In this, the first soccer game for the Neo Geo Pocket, you take control of a international soccer team and take them into the titular "Neo Geo Cup" tournament. It sounds pretty standard and unappealing, but good old SNK have not rested on their laurels as entering the Neo Geo Cup is not simply a case of beating successive teams until you reach and win the final, oh no, this game sees you taking an active managerial role. You must not only decide on what formation and starting line up you play, but winning matches sees you being rewarded with cash with which you can buy upgrades for your team. The most intriguing of these upgrades being "Monkey Pants". Along your road to victory you will meet various characters and be offered services from people like the "Enigmatic Scientist" who will of course charge you for their expertise.
The game takes an overhead perspective, the players are large and well animated, but the player sprites are all identical, which is a shame. The players sport a good selection of football moves, expect to see sliding tackles, overhead kicks and diving headers, these chaps are rather athletic. What is really great about this game is the superbly drawn cut-scenes, when goals are scored or conceded an ace picture highlights the given actions. The coaching screens are all well presented and clear and simple to understand, the illustrations that accompany these are superb and well humoured. It all adds a brilliant and unique atmosphere that other football games have trouble matching.
The sound is top notch and the crowd and referees whistle sound good coming from the NGP's tiny speakers. It even manages to squeeze some speech out at the title screen, ACE!
So things are shaping up well then? Erm, how do I say this? No! I don't know whether it's just me, but I didn't like this game. I wanted to like this game. I love soccer games, ISS '98 and This Is Football on the PlayStation are two of my favourite games. I read some great reviews of this game and looked forward to it greatly, but I was so disappointed when it came to playing it. The controls are okay, the two button system works quite well, and the players respond adequately, so what is wrong with it?
Well for starters, I think that the players are too big on screen. You rarely can see more than 3 or 4 players and the scale is so large that you only see a tiny portion of the pitch so making well judged passes is near impossible. When you do pass, it's unlikely that your player will get to the ball first which just frustrated me. The CPU team is incredibly good at intercepting passes making things even worse. If you do ever make it into the oppositions' end, scoring is next to impossible too, the goalkeeper for the CPU is superhuman while your keeper can barely get a finger to a shot from the CPU. It's all too frustrating.
Like I said earlier, I have read some good reviews of this game, that's why I purchased it, but I just think that there are too many frustrating fundamental problems that should be sorted out if there is a sequel on the cards.
On paper this game sounds like a contender, but in actuality it isn't very good at all. If you must have a football game for the NGPC, purchase with caution. -Bradders