Back in the nineties, you were in one of two camps when it came to consoles, you either had a Sega Megadrive or a Super Nintendo and with this came lots of rivalry and playground antics regarding who had the best machine.
Cue the obvious Sonic is faster than Mario and Streetfighter 2 is the best on the SNES and so on, however, there was one console on the spec sheet alone that shut everyone up and was know as the Rolls-Royce of games machines.
The machine? The Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System.
At the time (and still is today) the Neo Geo was rare, mysterious and insanely expensive and because it was out of reach for most and the internet didn’t exist back then it gained a mythical status in playgrounds across the land.
What made the Neo Geo so unique then? Well whilst most consoles were getting better at emulating their more powerful arcade cousins.
The Neo-Geo was an arcade machine albeit in a console form. Based chip for chip on its arcade brother the Multi Video System (MVS) it was literally arcade perfect which for those who were gaming back then was the holy grail of home consoles.
The only place where most of us mere mortals could play a Neo Geo games was in the arcades themselves and on the SNK manufactured arcade cabs.
Some may remember seeing a memory card slot where you could load your position at home and come down to the arcades to carry on. Whilst this may sound a bit crazy to go somewhere and spend money on a game you have at home, it certainly would have shocked those that witnessed someone doing it so perhaps it was done for boasting reasons.
Now, why were the games so expensive?Well, back in the early 90’s memory chips or ROMS were very expensive to make. The largest Megadrive games of the time were no more than 16 megabits.
The smallest Neo-Geo games, Puzzled, a Tetris-style cutesy puzzle game clocked in at 22 megabits but most of the early games were around 50 megabits or more, why? Well, they had huge characters and lots of sound samples.
Early games like the superb shooter Nam’75 or Baseball Stars had either voice dialogue or commentary which for 1990 was unbelievable and impossible on lesser systems.
It wasn’t really until around 1992 that things really started to kick off for the system, prior to this there was a really good mixture of genres with the proto first person shooter (sort of) The Super Spy, as well as side-scrolling, beat ‘em ups such as Mutation Nation and a plethora of Side scrolling shooters including Andro Dunos and the beautiful but insanely difficult R-Type inspired Last Resort.
Some were good and some were awful (Legend of Success Joe springs to mind here) but it was nice to see variety.
What made it take off was one on one fighters thanks to the phenomenal success of Capcom’s Streetfighter 2.
SNK had dabbled with Fatal Fury back in late 1991 but it wasn’t until Art of Fighting and Fatal fury 2 came out that people started to take notice and with this, the fighters kept on coming out.
It became the system of choice for the genre and was enriched and the poorer for it as well.
Sure there were a few games from different genres along the way, Super SideKicks soccer came out as well as the occasional side-scrolling games like Sengoku 2. However, SNK had found its niche and literally all you could play was beat ‘em ups.
A lot of effort was put into the main franchises. Art of Fighting looked amazing when it came out, huge characters, had insane sprite scaling that no other home system could even attempt and some of the beefiest crunchy sound effects ever to be heard in a game were all here.
It was also the first Neo-Geo game to go above 100 megabits and this was 1992!