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Hardware Review: Analogue Interactive CMVS Slim and Arcade Stick

Posted by Damien McFerran

A different class of console

When we went hands-on with Analogue Interactive’s amazing 100% walnut consolised MVS a few months back, we were amazed at both the workmanship involved and the mind-blowing retro gaming possibilities. The company managed to break into an extremely niche sector of the console hardware market with a machine that looked as good as it performed, and the launch enabled many to experience SNK’s amazing hardware for the first time ever.

Unsurprisingly, that initial batch of machines sold out pretty swiftly. However, the interest shown in the venture has encouraged Analogue Interactive to have another stab, this time with a few improvements. The result is the CMVS Slim, a revised version of the previous model.

The difference in size between the two models is actually very little; the 'Slim' in the name refers more to the reduction in the number of outputs on the rear of the machine. While the original model had a dizzying array of different ports and sockets, the CMVS Slim has a single plug which is capable of carrying a wide range of TV signals — including RGB SCART, S-Video and Component.

Once again, the casing is made of wood. It’s available in two colours this time around, with the original brown being joined by a jet black (officially known as “Ebony Ash”) variant. This looks especially tasty when placed alongside your other items of consumer electronics, such as hi-fi separates and Blu-ray players.

While the rejigged machine is worth talking about, it’s the other big addition to the Analogue Interactive line-up that's likely to steal your attention. One of the only real criticisms we could level at the first Analogue Interactive CMVS was that the machine didn’t possess a controller that could match its grandeur. Thankfully, that isn’t the case any longer.

Analogue Interactive has come up with what many will see as the perfect controller — and yes, it’s made of wood too. It boasts the traditional four-button Neo Geo setup, with Start and Select buttons located on the back. The stick is a Seimitsu LS-40, which will tell true arcade addicts that they have the best possible interface for this kind of thing. In fact, this is the exact same arrangement you’d find on an original Neo Geo MVS cabinet, right down to the size of the buttons and the placement of each component.

Almost as large as the console itself, the controller really is amazing. Just resting it on your lap is enough to cause hardcore gamer goose-pimples, and the quality of the parts used in its construction is second to none. If your only experience of this kind of controller is one of the many sticks produced to capitalise on the recent popularity of games like Street Fighter IV and Tatsunoko vs Capcom, then you’re likely to be absolutely blown away by Analogue Interactive’s offering. It really is a class above, and will probably last a lifetime.

As was the case with the original Analogue Interactive CMVS, this machine only supports Neo Geo arcade (MVS) cartridges, rather than the domestic (AES) versions. While this might seem like a drawback, it actually isn’t — Neo Geo software was unique in that the home and arcade versions were identical in terms of content; games would automatically switch depending on what hardware they were inserted into. The big difference was the shape of the carts themselves — you cannot insert an AES cart into an MVS machine, and vice versa. It’s also important to remember that only a fraction of the total Neo Geo library is available in AES form, while almost every single game (with the exception of a few Neo Geo CD titles) is available on MVS — and like-for-like examples are usually much cheaper on MVS than they are on AES. In short, the Analogue Interactive CMVS Slim grants access to the most complete selection of Neo Geo games.

Although the CMVS Slim is limited to MVS carts, the inclusion of a UniBios chip inside the machine means that you can toggle between the home and arcade versions of any game you play on it. So a game like Fatal Fury will give you a set number of continues if you play the domestic edition, but switch to the coin-op setting and you can continue indefinitely by loading in more credits. You can also change region settings, enable cheats and listen to in-game music, all from the UniBios menu.

Because Analogue Interactive has streamlined the number of ports on the console's rear, you’ll need to purchase dedicated cables direct from them (the machine ships with an combined S-Video, Composite and stereo sound cable). SCART and Component are also available, giving you the best possible selection of connections. European gamers will be pleased with the quality of the RGB SCART signal (especially if you’re using an old-fashioned CRT for the authentic experience), but in our opinion the Component option is the one to go for. Most people have HD TV sets now, and Component tends to offer the best image quality.

Gaming prowess aside, the fact that this machine is hand-crafted from wood makes it a real talking point, and while your modern machines slowly depreciate as the years go by, the Analogue Interactive CMVS Slim is only going to increase in value.

If this hands-on piece has whetted your appetite for some vintage gaming brilliance, then pay a visit to Analogue Interactive’s site. The CMVS Slim is currently available for order, with a price tag of $649. While that may sound like a lot, but is extremely reasonable when compared to what other amateur modders are selling their hastily-converted CMVS machines for. The Analogue Arcade Stick is $199 — a princely sum and no mistake, but worth every penny if you’re absolutely serious about getting the ultimate Neo Geo experience in your living room.

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User Comments (21)

JimLad

#2

JimLad said:

"When was the last time you saw a console that was almost dwarfed by its controller?"

WiiU

Omega

#3

Omega said:

$649 for a console? $199 for a controller? There are probably no more than five people in the world interested in these things.

And I doubt that the experience of playing games on it is better than playing games on a standard Neo Geo or the Wii or anything else. It's just for people who do not know what to do with all their money.

Ren

#4

Ren said:

gosh this is totally worth it to play some crusty old neo geo games, they've all aged so well.

DamoAdmin

#5

Damo said:

@Omega - Seeing as pre-orders are filling up already and the stick is all but sold out, I think we can assume more than five people are interested in this ;)

DamoAdmin

#8

Damo said:

@Omega ...or perhaps proof that you can't put a price on a pure gaming experience, especially when it comes to joining the Neo Geo club - which is notoriously expensive. $650 for a unique and beautiful hand-carved machine isn't actually that much when you look at what some sellers are asking for their horrible MVS conversions on eBay.

