Believe it or not, I was once a mere mortal man like you. It’s true I swear; there I was going about my daily business when the skies parted and I was singled out from the rest of the rat-race and illuminated by a brilliant shaft of light.
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Tykhe, the goddess of fate & fortune had finally noticed me and rewarded my patience and devotion with a brand new/old console. From that day forward, I have been a proud owner of a Neo Geo X system and my life has been changed since.
So read on, mortal and I shall impart my wisdom and perhaps you too will be convinced enough to join the ranks of proud and mighty owners.
The system comes handsomely packaged in a classy black and gold box with a carry handle, just the thing for storing and transporting it about should the need for either arise. The box contains everything you’ll need to get started including an HDMI cable and some rather fetching stickers found in the back of the manual. They’re not strictly necessary, but they’re a nice touch and I like stickers. The console itself is well made enough although it feels a bit on the light side because it’s larger than it needs to be to contain the components. It’s mostly hollow as it’s been designed as a replica of the home console of legend, but it’s still fairly compact, around the size of a Mega Drive II, but nicer to look at. It has a nice matt finish and feels like it’s made of a fairly good quality plastic.
It certainly doesn’t look cheap or out of place under the TV. Connecting the console to the TV is a straightforward affair: video, power, done. Now although I blame myself completely, I must confess to being quite disappointed when first firing up the machine. Although I was aware there was an update available, my enthusiasm got the better of me and in my impatience I charged ahead with it right out of the box.
As penance for my lack of self-control I was greeted with glitchey video, which was too big for the screen and poor sound emulation. After I updated the firmware (which was very simple to do thanks to a helpful tutorial video on the Neo Geo X website) all my worries drifted away with performance now improved to the level of perfection you’d expect form an officially licensed product. With this in mind, the firmware update should be considered as part of the initial setup process. Just be patient, it doesn’t take long and the difference is remarkable. One joystick is supplied with the console and the system supports a second which can be bought separately.
The joystick is also made to replicate that of the original home system. It’s a sad story, but I was never fortunate enough to play on the original so I can’t say how it compares. While I was at school we shared rumours of the fabled Neo Geo console and its ridiculously priced games. A couple of the kids knew another kid (who conveniently went to another school) who had one, but we honestly weren’t 100% sure the thing even existed in this pre Internet age.s I mean, a home console that played arcade games? Many of use were still loading from tape!
Back to the controller: While it’s a perfectly serviceable and accurate controller, it lacks the heft and solidness of some other home arcade joysticks and so it delivers a slightly disappointing tactile experience initially. It’s not that it feels breakable, I’m sure they’re robust enough to cope with the most vigorously executed combos. It was nice to have a large control platform on my lap again. Now for the pièce de résistance: On this new 21ts century version there’s a real treat: The body of the console opens like a clam shell and reveals (now this is really good)…. a hand held version! I know: too good to be true, but it’s real!
This device is the mother brain of the system as the ‘console’ serves just as a docking station to charge and play with the joystick on a TV screen. This portable device is very impressive indeed. The handheld aspect is a hefty, solidly constructed unit, which is a delight to hold in the hand. I was really impressed with it when I first saw it as it looks like it should cost far more than it does. You certainly won’t feel embarrassed pulling this out in public. Its soft-yet-grippy rubberised back is emblazoned with a chrome ‘SNK’ logo, so the guy opposite you on the bus can watch with envy and only jealously imagine what’s going on. The highly reflective black with gold legend of the front is sheer class and the sharp, bright screen nestled within feels luxuriously big.
The controls are well laid out too. The face button layout has been reconfigured from the joystick to suit the thumb and the shoulder buttons are within comfortable reach thanks to their forming around the corners. Other controls, such as volume and brightness, are located on the bottom edge, well out of accidental reach. While the home portion of the package has been made to replicate the original console, clearly much thought has gone into the design of the handheld. It genuinely feels like it’s been designed by gamers for gamers of the hardcore variety. The Neo Geo is of course famous for its beat ‘em ups, but the device comes pre-loaded with a generously mixed bag of twenty games which should satisfy fans of all genres and is more than enough to keep you busy for a good while whatever your gaming tendencies.
This was particularly good news for me as I’m not a huge fan of beat ‘em ups, but I still have more than enough to keep me very happy indeed. I was pleased to see many of my Street Fighter 2 moves translate into the other fighters as I have a fairly limited repertoire. More game packs are available via the expandable game card slot. They can be bought in collections of three, or (at time of writing) a mega collection of fifteen, which is teasingly named Mega Pack Volume 1 and makes much more financial sense.
Overall I’ve been more than delighted with the console.There are a couple more tiny niggles like having to charge the handheld unit through the docking console and I would have liked a menu button on the joystick to save me having to disturb my cat when I fancy changing the game, but it could be argued that this replicates the action of changing the cartridge and is therefore the ‘real’ experience.
Anyway, the gripes are slight and completely overshadowed by the brilliance and attention to detail of the rest of the package. This isn’t some cheap plasticy 3rd party console filled with abandonware; it’s an honest to goodness SNK Playmore console and as such is host to some AAA titles which are as playable today as they ever were. Neo Geo consoles and games continue to change hands for eye-watering prices, but this set finally brings the glory of SNK to mere mortals and it feels like a celebration.
Neo Geo X Hardware Review By Andy Pryer
Follow Andy on Twitter here: @clammylizard