These days, the burning question for most potential Neo-Geo owners is "which system should I buy?"
The answer is strongly debatable, and all we can do is give our customers as much knowledge as possible and let them decide which system is best.
The games on CD are cheaper, obviously. With old games, like say Fatal Fury Special, the price difference might not be that much. You'd be looking at something like £12 on CD as opposed to £30 on cartridge (AES). But, old fighting games often lose their appeal, so it's not surprising that they're so cheap. Older games which are in demand are usually the non-fighting games, and anything with a shoot'em up element is always popular. Games like Viewpoint and Nam 1975 might be £20-£30 on CD and £50-£70 on cartridge, so theyıre definitely cheaper on CD. However, many people would consider £50-£70 to be not overly expensive, especially as you're getting a game which cost something like £150-£250 originally, and the game is really good. Newer games like the more recent KOF games can still go for well over £100 on cartridge, and rare stuff like the Metal Slug games can start at around £250 and go to infinity and beyond! These same KOF games might start at as low as £20 on CD and the Slug game scan be around £50-£80. Itıs worth noting that games do come out on the Cartridge format first (priced at around £250) and that Metal Slug 3 still isn't on the CD.
With the cartridge, loading is instant. With the CD, it's damned slow, and loading times can be upto a minute or even more. If youıre playing an action game which loads in level by level, this isn't normally a big problem (just think of it as a modern day C64 or ZX Spectrum), but with almost any fighting game, it can be an absolute nightmare! If you consider a CD, you have to consider this seriously. Alternatively, you could find a CDZ, which had a double speed drive, so it's twice as fast as a regular Neo CD. Loading times essentially halve, and this makes it more bearable, but those fighting games are still a nightmare!
Another thing, is that many of the games received a slight makeover when brought to CD. Some people talk of animation missing in fighting games, due to the lack of RAM. Sound is often changed, and the music is rearranged on CD. Personally, I prefer the original Cartridge music in almost every case. A few other niggly things have been done to some games Thrash Rally has a sort of 2 button accelerating system, which I don't think works as well as the simple single button version on the Cartridge. The biggest mistake was made with Magician Lord, originally a game so hard that even hardened Ghouls 'n' Ghosts fans would cry themselves to sleep every night at the frustration of dying 100 times on the same bit. On the CD, the continue system has been changed so that when you die, you can continue from the point where you left off, thus finishing the game in one sitting! This is a game which took the very best players months to finish, and everyone else was doing well if they ever finished it at all!
Another thing is the pads vs the sticks. The CD comes with a pad, the Cartridge (AES) system comes with a microswitched joystick. The pad is good for fighting games, with a superb D-Pad. The stick is also good for fighting games, but maybe not as good as the pad. I guess thatıs a matter of taste. For all non fighting games I'd say the stick is just much better. It's so solidly built that it feels unbreakable (as many games of Magician Lord will testify to!). It also just feels more right. More arcadey. More accurate. I guess this will be mainly read by gamers who've been used to years of joypads, but this is a fact, and give it time and you'll probably agree that the stick is better. You can also get a CD stick, but thatıs just not the same as the old joystick, as it's not so well built and not microswitched. All pads and sticks play on all Neo Geo home systems.
The AES needs a small memory card to save games, whereas the CD system has built in memory.
Well, that's about it, but there is one more thing which I'd like to try to get across to people: Cartridge games just seem better, because they're bigger, cooler, more substantial, and just much more collectible. Also, with CD games being so cheap, it's very easy to get a collection of 20-odd games VERY quickly, depending upon your financial situation. You have to remember that when the Neo-Geo was in full flow, these games only came out every couple of months, and you sometimes had to wait over a year for the next shooter. When you finally got your game, you'd spend a fortune on it, and just appreciate everything it offered. It was all part of the special relationship a gamer had with his Neo. With the CD, this feeling is lost. With the Cartridge games being more expensive and harder to find, you can relive that special experience, if to a lesser extent.
Another buying possibility, depending upon the type of games you're looking for, and how much you want to commit to the system, and of course your available funds, is to buy an AES machine and use it for the vast majority of games and buy a CD for the handful of seriously rare, over £200 games. For instance, a non-fighting game collector might buy say Nam 1975, ASO II, Last Resort, and Viewpoint on cartridge, and buy the Metal Slugs on CD. One day, if you're really lucky you might see the slugs on a special offer somewhere.
Lastly, there is also the option of the MVS arcade machine. This is a totally different ballgame, they have no real collectability, and they're not pretty. But, the games are generally a LOT cheaper to buy.
Different regions, text, language, 50Hz/60Hz & modifying/switching
A 50Hz system (known as the Pal machine, although this is a misinterpretation,
as it should accurately be merely termed a 50Hz system - Pal comes from the
RF unit which plugs into the 8-pin DIN output socket), if being modified, wouldn't
need to be switched from 50Hz/60Hz, as there is no need for 50Hz unless your
TV can't display 60Hz, in which case, buy a new TV! Seriously, you should have
a 60Hz TV before you even think about buying a Neo Geo for the 1st time.
Instead, a 50Hz system might be 'converted' up to 60Hz and in effect become a US system, as 60Hz + English text = US-spec.
Japanese systems are Japanese text and 60Hz. If you put a US game in it, say Fatal Fury, it would display as if it was the Japanese game, for example like the one in Japanese arcades as the cartridge holds dual information which is then unlocked by either a Japanese or English text system - like some MegaDrive games. 'Taunts' between rounds would be in Japanese, BUT in all Western style Neo games (i.e. not Mahjong), the speech is still in English even in Japanese-spec systems, only the text is Japanese. Nam '75 is a good Example: the intro will have all English speech, but it will overlay with Japanese writing. The benefit of having a Japanese-spec system is that all of the games will not be edited in any way.
Similarly, with an English text machine, if you put in a Western style Japanese game it will display English text. Along with the full English text display, they may also display slightly and/or subtly edited games. It's not usually anything serious, and the most famous example of the 'editing' is the green blood in Samurai Shodown. FOr some people, this isn't a problem, for others it's a heinous crime. It's down to the individual.
You can never have the best of both worlds. A 'text switch' on the system will give you the choice, but you can't have both at once. The downside of the switch being that for meticulous collectors, the switch may be seen as 'defacing' their beautiful console. You decide...
- 50Hz systems are bordered and run around 17% slower than 60Hz systems, or the arcade versions.
- 60Hz systems are full screen and run 20% faster than 50Hz systems.
- Japanese-spec systems still display English speech.
- US-spec, and 'Pal'-spec systems may show edited graphics.
- If any machine has been modified, it will effectively turn into another region machine, as there are no visible external differences between systems from different regions.