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Neo Geo Station Max 330 Mega Guide
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on October 19, 2011   |   Episode 104 (Show Archive)  


Best known as the one and only 24-bit game system, SNK's Neo Geo was a home console/arcade unit that specialized in 2D shooters and fighting games. Thanks to the power of the internet, nostalgic gamers can choose from a number of exciting Neo Geo classics for play on the Sony PSP and PlayStation 3. But how do you know which games are worth spending your money on? That's where the Neo Geo Station Max 330 Mega Guide comes in. Below you will find capsule reviews for every single Neo Geo Station game. There's also a link to an expanded review, along with more pictures and information.
Alpha Mission II
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | Price: PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1991 ]
Alpha Mission II is your average vertical shooter, complete with familiar power-ups and an unsympathetic difficulty. This 1991 arcade game features seven stages to master and exclusive online play. Alpha Mission II is the perfect example of what is wrong with most Neo Geo games. Here's a punishingly difficult shooter made easy thanks to unlimited continues. Unless you limit yourself, there's no reason why one can't bust through this game in under an hour. Thankfully the adventure getting to the final boss is interesting enough to warrant the ride, but I'm not sure it's worth nine dollars.

Art of Fighting
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1992 ]
Released in 1992, Art of Fighting was a story-driven alternative to Street Fighter II. You play one of two characters, Ryo Sakazaki or Robert Garcia, as they battle the evil Mr. Big and retrieve Ryo's kidnapped sister, Yuri. But don't get too excited, because the original Art of Fighting is an absolutely dreadful game. Much like Fatal Fury, it took Art of Fighting a few installments before coming into its own. Not even the online multiplayer mode is enough to make this stinker worth picking up. The only good thing about this release is that it gives me hope that we'll eventually see Art of Fighting 3 on the PlayStation 3 and PSP. Until that day comes, you can go ahead and ignore this mediocre franchise.

Baseball Stars Professional
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1991 ]
SNK did more than make fighting games and Metal Slug sequels; it also published a number of cartoony sports games. It's possible to have a good time playing Baseball Stars Professional, but that depends entirely on how many real people you know. Against the computer this is one of the Neo Geo's worst games, but it manages to be lot more fun with a second person. For one thing, the broken defense slices both ways, making for some high scoring (and inadvertently hilarious) games. Given the disappointing single-player experience and the fact that there are better baseball games on the Neo Geo (not to mention the PlayStation 3 and PSP), I have hard time recommending Baseball Stars Professional.

Baseball Stars 2
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1992 ]
This is Baseball Stars 2, the much-improved sequel to one of the Neo Geo's earliest sports games. With only six teams and two difficulty types, there isn't a whole heck of a lot to do in this early 90s hit, yet that shouldn't keep fans of arcade-style baseball games from having a great time. There just isn't enough in Baseball Stars 2 for a full recommendation. This isn't a bad game, especially when you put it up against the first game. But even with the improvements, I lost interest after only a few short games. If you're the kind of person who can't wait to take this online and play with friends, then definitely pick up Baseball Stars 2. Everybody else should think twice about whether they'll get their money's worth.

Fatal Fury
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1991 ]
Long before Samurai Shodown, The King of Fighters, Last Blade, Art of Fighting and the dizzying amount of other 2D fighting games, there was Fatal Fury. This was the Neo Geo's very first fighter, released into the wild to compete with the incredibly popular Street Fighter II. You choose one of three players (Joe Higashi and the Bogard brothers, Andy and Terry), martial artists looking to clean the streets in South Town. There's an argument to be made that the Super NES and Genesis ports were superior, if only because they added extra characters to the two-player mode. There are great Fatal Fury games worth buying ... just not this mediocre first installment.

League Bowling
[ Review: Link | Pub: Nintendo | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1991 ]
Back before we had motion controls, people used game controls to go virtual bowling. That's right, I'm talking about the same game control they used to play 2D shooters and fighting games. It may not look like much, but League Bowling is an incredibly addictive multiplayer bowling game specifically designed for the arcade. Bowling is not the first thing most people think of when reminiscing about the Neo Geo, but League Bowling still remains one of my favorite first-generation titles. This PlayStation 3 version is even better, thanks to the game's built-in online option. These days it's rare to not have to throw out my arm while playing a bowling game, but this game allows me to use a control AND play against friends online. Don't be fooled by the simplicity of the sport, League Bowling is a must-buy!

Magician Lord
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1991 ]
Magician Lord is a 2D side-scrolling action game that was one of the Neo Geo's very first pack-in games. This early generation 24-bitter tells the story of a wizard on a mission to save his battered homeland. Along the way he'll be forced to contend with a series of large bosses and weird environments. Thankfully our hero has an ace up his, um, cloak -- he can change forms. By picking up orbs the magician will turn into everything from a dragon warrior to a samurai warrior. Magician Lord is the perfect example of why a blanket price point is a bad idea. At $5, I would say this is the game to get. However, this is not an easy decision at almost twice the price.

Metal Slug
[ Review: Link | Pub: Nintendo | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1996 ]
Do you like Contra and Gunstar Heroes? Than chances are you've played at least one of the Metal Slug games. This 1996 original is a great game that every gamer should play. But that's not enough for me to recommend this version. This is the first time while reviewing these Neo Geo Station games where I've felt conflicted. On one hand, I love Metal Slug and like the idea of playing it online with friends. But why pay almost ten dollars for this version when you can get the (almost) complete Metal Slug Anthology for practically the same price? Besides, this series has always worked best when you have a friend sitting right next to you. There's no denying the quality of the game, but the price could use some work.

