Neo*Geo X Mega Pack Volume 1
Genre: Retro Compilation
Release Date: 06/25/2013
Oh, the poor Neo*Geo X. In theory, the idea of a portable Neo*Geo that could be plugged into a MVS looking docking bay which then lets you play the games included on the system’s hard drive was a golden one. After all, the Neo*Geo had so many incredible games – yes even ones that WEREN’T fighting games. The problem is the system has been beset by errors since day one. If you read my original unboxing of the system back in December of 2012, you can tell I was really happy with everything I got. Of course I was a lucky one. A minority of owners couldn’t get the system to show visuals on their TV when hooked to the loading dock, others reported blurry or distorted visuals, and when the system was cracked, it was shown to run an emulation software that legally belonged to someone else. Factor in that you could only charge the system via the massive docking station and you couldn’t save your games at all, and the Neo*Geo X had a lot of egg on its face after its release.
Undaunted, Tommo and SNK Playmore put in plans to release five carts for the game, each containing three games. You could also buy the Mega Pack which contained all fifteen games on one cart for less money. The three games carts are $24.99 each (or a total of $125 dollars, or $8.33 per game), which sounds slightly pricey, but it is in line with what Neo*Geo games cost on PSN, the Wii’s Virtual Console and the like. The Mega Pack is a far better deal, giving you all fifteen games for $79.99 or $5.33 per game. That’s actually a crazy good price for legal ROMS of Neo*Geo games, several of which are not available outside of the MVS/AES until now, and added portability. Even better, whether you purchases the Mega Pack of one of the five Classics volumes, Tommo and SNK Playmore were including a charge cable to let you charge your Neo*Geo X away from the massive docking station and a firmware update that promised the following:
The ability to save games (except for Ninja Masters)
Improved audio and visuals
Load bar changes
improved scrolling through list of games
Better Joytick and button input detection
Aspect Ratio Preference (4:3 or 16:9)
Overall better Firmware
Well, the good news is that the new firmware (V500) delivers on all these aspects. The games look and sound better and the fighting game responsiveness is terrific compared to the slight lag and detection issues games could be hit with. The bad news is that not only are the update instructions somewhat complicated and oddly written, but it seems to brick about five percent of the systems getting the update – primarily those with firmware 337. Holy crap, that’s bad! The instructions are nebulous enough, the official Neo*Geo X website had to put out a “how-to” video on YouTube to help people. I personally didn’t have any problem with the instructions, nor did my system brick up, but I did have to go through the steps three or four times before my Neo*Geo X accepted the firmware update and started booting it up. So while I haven’t had any of the problems that are hitting other Neo*Geo X owners, I have to admit that if it happened to me and I basically bought an eighty dollar SD card that bricked my system and wouldn’t let me play any games, I’d be furious too. You have to wonder about the quality control and testing procedures behind the system so far and whether it is just terrible luck or terrible design plaguing this poor little handheld. At least Tommo is fixing the systems getting this error for free and paying for shipping to and from their offices and only about one to five percent of purchasers are reporting the error.
I am happy to say that the games look and sound great. I honestly feel that many of these games still hold up in this department and with a total of thirty-six games for the system on either the X’s harddrive and/or two to six SD cards, a PROPERLY FUNCTIONING Neo*Geo X is a nice alternative to the 3DS OR Playstation Vita – especially if you were a big Neo*Geo fan in the 90s. Some of the games even look and sound better than modern releases for those handhelds, which is either really impressive or really sad depending on how you look at things. I found all fifteen games in the Mega Pack to be pretty responsive. Getting the game to save can be a problem, but that’s because you have to hit all four non-shoulder buttons at the same time while the game is loading up and then “format” the memory card. You only have to do this once per game, but it still can be annoying, especially if you forget to at some point. Whoops. At least I can save my Baseball Stars 2 season now!
The fifteen games in the Mega Pack run the gambit from awesome to forgettable and surprisingly only eight of the fifteen games are fighters! SNK was best known (and still is) for its fighting games so it was a real treat to see nearly half the games on the collection being obscure run and gun, platformer, shoot ’em up and side scrolling beat ’em up releases.
So what games do you get in the Mega Pack? Well, let’s do a quick rundown of all fifteen and my basic thoughts on each.
1. Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior. This is the third and final Art of Fighting game. I really only ever cared for the second in terms of gameplay, which also happens to be the first SNK game where you can play as Yuri (my favorite SNK Character along with Terry Bogard). AoF3 is far from the best fighting game of all time. In fact, it’s rather mediocre, but the game looks good, the music is great and each character has a pretty detailed and lengthy set of cut scenes between each battle – many of which are quite funny. It’s worth playing through for the various stories, if you can handle the unbalanced battles and the terrible SNK End Boss Syndrome. It’s better than the first game but not as good as the second. I’ll give it a mild thumbs up here. 1 for 1.
2. Blazing Star. This is a really fun side scrolling shoot ’em ala Gradius or R-Type. In its day (1998), this game blew shoot ’em up fans away with the incredible graphics, wonderful soundtrack and sheer number of different playable ships offered. It still holds up really well, although some gamers may get pissed off at how the game insults you big time each time you lose a life or can’t finish a boss in the allotted time. This is definitely one of the high points in the collection. 2 for 2.
3. Blue’s Journey. This is a weird little platformer that reminds me a lot of the old Alex Kidd games for the Sega Master System and Genesis. Definitely not my cup of tea in any way shape or form. The graphics are cute, but the game does nothing for me. 2 for 3.
