When it comes to console gaming, the first home consoles that many of us who grew up in the 90’s would probably be for the most part, the Sega Genesis (mega drive) or the Super Nintendo Entertainment System or Super Famicom in Japan. For most of us, it was with one of those two consoles that took us from being gaming dabblers, to the beginnings of our ambitious gaming careers during the 16 bit era. Whats lesser known, is the fact that these popular consoles however, paled in comparison to another much lesser known home console called the Neo-Geo AES.
The Neo-Geo AES, is what I have named as the “God Console” of the 16 bit era. Why? Simply because it had games that were visually brilliant in ways the vast majority of us didn’t even know were possible in home consoles at the time.
The home console, the Neo-Geo AES was developed by a company named SNK which stands for, Shin Nihon Kikaku. SNK originally had ambitions to only make games for coin-operated arcade machines, but eventually made home console machine for private use.
Before the AES, was the Neo-Geo MVS, the arcade machines, which was created in 1990. MVS stood for Multi Video System, and was the system hardware of SNK arcade cabinets whose technology also allowed for the storing of multiple games in one cabinet. It was capable of storing up to six games at once, due to the fact that the individual games themselves were cartridge based.The Neo-Geo AES was it’s home console equivalent, aside from the fact of the MVS being able to store six games. The AES however, was never meant to be a mainstream home console for the general public, but found it’s way in such a market anyhow due to popular demand.
The biggest plus for the Neo-Geo AES console was that it was the only console which was capable of playing arcade quality games on a home console at that time. For any of us who had a Super Nintendo back in the day, it’s not hard to remember how scaled down the quality had been on the home console compared to the arcade version, i.e. Killer Instinct anyone?
The fact is that the Neo-Geo AES was capable of playing games with such finesse, that it blew the more popular home consoles game’s quality out of the water. The colors were more vibrant, due to the fact that it was able to process more of them at one time, it was faster, sounded better, and just damn cooler. Think about it, what would you rather play at home, a graphically scaled down version of your favorite arcade gem? Or the completely realized version of it shining through the screen of your home television in all it’s brilliance? The answer to that question is obvious.
SNK, with the Neo-Geo had been the father of some of the coolest game franchises out there at the time. Their games were some of the best looking, and playing games inside arcades back in the 2D era. Those games such as Fatal Fury, Samurai showdown, King of Fighters, and the Metal Slug series, just to name a few. In other words they were the producers of those awesome, rapid fast coin-guzzling games that would leave you broke and feeling depleted from an adrenaline fueled frenzy after playing your game of choice.
Neo-Geo’s art was better, the action was more explosive, and it’s characters where cooler in ways that even Mario, or Ryu couldn’t even match. The bottom line is that SNK games were cool then, and looking back now, they are still just as stylish and phenomenal.
Neo-Geo was ahead of it’s time. That’s the simple fact of it. It was able to greatly out perform, even double the processing power of the more popular home consoles at the time, and was able to produce more of those uniquely special franchises, some of which still exist even today. Just looking at Neo-Geo’s games today makes me feel a certain rush of nostalgia, and amazement. It’s just astonishing to know that in the past, there existed a console that’s technical ability, and games were light years ahead of it’s competition.
So you’re probably wondering, if the Neo-Geo was so great, why didn’t it obliterate the competition and become the lead console of that time? The answer of that question is simple.
Unfortunately, the price of the Neo-Geo was one of the equalizing factors that tipped the playing field greatly in favor of the other more popular consoles. Here in America, the Neo-Geo AES Gold console bundled with games Fatal Fury, and Magician Lord launched at the price of $649.99. Yep you heard me right, six-hundred and forty nine whole dollars. Even for today’s standards, that’s ridiculously steep. The AES Silver console was later released at the price of $399.99 USD which came with no games bundled, but compared to Nintendo’s Super NES console which was $199.99 it was still a large step to take.
The game cartridges, which where little different from those used in arcade cabinets, where also very steep and could also cost up to a couple hundred dollars themselves. It wasn’t until the Neo-Geo CD’s release in 1994, that the games got a tad cheaper in their CD form. But due to it’s unreliability, and absurd waiting time of sometimes up to five minutes, it didn’t quite catch on either.
Taking the price of an investment for a Neo-Geo console into consideration, it’s not hard to imagine why the console hadn’t been very popular. In order to play arcade quality games in the comfort of your living room, it could indeed cost as much as a very cheap used car. That’s a little crazy to imagine.
Taking aside the incredible price point of the Neo-Geo console (which still isn’t much cheaper even today ), the Neo-Geo AES console still remains at the top tier of the most legendary 16 bit consoles. It was almost like hardware from the future, and many of its more iconic games are also still just as charming today as they were back then. It’s simply undeniable not to regard the Neo-Geo as the God of 16-bit consoles.
For those who are willing to dig around the history books, it’s easy to see that Mario, and Sonic weren’t the only impressive franchises from the 2D era. Given enough time, you might it might even come to change your mind on how you thought about them.
It’s true that the greatness of the Neo-Geo lives on even till this day. Long live greatness!