Neo Geo, Neo Geo. Four bright buttons and two joysticks.
Neo Geo, Neo Geo. Cool red cab and a name that sticks.
In the late 1980s, SNK
developed an Arcade
system that could work with multiple games: the Neo Geo Multi Video System. It used cartridges, like a game console. A home version was the logical extension
, and thus was born the Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System.
However, arcade machines cost a lot more than home consoles, and SNK knew that. At first, the AES was a luxury item for rent in hotels. When guests started letting the company know they'd be willing to buy them, SNK decided to put it on sale. The Neo Geo was released to the general public in January 1990. At the time of release, it was the most powerful home video game system available.
The cost was high, not just for the processing power, but for the joysticks and games. The games cost about $200, partly because their size was comparable to N64 carts
and partly because of their architecture — the RAM
chips needed to play the game were built into the cart rather than in the system. The system launched in the US, with two controllers and the game Magician Lord
, at $650. Just a bit later, a bundle with no game and one controller sold for $400.
SNK released the Neo Geo CD in 1994; unlike the CD-ROM units for other 16-bit consoles, it was intended less to enhance the system's capabilities than to allow games to be rereleased in a cheaper format. (There were only eight CD-exclusive titles.) It was $300, and games were $50, but with a 1x CD-ROM drive it fell victim to Loads and Loads of Loading
The price of the system and games meant the mainstream was out of the question, so SNK went for Up Marketing
to appeal to hardcore gamers, who actively embraced the system just as they would the Sega Dreamcast
a few years later. This had some initial success, but unfortunately that cost didn't go to proper anti-piracy measures, and the system was rife with it. SNK blamed that as a major factor in their bankruptcy in 2000, though the Neo Geo managed to not only survive their collapse but last long enough to see their reconstitution as SNK Playmore.
The final Neo Geo game, Samurai Shodown V Special
, was released in 2004. The MVS turned out to be the longest-lived arcade hardware of its kind, outlasting Nintendo
's VS. hardware by several years. But the Neo Geo lives on, with fans making homebrew games for it years after the system was discontinued.
- Motorola 68000 CPU, 12 MHz.
- Z80 co-processor, 4 MHz, partly used for audio control, although there is a separate sound chip.
- Custom GPU graphics processors: LSPC2-A0 and PRO-B0.
- Additional GPU processors on game cartridges: LSPC2-A2, PRO-B1, and PRO-C0.
- 64K main memory.
- 74K total Video RAM: 64K screen/sprite memory, plus 8K for the color palette and 2K of high-speed VRAM.
- 2K audio memory.
- Cart sizes could be 41.25 MB (330 megabits) without bank switching, and 89.5 MB (716 megabits) with it. Keep in mind this was a system made in 1990, so that was a hell of a lot.
- Sprites could be up to 16x512.
- Up to 384 sprites on-screen.
- All that extra video memory and sprite power is needed, as the system doesn't use tiled backgrounds. They're all sprites done as strips instead of squares (hence the long sprite size).
- 320x224 resolution.
- 4096 (12-bit) simultaneous colors out of a 65,536 (16-bit) color pallette.
In short, this was a beast. It took until the Sega Saturn
for stronger home video game systems to come out for less than $400, and even then the PlayStation was primarily made for 3D (with only the Saturn rivalling its 2D capabilities). There wasn't a dedicated 2D home video game system to rival it until the Game Boy Advance
, coming out just over ten years later.
Games and Series: