How Neo geo AES refused to die - a short history
Last updated on June 21, 2011, 23:35 by Sebastian Mihai
An interesting trend to follow is how developers are able to create games which are increasingly more advanced technically. Obviously, this happens under same hardware constraints throughout the years; the console itself doesn't change (barring minimal upgrades such as RAM packs, etc.)

While games on a specific console advance over the years, they are always bounded, in a way in which they can usually compete against games on other consoles of the same generation (obviously), and also of the next generation. What I mean by this is that for example, a lot of NES games still felt "up to date" even after the release of SNES along with its games. This is one of the reasons that manufacturers don't let their videogame systems lag behind more than a generation without releasing a new generation of their system themselves.

But not the Neo geo AES. It was more advanced than all other competitors when it was released in 1990, and it stayed strong throughout the generations, all the way until 2004. As you will see below, the games on the AES had to greatly improve in order to always be competitive, for a decade and a half. One other thing to keep in mind is that the exact hardware used by AES has been used in the Neo geo MVS arcade cabinets. This meant that the games not only had to go against the home consoles, but had to also be competitive in the arcades. Clearly, this shows how much potential the AES had, being able to host ever-improving games over so many generations of competitors' systems, while its own hardware remained the same as in 1990.

This article will use Nintendo's consoles for the sake of comparison. I opted to use them because I consider Nintendo to be the most influential player in the home console market. (at least during the generations which interest me) Also, I am not comparing which system had "better" games, since something like this is ridiculously subjective. The side by side games are what I considered representative of a generation; they were released in the same year.

Nintendo Entertainment System


SNK released the Neo geo AES in 1990, when the NES was around, having been released in 1985. Clearly, the generation gap is very visible between the games on the two systems around that time. The NES was already aging, and the AES new and interesting!
NES - Super Mario Brothers 3 Neo geo - Magician Lord

Super Nintendo Entertainment System


Nintendo's next system was released in 1991. It was definitely a breakthrough, bringing great, colourful 2D graphics to the masses. Neo geo AES games definitely improved as well, and could match the SNES pixel for pixel, and even move ahead of it.
One thing to note is that the AES could handle much larger sprites than the competition. Its fighting games (and it hosted many of them) had large, beautifully animated combatants.
SNES - Chrono Trigger Neo geo - Samurai Shodown III

Nintendo 64


The advent of 3D took place with Nintendo 64 in 1996. This is where things start to be a little gray. Around this time, all console manufacturers delved into 3D, sensing that it would become the next best thing. Opinions were divided in regards to this generation. Some regard it as a magnificent breakthrough in gaming technology, while others as a time when games were blocky and ugly, in an attempt to reign over the beautiful 2D games. SNK responded to the avalanche of low-polygon count 3D games with even more polish on their 2D line-ups.
N64 - Banjo Tooie Neo geo - Metal Slug 3

Gamecube


The 3D movement becomes even more deeply-rooted with the coming of the sixth generation consoles, such as Nintendo's Gamecube in 2001. It could deliver great quality graphics even in 3D, and 2D games were being forgotten. Around this time, SNK Playmore was making its last stand on the Neo geo AES. It was pushing 2D graphics and the hardware to the limit. SNK was releasing less than a handful games in a year, but they had incredible levels of detail, and hand-drawn goodness. The highest quality 2D games were made around this time.
Gamecube - Prince of Persia: Sands of Time Neo geo - King of Fighters 2003

Samurai Shodown V is the last game produced for the AES and was released in 2004. Had SNK produced for two more years, the AES would have rivalled the Wii as well!
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