Hardware Review: Analogue Interactive CMVS Slim and Arcade Stick

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.