For my birthday this year, my wife gifted me with an SNK Neo-Geo Arcade Stick Pro! Unfortunately, It was in pre-order at the time. But today, almost a month later, I received my precious package. If you have no clue about what Neo-Geo is, I reviewed an amazing book dedicated to this gaming console and published by Bitmap Books (ネオジオ〜目で楽しむ軌跡, here). So, what is this Arcade Stick? In one sentence, it is a high-quality arcade joystick that houses a Neo-Geo emulator pre-loaded with 20 iconic fighting games! This is the real stuff, not a knock-out, and yes, it is an original SNK product!
It is also possible to disable the emulator, in which case, it becomes one of the best game controllers you can use with your PC (or anything that accepts USB game controllers). There are several cool characteristics to this machine. First, it uses HDMI for its display, so you can use almost any screen to play. It is powered via USB, so no issues on that side either (ah, one down note though: SNK should sip an HDMI cable in the box). One option of the system configuration menu is worth talking about: the image quality. This is a pretty cool feature. Indeed, you can change the way the images are rendered. In general, this is a hard topic to master, especially if the video source is a vintage device. In which case, you will need an up-scaler, like the Micomsoft XRGB3 (here) or have a dedicated modern interface like in Apple ][ forever (here). The Arcade Stick Pro has this taken care of for you since it uses modern circuitry and HDMI as mentioned earlier. To tweak the rendering – looking for the original look and feel –, you can add scanlines for example (see Perfect scanlines, here). Five settings are available in total. By default, the system is set to Smooth scaling. This one makes the graphics way too blurry for my taste. The second, my preferred option, is Pixel scaling. In this mode, the size of the pixels is increased, but they are still very sharp and visible. This is what I like in vintage games, so everything is good to me. Next, you can add scanlines. The lines can be horizontal, vertical or oblique (45 degrees). I added the same screenshot with each setting so you can judge by yourself.
Meh, at least on the monitor I tested them tonight, I do not like them. They seem – but I need to check on a big and new TV, so stay tuned – a bit fake and my hardware up-scalers does a much better job. Regardless, Pixel scaling is the way to go! The 20 fighting games pre-loaded into the Arcade Stick Pro are classic Neo-Geo hits. Excellent picks. Of course, you may wonder why only fighting games only? Well, that’s what SNK wanted for this release. But rejoice, because a hack already exists to allow loading any Neo-Geo game onto the controller, as well as many other console emulations! I will wait until the hack gets polished, but I will definitively give it a try soon. I can’t wait to play Metal Slug on my ASP! Sorry, I have to go back kicking some asses now…
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