Hardware Review: NeoSD AES Flash Cartridge

Hardware-Review-NeoSD-AES-Flash-CartridgeUnless you've won the lottery or happen to belong to a family that's rich in oil reserves, the chances of owning a totally complete Neo Geo AES collection are depressingly slim. The cult console may not have a massive library of games but some of its more desirable or rarer titles have price tags comfortably in the thousands, making ownership a real badge of honour among retro players.

Given this fact, it's quite a surprise that it has taken this long for somebody to create a truly amazing flash cartridge for the console. Late last year Spanish team TerraOnion began shipping the NeoSD, which is available in both AES (home) and MVS (arcade) versions and allows you to play any Neo Geo ROM on your console straight from a MicroSD card. The main benefit of such a cartridge is obvious; you can have the entire Neo Geo library of games at your fingertips without having to remortgage your home.

The Future Is Now

Powered by FPGA chips and built to an impeccable standard, the NeoSD is a breeze to use. The only real effort is converting ROMs into the supported ".neo" format, but TerraOnion kindly supplies an application which does all of this for you (it's PC-only at the moment, so Mac users beware). Once this process is complete, you simply load the converted files onto a FAT32-formatted MicroSD and insert it into the NeoSD cartridge. Bingo.

When booting up your Neo Geo, holding down the Start button presents a complete list of games stored on the card, and pressing A begins the transfer process which pushes the game data to the cartridge's 768 Mbits of internal flash memory –that's large enough to hold the biggest official Neo Geo title, in case you were wondering.

The flashing process is quite long for bigger games – a few minutes in some cases – but there doesn't currently seem to be a way around this from a technical viewpoint. It's certainly not a deal-breaker anyway, and once the game is flashed to the internal memory it will load instantly the next time you boot up the console. Dropping back to the game list requires you to press Start when booting up your machine or holding Start + A + D for around 3 to 5 seconds when the machine is turned on.


Neo Geo on a Budget

And that's about all there is to it. The NeoSD doesn't require a lot of effort to get up and running which leaves you more time to focus on playing these amazing slices of 2D brilliance while feeling smug about all the moolah you're saving in the process. Sure, the initial outlay is eye-watering – the NeoSD AES cart costs a whopping $489.99 (around £350) – but when you think that Metal Slug could cost you in excess of $19,000 (£13,000) on AES, the price becomes easier to stomach.

This is, of course, dependant on how badly you want to own these games in their original form; the more cost-conscious among you may wish to save yourselves the financial burden and simply purchase the wide range of Neo Geo games currently available on the Nintendo Switch eShop (Metal Slug is just over a fiver on there, for comparison's sake).

For a serious Neo Geo nut, the idea of playing these titles purely via emulation is unconscionable, so the NeoSD still has a massive potential market available to it. If you simply have to experience these games on original hardware but lack the required reserves of cash to properly amass a collection, then this really is the best option; what you miss out on in terms of physical terms (Neo Geo boxes are lovely) you more than make up for in terms of convenience and general well-being; those of you with wives or families will know how difficult it is to justify spending thousands of pounds on a single game which you can purchase for the price of a sandwich via digital download services.

Thanks to Stone Age Gamer for supplying the NeoSD cartridge used in this review.

Link: NeoSD Official Website

Last Updated ( 15 April 2018 )  

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