Emulation of SNK’s once-state-of-the-art arcade and home console the Neo Geo has been thought to be a done deal for the last couple of years. Emulators like NeoRage X and MAME perfected the emulation of 98% of Neo games ages ago, and the few titles that remained were off limits, due in part to heavy ROM encryption on some of the games, and in part to the emulation community’s self-imposed embargo on the more current releases (new Neo games were still being launched in arcades last year) which might still be commercially viable.

However, a couple of recent events have combined to remove these restrictions, to exciting effect. Firstly, SNK finally shut up shop a couple of months ago, after some difficult years including the failed launch of the Neo Geo Pocket Colour handheld (on which more soon). And secondly, some hardworking emu coders finally cracked the monster encryption on the newer titles (some games comprised 25MB of actual game code and 60MB of encryption data), and on SNK’s closure swiftly released emulators to run the newly-cracked code.

And splendid code it is too. Neo games now playable on your PC for the first time include Capcom’s excellent vertical shooter Strikers 1945, cute horror platformer NightMare In The Dark and the latest edition of SNK’s own long-running King Of Fighters series (King Of Fighters 2000), but the shining jewel is Metal Slug 3. Actually the fourth game in the all-out-blasting series, MS3 continues in much the same vein as the predecessors which almost single-handedly kept the JAMMA-board arcade system alive, but refines and tweaks the formula (every level now has several alternative secret routes and shortcuts, and you get to control a wide variety of vehicles, from a submarine and a robot exoskeleton to a giant ostrich), and cranks up the action to a near-ridiculous degree, with the beleaguered player under such constant heavy assault that the first time Emulation Zone played it, it took 50 credits to reach the end of the game’s five stages.

Fortunately, thanks to emulators like Kawaks and Nebula (Kawaks is the more user-friendly of the two, but Nebula is slightly more stable), and assuming you can handle the mammoth downloads (up to 80MB) required for the game ROMs, you can now get some advance practice in for the highly unlikely event that an arcade within 100 miles of your house has this tremendous game running. SNK’s demise was a tragedy for fans of classic 2D arcade action and old-skool gameplay values, but now you can at least keep the memory, if not the company, alive.


Cartoon carnage in Metal Slug 3.


Not a good time to get your mashed potatoes out.


Emu Zone is the one making the big explosion.





Attack From Mars (Bally, 1995)

Recently the recipient of a major VP graphical makeover, Bally’s Attack From Mars is a superb pinball game which was sadly underexposed on its release in 1995. (Though it did well enough to spawn a sequel, Revenge From Mars, on the last-throw-of-the-dice Pinball 2000 system which failed to save Williams/Bally from closure). Fast-moving and easy to grasp, AFM offers the player lots to do on its deceptively open playfield, and fabulous, orchestral audio thanks to the pioneering DCS sound system.

It’s funny too, as the evil Martians keep up a dialogue with you right the way through the game and the booming narrator does his best to encourage you to defend the Earth and take the battle to the bug-eyed weirdos’ home planet. (Mars. Obviously.) Another great showcase for the power of VP.



(Left) Go on, beat 21 billion, then.


Emulation Zone is brought to you in association with the International World Of Stuart Foundation.