I had a chance to demo a Neo Geo X Gold over the holidays and found out a few nice things and a few not so nice things about SNK’s supposed “return to power.”
Note: I did label this as a Gold review because it was the handheld out of the Gold packaging. I did not get to use the dock or the AES stick. I did, however, play Ninja Masters… And it was good!
Device: Let’s start by taking a look at the device, itself. It feels solid enough. Squeezing and twisting the unit doesn’t produce any creaks or other odd noises. The jewel buttons are precise and don’t have a lot of side slop. The back is rubberized and provides a nice grip for when you are playing and when it may be on an incline during rest. The SD slot doesn’t have a cover. This could be an issue, but it’s quite minor. The d-pad is nice in the fact that there are microswitches like an arcade stick. It’s a nice throwback to the Neo*Geo CD gamepad or the Neo*Geo Pocket. The screen has a slight issue with the colors being washed out. This happens even when the brightness is turned all the way up to help balance out the dingy look on the lower settings. The panel is actually a 16:9 ratio screen so it will lunchbox your games by default. (Black bars on the left and right sides.) Speaking of the screen, the main cover isn’t glass. It’s a hard plastic. This will probably scratch like the back of an iPhone (pre-5) like no other.
Performance: It plays ‘Geo games. 21 of them, in fact. It’s not perfect but it’s incredibly faithful. Loading a game is fast, jumping into a round of KOF is like going to an arcade… Just no coin slot. Keep in mind that the X is an emulator. Things can be a tad off. The R button can adjust your aspect ratio from 4:3 to 16:9 if you want to fill your screen’s real estate. Another interesting thing about the extra buttons along the edges of the portable, is that it will put a temporary pause to your game as the volume or brightness meters come up so you don’t get owned by an on-coming pile of enemies. Nice touch! Dropping out of games is as easy as getting into them. Just hit the Menu button and you are back to the list. Speed is good, no lag on games except where it would happen in the real MVS/AES.
After playing this handheld for a few hours, I found that I really like it! There are many nay-sayers out there that say it’s a pile of junk and it’s not worth it. Well, from what I’ve seen on the web (with hardware breakdowns and reveals about what Tommo really did to cut corners) I’d say that it’s expensive but not too much where it would tip the scales. $200 for the Gold pack (Handheld, AES stick, Chibi-AES dock and Ninja Masters) and $129 for the just the handheld, I think it’s still a good price. Getting an AES with only a few games and 1 stick will set you back MUCH further than $200. It’s an economical way to get into the world of SNK and their amazing library. Fist timers and collectors should be pleased with this offering, even with its shortcommings.