[Editor's Note: I'm sorry, we missed our first Retro Thursday due to some dental work. We will debut it today and it will be on Thursdays from now on. Enjoy! JRM]
Welcome to the first instalment of the fortnightly feature 'Techraptor Retro Thursdays', where we take a look at a specific retro system or game. We give you the backstory, the goods, the bads, and then leave you with some footage of the game or the more notable titles on the system. First up, we'll be looking at the SNK Neo Geo CD, the really expensive CD-based system for all your Neo Geo arcade classics.
The Neo Geo CD was released in the US in 1994 for about $300, and it was the successor to the Neo Geo AES, an even more expensive cartridge-based system. The main reason for its production and existence was to reduce the prohibitive cost of games. AES cartridges were about $300 each, whereas Neo Geo CD-based games were only about $50 each.
The Neo Geo CD is significantly chunkier than the sleek-by-comparison AES. Even though it was slightly uglier, the CD was more powerful, and the games didn't cost a new console each. The bad news is that the CD drive is just awful. It read data at 1x speed, which made loading times agonizingly slow. It also slightly adversely affected the performance of the game. There was an upgraded version of the CD released with 2x CD speed called the CDZ which was only released in Japan, and had a tendency to overheat and die. But hey, at least your futuristic CD games would load faster!
The controller you got with it, dubbed the CD pad and pictured above on the left, was not like the traditional 'kidney bean' shaped joystick that the AVS had, shown on the right. It was more like a traditional controller, but I'll be damned if it wasn't comfy and awesome.
The directional pad has micro switches with slightly more travel than the traditional joystick. This was fantastic for fighting games, of which the CD had plenty. Overall it's just an excellent controller and really made it feel more like a home system.
Considering the competition at the time, like the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis, the Neo Geo CD was a cut above the rest in respect to its graphical fidelity. These games looked and felt like the arcade, right down to the MVS difficulty settings on a lot of the games, designed to steal your nonexistent credits.
Speaking of games, the CD had no region locking, meaning you could play games from whatever region you desired. Not only that, but if you had, for example, an American Neo Geo CD, but a Japanese game, the game would be in English without the need for modding or patched data, which was a nice touch. The same was true on the AES and MVS arcade cartridges, but without the need for cartridge conversion. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_QCOcAmOQ8] ***Warning! Explicit language** The best games, you ask? Take your pick! If you like arcade shooters and fighters, or arcade games in general, this is your bread and butter. Our picks are Metal Slug 1 and 2, Fatal Fury, Puzzle Bobble, Any King of Fighters, and Neo Drift Out.
The Neo Geo CD was the last hurrah for SNK as a company, unless you count the 2012 handheld re-release, the Neo Geo X, which you shouldn't, because it was awful. The CD was discontinued, and SNK eventually went under in the year 2001. Other than the Neo Geo X and a few digital re-releases of popular games, SNK has remained dormant ever since. It's a damn shame too, because in the 4th generation of consoles, it truly was a unique and excellent system despite its shortcomings.