NEOGEO mini E3 2018 First Hands-on Preview

SNK Corporation was showing off the NEOGEO mini in public for the first time at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, and I got some thorough hands-on time with the adorable throwback console.

First, here are some up-close and personal shots of the actual mini arcade cabinet itself:

SNK naturally had the NEOGEO mini pad available to use in our play sessions, but only in black – as the controller is coming in both white and black variations:

The actual mini arcade cabinet feels almost weightless, meaning the majority of its construction is probably plastic with very little actual metal or hardware contained inside. This means it’ll be that much more portable for those times you have an extended layover or something.

We had many questions from our fans the moment we posted our initial video for the throwback console, most specifically what kind of hardware is actually running the games. While the SNK reps couldn’t confirm if the unit is NEOGEO-based SoC, it definitely played like authentic hardware.

I played a variety of titles that are included with the unit, including Garou: Mark of the Wolves, The Last Blade 2, Blazing Star, and more. In my professional opinion, I felt no input lag across the variety of games that I played, and neither did the other Niche Gamer staff.

Many people immediately suggest playing on the tiny mini-arcade stick and face buttons looks uncomfortable, or obtuse. It’s actually incredibly responsive and I felt right at home, despite feeling like a giant hunched over a tiny arcade cabinet. If that’s not your thing, there’s a controller as well.

Playing with the mini pad both on the NEOGEO mini itself or displayed to a TV (which you basically have to do when using an external display) also felt natural. The controller is very ergonomic, modern, and yet immediately feels like something you’d find with an old NEOGEO console.

It’s worth pointing out the mini pad connects to the NEOGEO mini via USB-C, not some proprietary connector. Here’s a few videos of us playing the unit itself, and playing it displayed to a TV:

First Hands-on Preview with Garou: Mark of the Wolves

Close-up of Built-in Screen with Blazing Star

External TV Display Gameplay with The Last Blade 2

The built-in LCD screen is something to behold, producing what in my opinion is a pixel-perfect resolution. Despite hunching over and breathing heavy like some kind of madman, I could easily see myself spending way too much time on this thing. I spent a good chunk of my E3 with SNK.

When it comes to displaying classic NEOGEO titles onto a flat-screen TV, the above video will give you an idea of what to expect. The Samsung televisions used for external display were 720p native, combined with the fact that modern flatscreens display older pixel-games improperly.

I’m not saying using a modern flatscreen TV to play your NEOGEO mini is inherently bad, it’s just the technologies are, as we’ve known, generally not friendly to one another without some kind of adapter to retain the aspect ratio and the pixel scaling. It looked fine, but purists might have an issue.

You could say the definitive way to play the NEOGEO mini, and classic NEOGEO titles, is on a 4:3 or similar display. I was honestly blown away by how crisp the games looked on the built-in display, and immediately wished rival throwback consoles did something similar.

Everything about the NEOGEO mini screams nostalgia, from its boot up screen to its menu, its classic NEOGEO-inspired gamepad, its tiny yet pixel-perfect LCD screen, and its roster of classic games. SNK has gone all out with this clear love-letter to their hardcore fans, and I love the thing.

In case you missed it, we broke down the launch roster of titles for both the Japanese NEOGEO mini and the international version, which you can read about here.

The NEOGEO mini is launching on July 24th in Japan, with a worldwide release planned for later this year. While pre-sales were up, the console sold out within an hour and a half! Here’s hoping SNK and their manufacturing partners will be able to meet the crazy demand for its global release.

Brandon Orselli

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Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.