Omega

#9

Omega said:

All right. I think I understand. The Neo Geo Gold Club is a world of exclusive gaming experiences and benefits. It is only "for the few", designed to satisfy members who demand the highest of standards. Right? :-)

joevox316

#10

joevox316 said:

Sadly it's perhaps more likely proof that people don't spend their money as wisely as they could, not that they necessarily have too much of it. Of course, people who own multiple current gen consoles have spent at least this much, if not more. To each their own I suppose.

@Damo Wouldn't a more pure gaming experience be playing, you know, an original Neo Geo? Not this thing? Seems to me that's like saying a pure cheese experience is buying a $600 block of cheddar with flakes of gold in it, rather than going to the grocery for some cheese. (though I don't know how rare home consoles are)

Ren

#11

Ren said:

Perfect analogy! The Neo Geo is literally the overpriced cheese of gaming. if you like playing cheesy, antiquated fighting games or platformers/shooters that have been re-released on modern capable systems, or just believe really strongly that you'll re-capture the arcade experience of old by having a brick in your lap on the floor with 'arcade' buttons and a stiff joystick than surely it's worth dropping almost 1k on it. Go for it!
It's so cool that I'm sure you'd have many mature friends lining up to play multiplayer with you since it's so popular and well known amongst everyday people. Look out Wii Sports!
(clearly it's not for me, but someone wants it)

DamoAdmin

#12

Damo said:

@joevox316eo As I explained in the feature, the Neo Geo AES (the home system) didn't get all of the Neo Geo library. Some games remained exclusive to the MVS (arcade) system. The only way to play these carts is to purchase a MVS unit, and SNK never officially produced those - you have to buy arcade hardware which has been ripped from its original cabinet and modded to run on a standard TV set. If you look on eBay, people are selling very shoddy examples of CMVS units for silly money, and many of those don't boast the dazzling range of outputs that the Analogue Interactive version does.

Another reason to choose MVS over AES is price - games on the latter are usually more expensive than games for the former. As an example, Metal Slug AES can fetch up to $600-$1K depending on condition as it's super-rare, whereas the MVS edition is available for $25-$40.

In short, there's a massive demand for this kind of professionally-produced CMVS system, hence the fact that the original batch of consoles made by Analogue Interactive sold out very quickly, and this second batch was given the go ahead.

Ren

#13

Ren said:

interesting, but I also don't get what this has to do with a "Nintendo" life. Does the retro section mean retro- everything? I'd love to see a Vectrex feature if that's the case.

Omega

#14

Omega said:

Yes, of course. If someone buys a rare Metal Slug for $600 it's a much better game than when you play it for $9 on the Wii. The shabby classic controller is so cheap that you can't enjoy the game the slightest bit.

Oh, and while we are at it: I'd love to see an article about the very limited golden Commodore 64 (screwed on a lovely commemorative plate). It goes for around 5500 Euro on E-Bay but it's worth every cent. You can't play Winter Games on a normal C64 because that is so unworthy. :-)

DamoAdmin

#15

Damo said:

@Ren - We cover all kinds of retro content on Nintendo Life. The Wii Virtual Console supports a wide range of different systems - including the Neo Geo - so it's fair to assume visitors to the site are interested in related features.

@Omega - Metal Slug is just one example. There are hundreds of MVS titles that are unavailable on any other format. And before you assume that the Classic Controller offers the same experience as the Analogue Arcade Stick, be sure to try one first. ;)

Kirk

#16

Kirk said:

The original Neo Geo still looks better imo and I'd rather just get that at a fraction of the cost I assume.

DamoAdmin

#17

Damo said:

@Kirk - The AES is cheaper, but not massively so. It's still an expensive system, and in the long run you will spend more because of the high cost of AES software.

eviLaTtenDant

#18

eviLaTtenDant said:

While at the moment i have no interest in getting it i can see that this system has LOVE written all over it. Great work, Analogue Interactive, you even got me kinda tempted. :)
Very interesting comments as well @Damo.

dizzy_boy

#19

dizzy_boy said:

don`t forget that SNK did make a limited run of neogeo controllers for the wii. as far as i`m aware it never got released outside of japan. but still, it gets things a bit closer to the neogeo experience for wii owners.
the other thing is that snk aren`t exactly going to re-release every game they ever made for the neogeo onto the wii VC are they. so in some respects, if you`re a fan of neogeo games and you have enough cash to buy one, you`re gonna get it.
besides, neogeo`s were expensive back when they were originaly released, i remember only one shop in my town had the aes systems and games. and the games easily sold between £100 - £200. so it`s no suprise that the games and systems are still going to be expensive regardless of being aes or mvs because of them being so hard to get hold of, especialy in good working order.

Omega

#20

Omega said:

@kesley: I prefer a lightweight controller that I can easily hold in my hands. The NeoGeo Arcade Sticks and the likes look like something the Mafia chains to your foot before throwing you into the water. Pretty bulky. :-p

Nintendude92

#21

Nintendude92 said:

Waitwait-- as a fighting game player, why this as opposed to a Madcatz tournament edition stick? Especially when catz has the 8 button layout.

You get the sanwa parts there so I don't see 500 more dollars being justified. If it's the wood or finish aesthetic, I see that, but it's easy to fix up a TE with those guts too

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