Nightrider here after a bout with a stomach bug! I will be addressing the Neo Geo Mini released in Japan July 24 of this year. The Neo Geo Mini International will be released worldwide on October 12, 2018.

After much speculation due to the emergence of mini consoles (e.g., NES mini, SNES mini, PS1 mini, etc.) I decided on purchasing the Japanese version of the Neo Geo Mini. I grew up with Street Fighter 2 and some memorable Capcom games at the local arcades, but that didn’t mean I had a curiosity for other arcade machines at the time. SNK’s MVS machines were all over the laundry mat circuit, and I was hooked with Metal Slug, Magician Lord and especially The King Of Fighters series depending on the year. I also remember the Neo Geo AES home console that is literally the most advanced home console of the 90’s because it accomplished the impossible at the time: delivering perfect arcade games directly to your TV. Unfortunately, you had a great job in the 90’s if you had $650 to buy the AES. The only time I even touched an AES was when I visited the house of my brother’s friend and he had Magician Lord; it was fucking awesome.

Flash forward to September 2018. I purchased my Neo Geo Mini on Amazon and in mid-September I received my Japanese Neo Geo Mini (without the controllers because at the time they were all sold out). Inside the box containing the Neo Geo Mini box, I saw to my surprise that the vendor threw in a mini-HDMI-to-HDMI cable for free. After tinkering, playing and reliving the laundry mat days of old, I can put my fifty cents on what makes this mini console a gem for die-hard SNK fans but a possible burden to those who aren’t familiar with SNK.

I won’t go into full details as to what makes the Neo Geo Mini tick or what games are inside the mini cabinet: anyone can look up reviews and news from other sources via YouTube, Google, etc. However, I will focus on how certain details make the mini cabinet a treasure but also a curse.

  • The Pros

The Neo Geo Mini is designed for hardcore SNK vets and fans alike. For the Japanese, the fighting genre is king with 24 of the 40 games being fighting games. The games are from the AES since these games are designed with an option mode for practicing, changing difficulty and so forth. The mini-cabinet design resembles the Japanese MVS arcade cabinets from 1990, so it isn’t dull to look at. One of the biggest pluses for the mini console market is the fact that the Neo Geo Mini has a 3.5-inch screen where the games are displayed in their natural habitat; so far, no other mini-console has anything for INSTANT gaming. You can also plug the unit into a flat TV for better visuals. The button layout isn’t as identical as the famous singular line format, but SNK sets it up for the fighting fans perfectly. The analog joystick is responsive and can challenge the average SNK fan to relearn how they played back in the day. The four save slots for each game is a must since most of the Neo Geo Mini’s game library can be quite challenging even on normal. The games are uncensored, with the Nazis from the Metal Slug series spew red blood and not the awkward green or gray. Overall, for 40 of SNK’s massive library, the price of $110 is worth the investment.

  • The Cons

As the famous painter Bill Alexander once said, “Dark and light: without dark there is no light.” The first instance of darkness is the analog joystick. As stated above, it is responsive and challenges the SNK vets to change the way they play KOF ’98. However, when accessing games or options on the menu screen, it can get clunky to the point where when you went right, you went up instead at times. Performing super moves gets very difficult with an analog joystick. Since the Neo Geo Mini’s controllers are not sold with the Mini, your hands can get cramps due to the close proximity of the joystick with the buttons: at some points, one has to take a break from button-mashing Nazis. There is a USB-c cable included for external power but NO mini-HDMI-to-HDMI cable inside: you have to buy one. A big letdown for SNK vets and fans alike is the fact that there is no indication that you can add more games or a different selection of games on either version of the Neo Geo Mini. You have the entire KOF Series up to 2003, but you don’t have Nam 1975, Waku Waku 7, Breaker’s Revenge, or even Baseball Stars 2! On top of this, you’ll might want a screen protector for the Neo Geo Mini and that is also not included. I don’t have the controllers yet, but the D-Pad is also analog.

  • Analysis and Conclusion

There are always some people who would nitpick on certain flaws to the point where a smudge on a screen would lead to disaster for the product. Bigger is obviously better, but this is not the case regarding the Mini’s 3.5-inch screen. It is fantastic the way it is. Some people argue that the analog joystick or controllers should have been replaced with microswitches for better directional control. Aren’t gamers good at adapting to a problem at times? While I do admit the analog joystick does get annoying at times, I prefer the challenge of playing games like the Japanese SNK fans. As far as plugging into a flat TV, most people agree that the visual display is a bit blurry. I, however, didn’t see blurs; maybe the right kind of TV was used. There exist many arcade knockoffs that may correct these issues (including the adding of more games) and play many games that are not made by SNK, but there is a chance that you are paying more for something trivial (unless you like a customized system with a suspiciously reasonable price). Can the developer of those machines offer repairs? The biggest issue I have seen from reviewers is the lack of internal battery: where is it? How can this be a portable game? I discovered that when you have played for about 90 minutes, the bottom of the mini cabinet heats up. It doesn’t burn but it may if you don’t save a game and let it rest for a good while. Why would you want an internal battery when this happens? Want to cheapen the sentimental value of a Neo Geo product? Want to raise production costs if there was an internal battery?

So to conclude, the Neo Geo Mini is definitely a must-have for hardcore SNK fans that grew up playing Metal Slug and KOF. When not in use, you can place it on your table, and it will grab your attention almost every time. Some people would like to learn what SNK was about and may have pre-ordered the International version. The lack of important accessories does sour the experience a bit, but those issues have practical solutions to them. All in all, this is a throwback that reinvigorates the Terry Bogard in all of us. Now if you excuse me, I have some playtime to do while waiting for my clothes to dry in the dryer.