Second only to actually playing awesome retro video games is making them look ‘new again’. I recently had my favorite print shop (Lamin-8) print up 12 covers for some of my loose SNK Neo Geo and NES game cartridges.
Even before these covers got put into cases they look great. If I had more wall space I think these would make great posters for the game room.
First up are the mighty Neo Geo MVS Shockboxes. These beasts are very large and beautiful!
There is something about giant electronics packed in really large plastic cases that just screams RETRO. But if you have played some of the best the Neo Geo has to offer then you know that SNK’s old slogan still holds true: The Future is Now.
Unfortunately something happened with the print job for Captain Tomaday and it printed much too small for the Shockbox case. I’ll have to revisit the Captain next time when I have more covers to print.
Next up are eight covers for some of my NES cartridges. Although not entirely authentic these lined up BitBoxes look so much nicer than loose carts.
With the exception of Kid Icarus I’ve managed to find manuals for these games.
Two parts authentic and one part aftermarket. Not bad.
What really helps with these aftermarket BitBoxes is that the cover art is the same artwork that you’ll find on an authentic NES cardboard box. Giving the final product very authentic look despite being a very different style case.
Beautiful. I could just stare at these all day. Who’s with me?!
So my Sega Dreamcast just got a healthy injection of post-Dreamcast-era games. Thanks to Indie developer NG:DEV.TEAM I now have Gunlord, Fast Strikers and Last Hope which were ported from their original platform on the Neo Geo AES and the Neo Geo MVS.
Despite hearing very good things about Gunlord I kept passing on the Dreamcast version which was previously selling for about 50 EUR. Which is radically cheaper than the Neo Geo versions which sell for about 400 EUR (~$440 USD, $574 CAD).
After what must have been months I finally I snapped out of crazy and I surfed my way back to ngdevdirect.com to get a copy only to realize that it was gone…
Some time has passed since then and Gunlord has returned in a bundle with Fast Strikers and Last Hope. By the time I found this bundle the original price was reduced from 102 EUR to 79 EUR and I knew it was time. Even though I was really only after Gunlord I felt that the extra money for two additional games was worth the risk considering I have never played any these titles before.
In addition to a more attractive price the cases were changed from the original DVD cases to really beautiful jewel cases that make this release look just like original Japanese Dreamcast games (Complete with a manual and a transparent spine). Inside and out all three games really do look fantastic.
So far I have played one of these new additions, (the main event) Gunlord. Before owning the game I was unsure of the quality and hopeful it would be a cool platformer. I was even more worried that it might be much too hard consider it’s heritage of coming first from the Neo Geo.
My first experience with Gunlord was really awesome. It is a really fun ‘run and gun’ platformer. It is not too difficult and a blast to play. You get a health bar, extra lives and a bunch of continues. The controls are perfect and you have a very good variety of weapons and skills. Everything is there to have a really enjoyable experience your first time out while at the same time veterans will have a serious challenge on their hands if they’re looking for a crazy high score or a 1CC (One Credit Clear).
Have a look at this Classic Game Room Review to see Gunlord in action:
About six months ago I discovered a user on the forums at neo-geo.com by the handle shadowkn55 who makes very high quality replacement labels for Neo Geo MVS cartridges. At that time I purchased eleven label which really improved the look of those games. All those details can be seen here.
More recently I purchased another batch of labels and I’ve managed to clean four carts and apply the new stickers. And again the transformation is awesome.
Nice new labels by shadowkn55 from neo-geo.com.
Above are brand new reproduction labels for Bang Bang Busters, Ironclad, Kizuna Encounter and Super Sidekicks 3. When you see the images below you’ll know why I decided the original labels had to go.
The new and the old.
Beat up labels or entirely missing labels!
For starters both Bang Bang Busters and Ironclad are games that were originally developed for the Neo Geo but never actually got released. It was only later when the ROMs were found in the wild that people started putting the games on cartridges. Which is why these two games didn’t have any labels at all.
Bang Bang Busters is an excellent game that is very similar to Snow Brothers. Ironclad is also a good game and is very similar to R-Type; complete with charged shot and a detachable pod. I haven’t beaten these games but they feel very complete and polished. They are really nice additions to my Neo Geo collection.
On the Kizuna Encounter label you can see two tears; one tear to the left of the title and one to the right. Originally the sale SNK game cartridges were restricted to a particular region and the carts could be tracked by their serial numbers. So if someone who purchased a game later wanted to sell it they would often remove the serial number so that SNK could not track the cart back to them. Seeing two tears like this is pretty common on Neo Geo MVS carts.
The label on Super Sidekicks 3 looks like it might have already been a reproduction. It did not have rounded corners, seemed to be thinner paper and was matt like regular paper (That’s just a guess). That suspicion combined with how beat up the label was made it easy for me to decide to replace it.
