Neo Geo (console)

Neo Geo (console)
Neo Geo
Neo-geo logo.png
Neo Geo full on.png
Manufacturer SNK
Product family Neo Geo
Generation Fourth generation
Retail availability
  • JP July 1, 1991
  • NA 1991
Introductory price US$649.99
Media ROM cartridge
CPU Motorola 68000 clocked at 12MHz, Zilog Z80A clocked at 4MHz
Storage capacity Memory card
Memory 64KB RAM, 74KB VRAM, 2KB Sound Memory
Display 320×224 resolution, 4096 on-screen colours out of a palette of 65536
Dimensions 325 × 237 × 60 mm

The Neo Geo (ネオジオ Neo Jio?) is a cartridge-based arcade and home video game system released on July 1, 1991 by Japanese game company SNK. Being in the Fourth generation of Gaming, it was the first console in the former Neo Geo family, which only lived through the 1990s. The hardware featured comparatively colourful 2D graphics.

The MVS (Multi Video System), as the Neo Geo was known to the coin-op industry, offered arcade operators the ability to put up to 6 different arcade titles into a single cabinet, a key economic consideration for operators with limited floorspace. With its games stored on self-contained cartridges, a game-cabinet could be exchanged for a different game-title by swapping the game's ROM-cartridge and cabinet artwork. Several popular franchise-series, including Fatal Fury, The King of Fighters, Metal Slug and Samurai Shodown, were released for the platform.

The Neo Geo system was also marketed as a very costly home console, commonly referred to today as the AES (Advanced Entertainment System). The Neo Geo was marketed as 24-bit, though it was technically a parallel processing 16-bit system with an 8-bit Zilog Z80 as coprocessor. The coprocessor was used as a CPU, and for sound processing. The Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis also had similar co-processors, with neither Sega nor Nintendo claiming they were 24-bit.

The Neo Geo was ranked 19th out of the 25 best video game consoles of all time by the video game website IGN in 2009.[1]



Initially, the (AES) home system was only available for rent to commercial establishments, such as hotel chains, bars and restaurants, and other venues. When customer response indicated that some gamers were willing to buy a $650 console, SNK expanded sales and marketing into the home console market. The Neo Geo console was officially launched on 31 January, 1990 in Osaka, Japan.[2] Compared to the other 16-bit consoles of the time, Neo Geo's graphics and sound were vastly superior. The MVS was one of the most powerful arcade units at the time. Furthermore, since the AES was identical to its arcade counterpart, the MVS, arcade titles released for the home market were perfect translations. Although its high price tag kept it out of the mainstream gaming market, a strong game lineup likely contributed to the cult status of the Neo Geo, enabling it to outlast the more popular Sega Mega Drive/Genesis.

In the United States, the console was planned to debut at $599 USD and included two joystick controllers and a game, either Baseball Stars Professional or NAM-1975. However, the price was raised and its American launch debuted at $649.99. This package was known as the "Gold System." Later, the "Gold System" was bundled with Magician Lord and Fatal Fury. The system was also released in a "Silver System" package for $399.99, which included one joystick controller and did not include a game. Other games were priced at about $200 (and up). With these "premium" prices, though, most gamers weren't able to afford the system, so the console was only accessible to a niche market.

The home system featured two CPUs: the 16-bit Motorola 68000 main processor running at 12 MHz and the 8-bit Zilog Z80 coprocessor running at 4 MHz. A custom video chipset allowed the system to display 4,096 colors and 380 individual sprites onscreen simultaneously, while the onboard Yamaha YM2610 sound chip gave the system 15 channels of sound with seven channels reserved specifically for digital sound effects. When realtime 3D graphics stormed the arcade industry, the Neo Geo's hardware was unable to follow along. The longevity of Neo Geo games kept it alive in arcades, particularly in Japan, where the newest installment of its flagship franchise, The King of Fighters, caused a stir with every new release.[citation needed]

The last official game by SNK for the Neo Geo system, Samurai Shodown V Special, was released in 2004. SNK decided to abandon the hardware business due to the rampant piracy of game-cartridges, which SNK believed was partially responsible for its bankruptcy in 2001. SNK ceased to manufacture home consoles by the end of 1997, but continued to release games for both arcade and home for another 8 years.

Inside a four cartridge Neo Geo arcade machine

Measured from the introduction of the arcade hardware in 1990 to the release of the last official home cartridge in 2004, the Neo Geo enjoyed a market lifespan of fourteen years, making it the second longest-lived arcade or home console system ever produced (after Atari 2600). On August 31, 2007, SNK stopped offering maintenance and repairs to Neo Geo home consoles, handhelds, and games.[3] However, they will continue to repair their MVS arcade hardware.

Game ports

The GameTap subscription service currently includes a Neo Geo emulator and a small library of Neo Geo games.

