NEO GEO HISTORY
GRANDEUR AND DECADENCE - CONTINUATION
After such a public disavowal, it was hard to imagine that anyone could still program 2-D games that might meet success. And as coming back from nowhere, the great programmers of the Japanese firm came and gave players a 96' millesime that will remain forever as one of the best for the Neo Geo. Paradoxically, the aging 16bit provides this year some of its very best titles, as the Phoenix reborn from ashes. Art of Fighting 3, Fatal Fury Real Bout Special, The King of Fighters 96, Kizuna Encounter, Ninja Masters, Neo Turf Masters, Waku Waku 7, Samurai Shodown IV, Ultimate 11, Metal Slug ..... and so on. The famous theoretical limit of 330 megabytes is reached with the Ninja Masters ADK, remarkable for its beauty and sophistication, but it is downright exploded with SNK titles like Real Bout Special, or even the last Kof and Samurai Spirits IV. Storage on Eprom having evolved during recent years, spaces reserved for these in the Neo Geo cartridges can logically pack improved rom sizes: the possibilities explode the known limitations up to 1 Gigabit, no less.
The following two years, 1997 and 1998, weren't bad at all, with the latest Real Bout Fatal Fury declinations, The two Last Blade games, true art masterpieces; the sumptuous King of Fighters 98 and the innovative Metal Slug 2. The 2-dimensional Shoot them Up revives with Blazing Star, showing a technical level never reached before in this very genre. So after all these years, the system was still not exploited at one-hundred percent. The 330 Mb limit is now history, literally exploded with games going far beyond this limit (for example Kof 98 with its huge 683 Mb memory). Rarely an editor gave so much for its consumers, and the followers of the Neo Geo were rewarded for all these faithful years. The console, which is commercially deceased, can be found used in the french shops for about one-hundred francs, but still delivers incredible 2D performances. However, SNK during these years experiments important commercial failures that will cost him a lot of money. Indeed, its Hyper Neo Geo 64, released in 1997, is a resounding failure in the arcades, coming almost two years too late. The Neo Geo Pocket, handheld conceived for a large audience, doesn't make its way to the largest audience and will never dethrone the Game Boy, despite undeniable qualities. Then begins a slow descent into hell for the company. Only SNK's MVS system allows the firm to keep the head out of the water. The Neo Geo on its side, continues to successfully inherit arcade titles of its creator. But for how long?
SNK's Fall (1999-2001)
The building of the firm, in Osaka.
The MVS is still standing in 1999, and remains the oldest system still operating in arcades. If the dark rooms have lost much in attendance since the advent of 32-bit consoles, a core of players continue to play in there and some big publishers still produce some great games. SNK is part of it and its old system continues to provide money to the firm. The least we can say is that rare company of video games has so much relied on a single hardware. Indeed, despite the relative success of the whole Neo Geo Pocket, the semi-failure of the Neo Geo CD, and the Hyper Neo Geo 64 Berezina (in which SNK left huge amount of money) there's only the good old Neo Geo left, faithful to the position, allowing the publisher to survive - temporarily. But the entry into the new millennium seems dark for the company, with piracy doing more and more damage to the arcade business. 1999 saw only three new titles released on Neo Geo, but such great titles: Metal Slug X, Kof 99 and Garou Mark of the Wolves. The latter was a real demonstration of the talent and years of experience of SNK's teams. Jewel of Versus Fighting and 2-dimensional graphics of the nineties, the game met such a great success in arcades and regilds the crest of the firm in agony ... but unfortunately will not save it.