triumph of its time. It’s truly impressive to see how much game they packed into such a tiny package. However, it’s a shame that SNK didn’t go one step further to optimize this release for modern times. Just being able to map strong attacks to separate face buttons would have gone a long way towards making this a game that could actually trade blows with modern releases.
Nevertheless, the game is a neat novelty for collectors and hardcore fighting game fans. If you’re in the market for a modern take of a game in this style, would highly suggest checking out Pocket Rumble.
[Purchasing through this Amazon affiliate link gives me a small commission without adding any extra cost or effort to you. Thanks for your support!]