Neo Geo (system)

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This article is about the original Neo Geo arcade and console systems. For the Neo Geo brand as a whole, see Neo Geo.
Neo Geo
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Neo Geo AES console (top) and 4-slot MVS arcade cabinet (bottom)
Manufacturer SNK
Product family Neo Geo
Type Home video game console
Generation Fourth generation
Retail availability
  • JP  April 26, 1990 (April 26, 1990-mdy)
  • NA (MVS) August 22, 1990 (AES) June 18, 1991[1]
  • EU 1991
Introductory price US$649.99
Discontinued 1997 (consoles)
2007 (technical support)
Media ROM cartridge
CPU Motorola 68000 @ 12MHz, Zilog Z80A @ 4MHz
Memory 64KB RAM, 84KB VRAM, 2KB Sound Memory
Storage Memory card
Display 320×224 resolution, 4096 on-screen colors out of a palette of 65536
Sound Yamaha YM2610
Dimensions 325 × 237 × 60 mm

The Neo Geo (Japanese: ネオジオ Hepburn: Neojio?) is a cartridge-based arcade system board and home video game console released on April 26, 1990 by Japanese game company SNK. Although it is a member of the fourth generation of video game consoles, it is the first system in the Neo Geo family, which ran throughout the 1990s before being revived in December 2012 with the Neo Geo X handheld and home system.[2][3][4][5]

The MVS (Multi Video System), as the Neo Geo is known to the coin-operated arcade game industry, offers owners the ability to put up to six different arcade titles into a single cabinet, a key economic consideration for operators with limited floorspace. With its games stored on self-contained cartridges, a game cabinet can be exchanged for a different game title by swapping the game's ROM-cartridge and cabinet artwork. The platform's popular series include Fatal Fury, The King of Fighters, Metal Slug and Samurai Shodown.

The Neo Geo system is also a notably costly and technologically uncompromised home console, commonly referred to today as the AES (Advanced Entertainment System). The Neo Geo was marketed as 24-bit, though it is technically a parallel processing 16-bit 68000-based system with an 8-bit Z80 coprocessor.

Neo Geo hardware production lasted seven years, discontinued in 1997; and game software production lasted fourteen years, discontinued in 2004.[6] As of March 1997, the Neo Geo and the Neo Geo CD had sold 980,000 units worldwide.[7] In 2009, the Neo Geo was ranked 19th out of the 25 best video game consoles of all time by the video game website IGN.[8] There is an amateur and professional commercial homebrew market for the system.[citation needed]


Inside a four cartridge Neo Geo arcade machine

The Neo Geo hardware was an evolution of an older SNK/Alpha Denshi M68000 arcade platform that was used in Time Soldiers in 1987, further developed in the SNK M68000 hardware platform as used for P.O.W.: Prisoners of War in 1988. Contrary to other popular arcade hardware of the time, the SNK/Alpha Denshi hardware used sprite strips instead of the more common tilemap based backgrounds.[9] The Neo Geo hardware was essentially developed by Alpha Denshi's Eiji Fukatsu, adding sprite scaling through the use of scaling tables stored in ROM as well as support for a much higher amount of data on cartridges and better sound hardware.[10][11][12]

Initially, the (AES) home system was only available for rent to commercial establishments, such as hotel chains, bars and restaurants, and other venues. When customer response indicated that some gamers were willing to buy a US$650 console, SNK expanded sales and marketing into the home console market. The Neo Geo console was announced on January 31, 1990 in Osaka, Japan[13] and released on April 26, 1990. [14] Neo Geo's graphics and sound are largely superior to other contemporary home consoles, and the MVS was one of the most powerful arcade units at the time. Furthermore, since the AES was identical to its arcade counterpart, the MVS, arcade titles released for the home market are perfect translations. Although its high price tag kept it out of the mainstream gaming market, it outlasted the market lifespan of the more popular Sega Mega Drive/Genesis.

In the United States, the console's debut price was planned to be US$599 and included two joystick controllers and a game: either Baseball Stars Professional or NAM-1975. However, the price was raised and its American launch debuted as the Gold System at US$649.99. Later, the Gold System was bundled with Magician Lord and Fatal Fury. The Silver System package, launched at US$399.99, includes one joystick controller and does not include a game. Other games were launched at about US$200 and up. At double or quadruple the competition, these premium prices made the console accessible only to a niche market.[citation needed]

Several home console systems were created based on the same hardware as the arcade games, as well as a series of handheld systems under the Neo Geo brand. These systems include the following: Hyper Neo Geo 64 arcade system, Neo Geo CD, Neo Geo Pocket, Neo Geo Pocket Color, and Neo Geo X. The most recent, the Neo Geo X, is an officially licensed device with a collection of Neo Geo AES games pre-installed.

