by Dark Watcher
Through the 1990s SNK was ruling the arcades. Their cartridge based Neo Geo AES made their arcade hits playable at home, but the high
price tag kept it out of the hands of many gamers. With other consoles switching game formats, SNK saw an opportunity to also use the
large storage capacity of the CD to make their hit carts cheaper to manufacture. Of course this would make games more affordable to
the general gaming public.
In 1994 SNK released the Neo Geo CD in Japan and shortly after in the U.S. The Neo Geo CD did the job of making SNK titles affordable and the cheaper storage medium allowed new features to be added to existing titles such as improved music, art galleries, hidden goodies and new play modes.
Even with the cheaper cost, the console was plagued with unbearable load times. The Neo Geo CD sported a single speed CD-ROM that had trouble loading larger game titles. This hurt console sales severely. SNK attempted to reduce game sizes and load times by removing some game frames, but in doing so also reduced the games overall quality. In 1996 SNK took steps to speed up the console by adding a double speed CD-ROM. The redesigned unit called Neo Geo CDZ was released in limited quantities in Japan only. The console did speed games up somewhat, but had a design flaw that caused the console to overheat after limited game play.
Eventually SNK would find the newer consoles better capable of handling ports of their games. Support for the console was
dropped soon after with the company later filing for bankruptcy.
The Neo Geo CD would have done better if released sooner. The console did however see a few exclusives never released in their arcade cabinets. One such game called Samurai Spirits RPG took characters from their hit fighting title and placed them in turn based RPG combat.
FACT: SNK's first Neo Geo CD designs was a front loading model. Only 25,000 units were distributed throughout Japan. It is a hot rarity that is still being sought after by importing collectors.