The Angry Gamer 07.29.04 – Super Magnetic Neo Geo

Anyone who’s familiar with my column is more than aware of my preference for 2D graphics rather than 3D. What may surprise you is that I don’t own the greatest 2D system of all time…the SNK Neo Geo.

First, a bit of history. The Neo Geo MVS (Multi-Video System) showed up in arcades in 1989, and the home version showed up 1991 as the AES (Advanced Entertainment System). The system retailed for $599 (later $399), and games started at around $300 a pop. But oh good God, was it worth the price. Hardware-wise, the NeoGeo ate the Genesis and Super NES for breakfast. Gameplay-wise, same deal. If you’re a fighting game fan, then you know the schpiel…the Neo Geo is home to the best fighters ever made, like King of Fighters, Last Blade, and Samurai Shodown. (Street Fighter can kiss my ass!) Action fans weren’t left out, either, with platform-esque titles like Magician Lord, beat-’em-ups like Sengoku, and shooters like Last Resort.

Eventually, the AES crashed and burned…you can blame the rise of the Playstation, Saturn, and N64 for that, which offered arcade-quality titles at a much more affordable price. (There’s many, many other factors that led to SNK and the Neo Geo’s demise, along with other home systems like the Neo Geo CD, but we won’t cover them here. I don’t have all f*cking day.) That, and casual gamers gravitated towards those fancy 3D graphics. You know the war cry of the casuals: “Graphics over gameplay!” As far as the arcade hardware is concerned, that stuck around for an amazingly long time. I still manage to see Neo Geo machines in the few remaining arcades near my town to this day; hell, a few weeks ago, I found an original Bust-a-Move machine at a bowling alley. Score!

The single most impressive thing about the Neo Geo is that only within the past year has SNK and crew decided to stop making software for it, opting to move on to the new Atomiswave system. Yes, for a system that’s remained largely the same for well over a decade…the Neo Geo only just been retired. That’s unbelievable longevity. And to this day, arcade Neo Geo titles are being ported to home consoles, like the Metal Slug series, King of Fighters series, and the latest fighting game work of art, SNK vs Capcom Chaos.

Hardcore fans have a choice when bringing original Neo Geo hits to their living rooms: the AES system, or a “supergun” for playing MVS cartridges. The latter literally lets you play the actual arcade carts at home. Can’t go wrong with that! It’s more expensive in the short run (the supergun itself can be built for around $80, but you’ll also need joysticks, an MVS board for Neo Geo titles, and the MVS carts themselves), but MVS titles drop in price a lot faster than their AES counterparts for some reason. For example, a Metal Slug 4 AES cart generally sells for close to $300, while the MVS version can be snagged for as low as $100. The AES is cheaper in the short run (you can get a system complete with joysticks for around $200), but carts are obviously more expensive. The devil’s in the details, as per usual.

So why don’t I own this marvel of gaming technology? Simply put, the price. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Is it fiscally feasible? Unfortunately not. I’ve got bills and rent to pay. See what getting a college education earns you? Debt!