The Neo Geo AES shipped with large, arcade-style controllers.

When realtime 3D graphics became the norm in the arcade industry, the Neo Geo's 2D hardware was unable to do likewise. The last official game by SNK for the Neo Geo system, Samurai Shodown V Special, was released in 2004. SNK ceased to manufacture home consoles by the end of 1997, but continued to release games for both arcade and home for another eight years.

Measured from the introduction of the arcade hardware in 1990 to the release of the last official home cartridge in 2004, the Neo Geo enjoyed a primary software production lifespan of fourteen years, and a hardware production lifespan of seven years. On August 31, 2007, SNK stopped offering maintenance and repairs to Neo Geo home consoles, handhelds, and games.[15]


In a 1993 review, GamePro gave the Neo Geo a "thumbs up". Though they voiced several criticisms, noting that the system was not as powerful as the soon-to-launch 3DO and had few releases which were not fighting games, they generally praised both the hardware and games library, and recommended that gamers who could not afford the console (which was still priced at $649.99) play the games in the arcade.[16]

Technical details[edit]

The Neo Geo AES motherboard.

Each joystick controller is 280mm (width) × 190mm (depth) × 95mm (height) ( 11 × 8 × 2.5 in.) and contains the same four-button layout as the arcade MVS cabinet.

The arcade machines have a memory card system by which a player could save a game to return to at a later time and could also be used to continue play on the SNK home console of the same name.

The arcade version of the video game hardware is often referred to as the "MVS," or Multi Video System (available in 1-slot, 2-slot, 4-slot, and 6-slot variations, differing in the amount of game cartridges loaded into the machine at the time), with its console counterpart referred to as the "AES", or Advanced Entertainment System. Early motherboard revisions contain daughterboards, used to enhance the clarity of the video output.

The MVS and AES hardware can execute identical machine code. Owners can move EPROMs from one type to the other, and the game will still run. The program specifics for both MVS and AES game options are contained on every game ROM, whether the cartridge is intended for home or arcade use. However, the arcade and home cartridges do have a different pinout. They were designed this way to prevent arcade operators from buying the cheaper home carts and then using them in arcades. It has been found that in a few home version games, one could unlock the arcade version of the game by inputting a special code.

ROM sizes and startup screens

The original specification for ROM size is up to 330 megabits, hence the system displaying "MAX 330 MEGA PRO-GEAR SPEC" upon startup. While no technical advances were required to achieve it, some games over 100 megabits, such as Top Hunter, followed this screen by displaying an animation proclaiming "THE 100MEGA SHOCK!". The original ROM size specification was later enhanced on cartridges with bank switching memory technology, increasing the maximum cartridge size to around 716 megabits. These new cartridges also cause the system to display "GIGA POWER PRO-GEAR SPEC" upon startup or during attract mode, indicating this enhancement.


The game cartridges measure 7.5 inches (190 mm) by 5.34 inches (136 mm)

The system uses seven different specialist processors, which divide the workload for the visuals, audio and gameplay.[17]



RAM: 214 KB SRAM[19]

  • Main 68000 RAM: 64 KB (32 KB SRAM ×2)
  • Video RAM: 84 KB SRAM
    • Main VRAM: 64 KB (32 KB SRAM ×2)
    • Palette memory: 16 KB (8 KB SRAM ×2)
    • Fast video sprite RAM: 4 KB (2 KB SRAM ×2)
  • Z80 sound RAM: 2 KB SRAM
  • Battery-backup save NVRAM: 64 KB SRAM

On-board ROM: 512 KB[19]

  • Zoom look-up table: 128 KB
  • Fix layer graphics: 128 KB
  • Z80 sound: 128 KB
  • 68000 BIOS: 128 KB


The SNK custom video chipset allows the system to draw sprites in vertical strips which are 16 pixels wide, and can be 16 to 512 pixels tall; it can draw up to 96 sprites per scanline for a total of 380 sprites on the screen at a time. Unlike most other video game consoles of its time, the Neo Geo does not use scrolling tilemap background layers. Instead, it has a single non-scrolling tilemap layer called the fix layer, while any scrolling layers rely exclusively on drawing sprites to create the scrolling backgrounds (like the Sega Y Board). By laying multiple sprites side by side, the system can simulate a tilemap background layer. The Neo Geo sprite system represents a step between conventional sprites and tilemaps.[19]


The onboard Yamaha YM2610 sound chip gives the system 15 channels of sound with seven channels reserved specifically for digital sound effects.


