Thank you SNK for sending us this game to review!
Mega Man Battle & Fighters is a curious game that was never released outside of Japan until now. This is a port and compilation of the two arcade titles from the 1990s, Mega Man: The Power Battle and Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters, to the Neo Geo Pocket, which we get to enjoy in the shrunken down form. Of course being a port, the graphics, music, and so on are of significantly lower quality than the original, and yet it's still a blast to play. Despite this, one major issue really stunts the success of this title, even if the gameplay itself is really solid: it was never translated to English, even for this release. The arcade versions are available in English in a few different forms, but not this port of a port (Arcade -> Neo Geo Pocket -> Switch).
For those who have not played the well-known classic Mega Man series, it's basically a 2D side-scrolling action game where you choose which robot master to face off against first, which then presents you with their level that's usually themed on some type of challenge. Once you clear the (often difficult) level, you are tasked with defeating the robot master of that level. Once you defeat him, you earn his weapon, that Mega Man can then equip and use against other enemies (though ammunition is limited). Each remaining robot master (and level) is weak to one other robot master's weapon, so for optimum play, Mega Man has to defeat one robot with just his Mega Buster, and then use his newly acquired weapon to defeat the robot master that it is strong against. This rock/paper/scissors method of dealing with opposing robot masters has become a trademark of the Mega Man series, and it's lasted the test of time.
The two Mega Man Arcade titles, The Power Battle and The Power Fighters, were released after Mega Man 7, and before Mega Man 8. So the games generally take place around that timeframe (though Power Fighters technically takes place after Mega Man 8, despite it not being released yet at the time). I played these when they were included for the first time in the GameCube release of Mega Man Anniversary Collection, way back in 2004. (Our review is here, but be warned that it's quite old and does not conform to our modern review standards. I enjoyed those arcade titles in that collection, and the way they work is pretty much that Mega Man (or Proto Man, Bass, or Duo) can fight one robot master after another, in whatever order they choose, and then fight Dr. Wily at the end. The player also gains the weapons after winning, just like in the main games. In short, it's Mega Man without the levels - perfect for a quick blast of Mega Man fun (and munching quarters).
Mega Man Battle & Fighters, being a port and conversion of the two Arcade games to the Neo Geo Pocket, takes a similar approach. Mega Man, Proto Man, Bass, or Duo fight against one of several sets of robot masters, which you can choose based on which game set you play against. Once you beat those robots and get their powers, you fight a difficult mid-boss, then fight Dr. Wily himself. Considering the power disparity of the Arcade and the Neo Geo Pocket, the port is actually quite impressive. The animations are smooth, the music definitely has retro chiptune vibes, and the enemy sprites are large and impressive given the significant screen limitations. It also feels quite authentic, since the Arcade version worked with the upgraded assets that the higher-resolution screens support, while this version was stuck with many less pixels, so Mega Man looks a lot more like his 8-bit self, which is a nice touch.
Unfortunately, while the game itself is a blast to play, and the emulation offered on Nintendo Switch is perfect, I can't say the same about the localization effort. Because there was none. Outside of translating the manual, they did not replace any of the Japanese text with English or any other Western language. So none of the gallery is readable - if you can even find it, since the menus aren't in English. If you want to change the number of lives/continues on offer, you have to navigate unreadable menus. Thankfully, the art sprites and item names use English words, so that part is better. But it really stinks when you can't read what Dr. Light has to say, nor can you understand the endings. It's a shame, and it really mars an otherwise really enjoyable title - one of my favorite Neo Geo Pocket ones to date otherwise.
Morally, it's quite clean. I can't speak to the dialogue, as my Japanese leaves much to be desired. But it has robot-on-robot combat, except for the one human you fight against, Dr. Wily. That's about it.
Mega Man Battle & Fighters is a Switch port of the remarkable port of classic Arcade titles to a tiny handheld console, the Neo Geo Pocket. I love that this classic game is available in the West for the first time. It's just a shame that they didn't bother to localize it at all. It feels lazy, though to be fair, I understand why - it wasn't just about the text, but then they would have to somehow insert that newly translated text into a twenty-three-year-old game, which is no small task. So while I can't unconditionally recommend this one, if you are a Mega Man fan, I'm sure you'll enjoy it, even if much of the game's text is unreadable to English speakers.