Looking almost like new!
Above is the final product. I love it. They look fantastic. I’m always a little conflicted when altering an original product but I feel the two labels I removed here were beat up enough to warrant the reproduction labels.
All these many years I have really taken for granted that my Sega Genesis and Sega Mega Drive games come with solid plastic cases. These cases (a.k.a. clam shells or or snap-cases) not only protected the games from damage but they also make them look great. NES and SNES games with their original cardboard boxes are often heavily damaged or just missing entirely. When we were kids and when these games were new we just didn’t care enough to preserve them.
Today there are options; some of which I explored previously with case protectors and bitboxes.
More recently I was really happy to find second-hand ‘Shockboxes’ (snap-cases) for my growing number of Neo Geo MVS cartridges.
Previously when I have purchased new Shockbox cases from Southtown-Homebrew each case with cover art ended up costing me about $15 CAD after the exchange rate and shipping costs from the USA. Admittedly they are expensive which is why I can’t buy as many as I’d like as often as I’d like too. So I was excited to find a bunch of them from a fellow collector. After buying these 18 used cases and having a local print shop print and cut the cover art I’m at about $10 per case. It’s a good chunk of change but still noticeably gentler on the wallet.
Genesis/Mega Drive next to Neo Geo MVS
Did I say there were big? ‘Cause they’re really big. Above you can see both an open and closed Shockbox to get an idea of how they open. They are very similar to Walt Disney VHS tape cases.
For fun I included ESWAT for the Japanese Sega Mega Drive so you can really see the difference between a true arcade video game cart and a typical home system cart. You’ll also see custom Mini Marquees for NAM-1975 and Samurai Shodown V that I made not too long ago.
Cover Art Inserts
Above is a giant pile of beautiful and freshly printed cover inserts for my newly aquired Southtown-Homebrew Big Bear Shockboxes. There are more here than I currently have Shockboxes for but I do have another 8 Shockboxes en route! Also purchased from another collector.
And here is the finished product. I am glad I had the print shop trim the cover art inserts. I tried cutting two myself and I could get the job done but it was never perfect. It’s also a fair bit of work sliding these inserts into the cases. They are a very tight fit and it takes some time and patience to maneuver them right into the bottom and into the corners.
When I’m ready to buy more I will go back to southtown-homebrew.com. I’ve purchased many Shockboxes and inserts from them in the past and they always do a great job. If you’re in the USA and spending USD then shopping at southtown-homebrew.com is a no brainer. They offer awesome products paired up with excellent service. It’s really hard to find Shockboxes used and locally so I am very glad that southtown-homebrew.com constantly has stock.
I’ve really enjoyed fixing up my Neo Geo MVS Arcade cabinet. At this point all of the really important stuff like the PCB, joysticks, buttons, monitor and sound are working great. So before I tackle why my Memory card isn’t always seen by the Neo Geo I’d like to do something a bit more fun and something that will help make the cabinet a little bit more pretty.
In an arcade cabinet where you’re able to play one of four games you need a way to select your game of choice. Across the top of my Neo Geo MVS arcade cabinet is a marquee made up of four Mini Marquees. A Mini Marquee is really just a small poster displaying the name of the game and some artwork to give you a quick idea of what it might be. Pressing the Neo Geo’s Select button will cycle between each game lighting up the currently selected poster/game so that it is illuminated and stands out from the rest.
Four games ready to go. Bust-A-Move, NAM-1975, Metal Slug X and Samurai Shodown.
Even though it’s entirely unnecessary I would like to have a Mini Marquee for each game I have. So when I switch cartridges I can also slide in a Mini Marquee that will match the game.
Below are a few that I’ve made. Keep in mind I can’t take any credit. All I’ve done is some cutting and pasting of other peoples work. I searched the Internet for a large high resolution image that I liked for a particular game and make it the backdrop. I would then find a high resolution title for the game and paste it on top.
You can click on any of these custom Mini Marquee’s to see the full sized image that is ready for printing.
I’ve had a bunch of these mini marquees printed on 12mm backlit film. They are 4.44 inches by 5.44 inches and they cost about $8 CAD each. It’s not cheap but it really makes the cabinet look excellent.
So far I’ve whipped up four Metal Slug Mini Marquees. I think they all look great thanks to the high resolution artwork and graphics available online.
Metal Slug Mini Marquee
Metal Slug X (a remake of Metal Slug 2) Mini Marquee
Metal Slug 3 Mini Marquee
Metal Slug 5 Mini Marquee
NAM-1975 turned out really well. I was concerned that it might be too dark to see well when it’s not lit up but as it turns out it looks great in both states. Same with Metal Slug 5 (above). It’s a dark image but it is still clear and easy to see and read.
