Growing up, I never owned a single video game console. I owned a few sports games that I played on my old Apple IIe computer, and I recall playing Super Mario World when I was at my babysitter’s house. But that was about the extent of my gaming knowledge. All this changed when I got married, however.
My husband is a hard-core gamer. He favors RPGs, puzzle games, and platformers and also plays his share of shooters and fighting games. But what amazed me most when we met was not the breadth of genres he played, but the sheer number of consoles he played them on! I quickly gained an education in the differences between systems manufactured by Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. I learned about the evolution of handheld systems, and how PC gaming was still going strong. Whenever a new console came out, I knew he’d be waiting in line to purchase it. Today I’ve fallen in love with Nintendo’s DS and Wii, and he can generally be seen playing his Xbox 360. The one modern game console he didn’t buy when it first came out, however, was Sony’s PlayStation 3. He didn’t believe he would play enough of the then-available games to justify spending $499 or $599, depending on the size of the hard drive. At the time I had no idea how much game systems normally cost, and so I assumed this must be the most expensive console yet produced. It wasn’t until recently, when a shipment of games from Japan entered the ICHEG lab, that I learned that a console that débuted 16 years earlier actually cost a lot more.
While cataloging this group of Japanese games, I came across Ryūko no Ken 2 (龍虎の拳, 2. Released in the United States as Art of Fighting 2, this game was made for the Neo Geo console. First produced in 1990 by the Japanese company Shin Nihon Kikaku (SNK), Neo Geo began as an arcade game system that stored up to six different games inside one cabinet. Arcade centers with limited space especially liked this efficiency.
Subsequently, the Neo Geo home console model impressed consumers by bringing arcade-level graphics and game play into their living rooms. However, many people didn’t like its selling price of $650, the equivalent of more than $1,000 today! In addition, a single game sold for as much as $200, more than most consoles these days. Some gamers were willing to shell out the money for the system because they were intrigued by the graphical benefits inherent in the system, but its steep price kept it from competing with other consoles such as Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis. And once 3D graphics became the gaming industry norm, the Neo Geo could not successfully hold onto its player base, as it only produced 2-D games.
Neo Geo games are still around, both as downloads on virtual consoles and as collector’s items, but if you decide to collect them, be forewarned. They take up a lot of space; they measure more than seven inches in length! My husband never bought the Neo Geo, but luckily ICHEG has an abundance of Neo Geo games. And there is plenty of room for them here, so I get a chance to try them out while cataloging.