Originally released by SNK (Shin Nihon Kikaku, or New Japan Project) in 1989, amazingly games are still being developed for the Neo Geo today! The reasons behind this stem from the original hardware; the system was originally designed as both an arcade and a home system. The idea behind this unusual marketing approach was that people would be able to play games in the arcade, on superior hardware, and then purchase the game for play at home.
A bold strategy, this approach was hampered by one fundamental, and obvious, problem from the outset; Cost. Originally costing around £500, with games costing upwards of £200, the Neo Geo home systems were out of reach for many casual gamers.
However, the system was extremely popular in arcades and built up a strong fan base during the 90's. The home system brought arcade perfect games in to the home for the first time and those that shelled out for it enjoyed a slow but steady stream of high quality games over the years. When the cheaper CD based systems were released a few years later, the existing catalogue of Neo Geo games became much more readily available.
Neo Geo MVS (1989)
The Neo Geo MVS is a cart based arcade game system, allowing games to be swapped between cabinets without the need to swap large arcade PCB's. As with a home based system, the MVS board houses all the major hardware, whilst the game ROM is held on the cartridge.
Boards were produced that could take up to six games in a single cabinet, with a button to switch between games. The Neo Geo also supports stereo sound, unlike standard JAMMA games that only support a single speaker. There are six 1 slot boards available, each with slightly different features. The table below shows the different features of each board.
Neo Geo AES Home (1990)
The Neo Geo AES (Advanced Entertainment System), a.k.a Home Cart System, took the original arcade motherboard and put it in a console aimed at the home market. Inovations include Multi-Link where two Neo Geo AES systems can be linked together via a cable. Interestingly, this allowed for games to be played on two separate TV's. The AES was also one of the first systems to use a memory card for use on other Neo Geo consoles and even any MVS arcade cabinet with the same game installed!
Neo Geo CD (1994)
The Neo Geo CD is essentially the same hardware as the AES but with a CD drive instead of the cartridge slot. CD's are a lot cheaper to produce than cartridges and SNK passed this saving on to gamers with the Neo Geo CD.
Unfortunately, the CD drive is single speed and it takes a long time for games to load compared to cart based games that load instantly. The loading isn't too bad on level based games such as Metal Slug, but it can be really infuriating on fighting games when it needs to load every couple of minutes.
Neo Geo CDZ (1995)
The Neo Geo CDZ is pretty much the same as the original Neo Geo CD (above) in a slightly different case, but with a dual speed CD drive and a slightly larger cache. This reduces load times considerably, but it wasn't enough to bridge the gap between the cart and CD based systems.
Only a limited number of Neo Geo CDZ units were shipped in Japan and it never saw a US or European release. The CDZ is even more prone to overheating after a few hours play than the original version.
Neo Geo MVS Boards
There are a number of different Neo Geo MVS boards available. All 1 slot boards have a standard JAMMA harness, whilst 2, 4 and 6 slot boards have an MVS harness. The MVS harness has only a couple of minor differences, including support for stereo sound and a fourth button, as well as the button for switching between the installed games.
|MV-IC Memory Board Support|
|Stereo Through Harness|
|Stereo Through PCB Connector||*||*|
|Stereo / Mono Switch|
|Built-in Headphone Jacks|
|Headphone Volume Control|
* Yes, through headphone jack
|CPU||Motorola 68000 (12 MHz), Zilog Z80A (4 MHz)|
|Work RAM||56Mb + 64kb cache|
|Resolution||320 x 224|
|Colours||65,536 colours, 4,096 at once|
|Sprites||380 max sprites at once, 1 x 2 min. sprite size, 16 x 512 max. sprite size|
|Sound||15 channels (7 Digital, 4 FM Synthesis, 3 PSG, 1 Noise)|
|Features||Removable Memory Card|
Three different versions of the Neo Geo AES and CD consoles were released for the Japanese, US and European markets. Cosmetically, the consoles look identical but there are a few subtle differences.
PAL Vs. NTSC
All US and Japanese (NTSC) consoles operate at 60Hz at full screen. European (PAL) models play games approximately 17% slower, operating at 50Hz. A letter box effect is also applied to PAL games, as well as audio and video playing significantly slower. As with other consoles, it's possible to modify a PAL console to operate at the same speed as an NTSC system. However, many people feel this damages the collectable nature of the Neo Geo consoles.
Text, Blood and 'Bounciness'!
A number of US and European games have minor graphical differences to their Japanese counterparts. As you might expect, Japanese consoles feature Japanese text, whilst US and European consoles have English text. All Western style games (i.e. not Mahjong) feature English speech, regardless of their intended region. Blood in US and European fighters is green, most notably Samarai Showdown, whilst the blood is red in the Japanese version. Japanese fighting games also feature a lot more bounce to certain parts of the female characters' bodies!
MVS systems all operate at 60Hz and the blood and text can be configured in the BIOS
MVS / AES Carts
Although MVS and AES game cartridges hold exactly the same ROM (game data) in most cases, SNK chose to make the cartridges physically slightly different, so that MVS games could not be played on the home system and vice versa. At the time of release, MVS games were much more expensive than the same game on the AES, which would have tempted arcade owners into getting the AES version.
However, this is no longer the case and most MVS games are much cheaper than their AES counterpart. There is an adapter, known as the Phantom-1, available for the AES which allows you to play MVS carts.
Neo Geo Games
There are several hundred games available for the Neo Geo systems, although not all games are available on all formats. There's also a couple of CD exclusives. Games for the AES are the most expensive, with some fetching over £1,000! CD games are generally the cheapest at around £50, but can be unreliable and many games have almost unbearable load times.
This makes the MVS a popular choice, but they're not as collectable and are still relatively expensive compared to the cheaper CD games. Amazingly, games are still being produced 15 years after it's initial release, with Metal Slug 5 released in February of 2004.
We stock a huge range of Neo Geo games, including many rare and collectable titles
A side scrolling, parodistic World War II themed jump-and-shoot arcade game, Metal Slug really does symbolise everything the Neo Geo is about. Hugely detailed weapons, vehicles and art work make this an absolute must have and a true classic.
There are six games in the Metal Slug series. Metal Slug X and 3 are generally considered to be the best and can cost several hundred pounds on the AES. The MVS and CD versions are quite a bit cheaper at around £100, if you can find someone willing to sell.
King of Fighters
The Neo Geo is probably best known for it's variety of quality fighting games, with a new King of Fighters each year. The usual rules apply; you progress through the game by defeating all the other characters and eventually the final boss. However, unlike most other fighters, each match is a 3v3. Some characters work better together than others and you can combine characters for specials, such as "striker tag team attacks". The latest version, King of Fighters 2003, features over 40 characters, each with a huge range of moves, combo's and specials.
Neo Drift Out
Quality sequel to the ever popular Bomberman series. Developed by Hudson Soft and released in '97, Neo Bomberman features all the action / puzzle elements of the original whilst using the Neo Geo's powerful graphics engine.
There are two modes of play available. The first involves clearing a path way by detonating bombs next to obstructions and then eliminating any enemies. The second simply requires the player to eliminate other players. The first to win five matches wins the round.