NAM-1975 Mini Marquee
Burning Fight printed very well. I just wish I could get the Title a bit larger without loosing quality but the source is not big enough. I also wish there was a better place to position the title so that it’s not covering faces. So far this is the best I’ve come up with.
Burning Fight Mini Marquee
There are so many King of the Fighter games (KOF 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003) that I’ll start with one mini marquee as generic as possible to represent the series. I had this one printed and I think it looks excellent!
The King of the Fighters Mini Marquee
Ninja Commando is one of the more recent Mini Marquee that I’ve worked on. This one was tough. I had to remove the Title from the image (which was in the upper right corner) and cover up what I cut out. I used Photoshop’s smudge feature to blend the yellow to orange covering the white gap I left after cutting out the title. When I get a chance to print it I’ll know for sure if it will be good enough. Typically the bright and vibrant images always look great when both lit and not lit.
Ninja Commando Mini Marquee
I tried really hard to find a sharp and large resolution title for Ninja Master’s but I just couldn’t do better than what’s below. I very slightly increased the size of the title image, placed it on the background image and sent if off to the print shop. Both Ninja Master’s Mini Marquees printed really well. Turns out the title image is just fine. I’m really happy with these two. There is only one Ninja Master’s game but I could not decide which mini marquee image I liked more so I printed both.
Ninja Master’s Mini Marquee
Ninja Master’s Mini Marquee
There are six Samurai Shodown games for the Neo Geo (SS1, SS2, SS3, SS4, SS5, SS5 Special). So just like King of the Fighters I started by making one as generic as possible for use with any Samurai Shodown game.
There is a lot of really nice artwork out there for this series. It was easy to find a bunch that look really good.
Samurai Shodown Mini Marquee
Samurai Shodown Mini Marquee
Samurai Shodown Mini Marquee
Pretty much any artwork you find for Neo Geo games was drawn for one particular edition of a game. This one above was meant for Samurai Shodown 5 so when I found a good high resolution title I made it again.
Samurai Showdown 5 Mini Marquee
This one below was also too cool not to use!
Samurai Shodown 5 Mini Marquee
Bust-A-Move is pretty good but it’s lower resolution does show a bit. When printed the title suffers the most. I will try to find something better but it does print OK and I will use it.
Bust-A-Move Mini Marquee
Just like Bust-A-Move, the image quality of Crossed Swords is a little on the low side. But since I’ve been playing and really enjoying this game I decided to print it anyways. As it turns out it printed very well and looks very nice in the cabinet. The title is a bit hard to read but that’s mostly because of the font and not because of the image itself.
Crossed Swords Mini Marquee
I’ve made others but above are the only ones that I think are worth printing. Eventually I’d like to have at least one Mini Marquee for each of my Neo Geo MVS games.
Below are some that I’ve printed. They look as good under close inspection as they appear here. I think they turned out really well.
The first printed batch.
World Heros in the image above isn’t good enough yet. The title is just too small. I’ll have to find a better source.
The second print batch.
Unfortunately taking a picture while they’re lit doesn’t really work. But in real life these Mini Marquees are working perfectly; just like the old originals.
A closer look at the new Mini Marquee’s in Big Red.
A closer look at a few others.
Original Neo Geo Mini Marquees.
Above are what original MVS Mini Marquees look like. In addition to the name of the game and some artwork you would also find instructions on how to play the game. I like the cleaner look of the custom Mini Marquees that I’ve made. However, I understand that some people will always prefer more authentic reproductions.
I tried recording each marquee getting lit-up but video also has the same trouble as pictures. In this short video below each Mini Marquee looks washed out when it’s lit. But in person this is not the case. They keep their vibrance and detail while been illuminated.
For a good long while now I’ve found a very nice distraction in playing and collection games for the Neo Geo MVS.
**Disclamer** I hope you’re immune to ‘drawn-out’ and boring… because I’m about to get real wordy.
For anyone not familiar with the Neo Geo there are two primary flavors of the original hardware.
Neo Geo MVS stands for Neo Geo Multi Video System (MVS). This is the version found in the arcades (throughout the 90’s mostly) in a classic 225lbs upright cabinet. Many Neo Geo arcade cabinets could support more than one game at a time. Either 2, 4 or 6. Allowing a player to select one of the installed cartridges(games) to play. There is also a version of Neo Geo arcade cabinet that can hold only one game at a time which was instead called Neo Geo System.
My Big Red: Neo Geo MVS 4-Slot Arcade Cabinet
Shortly after the release of the Neo Geo MVS came the Neo Geo AES; which stands for Advanced Entertainment System. This version is the in the form of a classic video game console that plugs into your home television. The hardware and games are identical. The AES will play the exact same games with the same performance as the arcade MVS systems.
This was my Neo Geo AES before I sold it. I still miss it!