In February 2007, Nintendo announced on their Japanese website that Neo Geo games would appear on the Wii's Virtual Console in Japan; announcements in April and July confirmed placement on the North American Virtual Console,[4][5] and on October 1, a similar announcement was made for the European Virtual Console.[6] NeoGeo games were made available on the Australian and European Virtual Console on October 5, and North American Virtual Console on October 8.[7] The first three games released were Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, Art of Fighting, and World Heroes.

NeoGeo games released on the Virtual Console cost 900 Nintendo Points in all regions which is currently $9.00 USD.

NeoGeo games are also available through Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network . As of July 2009, Fatal Fury Special, Samurai Shodown II, Metal Slug 3, Garou: Mark of the Wolves and The King of Fighters '98 have been released.

Technical aspects

Each joystick controller was 280mm (width) × 190mm (depth) × 95mm (height) ( 11 × 8 × 2.5 in.) and contained the same four-button layout as the arcade MVS cabinet.

The arcade machines had a memory card system by which a player could save a game to return to at a later time and could also 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 (available in 1-slot, 2-slot, 4-slot, and 6-slot variations, the latter being capable of up to six 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).

Neo Geo AES motherboard. Early motherboard revisions such as this one contained daughterboards used to enhance the clarity of the video output.

The MVS and AES hardware could execute identical machine code. Owners could move EPROMs from one type to the other, and the game would still run. The program specifics for both MVS and AES game options were contained on every game ROM, whether the cartridge was intended for home or arcade use. However, the arcade and home cartridges do have a different pinout. They were designed this way to prevent arcade operators from buying the cheaper home carts and then using them in arcades. It has been found that in a few home version games, one could unlock the arcade version of the game by inputting a special code.

ROM sizes and startup screens

Specification for ROM size was up to 330 megabits, hence the system displaying "MAX 330 MEGA PRO-GEAR SPEC" upon startup. While no technical advances were required to achieve it, some games over 100 megabits, such as Top Hunter, followed this screen by displaying an animation proclaiming "THE 100MEGA SHOCK!". The original ROM size spec was later enhanced on cartridges with bank switching memory technology, increasing the maximum cartridge size to around 716 Mbit. These new cartridges also caused the system to display "GIGA POWER PRO-GEAR SPEC" upon startup, indicating this enhancement.


Unlike most other video game consoles of its time, the Neo Geo did not use tilemap background layers. Instead, it relied exclusively on drawing sprites to create the background. Sprites are vertical strips which are 16 pixels wide, and can be 16 to 512 pixels tall. By laying multiple sprites side by side, the system can simulate a background layer. The system can draw up to 384 sprites on the screen at a time, and up to 96 per scanline.


The arcade game cartridges measure 7.5 inches (190 mm) by 5.34 inches (136 mm)



  • Main memory (used directly by 68000): 64 KB
  • Main video memory : 84 KB
    • Video memory: 64 KB (32 KB x2)
    • Palette memory : 16 KB (8 KB x 2)
    • Fast video RAM : 4 KB (2 KB x 2)
  • Sound memory (used directly by Z80): 2 KB


  • Display resolution: 320×224 (many games only used the centermost 304 pixels)
  • Color palette: 65,536 (16-bit) (Not RGB565, but RGB666, where the lowest bit of each channel is shared with one bit[8])
  • Maximum colors on screen: 4,096 (12-bit)
  • Maximum sprites on screen: 384
  • Minimum sprite size: 1×2
  • Maximum sprite size: 16×512
  • Maximum sprites per scanline: 96
  • Background layers: 0
  • Aspect ratio: 4:3
  • A/V output: RF, composite video, RGB (with separate 21 pin RGB cable FCG-9).


  • Sound chip: Yamaha YM2610
  • 4 FM channels, 4 operators per channel
  • 3 SSG channels
  • 1 Noise channel
  • 7 ADPCM channels
  • Work RAM (sound): 2KB
  • Sound ROM 128KB on-board (only less than 32KB used)
  • up to 512KB sound ROM on cartridges


  • Source: separate DC 5 V (older systems) and DC 9 V adapter (newer systems).
  • Consumption: 8 W older Systems, 5 W newer Systems


  • Console: 325 mm (width) × 237 mm (depth) × 60 mm (height).
  • Controller: 280 mm (width) × 190 mm (depth) × 95 mm (height).


  • Removable memory card: 2KB or 68-pin JEIDA ver. 3 spec memory
    • Any 68-pin memory that fits the JEIDA ver. 3 spec will work


Home cartridges

There is a thriving collector's scene for the Neo Geo home systems, especially the original AES home console. This is mainly because of the limited runs received by cartridges, the massive arcade library available, and the system's reputation as a 2D powerhouse. It is still common even to this day for both Neo Geo consoles and cartridges to fetch extremely high prices on eBay and other auction websites, particularly English versions of cartridges as these were produced in lower quantities. A handful of the rarest Neo Geo games can sell for well over $1,000 on eBay.[9] This gives the system an almost cult following, as owners see the system as more of an "investment" rather than an ordinary videogame console. This leads to high resale value on most Neo Geo systems and games and makes the console a "must-have" for a number of video game collectors. The most expensive cartridge for the Neo Geo home system is the European-localized version of Kizuna Encounter: There are only five known copies of the game, with the most recently sold copy selling for about $12,000 USD[citation needed].

