How to get into the NEO GEO scene the cheap way!!!

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The mighty NEO GEO AES (Advanced Entertainment System) from SNK was the most powerful and expensive console to be released in the 90's. Today, a lot of the classic games - for example: Fatal Fury, Samurai Spirits 1 & 2, King of Fighters 94 & 95, Art of Fighting 1 & 2 and World Heroes 1, 2 & Jet can be bought for less than £25, but games such as the Metal Slug series, Garou Mark of the Wolves, Viewpoint and Samurai Spirits 4 still fetch high prices, usually ranging from £100 to £1000!!

Some games like Kizuna Encounter (Euro) and The Ultimate 11 (Euro) are near impossible to buy and fetch ridiculous prices.

I have found that most games released after 1995 still fetch prices from £40 upwards. Some of the games that I wanted to play would cost me £150 to £300! I thought that I would never be able to play them in their true format. Of course you can play them on emulators - some of which are very good/excellent - but I wanted to play the games on their original format - the NEO GEO.

Then I came across the Phantom-1 Converter from !Arcade! (see the above picture). This great device allows you to play the majority of NEO GEO MVS (Multi Video System) games on the NEO GEO AES system.

MVS games are the games used in the NEO GEO MVS arcade unit (picture above shows a 1 slot system). The MVS unit comes in 4 variations: 1-slot, 2-slot, 4-slot and 6-slot, where the number denotes the amount of games the unit can hold. Therefore a 4-slot will hold 4 games and the arcade machine will be able to switch between the 4 games. The MVS unit is connected to a JAMMA arcade machine (or through a Supergun/Jamma rig).

MVS games differ from the AES games in size and pinout (not too sure about the exact differences) and so cannot be used on an AES without a suitable converter. The most reliable converter is the Phantom-1 converter, which will allow the majority of MVS games to be played on the AES. There are a few newer games - such as SNK VS Capcom, Metal Slug 5 and Samurai Spirits Zero (and Special) that are not compatible - due to increased security protection from SNK Playmore.

The games that I have got and have used on the Phantom-1 Converter include: Metal Slug 1 to 4, Garou Mark of the Wolves, Viewpoint, Ultimate 11, Kizuna Encounter, King of Fighters 98-2000, Samurai Spirits 3 & 4 and Shock Troopers (examples of carts shown below). I have had no problems with any of these games and they all work perfect through the converter.

The actual source code on the AES and MVS games are exactly the same, and so both AES and MVS carts contain both source code for 'Home' and 'Arcade' modes. The MVS cart loads up in 'Arcade mode' when put into an MVS unit and the AES cart loads up into 'Home mode' when put into an AES unit. The Phantom-1 Converter loads up the MVS carts in 'Home mode' when put into the AES unit. In 'Home mode' there are additional options. Please note that the Phantom-1 Converter cannot be used to play AES games on the MVS unit.

Why buy MVS games rather than AES games?

  • MVS games can be bought very cheaply on eBay compared to it's AES counterpart
  • Some games were only released on MVS
  • You can buy a shock box (holds MVS cart) and print an insert to compliment your collection
  • If you have an MVS unit and Jamma Arcade machine - then you can interchange the MVS carts between your home system (with converter) and arcade system

MVS prices vary in price due to a number of factors:

  • If cart only
  • If cart does not have serials. Some MVS carts have serial numbers on them - this was used to register the cart with a particular arcade. In Japan, arcade games (including home console games) are not to be re-sold and so the serials were on the cart to stop arcades from re-selling them (as the carts could be traced). Therefore many carts come without their serial numbers (usually scratched off - as arcades removed them so that they could not be traced back to them
  • If the cart has an original label
  • Language on label (English/Japanese/Korean)
  • Complete kits which include box, move stickers, marquee, instruction leaflet, dip settings - these increase the value of the MVS cart (especially if the serials on the cart and box match)

In general, the majority of MVS carts can be bought for a fraction of the price of its AES counterpart. I have found the cheapest MVS carts are ones that are cart only and have no serials. I recently purchased Garou Mark of the Wolves for £40 MVS cart only (no serials), this would cost over £180 on AES.

Things to look out for

  • Bootleg (counterfeit) carts

Best way to prevent buying bootleg carts is to check the photo of the cart and see if it has an original label and cart. Some labels are replaced (example - the cart may be Japanese and so someone has replaced it with an English label) and so it may be difficult to determine if it's a genuine cart - check seller's feedback. Some bootleg carts look original, but check the NEO GEO website and look at the photo gallery of MVS carts - then compare the lettering (Font style) on the official cart label to the lettering on the auction photo cart label - it should match. Please note that MVS carts were issued in different colours.

If there is no photo - then request one from the seller. If they cannot provide a photo, check their feedback and then decide. Some sellers sell unofficial games (i.e. homebrew games such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) - most good sellers would confirm this in their auction listing.


Top MVS sellers - eBay

yaton6262 - based in Canada. Has a vast range of MVS games. Varying condition - provides a photo of the actual cart you are buying so you know exactly what you're getting. Very honest and reliable seller - fast delivery. I have bought a lot of games from this seller (all original carts with original labels) - including: World Heroes Perfect ($15), Ninja Masters ($20), Kizuna Encounter ($20), Waku Waku 7 ($50) and Strikers 1945 Plus ($58). Check his shop out:


Recommended UK sellers - eBay

The most recent sellers I have purchased from are:

cadstar2000 (see his list of items: cadstar2000 items)
superfamifreak (see his list of items: superfamifreak items)

Both provided an excellent service and the games I purchased were all original with original labels. I have purchased from many good UK sellers, unfortunately I cannot remember all their eBay user IDs. I usually search for MVS carts on eBay by just typing in MVS. This usually brings up the whole selection.

Anyway, if you haven't already got a NEO GEO AES then buy the following:

  • A Japanese NEO GEO AES system with power supply
  • Original NEO GEO AES Joystick (not the newer Kidney shaped Joystick)
  • RGB scart lead
  • Step down transformer/converter
  • Phantom-1 Converter
  • Memory card (saves your game progression)
  • Selection of AES games (carts do not have region protection): King of Fighter 94/95, Street Hoop, Samurai Shodown 1/2,World Heroes 1/2/Jet, Art of Fighting 1/2 and Fatal Fury 1/2/Special to name a few
  • Selection of MVS games (carts do not have region protection): Viewpoint, Garou Mark of the Wolves, World Heroes Perfect, Metal Slug 1/2/X/3/4, Samurai Spirits 3/4, Strikers 1945 Plus and Waku Waku 7 to name a few



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