However the cartridges for the MVS and the AES are different sizes and are not interchangeable. If you have a Neo Geo MVS you need to buy MVS cartridges and if you have the Neo Geo AES you need to buy AES home cartridges (there are adapters but I wont get into that today).
I decided to switch from collecting AES game to MVS games because MVS carts are so much cheaper. They’re still not cheap but with very few exceptions MVS carts are a good magnitude cheaper than AES carts.
And you can bring the price down a little bit more if you’re willing to purchase nasty beat up carts; which are sometimes referred to as ‘gamer condition’ carts.
And that is exactly what I do. Check out the image below… NASSSTTTYYY!!
Bonafide Gamer Condition MVS Carts!
The games work perfectly but the plastics are scratched, marked and dirty. And the labels are in worse shape. Some you can’t even read anymore and Art of Fighting Path of the Warrior is actually labeled incorrectly as World Heroes (Top left). But saving anywhere from $20-$40 USD (or more) per game I feel is worth it.
As I continued to collect Neo Geo games I discovered shadowkn55 over on the neo-geo.com forums who sells beautiful reproduction labels for $1 USD each. Not only are these labels brand new but they look just like the original MVS labels. The quality is perfect.
shadowkn55 reproduction labels.
Now I have a way to restore these carts into reasonably good condition.
But I do have a few reservations. After spending some time on the neo-geo.com forums I’ve learned that a lot of people really want to keep these carts stock and not change them in any way. I understand this point of view and I feel it has merit. The three games in the middle (The Last Blade, KOF96 and KOF2003) have labels that are not terrible. They’re not good but they’re mostly whole and I can still read them easily.
Should they have been replaced or should I have left them alone?
As it turns out I did feel it was better to replace them. And I think they are looking very nice. But this is something I keep in mind when I buy new labels. I want to be sure the cart really needs a replacement. Because I would prefer to have an original label if possible.
It took a lot of effort to remove most of the old labels. I must have spent 10 minutes scratching at each one with my thumb nail. Once the paper was mostly gone I found that rubbing a little bit of WD-40 where the label was did a great job at removing the left over residue.
Replacement Reproduction labels by shadowkn55.
Close up of New Labels.
**As it turns out the King of the Fighters 2003 is actually a bootleg version and not authentic. Thanks to a fellow gamer who commented below about this. I’ve since sold this boot for $25 and I got myself an authentic version to replace it.**
I think they look great and I’m very happy I did this. For this selection of games only one had a serial number on the cart. And I saved that challenge for last.
You can see that The King of the Fighters 2003 (Top Center) had a small yellow sticker on the original label with it’s serial number. Normally serial numbers are a part of the label just like the title but SNK was very inconsistent and you’ll see them doing many different things with their carts.
This time it worked out very well for me. I was able to use a blow drier to heat and cleanly remove the yellow serial number sticker and apply it to the reproduction label. This allowed me to preserve the serial number instead of losing it. *I wish I had thought of using the blow dryer sooner on every label and not just this serial number sticker. **And it’s a bootleg… ah, wasted effort!**
Not all Neo Geo MVS carts had a serial number but if they do it will only ever appear on the cart label and the original cardboard box that it came in.
Click here for an example of a complete MVS kit with matching serial numbers on both the cart label and on the box label.
SNK also used many different colored carts for their games. Not only will you find color changes from title to title but it’s probable that a single title can be found in several different colors. The same is true for cart labels. Most often they are black and white but sometimes you’ll see colored labels and other variations.
Since I was completely removing the old labels I took the time to open the cartridge, remove the two PCBs (Printed Circuit Board) and I completely washed the plastic cart with soap and water. Before applying the new label this would be my only chance to give the cart a very thorough cleaning. Most of them really needed it. Twenty years worth of dust and grime really shows! This cleaning didn’t help the existing scuffs and scratches that are very common on gamer condition cartridges but the cleaning was still very worth while.
Check out these excellent after market storage boxes called Shockboxes.
Now that I have applied these perfect and very authentic looking reproduction labels to each of the carts it’s time to hide this fine work inside some beautiful looking storage boxes called Shockboxes; sold by Southtown Homebrew. You can buy these snapcases in various colors (I always choose black) and you can also purchase a Neo Geo MVS cover sleeve/insert to go with the case.
These Shockboxes are a dream come true for collectors like myself. They give a way to display Neo Geo MVS games and make them look really good. The downside is they are not cheap. Each Shockbox with an insert has cost me about $15 CAD each after shipping. I still need about 20 more but I’ll just have to wait until I can afford them. The current strength of the US dollar to the Canadian really isn’t helping my cause at all!
I sometimes surprise myself at how busy I can keep with my video game collection by doing stuff like this; let alone the time spent playing them. There is a lot of unexpected diversity to this hobby.