The Neo-Geo Pocket Color (or NGPC) was released on March 16, 1999 in Japan. It was a 16-bit color handheld designed by SNK. A couple of its games could link to their Sega Dreamcast versions, and there were even a few games for it made by Sega, including Sonic Pocket Adventure.
In 2000, following SNK's purchase by Japanese Pachinko manufacturer Aruze, the Neo Geo Pocket Color was dropped from both the United States and European markets, purportedly due to poor commercial performance.
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 preferred plastic snap lock cases. The system debuted in the United States with six launch titles (20 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.
Before SNK was bought out, the Neo Geo Pocket Color was being advertised on US television and units were being sold nationally in Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Toys "R" Us, and other large retail chains.
Remaining stock was bought back by SNK for repackaging in Asia. In June 2000 SNK of America (and Europe) tried 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 US NGPC hardware and software started showing up back on the marketplace in the US and Asia 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 US-localized box or manual; however, these titles did receive a European release, incorporating an English translation.
The system enjoyed a greater success than any Game Boy competitor since the Game Gear. However, it was hurt by several factors, such as the Neo Geo heads' (the Barone family) notorious lack of communication with third-party developers, and anticipation of the Game Boy Advance.
- CPUs: Toshiba TLCS900H core (16-bit), 6.144 MHz, Z80 at 3.072 MHz for sound.
- RAM: 12 k for 900H, 4k for Z80
- ROM: 64 kbit boot ROM
- Interfaces: SIO 1 channel 19200 bit/s, 5-pin serial port
- Resolution: 160x152
- Colors: 16 palettes per plane, 48 palettes. 146 colors on screen out of 4096.
- Sprites: 64 sprites per frame, 4 colors per sprite.
- Scrolling: 2 scrolling planes, 8x8 character tiles, 4 colors each.
- Sound: PSG 6 tone simultaneous output. Stereo sound.
- Cartridges: Maximum 4 MB (32 Mbit) with 4-16 Mbit flash memory.
- Batteries: 40 hours on 2 AA batteries. Lithium CR2032 battery backs up memory and clock.
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 Sega Dreamcast. 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 2), SNK vs Capcom - Card Fighters' Clash (links with King of Fighters Evolution), SNK vs Capcom - Card Fighters' Clash Expand Edition (links with Capcom vs SNK 2) and Cool Cool Jam (links with Cool Cool Toon). There was a wireless connector released in Japan that allowed several players in proximity to play together, with some cartridge moulding reshaped to hold it. An MP3 audio player add-on was developed but was not released due to SNK's closure.