originals\ Mar 20, 2012 at 9:52 am

SNK Is Doing It Wrong With the NeoGeo X Handheld


You guys remember the Neo-Geo, right?  Years ago, in an attempt to make the console gaming market feel as arcade-like as possible, SNK introduced the Neo-Geo, a piece of advanced hardware that let you play home games that resembled the ones you could play in arcades.  This was an expensive piece of hardware ($700) that used big VHS-tape sized cartridges ($200 each) and deluxe sized joysticks to emulate the feeling of arcade play, a huge step above what home consoles were offering at the time.  The system was a cult hit, but hardly the kind of bestseller that SNK was expecting.

Still, the company got by on its Neo-Geo business over the passing years, making compilations including Metal Slug Anthology, Samurai Shodown Anthology and SNK Arcade Classics, which celebrated the legacy that Neo-Geo had created.  And let’s be honest, great series like King of Fighters and Metal Slug really did get their start here.

Now SNK is trying to celebrate their legacy again with a special edition handheld, which will be arriving this summer.  The NeoGeoX is a sleek little unit that comes with a 3.5” LCD screen, A/V output so you can play on your television, internal stereo speakers, a headphone socket and an SD card expansion.  It will also come pre-loaded with 20 classics from SNK’s yesteryear, including Baseball Stars, Cyber Lip, Samurai Shodown and Last Resort.

If you take a look at the system, you’ll see that SNK is trying to go for the contemporary system design with this new unit, with an analog stick and a sleek build that resembles the PSP in a way, but square rather than round on the sides.  It’s not bad, and really shows the kind of quality they’re putting into the system.

That said, I can’t help but think it’s doomed to failure.  SNK may have some ambitious ideas here, but they’re a little too ambitious, and as a result, the system’s appeal seems rather limited.  Let’s look at the mistakes.

Number one: the price.  The official press release announcing Tommo and Blaze’s distribution of the “limited edition” unit failed to include a price, though when it was listed in a Japanese store, it was retailed for $780.  $780?!  For a portable?  We haven’t seen a pricing snafu go that crazy since the PlayStation 3 – and look at the hardware that went into that compared to the NeoGeo X.  This thing needs to be priced at $150, even for one that isn’t in mass production, or it won’t move, period.

Number two: lack of expansion.  Even with the inclusion of an SD card slot, SNK isn’t making it possible to download additional games on the handheld for a small fee.  That means you’ll never get to play the likes of Blue’s Journey or Top Hunter on it, nor any of the fascinating Samurai Shodown sequels.  As a result, you’re stuck with the 20 games and that’s about it.  It’s hard to get excited about a handheld system when you’re stuck playing the same things over and over again.

Number three: convenience.  Let’s be honest, we already have a Neo-Geo handheld that we can rely on.  Both the PlayStation Portable and the PS Vita are compatible with the SNK Arcade Classics digital download, which features most of the games on this list and goes for a meager $20, maybe even less.  And with that, you’re getting a larger, more innovative game screen with the Vita, and the convenience of both analog and D-pad play.  That’s a far greater bargain than the $700 SNK will reportedly ask for this thing.  No matter how sleek it may be, affordability is going to come into question.

Number four: let’s be honest, the games are old.  NeoGeoX may have some appeal when it comes to nostalgists, but the PlayStation Vita offers more modern gaming thrills than this ever will, and from the sound of it, at a lesser price.  Far lesser.  And can you really see yourself passing over Uncharted in favor of sessions of Cyber-Lip and Metal Slug?  Sadly, we cannot.

Honestly, SNK may think they’ve got something of innovation here, but unless they plan out how it’ll be sold and marketed, it’s going to bomb worse than the Virtual Boy ever did.  Just saying – think, guys.

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