Welcome again, retro-playing friends, to another instalment of The Last Official Release. So far, I’ve chronicled the last games released for 25 different consoles and handhelds (all linked below). To say I’m running out of content wouldn’t be a lie – the list of what I haven’t already covered is getting a bit thin. But while researching for this segment I realised I haven’t covered a single bit of hardware from the Neo Geo ecosystem. They deserve their day in the sun just like everything else, so let’s get cracking with the beast that started them all courtesy of SNK.
The Neo Geo originally started life as arcade hardware. The Neo Geo MVS (Multi Video System) launched in the April of 1990 and was somewhat revolutionary to arcade operators. It allowed up to six different games to be installed and linked to a standard Jamma system in a single cabinet.
What we’re focusing on today, however, is its home console counterpart. Released a little bit later in the July of 1991, the Neo Geo AES (Advanced Entertainment System) was originally marketed as a rental system because of its high price point. It included the same specifications as the MVS, so was incredibly large and expensive – but eventually, SNK relented to the demand of rich people and sold it commercially.
As you can imagine, having a home console that rep’d the specs of arcade machines in the early-90’s blew out the competition by miles – but of course, was fairly inaccessible because of its enormous price. It sold for US$650 in 1991, which translates to roughly $1,200 in 2019. For comparison, the SNES (also released in 1991 in the US) sold for $200, which would be about $370 in the present.
Interestingly, SNK discontinued manufacturing AES’s in 1997 after selling approximately one million units, but still supported the software side of things until 2004. Thus, the last game to grace the system was Samurai Shodown V Special, a whopping 14-years after the original release of the console. Called Samurai Spirits Zero Special in Japan, both versions were released on the 15th of July.
Even though there is a V in the title, this was actually the ninth entry in the fighting game series. As always, the plot is a bit thin, but 28 warriors fight to the death in a series of duels as I guess nothing good was on TV. The gameplay remains mostly unchanged from previous games in the series but does include a range of graphical and audio upgrades. Additionally, there is a range of character changes between the Japanese and international versions.
Supposedly, the game was slated for a July 8th release, but after a weeklong delay, it came apparent that censorship was the culprit. A number of changes had been made to the more violent nature of moves, and these hasty last-minute fixes had caused a number of bugs. SNK did do a cart recall, but the censorship remained. For those patient enough, however, SNK did finally release the game in its original glory on the PS4 and PS Vita in 2017. Better late than never, I guess, as it could be played for free (and illegally) through emulation for years.
Previously, on The Last Official Release:
TurboGrafx-16 – Magical Chase (1993)
Atari 7800 – Sentinel (1991)
Atari 5200 – Gremlins (1986)
Sega CD – Shadowrun
32X – The Amazing Spider-Man: Web of Fire (1996)
3DO – Creature Shock (1996)
CD-i – Solar Crusade (1999)
Atari Lynx – Super Asteroids & Missile Command (1995)
N-Gage – Civilization (2006)
Fairchild Channel F – Alien Invasion (1981)
Atari Jaguar – Worms (1998)
Virtual Boy – 3D Tetris (1996)
Sega Saturn – Undefined Japanese Game (2000)
Intellivision – Spiker! Super Pro Volleyball (1989)
Super Nintendo Entertainment System – Metal Slader Glory: Director’s Cut (2000)
Sega Genesis – Frogger (1998)
Sega Master System – Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge
Game & Watch – Mario the Juggler
PS1 – Schnappi: 3 Fun-Games
N64 – Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3
Game Gear – The Lost World: Jurassic Park
NES – The Lion King
Atari 2600 – Klax
Game Boy – Shikakei Atama o Kore Kusuru: Kanji/Keisan no Tatsujin
Dreamcast – Karous