I’m proud to say I finally own a Neo Geo…sort of. Released in 1990, the Neo Geo was a console that existed before I had a grasp of what video games were, and also before I existed myself. In the mid 2000’s, I came across a collection of Metal Slug Neo Geo games for the Playstation 2/Xbox consoles. With their amazing pixel art, great music, and addicting loop of sidescrolling gameplay, I was hooked. I had never seen a series of 2d games that instantly captivated me in such a way. Over time, I would find NeoGeo arcade cabinets in arcades and sprint to the Metal Slug 3 start screen when I saw it. Having never owned the console, playing the games emulated on modern consoles over time and arcades was a great way to satisfy my interest in the catalog of games and console that seemed mysterious. I mean, have you PLAYED Super Baseball Stars 2020? It’s got robots, baseball and a weird stadium. It didn’t exactly predict how baseball would look in 2020, but that’s not the point here, it’s still rad.
The Neo Geo Mini International is a well-made package. Housed in this tiny arcade cabinet is 40 games from varying genres across the Neo Geo library. The screen is vibrant and bright, with responsive buttons and joystick underneath. There’s even a ring around the joystick that glows while turned on. Little details like this made me really enjoy the Neo Geo Mini even more. As a whole, the console feels very solid while being used. The console itself is only powered via usb c, while two additional usb c ports are present for external gamepads to be plugged in. Combined with an HDMI cable, it can be plugged into a television as well. I personally was not able to use this feature, and enjoyed the console on my desk with the built-in controls. The console is tiny, but very usable for short bursts. For more serious use or multiplayer, I would recommend looking into the external gamepads from SNK.
Although the game selection is varied, the collection does consist heavily of fighting games, taking up about half of the available roster. While fighting games are great, having this many on a console that does not offer local multiplayer without the purchase of additional gamepads is dissapointing. However, what is there is varied and unique, including 6 Metal Slug games, and action games like Shock Troopers that are a great time to spend time with. Some of the most enjoyment I’ve had with the little console is playing more obscure games like Top Players Golf and Super Sidekicks, which are a nice change of pace from the frantic action found in a majority of the games on the console. I found myself having a lot of fun playing through the assortment of games offered and discovering new ones I had no idea existed.
A large downside that hampers the whole experience, and I mean large, is the way the console approaches game credits. Games act the same as if they were being played in a coin-operated arcade, displaying the amount of credits available to the player. The issue comes with the fact that each game is limited to just 3 credits per play session. This means games such as Metal Slug feel almost impossible to complete due to the amount of credits required to complete the game. The same games are available digitally on other game consoles such as Nintendo Switch, and do not limit game credits. While this artificial credit limit may recreate the feel of being in an arcade, it makes the Neo Geo Mini feel more like a novelty, rather than a retro console to fully enjoy games at home like the NES and SNES classic.
The Neo Geo Mini International is a nice little package, with a great roster of games and instant fun out of the box. However, with a bigger cost-of-entry to get the full use out of half of its games, paired with its artificial credit limit, these hold a good console back from being great.