James Matson would like a Neo Geo AES for Christmas. Oh, and a Pony. But mostly a Neo Geo. Or possibly a Neo Geo delivered by Pony. That’d be ace.
The Lamborghini Reventon is a dirty great beast of a car. Coming in at the non-too-cheap price of US$1.5 million it is a machine of complete and utter excess. The Lamborghini line of vehicles is known for being stupendously elite, and the Reventon is at the head of that very exclusive pack with only 20 ever produced (excluding one built purely for exhibition at a museum). As for speed, the Reventon can crank up to 360km/h and won’t break a sweat getting from 0-100km/h in about three and half seconds.
From every angle – price, power, exclusivity – the Lamborghini Reventon is in a class of its own and remains a fanciful day dream for the masses of unwashed non-millionaires who toil away in obscurity each and every day.
In the modern world of games consoles – a landscape where Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft battle – the price points and feature-sets of the three current generation systems are more or less within grasping reach of each other, but back at the dawn of the 90s, the landscape was different, more exotic.
There was a Lamborghini Reventon growling at the gates of the consumer marketplace.
It’s name, was the Neo Geo AES.
At a 1990 US release price of US$649.99, the SNK developed AES was not for the empty of wallet. (To put this in context, the SNES would be released shortly after at a launch price of US$200 or thereabouts). Everything about the AES was sheer, pure, overkill. It presented itself as a massive slab of imposing black plastic, and the stock controller was another imposing slab of black plastic with a stick and buttons to mimic the machines arcade heritage. The cartridges could barely be called that, giant hulking ridiculously expensive constructs of PCB that they were.
Shoving an AES cartridge into the console slot took strength, power and determination. Super Nintendo and Megadrive games were for normal people.
AES carts were for Demi-Gods and Casanovas, and carried an average price of US$199.
The stupendous power of the AES didn’t stop at its imposing facade or sky high price, the machine was an unrelenting powerhouse under the hood. Throwing 4096 colours on screen and capable of displaying 380 sprites at once, the AES was so bad-arse it didn’t even use background tiling like other consoles of the era. No way, the AES just utilised sprites themselves to simulate the background. Really, really big (16 x 512) sprites. Without a shadow of hyperbole, the Neo Geo AES was like having an arcade in your home. Hell, it was an arcade in your home. Capable of rendering to beautiful perfection some of the best 2D fighting franchise the gaming world has ever seen (King of Fighters, anyone?) the AES was an exclusive and unique machine. The platform for the gamer who had everything.
Of course, the heyday of the AES has long past. The world has moved on, and new machines have come and gone. The Neo Geo AES however, has lost very little of its appeal, its perceived power, or its price tag. Still considered a coveted console to have in any retro game fan’s line-up, the AES commands a price tag to match the desire. The games – while reasonably easy to find on eBay – command dollars ranging from the slightly uncomfortable to the downright absurd.
But we’ll let you in on a secret; it’s all worth it.
That’s right, we’re willing to go out on a limb here and say that in the case of the AES – unlike so many things in life – you are getting exactly what you pay for. You’ll lose money, you’ll fight with your significant other, you’ll sell vital organs that a shady alleyway doctor assures you the human body can survive without. You’ll do all this, and smile lovingly at your shiny new AES as it boots up with messages like “GIGA POWER PRO-GEAR SPEC” or “THE 100 MEGA SHOCK!”, as though re-affirming to you its ridiculous power through the use of power words and capital letters.
And you’re going to love every minute of it. So we apologise for the fact you’re broke. We’re truly sorry you’re loved ones have abandoned you for making reckless choices and blowing a wad of cash to build up a Neo Geo AES collection. We’re really cut up about it.
But as you ram that fat slab of cartridge into the AES with purpose, as you’re greeted by an aural and visual feast to rival the best arcade cabinets of the era, you wont’ be mad at us.
You’ll be thankful.
GIGA PRO POWER SPEC THANKFUL.