|A complicated name on a tiny cart game, I think it comes from a sort of medieval piling-on of tiles: "NeoGeo Cup '98" from the similarly-titled arcade game also by SNK, then "Plus" that came to distinguish the black and white Neo*Geo Pocket version, then "Color" because now it's on the NGPC and in full color, baby.|
So, what is this little beast? Let's clear one thing up right away lest it cause undo confusion and hair-pulling: this is not a soccer ("football" for the rest of the world) game. In proper footy players do not run away when someone is trying to pass to them, or stop in place before kicking the ball, or make goals from midfield. Goalies, in real soccer, do not have some sort of tractor beam allowing them to take the ball away from anyone who comes within a dozen feet of them. And in real soccer players do not have magical shorts.
But this game has all those things. To explain the shorts: you can play a Story mode in which you choose one of a dozen or so national teams from around the world (with players and abilities based very loosely on the '98 World Cup won by France) and take them through "season" after season of trying for the championship. Your team makes money from selling tickets (more if they're winning) and you use this loot to buy equipment for your team, including the aforementioned magical shorts along with magical cleats, headbands, gloves (for goalies) and so on. Equipping these items on a player (who can carry only several at a time) boosts certain abilities for that player. My favorite are the rings that simply give +1 in every stat (stamina, speed, etc).
Irritatingly, thieves sometimes pilfer your team's locker room and steal items, especially the more valuable ones. Grr.
On the field, even without powerup items, the game is too easy once you remember not to try playing it like soccer. You'll find that there are a few spots on the field, well away from the goal, from which the goalies can't seem to catch incoming shots. You'll find that while you can in no event score a goal from right in front of the goal as long as the goalie is still standing, no matter what your position, and while you can't really apply much aim or touch on shots, you can kick it hard, hope the goalie deflects it instead of catching it, and then neatly toe in the rebound with another forward while the goalie is lying flat on his face.
So after a while the challenge dies away and you're left with merely a very playable, soccer-like game. The super-deformed character graphics and animation are enchanting, and even though they tend to run around like complete boobs and never do anything useful such as, say, kicking an incoming pass out of the air and right into the goal (in theory they can do this but they always prefer to slide when it comes right down to it), trundling the little fellows around the field and watching them dodge and trip each other never fails to bring a smile. I suppose I should really try to improve the difficulty a bit by taking a dire team (Japan, say) against a good team (France)... but I'm a weak man.
While playing, you may wonder how you can tell where your wingmen are when you're looking to pass the ball off (don't forget to allow enough space between yourself and the defense for your player to stop, plant, then leisurely boot the ball) as you make your way downfield. You may notice that a little arrow follows around the sides of the screen, much like the arrow over the active player's head. You may think that this indicates the direction of a teammate ready to receive a pass. You would be mistaken. DO NOT PASS TO THE ARROW. It never works. Just boot the ball in the direction of the opposing goal. Trust me on this.