Hardware Review: Analogue Interactive's Wooden Neo Geo MVS

A wooden good 'un

While we're a Nintendo site first and foremost, we obviously don't mind reporting on other sectors of the gaming universe. SNK's Neo Geo system is a particular favourite (just try and prise our resident Neo lover Corbie Dillard away from his beloved cab, we dare you) and when we reported on Analogue Interactive's amazing wooden Consolised Neo Geo MVS console a while back, it's fair to say that many of you appreciated hearing the news – as well as being impressed by 100% walnut casing and clean, hand-crafted lines.

We're pleased to report that we're one of the first sites on the face of the planet to get our hands on this wonder machine – in fact, in our clammy palms we currently have the only available example in the world. Pre-orders are open and production is due to ramp up later this month, but in the meantime we're here to tell you why you should be saving those pennies and ordering one of these wooden wonders.

Analogue Interactive's unique machine is based on SNK's Neo Geo MVS (Multi Video System) arcade hardware. The only element that Analogue has manufactured from scratch is the wooden casing – the innards are taken from an MVS arcade unit, many of which are still in active service for public play all over the globe.

A brief history lesson is probably in order at this juncture. To cut a long story short, SNK released two different versions of its popular Neo Geo hardware at the dawn of the 1990s. MVS was intended for arcades, while AES (Advanced Entertainment System) was for home use. The software for these two formats is identical – only the carts themselves are physically different.

The reason for this is that back in the early '90s, AES software was cheaper than MVS software – a move made by SNK to prevent unscrupulous arcade operators from using AES carts in MVS machines (thereby making a bigger profit margin thanks to the cheaper games). However, these days the situation is reversed – MVS carts are very common while the AES versions (which had low print runs and came with proper packaging) can often reach insane prices. For example, the PAL AES edition of Kizuna Encounter is worth thousands of dollars.

Because of this pricing disparity, many Neo Geo fans prefer to collect MVS games as it allows them to enjoy the system's library without having to resort to selling a kidney or remortgaging the family home. While it's possible to play MVS carts on an AES system using a converter, it's not an entirely reliable approach – titles with sprite scaling end up with corrupted graphics while others have glitchy visuals and sound. Bearing this in mind, it's easy to see why the MVS avenue is so appealing.

Analogue Interactive's CMVS is unique in the field firstly because it's pretty easy on the eye. Most CMVS system are rough-looking to say the least; they usually consist of bare circuit boards, plastic cart connectors and a jungle of wires. This is understandable when you consider that the MVS hardware has to be ripped from an arcade cabinet, modded to run on a standard television set and given an appropriate power supply, but for those of us that take pride in the gaming devices beneath our TVs, the typical MVS is always going to seem a bit naked.

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