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November 2013 Retro Gaming Article


November 25, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

From arcade to home console, NeoGeo bridged the gap with the MVS & AES memory card

Arcade games of the early 80's were powerful sprite spewing beasts that delivered amazing worlds and experiences for a mere 25¢. We dropped quarters in a desperate attempt at remaining immersed in those amazing worlds. Companies like Atari told us we could play our arcade favorites at home, but we knew better. Asteroids, Missile Command and Space Invaders were fun to play at home, but the arcade was where the real action happened.

SNK's MVS arcade configurations Then an interesting thing began to happen at home. Christmas by Christmas we saw more manufacturers bringing game consoles to market - each one having better games than it's predecessor. Few would deny that the Colecovision has superior arcade quality compared to the same titles on the Atari 2600. Atari fought back with the 5200 and Mattel joined in with the Intellivision.

The rules changed when Nintendo came on the scene, in 1985, with the NES. Even my beloved Atari 7800 couldn't compete with Nintendo's power or game library. We'd entered a new era!

By the end of the decade, the Genesis and TurboGrafX-16 raised standards only to be met with Nintendo and their new console, the Super NES. Sometime during the 80's, home consoles were catching up with arcades... sort of. In the Nintendo age, I could find much better ports of my favorite early 80's arcade classics. However, arcades were advancing too. Games were becoming far more sophisticated, again challenging the technology of home consoles.

SNK Goes From the MVS in Arcades to the AES at Home

In 1990 SNK had a solution for the financial problems facing arcades and the gap between the arcade and home console. SNK took the home game-cartridge model of the AES to the arcade giving operators the ability to have one cabinet capable of playing up to six games. That increased the ROI of the arcade's floor space and let gamers play arcade quality games at home! The 2 systems were nearly interchangeable and very compatible.

SNK's MVS arcade memory card Carts for the AES were less expensive than those for the MVS. SNK made the physical carts incompatible between MVS and AES to prevent arcade operators from using the cheaper home carts in the MVS. However, the game content was identical leading to SNK's master plan to allow gaming to flow from arcade to home and back - via memory cards!

SNK's MVS Configurations

SNK's MVS arcade PCBs SNK NeoGeo memory card The AES came out the same year as the MVS and was initially to be part of a rental program for hotels, restaurants and commercial venues that wanted arcade-style games without having an actual arcade. It was the sort of thing you might find in a hotel room or bar top. Despite the system costing over $600, it became known to SNK that some consumers were willing to pay. The rental system didn't really catch on and the prohibitive price prevented home adoption anywhere near what the SNES achieved.

But SNK seemed to be aiming above mere gaming with the AES and MVS. Ads began touting a network linked via a modem cartridge that would extend SNK from gaming to banking. OK, maybe not quite that literally, but they do mention banking and home shopping as possibilities of this SNK network. They also assure that security will not be an issue. lol.

The real story is the memory card! The insanely expensive AES provided perfect ports of the arcades MVS cabinet. In theory, you could be racking up a high score at home, save your progress from your AES, then head out to the arcade where the same memory card can be inserted into the MVS where you can resume play from that game at home. That's such a cool concept, but I have never heard of anyone taking advantage of the ability to save a game at home and finish is on an MVS at the local arcade. Anyone who'd done this... we'd love to hear from you!

SNK cancelled production of the AES in 1997, but software continued being produced until 2004!

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