  • Source: separate DC 5 V (older systems) and DC 9 V adapter (newer systems).
  • Consumption: 8 W older Systems, 5 W newer Systems
  • Console: 325 mm (width) × 237 mm (depth) × 60 mm (height).
  • Controller: 280 mm (width) × 190 mm (depth) × 95 mm (height).
Console storage
  • Removable memory card: 2KB or 68-pin JEIDA ver. 3 spec memory. Any 68-pin memory that fits the JEIDA ver. 3 spec will work.
Arcade storage
  • Removable memory card: 68-pin. Cartridge is composed of 2 PCBs.[25]


The Neo Geo is the first home game console to feature a removable memory card for saved games.[citation needed]

By the mid-1990s, SNK was trying to move onto a new platform, the Hyper-64. A Hyper-64 game called "Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition" was ported to the PlayStation.[citation needed]

The GameTap subscription service has included a Neo Geo emulator and a small library of Neo Geo games. In 2007 Nintendo announced that Neo Geo games would appear on the Wii's Virtual Console,[26][27][28][29] starting with Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, Art of Fighting, and World Heroes. Neo Geo games are also available through Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, including Fatal Fury Special, Samurai Shodown II, Metal Slug 3, Garou: Mark of the Wolves and The King of Fighters '98.

Homebrew activity exists even since the console's discontinuation, both by noncommercial hobbyists and commercially.[30]

Neo Geo has a community of collectors. Because of the limited production runs received by cartridges amongst the sizable available arcade library, some of the rarest Neo Geo games can sell for well over $1,000. The most valuable game is the European AES version of Kizuna Encounter. The MVS market provides a cheaper alternative to the expensive and rare home cartridges, and complete arcade kits are priced at a premium.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Neo-Geo Hardware Specification". Retrieved 2014-07-22. 
  2. ^ Plunkett, Luke. "The "New" Neo Geo Handheld Goes on Sale Very Soon". Kotaku. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Dutton, Fred. "New NeoGeo handheld confirmed". Eurogamer. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  4. ^ "NEOGEO X GOLD ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM Announced for Worldwide Distribution". RetroGamingRoundup. 13 August 2012. 
  5. ^ "New console out today as NEO GEO X hits EU/US". Games Radar. Future Publishing. December 18, 2012. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  6. ^ Hirohiko Niizumi, [1], GameSpot, July 23, 2004, Accessed June 8, 2008.
  7. ^ Consoles +, issue 73
  8. ^ "NeoGeo is number 19". IGN. Retrieved 2012-01-26. 
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ [4]
  12. ^ [5]
  13. ^ "Mortal Shang - Neo-Geo". Mortal Shang. Retrieved 2012-01-26. 
  14. ^ "Arcade Gear - Neo Geo". MArcade Gear. Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  15. ^ No Love: SNK Stop Neo Geo Support, Kotaku
  16. ^ "System Shopper". GamePro (53) (IDG). December 1993. pp. 46–49. 
  17. ^ Elizabeth Olson, "Neo Geo: The Shape of Things to Come?", Game Informer, issue 2 (November-December 1991), page 14
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i MacDonald, Charles. "Neo*Geo MVS Hardware Notes". Retrieved 2012-01-26. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b
  25. ^ "Repairing a Neo-Geo MVS cartridge?". June 2007. Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  26. ^ "The Return of the NeoGeo". Retrieved 2012-01-26. 
  27. ^ Virtual Console: NeoGeo Games Coming To Virtual Console, Kotaku
  28. ^ "Neo Geo Comes to European Virtual Console". Nintendo of Europe. 1 October 2007. Archived from the original on 2 October 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  29. ^ "Wii-kly Update: Three New Classic Games Added to Wii Shop Channel". Nintendo of America. 8 October 2007. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  30. ^ "NG:Dev.Team, a third party NeoGeo publisher". Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  31. ^ "Neo Geo AES price guide". Retrieved 2012-01-26. 

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