It seems that every era needs at least one obscure high-end console, and the Neo Geo filled the role for the 16-bit generation. Essentially a home version of SNK's Multi Video System arcade board, it was billed as a 24-bit console but actually used a combination of 16-bit and 32-bit components. Still, its 12MHz Motorola 68000 CPU, 64KB of RAM and 68KB of VRAM could produce genuinely arcade-perfect conversions, featuring 4,096 colours from a palette of 65,536 and 15 channel audio.
The downside was cost. The console itself cost around £500 on release, and games could cost anywhere up to £200. This was because the cartridges were huge by the standards of the period, going anywhere up to 330-Megabits at a time when 48-Megabits was regarded as huge. SNK attempted to reduce the entry cost with a CD-based version, but this suffered from long loading times and couldn't run some of the later Neo Geo games. Today the Neo Geo is regarded as a niche console, but one that still sold over a million units worldwide and is highly prized by collectors today. What's more, it was a system that played host to a super line-up of 2D beat-em-ups, not to mention some much-loved shoot-em-ups - including SNK's own classic Metal Slug saga.
If Streetfighter II was the Virtua Fighter of its day, then Fatal Fury was the Tekken; a superficially similar take on the fighting genre, but one that differed in ways that the beat-em-up aficionado could easily appreciate. Characters could actually battle it out on two planes, switching between them to dodge incoming blows. Meanwhile, an intricate combo system gave the game the same sort of depth as its illustrious rival. Fatal Fury went on to birth the Art of Fighting and King of the Fighters series, and characters from all three would meet up in the Capcom vs SNK games that would eventually follow. The remixed Fatal Fury Special is available to download on Xbox Live Arcade, while the original can be found on Wii Virtual Console.
This ‘homage' to R-Type (and that's putting it kindly) is one of the most fondly remembered shoot-em-ups on the SNK console; a classic horizontal scrolling shooter featuring even more spectacular visuals than its inspiration along with a similarly versatile selection of power-ups. Like many games of its ilk Pulstar can be fiendishly difficult, but it's a must for fans of old-school arcade action. Sadly, it's not yet available on Wii Virtual Console. We can only hope Nintendo and SNK do something soon about this omission.