How much does it cost to make your own mini Neo Geo bartop?
The STARFORCE PI is an all-in-one multiplatform console, which has a tiny powerhouse at its core that keeps the size modest and portable, and makes killer emulation possible of almost any arcade and console platform before 2000. However, the use of original hardware is generally seen as more appealing. From a personal investment stance, a good bartop mod takes quite a bit of money, time, insight, patience, trial and error. So I thought it would be best to explore not only the emulation possibilities, but the original hardware modding option and contrast them on ease of use, build, flexibility, quality and, most importantly, price.
When making a bartop arcade, your builds are defined by the size of your PCB, which generally contains only one game and are rather large compared to console cartridges. This was not a concern for manufacturers, as they were housed in big game cabinets, but it doesn’t allow for much miniaturization. Later arcade systems, like the Neo Geo MVS and PolyGame Master, allowed owners to change game cartridges easily, and were relatively small. This seems perfect for a bartop build, so I went for the smallest system I could find, which was the Neo Geo MV-1C top loader. I finally decided on the MV-1B side loader as it works better in the case I have for it (anyone want to buy a MV-1C?)
Around this board I will build the STARFORCE NEO, which should be small and light enough to move around the house when needed without getting a hernia. I also want a good videoscreen in there, with solid audio, and I want to be able to connect an extra Neo Geo controller to it for 2-player gaming.
After finishing the first STARFORCE PI campaign I started to make a list of things I needed for this build, and ordered them over the Xmas holidays. It took a while, but I finally collected everything last Friday, connected it up Saturday night and tested it out, and the results were promising:
Click to enlarge
Gameplay is very good, I’m using a Neo Geo gamepad to play the yellow multicart visible on the left. You can also see I’ve added an additional HDMI-out (in case you want to play on a larger screen), a sharp little 8-9″ screen with 4:3 ratio, and I even added a scanline generator for maximum authenticity. As with the STARFORCE PI: if I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do it right!
Now all I have to do is cram it into the very cool and mysterious case I have for it, and make it pretty. So stay tuned, folks, it’s about to get REAL old-school!