Neo Geo AES history

 

By Tibe

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While the eighties have seen the home console market take off, with the success of Nintendo and Sega 8-bit machines, the dawn of the new decade looks promising (and prowess) with the arrival of the Turbografx and Genesis. The overwhelming technological rivalry between Atari ST and Amiga computers will now have to count with the brand new 16-bit systems! Arcade games are more beautiful and enjoyable than ever, but we're still far from imagining to play these at home. Nobody dared to think so far, given the importance of the technology gap, and therefore cost between consoles and professional machines.

THE BIRTH (1990)

SNK, aka Shin Nihon Kikaku is the name of a small firm from Osaka created in 1978 by Eikichi Kawasaki. It is a company creating and publishing video games, and the business is running well. After several successful publications in arcade (Ikari Warriors, Vanguard, Prisoners of War), and very good adaptations on home systems, SNK is now trying to rule in the hyper competitive arcade business in Japan. The publisher, in the wake of Capcom launching its own hardware with the CPS in 1988, also decided to create its own development platform for game rooms, but also the 'home' version of this brand new system: the Neo Geo. MVS version of the machine appears in arcades fall January 1990, but it was not until the spring that Neo Geo AES -Advanced Entertainment System- was released. People had to wait for the end of the year in Europe and United States. This is a technical revolution, and for the first in videogame history, the consumer can buy the arcade at home! Besides, its price is pretty prohibitive, however, with the system costing 3490 francs back then (650 USD) and games between 400 and 500 dollars. This already seems overpriced, but back in 1990 the economic context it was simply incredible... In short, to get a Neo Geo with one game, it was a month's pay that flew away. But as a reward...


Graphics, animation, sound... in 1990, SNK blasts the competition.
Graphics, animation, sound... in 1990, SNK blasts the competition.

You were granted virtual dream, and high-quality dream! Myriad of colors, giant sprites, monstrous scrollings, divine musics with digitized voices profusely, hallucinative hard zooms, and all the stuff. In addition, the Neo Geo was the first home console to integrate a memory card for backups... revolutionary in 1990! You got it, for any gamer back then, the Neo Geo was the Holy Grail, the most incredible gaming system of all times, the one that every player dreamed of... even should he sacrifice for that mother and father on the altar of the Holy Arcade, forced into debt over several years to satisfy their brats. The first games that came with the machine were packing a significant amount of memory: 26 megs for League Bowling, 62 megs for Top Player's Golf, or still the 46 megs of Magician Lord. Remind that back in those ancient times, a genesis game rarely reached 8 megs, and a NES game hardly one single mega! As a result, you had games coming far above the competition. To lighten your lantern, here is a comparative technical table.

NEC PC ENGINE (1987) SEGA GENESIS (1988)
Main CPU : Hu6280 @ 7,6Mhz Main CPU : MC68000 @ 7,67MHz 
Co-CPU : HuC6260 + HuC6270A Co-CPU : Z80 @ 3,58 MHz 
Sound Chips: Sound Chips: YM2612
512colors–256 simultaneously 512colors–64 simultaneously
64 sprites Max. (16x16 Max)  80 sprites Max. (32x32 Max)
Sound Capability: Stereo 9 Channels Sound Capability: Stereo 6 Channels
Resolution: 256x212 Resolution: 320x224. 
Main RAM: 8KB Main RAM: 64KB
Sound RAM: Sound RAM: 8KB
Video RAM: 64KB Video RAM: 64KB
Media: Cartridge 2,5 Mo Max Media: Cartridge 8 Mo Max

CAPCOM CPS (1988) NEC SUPERGRAFX (1989)
Main CPU : MC68000 @ 10MHz  Main CPU : MC68816 @ 7,16MHz 
Co-CPU : Z80 @ 4 MHz  Co-CPU : Hu6280 @ 3,58Mhz
Sound Chips: YM2151 @ 3.579580 Mhz Sound Chips:
3072colors–256 simultaneously 4096colors–256 simultaneously
128 sprites Max. Program. (16x16 tiles)  128 sprites Max. (32x64 Max) 
Sound Capability: Stereo 8 Channels Sound Capability: Stereo 9 Channels
Resolution: 384x224.  Resolution: 320x244
Main RAM: Main RAM: 32KB
Sound RAM: Sound RAM:
Video RAM: Video RAM: 128KB
Media: Cartridge 12,5 Mo Max Media: Cartridge 2,5 Mo Max

SNK NEO GEO (1990) NINTENDO SUPER NES (1991)
Main CPU: MC68000 @ 12MHz  Main CPU : Ricoh 5A22 @ 3,58Mhz
Co-CPU: Z80 @ 4MHz  Co-CPU :
Sound Chips: YM2610 @ 8MHz  Sound Chips: SCP700 @ 1,024Mhz
65536 colors–4096 simultaneously 32768 colors–256 simultaneously
380 sprites zoom,link (32 16x16 tiles) 128 sprites Max. (64x64Max)
Sound Capability: Stereo 15 Channels Sound Capability: Stereo 8 Channels
Resolution: 320x224.  Resolution: 256x239
Main RAM: 64KB  Main RAM: 128KB
Sound RAM: 2KB  Sound RAM: 64KB
Video RAM: 128KB Video RAM: 64KB
Media: Cartridge 89,5 Mo Max Media: Cartridge 9 Mo Max

The other systems were technologically completely outpowered, even professional contemporary machines were inferior on many points to the MVS system. It was not until 1993 and Capcom's CPS-II that the Neo Geo was technically dethroned. SNK machine remains in history as the most powerful 16-bit console of all times, and one of the most successful arcade systems of its generation. The life of the Neo Geo MVS would demonstrate that SNK's system survived the CPS-II in terms of longevity, while competing in quality with the latter through the use of gigantic rom sizes. But this is another story...

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