December 20th, 2012. One day before the supposed end of the world, one day before my daughter’s birthday and the day we see the rebirth of the worlds most elite 2D console...the NEOGEO X.
Before I get into what the NEOGEO X is, let me dwell on what the NEOGEO was. The original NEOGEO was released around 21 years ago in the heyday of Arcades, Nintendo and Sega. That in and of itself would have been a struggle for any console but imagine a console releasing at a price point of $650! In 1991!
Now imagine shelling out up to $200 for a game! Yes, that was the price of one game. That cool $650 was the gold version and came with two joysticks and a game or two but if the price was too steep you could always opt for the silver. For the paltry sum of only $400 you received the console, one joystick and no game.
Now for some real user power...
Why would anyone pay $650 for a 2D only console? The answer was in the arcades. Remember those? Remember lining up your quarters week after week for games like Metal Slug, King of Fighters, Art of Fighting II? SNK created the original NEOGEO to be the brains and brawn of their arcade machines. The arcade version could hold up to four cartridges at a time so arcade owners could swap games at will. This proved popular enough that demand for a home version started to dwell. SNK fulfilled that demand with a console that played the exact same cartridges as the arcade. You could, for the first time, get a pure arcade experience in your living room.
Pure Arcade experience or not, the trouble was obviously the price. With Nintendo and Sega selling systems for 1/3 the price or less and games themselves going for 1/4 of the price SNK was asking, NEOGEO ’s market was small right out of the gate. I was 21 when the NEOGEO was first released and I lusted after that mahine. With the console costing almost 3 times my rent at the time there was no way I was ever going to afford it. It was the pinnacle of gaming at the time but like most pinnacles it was completely of reach. I would stand at Radio Shack and watch the demo play for a while then sigh and move on.
On the other side of the screen it all look so easy
Two short years after SNK launched the NEOGEO , Doom changed the gaming landscape forever. Yes, Wolfenstein 3D was released before Doom but it didn't have the impact on the entire gaming industry like Doom did. Unfortunately, the NEOGEO was designed from the ground up as a 2D console and 3D was one thing it could never do. That was one more strike against it but even through bad timing, out of reach price points and aging graphics SNK kept the NEOGEO alive. To SNK’s credit, they spent 6 years selling the NEOGEO in different incarnations before finally discontinuing it and supported it for another 10 after that. During that time, and even now a rabid collector fanbase as grown. Games can still sell for over $100 on ebay and the console itself...well lets just say that if you find one you will need some deep pockets.
It's time I leveled with you. I'm what you guys call a User
That brings us to today and the NEOGEO X. A rebirth of that 2D wonder with the same style and feel but updated to todays technology....kind of.
The NEOGEO X was developed in conjunction with SNK and remains relatively true to the original. The main departure is that the NEOGEO X is run off of a detachable handheld that when placed inside a replica of the Silver version (one joystick) can be played on your big screen at home. As for the games, the NEOGEO X is packed with 20 from SNK's library of arcade classics.
Everything sounded wonderful when I first read about the NGX but there is one issue that remains for me personally; 21 years later I am still stuck on the price. Why you ask? The console is only $199, has 20 classic games, a removable handheld, an awesome joystick and will likely be a collectors item, so what is my problem? The console was updated but the games are exactly the same with the same 21 year old look, the same 21 year old feel and the same 21 year old level design. You can find a 3DS on sale for almost half the price and a Vita can be had for roughly the same as the NEOGEO X. It is true that games for those cost extra but in my mind I also get 2012 graphics and game design.
Maybe I am jaded, but if I spend $200 on something I want the experience to match the price tag. I have purchased a few older games on XBL that are direct ports of their original PC versions. What used to be cutting edge graphics in 1993 makes my eyes bleed in high def in 2012. I can't get through an hour of Doom, Duke Nukem or even Monkey Island in the old school look before either having to switch it off or switching back. It’s painful in the sense that I have such fond memories of these games and the time I spent with them but when I load them back up the magic just isn’t there. I have learned that for me nostalgia, for games in particular, is better left remembered and not played.
We made it!... this far.
So here we are, a “new” NEOGEO is released to the world. Will this one suffer the same fate as it’s predecessor? Will it suffer due to price, accessible games and timing (remember the end of the world is coming)? The console of my 21 year old dreams is finally within reach, but yet without updated versions of the games that I loved back then, I may have to let it slip by....again. That being said the “collector” in me (or so I tell Mrs. Soup that I am) will likely keep my eye on this and if the NEOGEO X drops down close to $100 and the world hasn’t ended I may have to pick one up.