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Retronauts Episode 37 Keeps the Memory of Also-rans Alive

Neo Geo Pocket and WonderSwan don't command the same place in history as their competitor Game Boy, but we love them anyway.

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I didn't always love portable games. When I was a kid, I could only really afford one system at a time, so I went with consoles. I did play through maybe half a dozen games on a Super Game Boy back in the day, but it was hard to love Game Boy software when I had the likes of Super Metroid and Illusion of Gaia competing for my attention. In fact, I didn't even own a portable game system until the Game Boy Color launched, nearly a full decade after the original Game Boy's debut.

But from that point on, my interest in handheld gaming grew rapidly... and not really because of Game Boy. No, the secret of my fascination came from the Neo Geo Pocket Color, which had kicked off around the same time and offered a vastly more impressive experience than Nintendo's system. The games on NGPC felt closer to 16-bit than the GBC's decidedly 8-bit style, with bigger sprites, more fluid animation, and of course phenomenal controls thanks to that fantastic clicky-stick. I picked up most NGPC games to hit the U.S., and when the WonderSwan launched in Japan the following year, I imported a unit as soon as I could.

Of course, neither NGPC or WonderSwan put a dent in Game Boy Color's fortunes... but it wasn't for lack of effort. In their short lives, both systems enjoyed a wealth of great games. And who knows how much longer they'd have lasted if NGPC maker SNK hadn't been bought by a pachinko company, or if WonderSwan's creator Bandai had been able to lock down a U.S. distribution deal? In this episode, Bob and I team up with Gamasutra's Christian Nutt and SCEA's Shane Bettenhausen to look back on both of these systems — their strengths, their weaknesses... and why they deserved better, dammit.

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Libsyn (1:26:47 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud)

Episode Description

Old-timers Shane Bettenhausen and Christian Nutt join Jeremy and Bob to hash out the history and relative failures of the last great Game Boy challengers of the '90s: Neo Geo Pocket and WonderSwan.

Relevant Links

Music in this episode is culled from multiple Metal Slug games. I couldn't actually find much in the way of relevant music from the systems in question, so I just went with an SNK series that appeared in some form on NGPC. Close enough!?

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