The SNK Neo Geo
Writer’s note: This post turned in to a real memory lane, nostalgia thing. Read at your own risk…
I remember being a young kid and walking in to a Toys’R’Us. Back in the early 90s, most Toys’R’Us would have a glass case aisle near the games that cased all sort of high-priced wonders. Sure, there were the NES and GameBoy displays that many of us remember, but there were also tons of the more obscure entertainment computers (including my beloved Commodores) as well as all sorts of odd contraptions like robots and electronic board games (which were less than impressive at that time). However, the one item that always caught my eye was a video game system known as the Neo Geo. I didn’t know what it was, all I knew is that it was $650 and played games that were the size of 2 VHS tapes at $200 a pop. If it costs so much more than the NES, it must be amazing!
It was only a year later when the Neo Geo started to become a common sight in arcades and pizza places, but instead of a standard top loading game system, it was a big red arcade cabinet that contained anywhere from 1 to 6 titles identical to those in the Neo Geo home library. I instantly got addicted to titles like Fatal Fury, Sengoku, and Crossed Swords and quickly pegged the Neo Geo as my arcade staple. It was a tried and true way to get a lot of fun out of a single quarter anywhere I went and I was definitely going to play every title I could find for it. For the past 20 years, this has remained true (despite the demise of the arcade). I have definitely blown hundreds of dollars in my lifetime on those machines, even so much as playing on one everyday at lunch time in college.
In 1999, eBay was starting to take off and turned in to a great place to find some really obscure stuff. I decided I had to own a Neo Geo and ended up grabbing a home system (known as the Neo Geo AES) for $120 with a handful of games. A short time later, I took a trip to Akihabara in Tokyo and managed to scrounge up about a dozen titles from their bargain bins for a few bucks each, building a great collection. I played that machine to death and it made countless trips to friends homes for all night arcade marathons. However, my interest turned back to PC gaming and thanks to how expensive and difficult it was to collect Neo Geo, I ended up just using emulators to play the rare games I couldn’t afford. Being a poor college kid, I ended up just selling the machine that already brought me tons of entertainment for a hefty profit and seeing it as a win. I still missed the thing though…
Fast forward a decade and I still have a soft spot for classic arcade games. I don’t have too much room in my house, but I still occasionally skim through Craigslist for an old arcade game that I might be able to sneak in. While the holy grail would be the original Atari Star Wars cabinet (or surround), they have become insanely expensive and are really difficult to work with. What I would really love is to return to the world of Neo Geo with an MVS (the arcade cabinet version, Multi Video System). The games and parts are a bit more common and the ability to easy swap between games makes it great for a home arcade machine. I poked around a bit and got way to interested on the ins and outs of the system. I eventually made some off comments to my wife about my interest, but thought nothing of it. Low and behold, I was surprised last weekend with a very early Christmas present from her and my parents:
My next project is to take this bit of my childhood and give it a polish and minor facelift. I’ll be covering what needs to be done and documenting the process as I go… which will start very soon.