Here is some info about the little retro system manufactured by Tommo with a licence from SNK, and some thoughts I’ve had when using it.
To be honest I haven’t really used this console at all after the first few times of trying it out. That could tell you something about its quality.
So the console comes with 21 games in total.
Even though this one is called the limited edition, a ‘regular’ one has never been released.
That brings the total number of games for the system to 36.
The games can be bought either in one ‘Mega pack’ or in five volumes with three games each.
Bundled with the games is a ‘Rocket Cable’ that can be used to charge the handheld without the docking station and to update its firmware. The cable is not sold separately.
None of the games sold separately can be played before the system firmware is updated.
The mega pack comes with a booklet that has a small section devoted to each game, giving some general info and basic instructions on controls. It also has stickers of all the game logos and three Neo Geo stickers as well. I don’t know if the other game packs come with such booklets.
First I have to mention that my console originally came with the 370 version firmware, and I have not updated it yet. I hope I can even do that, because some people have been unable to do so themselves, and they’ve had to send their console back to Tommo and have them update it.
The handheld console itself feels a bit too wide for my hands, maybe if the screen was not a widescreen one it might feel more nice. It’s also quite light, maybe even a bit too light to give the impression of being an awesome piece of hardware.
When you’re in the main menu and press the menu button you can see which firmware version you have, and you can change the picture output between NTSC and PAL, which only needs to be done when using the AV cable to connect to a PAL TV.
When playing a game, pressing the menu button will pause the game and give you two options: continue playing or quit, and you can see a small battery icon giving you a vague idea of how much power is left in the battery.
Brightness and volume settings have buttons on the bottom of the console, with ten different levels of brightness and volume available. The gameplay is paused when any of them is pressed.
The screen seems okay to me, I’m no expert but the picture quality definitely does not look that bad. There are two aspect ratios you can choose for it: 16:9 and 4:3. The default ratio is 16:9, however the games were originally in 4:3 (or so I’ve read), so when 16:9 is selected the picture is streched and looks a bit off. You can change the ratio any time while playing, but every time you quit a game or turn the system off it will be reset back to 16:9. The firmware update adds the nice feature that saves your screen setting, and it will only change when you manually change it.
I really can’t say much about the picture quality when the console is connected to a TV as I haven’t really tested that, but at least when I’ve used my laptop as the screen when capturing video using the AV cable, which is just RCA, the picture looks really dark and quite honestly unpleasant to watch. Apparently the RCA picture quality will get even worse after the firmware update. The quality with HDMI is, or should be, better from the start, and should improve after the update.
I have hardly any previous experience with arcade sticks, so I cannot really comment on the quality on the one that comes in this package. It appears to be an OK controller, but I can’t really get into more detail about any good or bad features.
Charging the console is handled slightly differently than one might expect. Before the separate charging cable was made available, the process was a bit more complicated than just plugging a charger into a power socket. First you need to insert the console into the docking station while both are turned off. (For some reason I have great trouble when I’m trying to push the console into the three connectors at the back. It feels like they just won’t fit into the holes they’re supposed to go in.) Then you need to turn the docking station on and it should start charging. But here’s the interesting bit: If you now connect the docking station to a TV or whatever, you will find that the system is actually turned on and you can play the games on your TV, even when the power switch on the console itself is still in the off-position and you’d logically think the console is therefore off. So the console is automatically powered on to charge it, that’s kinda odd if you ask me.
The docking station is just a plastic shell with little connectors at the back and front so you can connect the handheld and the arcade stick to it and plug it into the mains. Now this is the thing about this product that almost makes me want to both laugh and cry at the same time: the menu button on the station is not connected to anything, it’s basically just a bit of plastic that pushes down on the actual menu button on the handheld, and 95% of the time nothing happens because apparently I’m not pushing it down with enough force. I need to push the button down really hard and at an angle until I can hear a little click and then the menu is displayed on the TV. If you want to access the menu when you’re playing on your TV, just open up the docking station and press the button on the handheld, the one on the top of the station is almost useless.
The directional pad on the handheld is the source of the biggest complaints I have about this product. The first thing is that it makes the most annoying and really loud clicking sound when you use it (the sound could be the result of a failed attempt to try to emulate the one made by a classic arcade stick). The second complaint is that sometimes the pad gets stuck when it’s pushed far enough in one direction, which is the worst thing that can happen besides a situation where it’s not working at all. When it gets stuck I have to push it as far as it goes in the direction it’s stuck in to release it. I don’t know how common this issue is, but at least for me it makes the games almost unplayable sometimes, which is the last thing you’d want.
Game saving will become available only after the firmware is updated. This is such a basic feature that it should have been possible from the moment the console is taken out of the box.
And of course the only way you can get the firmware update is by buying a game card, it has not been made available for free to people who have already bought the system (as far as I know), which would be the right thing to do. But no, you have to spend more money to make the console work like it should have been working from the start.
So, at the end of the day, would I recommend this product? If you want a legal way of getting a handheld Neo Geo console and you can get all this stuff dirt cheap, then you might as well try it out. For people that are used to modern consoles this system will most likely be a bit of a disappointment. If the problem I have with the directional pad is common, it’s very frustrating or even pointless to use the system as a handheld. With the arcade stick the playability can be much better, but in that case the portability aspect is a moot point. Most, if not all, of the system’s games have been released in various compilations over the years for other reasonably modern consoles, so it might be a better idea to buy them for those systems instead, rather than spending money on a rather poor product and being kind of stuck with a console whose game collection you can’t expand beyond 36 games.
I’m guessing Tommo tried to make an impressive retro handheld with all these classic SNK games, but to be honest it seems the most impressive thing about this product is that SNK actually approved its release and allowed their name to be on something as poorly designed as this system is. However, some time after the console’s release SNK did try to stop the manufacturing of new units and the selling of the ones already in stores, so there we have some kind of a hint about how they feel about the system.
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