I recently got the chance to attend the Play Expo in Blackpool which is a series of events which take place every few months around the UK aimed at the retro gaming community. One of the main draws of these events aside from the ability to play all manner of systems and arcade games free of charge, is the opportunity to visit the trading hall where you can look for obscure pieces of hardware or missing pieces to add to your retro gaming collections.
I was tempted in the trading hall by this Neo Geo CD which online retailer Console Passion had on sale boxed and with instructions for £250.00. Having always been curious about the Neo Geo but rather put off by the cost of the actual cartridge based system and the cartridges themselves, I thought purchasing the Neo Geo CD would be a good addition to my collection and would be a cheaper way to really get into the Neo Geo scene. After all it came boxed and in really good condition as you can see from the picture below and the CD’s itself are much cheaper to collect than cartridges which can cost hundreds of pounds each to collect.
The model I picked up is a NTSC Japanese version which required the use of a step down converter and is one of the first original models released back in 1995. It also came with two rather neat looking joypads which have a really cool thumb stick and are really comfortable to use. The CD32 pad certainly could have benefitted from this much more pleasing layout.
But what if you are having trouble locating one of these machines or indeed of the games which came out on the CD? After all in the UK at least, the Neo Geo cartridge and CD systems were pretty obscure and unless you were seriously into your Japanese import games back in the 1990’s, chances are you may never have seen one much less had the chance to play its library. Well the good news is that AmigaOS 4.1 comes to the rescue once again with the opportunity to check this great system out via GngeoNG which is an emulator for the cartridge based Arcade Entertainment System. (AES)
GngeoNG was ported across to AmigaOS 4.1 by HunpPPC back in 2013 and can be downloaded from OS4 depot via the following link . You will also need to download the GUI that comes with this program and which is separate and once installed to your machine you will find that the program folder should resemble something like this:
Next on our list is to hunt down a few BIOS files for which I am afraid you may need to speak to Mr. Google and Mr. Bing although you will need to ensure that you download the Neo Geo cartridge versions as for the purposes of this package, the emulator is based on the cartridge and not the CD system.
Once you have obtained your BIOS files you will need to place these into the BIOS folder and extract all the roms in the BIOS. This will ensure that the emulator picks up all possible system configurations.
Games will need to be placed into the roms folder, but you will need to make sure here that the roms are not unzipped as the GngeoNG program will unzip these automatically when it comes to loading the game roms. Again please ensure that you obtain the cartridge roms and not the CD ISO’s for this emulator.
Next it is time to open up the program and select the option GngeoNG-GUI option which when this opens up handily lets me know that it recognises my joy pad and opens up the emulator in a window.
Time to do some adjustments here. Naturally we would like a full-screen display and here i find best that we upscale the program to 2.75 times the original so it fills out as much of the screen as possible and gives a more authentic experience. I can only say from my own actual NeoGeo CD being played on a modern LED monitor scree that it benefits from an RGB Scart output which gives a fantastic and colourful full screen so this is what I would like to recreate here. Sound sampling can be set to 44100 and below this is the last option to save this configuration for every time you start-up the emulator.
If we then save the settings and go back to then select load game,we are presented with a list of games which are stored in our roms folder.
Now the Neo Geo being an arcade machine originally, has a library which is made up predominately of fighting and button bashing action games designed to appeal to the hardcore arcade games player who just wants to take out their frustrations on an arcade cabinet. Now whilst I wouldn`t exactly recommend that you do the same to your lovely Amiga machines, the reality is that you are going to be blessed with a number of classic arcade games here which will inflict much heavy use on your joypads. As you can see from the list above, the Neo Geo is home to many SNK classic such as Metal Slug series, King Of Fighters, Samurai Spirits/Showdown and SNK vs Capcom. The system isn’t just about SNK titles though, there are conversions of the shoot-em-up Aero Fighters 2 and 3, Puzzle Bobble and Double Dragon on this system.
Selecting Metal Slug 2 we have to wait a few seconds for the game roms to load into the system with the Gngeo sign on the bottom right filling up in colour indicating its progress. Most games tend to load up in about 10 seconds or so.
We then have the emulator bring up the Neo Geo welcome screen
with confirmation of what region we are playing and the BIOS which is being used.
Finally we then have the game title screen.
The first thing that will hit you if you have never played Neo Geo games before is the riot of colour and quality of the graphics which is even more shocking when you realise the system is a 16-bit system with a Motorola 68000 processor running at MHz. I think it is pretty safe to say that Amiga AGA games even had trouble replicating the quality found on this system.
Now regular readers of my blog will have noticed that I have done some screenshots today based on actual photos of my monitor and I this is done for a reason. A screenshot grabbed on a computer gives an all to perfect impression of how games appear, but of course you the end-user and game player will have a different screen or set up from my own one so I think its good to display a realistic view of what you are likely to see and of any imperfections you are likely to view although to be fair there aren’t many as the emulation is pretty good here.
Lets fire up one of my absolute favourite fighting games Samurai Showdown or Samurai Spirits as it is often known by. I always like to play as Wan-Fu as there is something rather menacing about his meat cleaver which can be used to really inflict damage on your opponent.
I always find however combats between the same character really interesting though. Now I have played this on both the SNES and the 3DO, with the 3DO being one of my favourite versions, but how does this version compare, well considering this is a 16-bit system the Neo Geo version is far more impressive than the 3DO one and the emulation compared to the Neo Geo CD version I also own is top-notch.
For me this is one of the top games on the system and a must download.
Next up I try out another beat-em up by the name of Fatal Fury 3 which again is really worth playing.
I love the cartoon look about this game which extends even to the main action.
Again everything looks so colourful and with so much detail. Emulation wise this compares very well to the output provided on my Neo Geo CD console which I have hooked up via RGB Scart to my monitor.
Of course emulation gives you the opportunity to try out games that perhaps you have never heard of or played before, in this case i decide to load up Power Spikes 2
This game is a futuristic Volleyball game which isnt a bad game overall to play.
Finally I think it would be best if I could let some videos do the talking, after all they can show so much more to a system than a few screenshots.
First up is Metal Slug. There is a OS4 specific port of this game, but I think this emulated version of the Neo Geo runs really well
Next up is Samurai Shodown
King Of Fighters 94
The last video is of Double Dragon 95 which plays more like a Street Fighter type game than the traditional Double Dragon.
Are there any downsides to using this emulator? Well yes there is, that lovely Neo Geo pad that came with my machine sadly cannot be used as it isn’t USB compatible and it has a special proprietary port which means that you can’t even use it with an adapter, so it means I have to leave that lovely thumb stick for the real thing. Joypad wise, I would probably recommend the use of a Xbox style Xeox gamepad over a Playstation style Logitech F-310 as the analogue stick is more responsive on the Xeox, but joy pads I find are always a personal preference.
For many a retro gaming fan owning a Neo Geo system is considered the holy grail enjoying legendary cult status, but understandably a lot of people are put off by the high cost of being getting hold of a system and trying to build up a collection of its quite impressive games. Yes the CD machine I picked up is a far more affordable option, but at the end of the day it is still an expensive system to acquire both in terms of its hardware and software library. As more people discover its delights, it will only increase further in value as not many units were sold in comparison with more mainstream systems. On our Amiga’s we should count ourselves blessed and fortunate to have an emulation package like GngeoNG which helps you delve into the world of Neo Geo games and more importantly allow you to enjoy some really classic arcade quality games for free. I suggest that you try it out and see what the fuss is all about!
Until next time have fun with your Amigas!