Here is some info about the little retro system by SNK and Tommo, and some thoughts I’ve had when using it.
I’ll try to add screen captures and write small reviews about the games someday.
(To be honest I haven’t really used this console at all after the first few times of trying it out, and definitely not after I got a New Nintendo 3DS XL...)
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.
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 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. The screen’s default aspect ratio is 16:9, however the games were originally in 4:3 (or so I’ve read), so the picture is streched and looks a bit off. You can change the ratio any time when playing the games, but every time you quit a game or turn the system off it will be reset back to 16:9. Why the screen is even capable of displaying anything other than 4:3 is what I would like to know. Are people these days always after the widescreen format, even though in this case it only works against the user? Most likely it’s just because Tommo couldn’t get supply of a cheap screen in any other size.
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.
Charging the console is handled in a way that could be a lot less painful. 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 have the console and the docking station and both should be turned off, then insert the console into the docking station. (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 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 the 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 you aren’t pushing 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 direction 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.
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, 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. Super lame.
So, at the end of the day, would I recommend these products? If you want a legal way of getting a handheld Neo Geo console and if you can get all this stuff dirt cheap, then you might as well try it out. As a home console used with a TV it most likely fails your expectations, especially if you’re used to modern consoles.
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 (they must have tested it beforehand) and allowed their name to be on something as poorly designed as this system is.
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