Review: NeoGeo X has nostalgia galore, but also severe technical limitations
Last year, I wrote a piece talking about the several frustrations that we were bound to come with the NeoGeo X, mainly due to the "old" games and the somewhat high price tag. Regardless, when the NeoGeo X Limited Edition Gold bundle dropped down to $99 – half of what it normally sells for – I was intrigued. After all, it's a pretty solid deal, getting a system shell that plugs into a handheld system, along with a joystick that resembles the one from the original Neo Geo system. Oh, and it also comes with 21 games – most of them good ones. But overall is the system a great value, or do the problems I feared so much emerge anyway? Well… they do.
Right out of the box, there's an easy setup for the main system, the handheld, and the joystick. It took about a minute for me to put everything in place, and the system was somewhat pre-charged so I could dive into some gameplay right away.
However, there's a problem when it comes to recharging the system. Unlike the PS Vita or the Nintendo 3DS, you can't charge the handheld directly from a plug-in. Instead, you have to snap it into the system shell, which could be asking a lot if you're stuck on the go. SNK should've made this a little more useful, especially considering the fact that you can't save games to the original external memory cards that worked with the original Neo Geo. Ugh.
What's worse, the wiring on the system is horrendously limited. The HDMI cable is about three feet long, the cable for the joystick is about the same, and the power cord isn't much longer. So if you're looking to set this up in your extravagant home theater set-up, you'll have to sit on the floor to use the joystick. Otherwise, your system runs the risk of falling over – which you don't want, considering it's pretty much a shell.
As for comfort, the joystick does feel right at home, like the old Neo Geo setup, but the lack of a menu button makes it difficult going from game to game. The handheld is a little better, with well-performing buttons and an analog stick, but there are also buttons on top and bottom of the unit, and the fact you have to pause your game to adjust brightness and volume is a little silly. It's not heavily complicated, but it’s far from the simplicity of the Neo Geo Pocket. (You guys remember that, right?)
Then we get to the graphics. On the handheld, they're quite accurate with their 4:3 display, but it's hardly what you'd call next-gen quality. The PS Vita screen is far better when it comes to displaying pixels and such, though this isn't the worst display out there, by any means. The HDMI connection works well despite the cable limitations, though your TV screen display isn't exactly precise, as some colors bleed out with certain games. Still, it's better than staring at a primitive monitor from the games of old… but just barely.
As for the games, they're a mixed bag. On one hand, classics like Baseball Stars 2, Cyber Lip, The King of Fighters '95, Last Resort, Magician Lord, Metal Slug and Samurai Shodown II are absolute gems, especially with that joystick in hand. (It even makes the old school "click" noises!) But on the other, you have duds that you're likely to play through just once, like Mutation Nation, Real Bout: Fatal Fury Special (which makes the inclusion of the original Fatal Fury Special useless) and 3 Count Bout. Some people may like them, but I would've liked to have seen more classics in here, like Blue's Journey, Eight Man and Viewpoint. We know that SNK is releasing more card games that can plug into the system, but we just don't know when. At least Ninja Masters is an acceptable alternative, if you're tired of all the Fatal Fury stuff. (And I am.)
So am I completely let down by the NeoGeo X? Well, mostly. There is some retro appeal here, and fans will go gaga over it now that it's just under $100, a decent price considering what the original system and its VHS tape-like cartridges went for. But there are better ways to play your Neo Geo classics, and without having to deal with painfully short wiring and charging problems at that. If you can't live without SNK, have at it. Otherwise, grab SNK Arcade Classics on PS Vita or PSP and save yourself some cash.