Thursday, December 20, 2012

NEO•GEO X Buyer's Guide

Here's what everyone needs to know about the Neo-Geo X, based on my own experience and/or the consensus of Neo-Geo superfans:

(1) The emulation is fantastic, to the extent that Metal Slug slows down exactly the way it would on the original hardware. This is, perhaps, more important to me than it should be. 

(2) The handheld device is very good. Build quality, so far, feels solid enough -- about as solid as an original GBA, but lighter. Most importantly, the buttons and thumb-stick are responsive and comfortable. The stick, itself, has the same distinct click of an AES joystick. That, and the accuracy of the emulation, are two advantages over a PSP.

(3) The USB arcade stick is the best possible replica. It is the same size and shape of the original AES joystick, and uses nearly identical components. It weighs a little less. Some have said the buttons are more comfortable. And it can be used with your PS3 or PC without a hitch. Even if you don't want or need an NGX, you should consider buying one of these joysticks separately, once they're available.

(4) It comes in a replica AES box, complete with little plastic handle. If I were a 1920s gangster, I'd carry my tommy gun in it.
DISCLAIMER: If you already own any iteration of actual NEO•GEO hardware, stop reading and proceed to the forum where your fellow fetishists can properly educate/enrage you. Hardcore Gaming 101 is not responsible heart attacks or cerebral aneurysms resulting from the following purist-unfriendly statements.
Here's what almost everyone should know, in addition to the aforementioned kudos.

(5) HDMI video output is clear, but not without its problems. The NGX does not upres or generate scan lines, so what you're seeing is apparently exactly what the emulator produces.* Sort of. There's some screen tearing. The worst I've encountered is Magician Lord; but the only other tearing I, personally, have spotted occurs in the opening cut scene for Last Resort. My biggest complaint is that the color is inconsistent from game to game. Shodown II looks dark and oversaturated, while Metal Slug is washed out. This can be fixed by adjusting the color on your set, but it's irritating to have to do that for each game. As for clarity, superfans complaining that it does not compare to RGB-modded consoles are missing the point. The NGX seeks to replicate the original experience as closely as possible while remaining compatible with modern televisions. Since Tommo hasn't promised anything more, this product fails or succeeds to the extent that it compares to the output of an unmodded AES. (I'll get a reliable opinion on that from #GC9X IRC Sage NeoRasa once he gets his NGX.)

(5.5) And the HDMI isn't on par with the video quality of the earliest MVS arcade boards. Those output RGB video, which -- at least initially -- could produce a very clear image. The fact that the RGB capabilities were later changed to make composite output slightly better suggests that this was a very underutilized feature, but that's how many collectors play these games today. Although I'd love to have exact RGB output as an option, and although many European enthusiasts very rightly expect it, I doubt even SNK was designing their games with "pixel perfect" clarity in mind. A little blur was expected. Again, the handheld's screen looks sharper, but still won't look like MAME.

(6) Composite video output is allegedly worse than a stock AES. Frustrating, but expected. Composite quality has suffered in other consoles since the early 90s. This is a problem the manufacturer can probably fix by using higher quality parts in future production runs, but I don't anticipate it.

(7) The 20 preloaded games are good choices, but lack variety. Seven are fighting games, nine if you count wrestling games Three Count Bout and King of the Monsters. Even the bonus game for pre-orders -- the grammatically challenged Ninja Master's -- is a fighter. Of the remaining games, you have three sports titles,  two run-and-guns, two shooters, NAM-1975 which is sorta both, one beat-em-up, one Tetris clone, and one Magician Lord. None of these games is bad, but even the arcade-centric Neo-Geo had more variety than this. Surely we could have done without two of the three Fatal Fury games, and added Top Hunter and Crossed Swords.

(8) There's no real region select Some games let you select your region in-game. But for the ones that don't, there's no way to switch between the US or JP versions. The major game affected by this issue is Metal Slug, which means you're stuck with white blood. Depending on the future support of this device, it will also mean censorship in other games.

As a consumer, I'm in an awkward spot. I really want to play my favorites on their original hardware, but to buy everything used would cost thousands. The console itself would come with no warranty, no cheap repair options, and be limited to the original peripherals and video output. Given the ridiculous lengths once necessary to play these games on 

Finally, a note about the price. In proper internet fashion, people began complaining about this months before ever touching an NGX. Allow me to explain something. Unlike, say, the Wii U, there are no software licensing fees to collect from third parties to offset low console prices. The whole "sell stuff for more than it costs to make it" concept is rarely observed in this era of loss-leader platforms; but in situations like this, it must be. The real question is how much SNK/Tommo want for additional games. I expect some market experimentation here, but I think $10 plus shipping seems fair for 3-4 games per SD card. $15 if two of those games are Top Hunter and Crossed Swords.

*Overscan issues can be addressed by fiddling with your TV's settings.


  1. I've seen videos of the console in action and read complaints on Neogaf that it suffers horrendously from screen tearing. From the youtube videos it looks particularly bad. Not exactly good emulation it seems?

    Also regarding the price for less than the price of this I got a Neo Geo MVS 1F board with a supergun, two joysticks, all the wires, power supply and about 7 very good games second hand through a private sale. Seems a bit much to be asking for it to me.

  2. The NeoGAF thread is here:

    There are some comparison videos. The screen tearing isn't persistent, but is something that would definitely annoy me. It suggests the emulator is either poorly programmed, or the system isn't powerful enough to handle it.

    If this were a $50 emulation box like those Genesis things this would be okay, but for the price I'd really expect much better. Joysticks sounds nice, though.

  3. While there's some screen tear in certain games, describing it as "suffering horrendously" is way over the top and total exaggeration. Quite frankly, it's pretty darn good, and this is coming from someone who has owned an AES since launch and bought an MVS 2 years ago off of Craigslist, so I'd like to think I know a little about Neo Geo games.

    Some people will only listen to the negatives to try to avoid actually wanting this thing, as it saves them spending $200, but I think it's a no-brainer for a fan of Neo Geo or a collector. It's just downright neat.

    Yes, not everything is perfect, which most of us never expected going in, but it does everything pretty well. Hopefully, though, the few drawbacks will get worked out with firmware they're promising on their website.

  4. I wish my scores would save.... :(

  5. Would you say that the stick on the NGX is about as good as the NGPC's stick?

  6. I totally forgot about this! Definitely getting it.

  7. I don't know about anyone else but this home/handheld console has got me more excited about buying a console than anything else in the last decade and a half.

  8. I haven't noticed any tearing at all, but I've put in a lot more hours on the handheld than through HDMI, so I may not have had enough chance to notice.

    I agree that the color is little washed out though, even on HDMI. It's not dull, it's just not as good. My TV will save color settings though, so I'll bet I can fix some of those issues.

  9. As soon as that fantastic 90 day warranty is up they won't give a shit. on my tv the games look terrible such a shame . marketed as a re birth of a legend its cheap and nasty

  10. Where the hell is Money Idol Exchanger

  11. This is about the only review that I've read that was a reasonably objective one. Plus, I trust this reviewer much more than YouTube rants. Thanks for that!

  12. All issues have been fixed with firmware 500a. It is now a great little machine.