Arcade cartridges

Another sub-scene within the Neo Geo collector's market involves the MVS cartridges. Although these were initially designed for arcade use, a strong market has developed around collecting this particular format. The MVS market can be divided into two distinct groups: those who are looking for cheaper alternatives to the expensive rare home carts, and those who are interested in paying premium prices for complete arcade kits.

For those interested primarily in lower prices on rare home games, MVS carts, particularly loose carts or incomplete kits, can offer a cost effective alternative. Most MVS cartridges cost substantially less than their home counterparts. This lower price can be associated with their lack of decoration as most were designed to be installed inside arcade cabinets and lack cartridge artwork or box artwork, the high set-up cost of purchasing the MVS system, and the prevalence of bootleg cartridges. Many of the most common MVS games go for prices between $10–$150.

However, in recent years a growing market has emerged for complete MVS arcade kits. These consist of all the materials that would be initially sent to an arcade operator, including the brown cardboard shipping box (with label), the insert materials to decorate the marqee and arcade cabinet (including separate move lists), warning information, dipswitch settings, in some cases even posters and/or any packing materials. Because many of the items in an MVS kit were designed to be discarded by arcade operators, finding complete arcade kits can be difficult and thus the prices for some complete MVS kits can be quite high.

Because of the conflicting requirements and desires of the two MVS sub-groups, they rarely compete with each other for games.

Counterfeit or bootleg software is regarded in the collectors community as having zero value or very low value. Such software has a reputation for audio and video flaws, and is generally disparaged by fans of the Neo Geo systems. This software is identifiable by visual inspection of the game PCBs, or by comparison of ROM CRC values using a specially designed BIOS.

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.

Graphical development

The Neo Geo was particularly notable for its ability to bring arcade-quality graphics directly into the home. As time went on, programmers were able to further tune the games to produce higher quality graphics than previous years and eventually beyond what was initially thought possible for the system.

One of the pack-in games with the original Japanese release was NAM-1975, a side-scrolling shooting game that featured multi-layer scrolling backgrounds. However, the initial Neo Geo games were, graphically speaking, a little less polished than SNK's non-Neo Geo games. By 1991, games like King of the Monsters demonstrated the Neo Geo's ability to produce graphic detail that matched or surpassed contemporary arcade games from the period.

In 1992, SNK's Art of Fighting marked the beginning of a series of 2-D fighting game innovations. This landmark game brought visual graphic damage to the characters' faces when hit, as well as large character sprites in combination with zoom effects to intensify the action. This zoom feature was also used in the following year's Samurai Shodown, whose even more elaborate graphics and gameplay won it Electronic Gaming Monthly's award as the 1993 Game of the Year and launched a successful franchise. The Neo Geo also became known for its shooters, with the first successful title coming with 1994's Aero Fighters 2. The following year's Pulstar managed to up the ante on both graphics and gameplay.

Top Hunter, released in 1994 featured extremely fluid and crisp graphics, such as the trees on the wind stage of the game. Fatal Fury 2 also featured fluid and detailed graphics for the time. Top Hunter, and Fatal Fury 2 do contain some slowdown, but later games largely avoided slowdown issues (with the exception of Metal Slug 2, which is quite notorious for its copious amounts of slowdown).

By the mid-1990s, SNK was trying to move onto a new platform, notably the Hyper-64. When the new 3-D system failed to take off, however, SNK found itself still developing games for its old 2-D engine. This led programmers to come up with ways to increase the limits of what was initially thought possible for the system.

Six years after the Neo Geo's initial launch, Nazca Corporation surprised the video game industry with Metal Slug. A take from the Contra series, Metal Slug is a run and gun game that featured cartoonish, hyper-active graphics and gameplay that also launched a very successful franchise. Since the Neo Geo was unable to produce the 3-D games that began dominating arcades in the 1990s, SNK focused on mastering the realm of 2-D. With the launch of The Last Blade in 1997, SNK programmers demonstrated that the Neo Geo was still capable of producing artistically rendered graphics to match the gameplay.

While the system became primarily known for its fighting games in the late-1990s, notably the King of Fighters series, 1998's Blazing Star updated the previous Pulstar with more detail. This trend of adding more detail to 2-D environments reached a plateau with 1999's Garou: Mark of the Wolves, an update of the Fatal Fury series, as well as 2000's Metal Slug 3.

See also


External links

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