Ok, here we go:
Is there the english expression "barrel burst" for gadgets like this ? If there is, then the NGX is one. The idea behind the system was great and while part of technical realization went quite well, other (crucial) parts are a complete failure.
The unpacking experience is great. A large glossy box with two white cardboard boxes inside. On includes the handheld and the docking station while the other contains the stick and the bonus game card. The white cardboard boxes are a clear ode to the white boxes used for the official AES accessoires back in the day. The people designing those knew what they were doing. The SNK branded stickers used to sell the boxes are a nice extra and it's just fun unpacking the system.
The docking station makes a solid impression. The closing mechanism works better than expected. Unfortunately there are no LED indicators anywhere, so you're prone to forget to turn the system off now and then. The base is considerably smaller than a real AES. It's about the size of a Mega Drive / Genesis (model 1). Why they used a Mini HDMI connector on the dock - I've got no clue. Fortunately a Mini to Standard HDMI cable is included.
The handheld has a rubberized back with a shiny SNK logo right in the middle. Feels great ! The unit is much nice than expected. The buttons and the controller feel good. The controller has a thud click to it. The micro switches on the Neo Geo Pad controller (also the PS2/3 versions) are better. The L buttons are used to switch between 4:3 with native line mapping and 16:9 full screen and the R buttons are used to Pause. Brightness and volume controls are on the bottom.
Ok, first try on the handheld. The unit boots up without any sound, then you get to the menu where you chose your game. Click on it and the game loads (3-5 seconds). Play!
The graphics are kinda ok. Nowhere as pixel perfect as a good emu on a PSP. Set to 16:9 the graphics get quite blurry and set to 4:3 the graphics looks aggressively sharpened. The handheld forces a 4:3 ratio although the original Neo Geo does not utilitze square pixels. This causes some scaling on the horizontal, even when set to 4:3. The music sounds ok, but many of the sound FX have a high pitch to them - something I don't recall from my MVS.
Next, the handheld inside the docking station. The unit connects through Mini-HDMI, a 3.5mm jack and a USB connector at the same time, so it's not THIS easy to get it fit properly. Once it's in, you can close the dock and switch the console on through the front button.
The Sticks are replicas of the AES originals, but not as good. They are VERY light, even lighter than the PS2/3 remakes and those were already lighter than the originals. Buttons and stick are fine though and since you can use them on a PC and on a PS3 as well, they're a bargain !
With the handheld in the dock and stick connected, HDMI into the TV, we're ready to go: *drum rolls* oh, what a disappointment ! 480p quality through HDMI is somewhere between s-video and RGB through a crappy
scaler. The line alignment is off (224 lines are scaled to full 480p), edges are blurry and there's some tearing caused by the framerate conversion from 59.1 to 59.94Hz without VSync. At least the emulation feels very responsive without any noticeable lag. (Na, strike that. Played ASO2 and it feels pretty laggy - at least with the combined lag from the emulation and the TV).
Directly connected to my Sony TV I can't get any sound from the HDMI port. I checked on the bed room TV (a Samsung) and there it works, so it's a sample frequency issue and other TVs might also not deliver sound. Analogue stereo should be available though from the back of the dock at the same time.
Through the framemeister I was able to overlay scanlines, but since the scaling is off (alignment!), the scanlines help only little to cover all the bluriness going on.
So, what do I think ?
The NGX is a great idea, with a great approach. The unpacking experience rocks and the look and feel is nice. But the technical implementation is shoddy at best though and if you ask me, there won't be any more games coming for this
It might make a nice collector's item though - just because it's SNK branded Magician Lord - 4:3 - without scanlines.Magician Lord - 4:3 - with scanlines.