Vinnk reveals his decade-long tryst with SNK's Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System, the one console in the 16-bit generation that made good on its promise of arcade-quality graphics on a home console, and the hefty price tag to back it up.
The Neo Geo was so expensive that I didn't even hear about it until college at the turn of the 21st century. Vinnk, of course, was already deeply in love with it by this point (see: above video). So the idea of an actual arcade-style system was intriguing -- even on the cusp of the PS2, GameCube, and Xbox era that was coming about.
Season 2 so far has been about the efforts to bring the arcade experience into homes, but the shortcomings that ensued in trying to keep the cost of the hardware down made those efforts somewhat comical. (See our episode on the Sega Genesis for more details.) SNK made no such efforts with the Neo Geo. What resulted was exactly what was promised, but also a cult classic that few gamers have played.
(Also, it seems like 90% of the game library were fighters, but you didn't hear that from me.)
The Neo Geo had a couple of "firsts" under its belt that are rather impressive. First (first), it offered off-cartridge memory storage for game saves. You have to narrow the scope of that definition a bit; the PC Engine Super CD-ROM² beat the Neo Geo to market by two years and did the exact same thing. But it wasn't a separate storage medium or expandable (e.g. unlike buying new cards), so the title goes to Neo Geo for creating the progenitor to what would become memory cards in the following generation.
There are some other interesting tidbits, like how it came standard with an arcade joystick (two, with the Gold System), or that it didn't even offer an RF output that was still standard with more first-run consoles. But the most interesting to me is that it indeed did come out in the US. We ended up not really making the distinction in the video, but even though Vinnk is traveling through Japan in the clips for this episode he was talking about the US version of the Neo Geo the entire time. The system featured in the overview was the self-same system he had once owned -- and later sold off -- which he had bought in the States.
It's just that not much was done to localize the games. Most had English or Japanese text modes, but games weren't really overdubbed once they were programmed. Games weren't made for the US market -- at leas initially. So it's not really surprising that between the price and the "foreign-ness" of the console that it never really took off.
Sad to say, but despite that it was the only console that actually achieved what the marketing of the other consoles promised, it wasn't even in the running for winning the 16-bit wars. (The fact that it was marketed as 24-bit notwithstanding.)
We were actually going to push this to Episode 4 until we realized the Neo Geo actually beat the Super Famicom to market that year. ...for all the good it did. But Vinnk's very real love for the system comes through in this self-parody (you know, as opposed to parodying others), earning it a place with its less-powerful brethren, and offering us a chance to make one of the most fun -- if not most completely ridiculous -- episodes of the season.
SNK Breaking News
Well, it hasn't been breaking since 2007 when we recorded this, but it just goes to show how excited Vinnk was to hear that there would be an SNK collection for Wii, especially since SNK keeps going in and out of business like... something that goes in and out of business a lot: