The original Neo-Geo console was greatly advanced for its time.
Disambiguation note: Neo-Geo is also a style of contemporary art, engendered in the East Village in the 1980's.
Neo-Geo is the name of a cartridge-based arcade and home video game system released in 1990 by Japanese game company SNK. The system was years ahead of other home systems of its time, offering huge, colorful 2D graphics, and high-quality sound. This system wasn't years ahead of its time because of any innovations, it simply was the current standard of arcade hardware, but available for home purchase. However, the downside of this was that the system cost around $650, and each game cartridge around $200. These prohibitive costs forced the Neo-Geo into a loyal niche of elite gamers.
On the other hand the system featured certain arguable design flaws. One was the resolution was very low even for an arcade game at the time.
The Neo-Geo was only to be driven further into cult status by changing mainstream tastes which soon demanded flashy, 3D graphics. Yet, the quality of Neo-Geo games kept it alive in arcades, particularly in Japan, where the newest installment of the flagship King of Fighters was certain to cause a stir with each release.
The arcade machines had a memory card system by which a player could save a game to return to at a later time, or remarkably, to be used to continue play on the SNK home console of the same name.
The arcade version of the hardware is often referred to as the "MVS", or Multi Video System (as most of the arcade hardware was capable of multiple cartridges loaded into one machine), with its console counterpart referred to as the "AES", or Advanced Entertainment System (most likely to distinguish it from the Nintendo Entertainment System, the dominating console on the market at the time).
The programming code is the same on both the MVS and AES hardware. In fact, you could move EPROMs from one type to the other, and the game would still run. However, the arcade and home cartridges do have a different pinout. SNK designed them this way to keep people from buying the cheaper home carts, and then using them in arcades.
SNK continued to produce arcade systems (and limited console cartridge runs) using the same 1980s technology all the way through 2002, proving the longevity of its forward-thinking design. The last game for the system, Samurai Spirits Zero Special, was released on October 19, 2004, making the Neo-Geo the longest running, officially supported arcade or console system. Originally, there was no form of copy protection on the system's cartridges, though it was later added, and managed to prevent software piracy for a period of time. One of the major factors bringing an end to the system's longevity came when bootleggers managed to defeat the copy protection, leading to the eventual pirating of the cartridges' ROM data.
The system's original specification for ROM size was up to 330 megabits, hence the system displaying "MAX 330 MEGA - PRO GEAR SPEC" upon startup. However, this was later enhanced on cartridges with bankswitching memory technology, increasing the maximum cartridge size to around 1 gigabit. These new cartridges also caused the system to display "GIGA POWER" upon startup, indicating this enhancement.
- Maximum Colors On-Screen: 4,096
- Maximum Sprites On-Screen: 380
- Maximum Sprite Size: 16x512
- Sound Channels: 15 (7 Digital, 4 FM synthesis, 3 PSG, 1 Noise Channel)
- Internal RAM: Work RAM: 64 Kb, Video RAM: 68 Kb, Z80 RAM: 2 Kb
- Save Memory: Removable Memory Card
There is a thriving collectors' scene for the Neo-Geo home systems, mainly because of the limited runs received by cartridges, and the system's reputation as a 2D powerhouse. It is common for both Neo-Geo consoles and cartridges to fetch high prices on eBay.
Other Neo Geo systems
Several home console systems were created based on the same hardware as the arcade games, as well as two handheld systems under the name Neo Geo Pocket.
- List of Neo-Geo games
- SNK Original creator of the Neo-Geo, now known as SNK Playmore.
- Neo-Geo.com (http://www.neo-geo.com) "The Net's Largest Neo-Geo Base", a popular site with information on Neo-Geo collecting.
- SNK Playmore USA official web site (http://www.snkplaymoreusa.com/) Through no longer producing Neo-Geo consoles or games, still produces newer versions of Neo-Geo games for current consoles and handhelds.