Despite the PSP and the DS seeming the ideal platforms for bullet hell games - portable consoles allowing for gaming in short bursts - the shoot 'em up libraries (at least of games playable by people who can't read Japanese) of both consoles are tragically undernourished, barring a few average, generic ones and some compilations. Apart from some games like Strike Witches: Wings of Silver, that were never localized, the PSP's bullet-hell game library was awfully barren. Therefore, the very existence of NeoGeo Heroes: Ultimate Shooting, a crossover shmup made with the PSP in mind and featuring members from SNK's different video game franchises, and the unexpected fact that it was localized, should count as a plus point for it. Whether the game is actually any good, you'll find out.
You select one of ten SNK characters: Marco Rossi from Metal Slug, Mai Shiranui from King of Fighters, and so on. Each character has their own branching story path depending on the bosses they choose to fight, complete with multiple (yet basically similar) endings. Yet ten is a small number of characters with the number of games they were taken from in mind. Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Would it have killed SNK to add the other Metal Slug characters?" So, while the absence of some notable characters is disappointing, ten is still a nice number of characters, especially in a bullet hell game, when you can usually choose only between two or three characters if at all.
The visuals in this game are even more pleasing to the eye than most bullet hell games on the PSP. There is a large amount of detail in the characters and the semi-3D environments and the characters, enemies and objects just look smooth. The 2D art for the character sprites is well done, though there is very little of it.
The game allows you to set the screen to vertical, meaning you play holding your PSP on its side. When I first found out about this, I was rather excited, but it just turned out that the game controls poorly this method (the analog stick doesn't work well for commands normally assigned to digital buttons) so it's better to just stick with the horizontal screen, with which the game controls very well.
The music in the levels, which can be classified as J-rock (I suppose), is good, though the menu music may mislead you regarding the game's otherwise good sountrack. None of the tracks are bad, but a few aren't very good either. The few 'Engrish' voices (for boss deaths, level starts, and such) are so bad that anyone with functioning aural cavities will wonder why they weren't removed altogether.
You fly your character around, shoot everything except yourself, and dodge countless patternized enemy bullets. Collecting 'Neo' 'Neo Geo' and '100 Mega' items dropped by enemies earns you a lot of points at the end of the level depending on how many you collected. You have a limited number of bombs to use and can earn more by scoring a set amount of points, adjusted in the game options. There is a Power bar that, when holding Triangle, charges up and lets you use Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 Power attacks that are different in range and attack strength, but basically like recharging bomb attacks. You have a health bar which depletes by a certain amount when you get hit. If your health runs out, you can Continue, but your score counter is reset to zero. Also, there is an Infinity Mode, basically a cheat in which you don't lose any health when you get hit, so this game is playable by those who aren't good at bullet hell games - but if you choose this option your end-of-level point items (Neo, Neo Geo, 100 Mega) won't be counted so your score will be much lower than if you play without Infinity Mode.
The game succeeds in the gameplay category, but what about the presentation? Here the game runs into some problems. The localization, which is a Godsend in itself considering no one expected this game to be localized and very few people followed this game's release, is like a partial fan translation at best. Everything is translated and the gameplay won't be any less fun, but the bad grammar at some menu options and in some dialogues and the characters speaking in 'Engrish', after how good this game is in the other departments, make the fact that SNK Playmore expected very few people to buy this game yet were still generous enough to localize it, sadly clear.
There are other modes like 'Challenge Mode' which make you fulfill conditions while completing levels or fight waves of bosses. There is Ad Hoc multiplayer, though I couldn't test it due to not having any friend who had this game. Best of all, the game has an additional game, 'King of Fighters Sky Stage' in it, which is very similar to the actual game but with different stories and featuring solely King of Fighters characters. The extras in this game are also very good. You can listen to music from the game and unlock lots of character artwork.
NeoGeo Heroes: Ultimate Shooting is far from perfect. The localization could have been much better, and so could the voices and some of the music. But the gameplay and visuals surpass most bullet hell games, especially on handhelds, and it does a great attempt at improving the malnourished shmup library on portables. Since it costs $20 on the PSN, whether or not you should buy it depends on how much you like bullet hell games. If you're looking for a shmup with great gameplay and visuals, that allows for play in short bursts, and you don't mind a rough localization, then this game has you covered. Overall Score: 8/10