This is one of two RPGs for Neo Geo Pocket Color, the other being Biomotor Unitron, though I was never able to get into that one. This game is more accessible. I think the truth is, not a lot of people played Card Fighters Clash because of the NGPC’s obscurity, which is too bad, because it’s a lot of fun. It’s a bit like Pokémon, in that there is an SNK version and a Capcom version, and to collect every card is to own both games and link them, or preferably trade with a friend. Sadly, the Neo Geo Pocket Color didn’t have the long life the Game Boy did in the United States, so this game flew under a lot of people’s radar.
There is a tutorial when you start playing, but it is easier to understand the game if you just enter a match with someone. Like the title suggests, “combat” here is actually a card game. You can improve by collecting cards and building a better deck. You face one opponent, and a robot chooses who plays first (essentially a coin toss). Both you and your opponent have 2000 to 3000 hit points (HP), and the cards you play on the table are your first and only defense against an enemy card taking hits on your HP. Cards have BP, which is really HP but for cards. Obviously higher BP is better, but there’s more to it. A card can have special points (SP), and five SP allows you to combine two cards into one attack, which penetrates to the opponent’s HP if the opponent defends with a card with less BP than your two combined.
You are allowed only three cards on the table, though you have cards in your hand as well. Some cards have special attributes, like Leona (from SNK) can do 200 BP of damage as soon as it is played. Some cards can receive “Back Up” from a related card, for example two cards from the Fatal Fury series. All Back Ups count as +300BP. Finally, there are Action cards, which can, say, reduce your opponent’s SP, or K.O. one of your cards, and one enemy card. Cards are ranked S, A, B, C, D, from best to worst. Losing all HP means losing the game.
Getting better cards mostly comes down to challenging the people you come across to a game. They might give you a B card, and two C cards, for instance. There is a store where you can trade up for higher cards. I spent a lot of time improving my deck, though I simply tried to gain as much BP as possible, not thinking a lot about SP and Action cards. Certain challengers give better cards after winning, and you can just spam playing them to keep getting good cards.
The overworld is very simple. There are five buildings in Osaka, Japan, and winning a specific card game in each building results in an SC Coin, not unlike gym badges from Pokémon. You do not walk from building to building, but rather select one from the overworld map. On the East side of town is the final card games of the game. I think it’s two games, and winning both results in the final SC Coin and credits. I talked to every person and built a stable deck by the end of the game. So, like any RPG, winning is mostly a matter of persistence. As one of what feels like very few Neo Geo Pocket Color owners in the United States, I recommend this game from the depths of my heart.