Neo Geo. The name is still enough to catch the breath of a gamer of a certain age. Its near mythical status comes from the fact it didn't just have arcade conversions, they were arcade games, completely identical, making a mockery of Super Nintendo and Megadrive attempts at the same. And also, Neo Geo games were expensive, worthy of the italics. The console sold for $699 whilst Single games went for $200-$300. Collecting Neo Geo AES games was not for the faint hearted. In fact, today collecting Neo Geo AES games is not for the faint hearted. Looking on eBay, Garou Mark of the Wolves is on sale for $1249.99, which is insane considering that you can buy the game on the Nintendo Switch for £6.29.
But, the purists will say, it's not a real Neo Geo game and they'd be right I guess. Which makes the Neo Geo Mini even more interesting, because it is a Neo Geo, undeniably. In fact, when I picked it up I felt the thrill of pleasure to be able to own Neo Geo games again. Except that it's not an AES with a couple of games that cost me £700, it's a miniature arcade machine that you plug into your telly with 2 joypads, all of the relevant wires and it comes with 40 games for £95. The games, including Mark Of The Wolves, Metal Slug, The Last Blade 2, and most of the King Of Fighters games to name but a few are the very definition of value.
The machine is a tiny little fully working arcade, with a 3.5 inch screen. It's a thing of beauty. Controls are surprisingly easy with the miniature arcade stick and buttons, but the occasion to use them rarely arises because the machine is not truly portable and needs to be plugged in to the mains to work. When these things first came out, SNK took a bit of a pasting for not including a HDMI cable with the Mini, but now you can buy bundles for the same price with everything you need. Which is good, because you'll want to be playing on a big screen to get the most out of your new machine. It outputs at 720p, which is a bit disappointing. The Capcom Home Arcade looks notably better with 1080p. That being said, the games still look good enough and the resolution shouldn't affect your enjoyment. And if you've never played a Neo Geo CD, the joypads should be fine, too.
If you have played a Neo Geo CD, though, you'll wonder what happened to the microswitches that were included on the CD's pad. These helped the players control the onscreen action with precision second only to an arcade stick. The pads included with the Neo Geo Mini look identical, but the lack of microswitches mean that the controls are 'floatier'. But, again, this is not a deal breaker. You can get used to the controls and if you've never used the Neo Geo Cd's pad then you won't notice.
So what do you get with the Neo Geo Mini? You get a collection of games that would set you back thousandsif you were to buy them for the AES for less than £100. All of them perfectly emulated and perfectly playable on the controllers provided.
40 Arcade Perfect Games
The mini arcade is a thing of beauty.
low output resolution
lack of microswitches in joypads
9/10 when you use a Neo Geo Arcade Stick Pro as your controller. Details are in the Arcade Stick Pro Review