Neo Geo Mini International review – an arcade at home

The Neo Geo Mini International version

Nostalgia is a hard feeling to deny, but how many of us have fond memories of a console that used to cost nearly $700 and had games that ranged between $150 to $200 a piece? Probably not many of us, or at least you would not be faulted for thinking that. After all, it is logical to assume that such a rarefied machine had limited exposure, especially in the 1990s.

Yet SNK’s ability to master the arcade scene and then offer that EXACT same experience on home machines was unprecedented. You see, the Neo Geo is my fourth most underrated console, and the price is basically what prevented it from topping my list.

Even though the arcade is where most of us got to know the system, again the price is what definitely held it back.

And trust you me, had the Neo Geo been more affordable, video game history might be radically different now. SNK had top-notch fighting games, but that was not all.

Today, I am going to talk about the latest retro console on the block and why it might be totally worth your time, if you overlooked or miss the Neo Geo or simply, if you want to see what the Rolls Royce of consoles was all about.

Below is my Neo Geo Mini International review:

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A quick look into it – tiny more than mini.

Neo Geo Mini International

It perfectly fits in the palm of my hand

So, a few things out of the way, right off of the bat: the NGMI is a tiny arcade cabinet loaded up with 40 video games from SNK’s arcade classics. We have got all of the Samurai Shodown oeuvre, the Fighter’s History saga, others like World Heroes and Art of Fighting and last but not least the Metal Slug series. But I have to emphasize that, for what you get, you have to play all of this on a tiny mockup arcade cabinet.

In order to route it out to the big screen, you need a (not included) HDMI cable and – on top of that – you need a really darn expensive controller. So, once you have gone all in, you are looking at quite a bit of money on a mini retro console. Personally, I am not picky about emulation, but there are emulation issues galore here. Interestingly, everything looks good on the ridiculously tiny screen, but it all gets muddy when you port it out to the big screen.

The first thing I thought was: “SNK cannot be serious with this little device in terms of you actually playing games on it. I am not going to do that. Pain and agony await me.” Despite this, I did it and, sadly, I was right. Not to mention the inevitable day when the controller stopped working or something happened to the screen. This is meant to be played through the HDMI on the big screen, but the fact that it does not do that out of the box is a nickel-and-diming travesty.

Again, I have to repeat, in my opinion no one should play this as a mini arcade cabinet – even children who have hands perfectly suited for it. This is meant for a controller and that introduces its own slate of issues.

Some extra money to spend – and still not perfect

Blazing Star on the Neo Geo Mini International

Blazing Star was something more than a pleasant surprise… I would rate this shoot’em up just one tiny step below the likes of Metal Slug and Samurai Shodown II.

Once you get the HDMI cable and the controller to make this thing legitimate, then you begin to notice other issues, none of which are huge, but since you are starting to sink some real money into this gimmick at this point, it should be a little bit better… At least that is what I started to think. Then you notice that the graphics and sound look a little off. And, if you are a classic Neo Geo gamer, you will notice that the controller is completely different from what you remember. What gives? Heck, even the button layout is different than the classic console.

For most of us, though, this will not be an issue. What will be an issue is putting out the kind of money you need to in order to make this whole thing work. If you have 0 nostalgia for SNK and you are not a fighting game historian, then there is little incentive here for you. That is just the truth of the matter.

Nostalgics and collectors will love it – look around before buying it, though

Neo Geo Mini International interface

A deeper look at the Neo Geo Mini International interface. It is pretty straightforward, honestly.

Yet, setting those issues aside, what do we have here? A pretty cheap collection of the best the Neo Geo had to offer and should provide tons of fun for people who remember playing the older arcade cabinets. Really, the issues that do creep up are not huge detractions for most casual gamers – most of you will never notice it, actually. They have to be noted, though, for fairness’ sake.

On that note, I also have to say that there are a lot of Neo Geo game collections out there, many of which are a lot cheaper than this. The emulation might be a little bit better, too. The choice then comes down to whether or not the kitsch factor does anything for you. As an addition to a retro mini console collection, it is undoubtedly a must-have item. But if you are not collecting these things and you do not see yourself actually playing it, then this is a huge waste of money. There is no getting around it.
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Final Impressions – a cool, but imperfect beauty from Japan

Neo Geo Mini International game list

All issues aside, the vast majority of these games are arcade classics

There are better options for Neo Geo emulation and they are probably cheaper. Plus, there is word on the street that SNK is exploring an ACTUAL mini Neo Geo console, not an arcade cabinet, which means you might be better off waiting anyway. One thing I could see happening with that, if nothing else is addressed, is that it will probably have a lot more games on it, which would make it a better deal alone.

On the positives, this device bleeds Japanese arcade glory. It does what you expect, just not that well. It is probably a great gift for fans, but I cannot recommend playing it any other way than through the television. The build quality is solid, but this thing has to last for years – keep that in mind.
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So what do you think, retro folks? Is the Neo Geo Mini International a compelling retro console option? What do you think of its ability to emulate the old arcade classics? Please, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

About Andrew A.

Andrew is the founder and owner of RetroGamingLoft. He considers himself a natural-born gamer and is on a mission to keep our younger gaming years alive through the medium of Retro Stories. His event recount includes hopes, dreams, broken joysticks, magic, nostalgia and another final boss defeated.

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