Back at the very beginning of the 90's, I was a very proud MegaDrive owner. It was the newest and most powerful console ever at that point and I was happy to point this out to anyone who cared enough to listen, and indeed many who couldn't care less. I was in this privileged position for only a short while, however, when I started seeing reports of a new console by some company called SNK. Who the hell were they? Ohhh yeah, now I think about it, weren't they the company behind a few arcade hits like Vanguard and Ikari Warriors? Very impressive, but releasing a few arcade games is one thing, releasing an entire home console system is another thing entirely. I thought the days when any old upstart could (or rather, would) release a new format were long gone, and here was this medium-sized arcade company throwing their hat in the ring. They couldn't possibly pull it off, could they?
Sounds like it was too good to be true. Well, there was two drawbacks to the system. Firstly, by its very nature it only featured conversions of SNK's own arcade games. No ports from other company's games here! The other drawback was the the enormous price of both the console and its games. Each release cost well over £100 with some games costing more than double that. Clearly this was a serious console for serious gamers. The Neo Geo quickly gained a cult following which led to its reputation for being the 'true hardcore gamers machine'. This reputation, of course, mainly comes from the assumption that only truly dedicated gamers would yield to the high price-point of the games, but it's also a reputation earned because of the games themselves which were generally very tough, but of a consistently high quality.
That's enough history though, on to the point of this post. I personally have never had the kind of money that would allow me to become a Neo Geo owner so I haven't played many of the games found on the system. Due to the huge size of the cartridges the system used, its games got ever larger and more impressive. For this post, however, I'll focus on the first few games released for it to see if they really were better than those available on my beloved MegaDrive.
Riding Hero (1990)
Joy Joy Kid a.k.a. Puzzled (1990)
Magician Lord (1990)
The Neo Geo launch line-up is often cited as being one of the best and these five games certainly don't harm that stance! A nice mix of genres and, aside from Riding Hero, all at least pretty good! The next part of this post will feature five more of the earliest releases for this Leviathan of a console. Who knows, I might even get around to looking at an example of the one-on-one fighting games that the system became so famous for! Stay tuned! :)
Exploring the Neo Geo Part 2