4. Garou: Mark of the Wolves. Hmm, let’s see. An arcade perfect portable rendition of a game many consider to be the best fighting game in the history of ever. Yes, this gets a thumb’s up from me. It’s a lot of fun but I was shocked at how short it really is and the loading times on this game (especially booting it up) are horrendous. Still, this is the crown jewel of the Mega Pack and considering how much the original copy cost for the AES (or even the Dreamcast), this makes the entire collection a bargain. If you have the HD remake for the Xbox 360 however…you probably aren’t clamoring for this in the same way. 3 for 4.
5. Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle. This game is a sequel to Savage Reign, which is also on the collection. KE:STB is an early tag style fighting game. The roster selection is very limited and you can only tag on a specific part of the screen rather than being able to switch characters at any time, but it’s not a bad game by any means. It’s well made and a lot of fun, except the end boss is crazy hard, even for a SNK game. For example, I haven’t played this game in almost fifteen years, but I was perfecting every stage…until the end boss who wouldn’t let me get more than a single hit in. That ramped up difficulty makes Nightmare Geese look like a cakewalk and with the limited credits you get per playthrough, this game’s almost insane change in difficulty is more likely to frustrate players than anything else. Still, aside from the boss fight, it’s still a fun experience. 4 for 5.
6. The King of Fighters ’96. I’ve talked about this game at length. Let’s just say it is awesome. 5 for 6.
7. The Last Blade. We’re all fans of The Last Blade here at Diehard GameFAN. It’s a wonderful fighting game and I’m happy to have a portable version. Now, where’s TLB2? 6 for 7.
8. Metal Slug 2. I love theMetal Slug series, although 3 is my favorite. I already have this in the Metal Slug Anthology Collection for my PS2, so I wasn’t really in need of this, but it is nice to see it made portable and as a part of this collection. Metal Slug 2 is another excellent game in this compilation and it’s arguably the best non-fighter in the collection. 7 for 8.
9. Samurai Shodown III. I love the first two games in the series, and god knows this version is far superior to the PSX port, but it’s still a broken badly balanced bug ridden mess. It’s fun, but it’s also heavily flawed. I would have rather seen something like Neo*Geo’s Double Dragon game or another non-fighter on here instead of this mess. 7 for 9.
10. Savage Reign. I enjoy the sequel, as mentioned earlier, but Savage Reign is pretty damn bad. It’s slow, awkward, clunky and not very fun. It’s one of SNK’s worse fighters and although it’s nice to see some lesser titles get their fifteen minutes on the Neo*Geo X, I would have rather seen something else on here. 7 for 10.
11. Sengoku. Just one of many badly down side scrolling button mashers from the early 90s. I didn’t care for it then and it hasn’t aged well at all. Another game you can pass on. 7 for 11.
12. Shock Troopers. This is a fairly fun vertical scrolling run and gun game in the same vein as Ikari Warriors. You have a lot of different characters to choose from and I still had a blast playing this after all these years. 8 for 12.
13. Super Sidekicks 3. Meh. There’s already one Super Sidekicks game on the core NGX. We didn’t need a second, ESPECIALLY when SNK fans want more Baseball Stars instead – especially the two NES versions which were never released on the Virtual Console. Boo. Unnecessary. If you’ve played one SS game, you’ve played them all. 8 for 13.
14. Top Hunter: Roddy and Cathy. This is just a very strange side scrolling beat ’em up. It’s fun and definitely unique. It’s not a game I would have clamored for to be in the first wave of new releases for the system, but it holds up nicely. A definite surprise hit here. 9 for 14.
15. World Heroes 2 Jet. I admit I have a soft spot for the World Heroes series, and this is no exception. The Forging of Warriors Mode is a bit lame as it’s over as soon as you get a three match win streak but the tournament mode is fun. Jet is also the game where the playing speed gets ramped up and both backwards and forwards dashing was introduced. It’s not my favorite game in the series, but it’s a worthy addition to the Mega Pack. 10 for 15.
So as we can see, I’m pretty happy with two-thirds of the compilation. There’s a nice mix of games and there is something for everyone in the compilation, even if eighty bucks for a fifteen game SD card does feel rather high priced in this day and age. Still, this is the first time many of these games have seen the light of day outside of the AES or MVS (legally), and it’s always nice to have a portable Neo*Geo. I’m pretty happy with the collection as a whole, although it’s probably because I’m lucky enough not to have any problems with the system, either originally or with the current firmware upgrade. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the visuals, gameplay and graphics hold up for a lot of these games in 2013 and while the Neo*Geo X is an expensive alternative to the Vita or 3DS, so too was the case for the original Neo*Geo compared to the SNES, TG-16 and Sega Genesis, and I felt I made the right choice then. Am I as enamored with the NGX as I was with the original Neo*Geo? Nope. Not even close, but I am happy to own it and will happily dabble with the system from time to time. Like the Neo*Geo X itself, the Neo Geo X Mega Pack is a very niche product for only the most devout SNK fan, but it’s a far superior alternative than purchasing the five Classics volumes separately. Again, at $5.33 a game, the Mega Pack isn’t a bad deal, although that $79.99 sticker price may scare away more than a few gamers until they do the math.
Short Attention Span Summary
With an eighty dollar price tag, the Neo*Geo X Mega Pack Volume One may cause a bit of sticker shock, especially for those that have already doled out $150-$200 for the handheld itself. However, you’re getting fifteen games on this compilation, many of which has never been released outside of the AES or MVS versions of the Neo*Geo itself which makes a purchase of the collection compelling, especially when you realize you are getting the games for $5.33 each instead of several hundred dollars. The graphics, music and gameplay still hold up on a lot of these games and for longtime SNK fans, this really is a great nostalgia delve. Just remember between one and five percent of NGXs are getting bricked when trying to do the firmware update and you need to update in order for the system to read this SD Card so caveat emptor.