Metal Slug 2
[ Review: Link | Pub: Nintendo | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1998 ]
It's time for yet another highly stylish 2D shooter from SNK. Much like the 1996 original, this 1998 sequel finds a couple of Contra-inspired action stars on a mission that takes them through the Middle East desert, Egyptian pyramids, snowy mountains and underground sewers. Oh, and there are aliens this time around. While there's nothing wrong with Metal Slug 2, true fans should either pick up the phenomenal Metal Slug Anthology or wait for Metal Slug X (which is the remixed version of this game). A solid game, but one that comes with too much baggage to fully recommend.

Samurai Shodown
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1993 ]
Samurai Shodown is one of SNK's best franchises, and it's easy to see why. While The King of Fighters and Fatal Fury focus on hand-to-hand combat, I've always been partial to Samurai Shodown's weapon-based brawls. This 1993 original features more than a dozen characters to choose from, online play and some truly spectacular backgrounds. While I would argue that the sequel is a stronger game, playing this online is a great way to waste some time while we wait for the next batch of Neo Geo softs. The gameplay is slow (especially compared to The King of Fighters '94), but it's deliberate and well-paced. I was also struck by how pretty it is, even after all these years. It's a shame SNK to make a sequel as compelling as this first game.

Shock Troopers
[ Review: Link | Pub: Nintendo | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1996 ]
Have you ever wondered what Metal Slug would be like if it was played from an overhead perspective? Then let me introduce you to Shock Troopers, SNK's 1997 arcade hit. This eight-way shooter looks and feels a lot like Ikari Warriors and Guerrilla War, only with better graphics and animation. The game offers three unique paths, giving players enough incentive to play through the game multiple times. Shock Troopers may not plow original ground, but it does have enough new ideas to warrant the $7 - $9 price tag (depending on the system). If you're a fan of Commando, MERCs or Ikari Warriors, then you owe it to yourself to play one of the best examples of the sub-genre.

Super Sidekicks
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1993 ]
It's a soccer game. Wait ... don't stop reading just yet. I know this country doesn't care for soccer, but Super Sidekicks may be enough to change your mind. Players are treated to a tournament bracket that has them playing against some of the best soccer countries in the world (Germany, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, etc.). If they can keep their winning streak alive, they'll be able to participate in the very cool sounding (but fake) SNK Cup. Not being a fan of soccer, I was worried that I would have a miserable time playing Super Sidekicks. It turns out I was wrong, because this early-generation Neo Geo game is one of the very best sports games on the PSN. Don't go in expecting real teams or anything licensed, because this is a bare-bones release through and through. But what it lacks in depth, it more than makes up for with fun gameplay and online multiplayer support.

The King of Fighters '94
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1994 ]
This 1994 release marks the first time SNK brought all of their popular fighting games (except for Samurai Shodown) together. The King of Fighters franchise has spawned a staggering twelve sequels, several 3D spin-offs and a live-action movie. The game comes packaged with eight teams of three, offering 24 characters from a number of SNK properties (including Art of Fighting ane Ikari Warriors). Unlike Marvel vs. Capcom and other team-based fighters, The King of Fighters is not a tag-team match. Instead the player is forced to stick with the same character until he or she is knocked out. This is not a perfect fighting game by any means, but it's a solid 2D fighter with welcome online support.

The King of Fighters '95
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1995 ]
At first glance The King of Fighters '95 looks a lot like last year's '94 model. You have largely the same cast, the same visual style and the same basic SNK fighting game mechanics. But don't be so quick to judge, because this second stab at the franchise has a lot of new ideas to offer. For starters, you're no longer tied to the same three-person team. In The King of Fighters '95 you can pick and choose your team or, if you prefer, go toe-to-toe in a traditional one-on-one match. There are some that will balk at the idea of spending another few bucks on this slightly enhanced sequel, but I say it's worth it.

The King of Fighters '96
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1996 ]
By now you know the formula: A bunch of fighters from all kinds of different SNK games (Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Ikari Warriors, etc.) team up to beat the stuffing out of one another. The King of Fighters '96 is no exception. Outside of some new techniques and team switches, the big change here are the graphics. The game has a much sleeker look, especially when compared to 1995's model. Unfortunately the game has some balancing issues. It also feels like a less substantial upgrade from last year's game, something that could not be said about the move from '94 to '95. Still, the addition of Vice and Mature makes this a little easier to recommend. The King of Fighters '96 gets a very tepid recommendation.

World Heroes
[ Review: Link | Pub: SNK | PSP $6.99 / PS3 $8.99 | Release: 1992 ]
Oh, World Heroes. Will you ever get any respect? While Neo Geo fanboys will spend hours talking up Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, nobody cares about one of SNK's most likeable (albeit flawed) one-on-one fighting games. World Heroes is nothing more than a Street Fighter II clone with semi-historical figures. Part of me really likes World Heroes, if only as a guilty pleasure. The gameplay is simple enough and the cast of character is goofy enough to be entertaining. Still, this isn't one of SNK's best fighters. Fans of Neo Geo fighting games should stick with The King of Fighters '95 and Samurai Shodown. The moment World Heroes 2 hits the Neo Geo Station, this 1992 original will be completely obsolete.



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