They said it could never be done. The Neo Geo was too intense of a console and most Neo Geo ROMs were just too big for the Sega Dreamcast to handle. Just a year or two ago, skeptics insisted that because of these reasons, it wasn’t even worth the time to think about making a Neo Geo emulator for the Dreamcast.
That did not stop Dreamcast developers Chui and Fox68K from chasing the dream that is 24-bit action on a 128-bit console. After a quick but amazing accomplishment of emulating the Neo-Geo CD on the Dreamcast, they took the next step by overcoming the Dreamcast’s RAM limitations in order to load and process large Neo Geo ROMs.
The result is an amazing project called Neo4All AES. Among other interesting features, the emulator boasts the following:
- Emulates Neo Geo MVS & AES games
- 100% Full speed without frameskip on most games
- 2 Players
- Great compatibility
- MMU technique for playing games larger than the DC’s RAM
- High quality sound playback
- Disc swap with your ROMdiscs
Needless to say, I was very excited to try this new emulator out. While I had read lots of great claims, I was still a bit skeptical. I managed to find an ISO image of the emulator with a number of supported game ROMs included, so I was able to jump right into testing out a variety of games.
Graphics Quality/Speed: 9
On the first games I tried out, Super Baseball 2020, the graphics and frame rate was incredible. It literally felt like I was playing it on the real machine — or at least a solid MAME configuration. Everything was smooth and beautiful.
When I moved onto Metal Slug X, the graphics were still as perfect as could be, but at certain events (like when I threw a grenade), the emulation seemed to studder. The framerate didn’t really seem to slow down much, but instead the sound effect had an abrupt skipping effect that got to be a little distracting. When things got a little heavier (as they often do in Metal Slug games), the graphics would studder a bit as well. It was still playable, but fairly distracting. The same could also be said for a few other action-packed games such as Shock Troopers.
I was impressed with many other games that held up quite well. One that comes to mind in Art of Fighting. The large character sprites and the zoom effect didn’t seem to phase the emulator at all. It ran very smoothly. My only problem with Art of Fighting will be covered below in the Control department.
Sound Quality: 7
Overall, the sound and music emulation was very nice. However, there seemed to be a number of issues with certain sound effects on an handfull of games. While my impressions of the graphics and speed of Super Baseball 2020 seemed to be glowing, I couldn’t help but notice a few sound effects that seemed to be out of place.
And as I mentioned above, certain games like Metal Slug X seemed to having a number of spots where the audio skipped violently. I’m almost thinking I would rather have the frame rate slow down a bit as opposed to have the audio skip so badly.
In many games, the controls were good enough. Puzzle games like Magical Drop 3 and my othter favorite, Super Baseball 2020 played like a dream as they primarily needed simple left and right or up and down movements. However, when I tried playing games like Art of Fighting or Shock Troopers which relied on diagonal movement to play effectively, I ran into a lot of trouble. I tried very hard, but I could not get diagnols to register with either the standard DC pad’s analog or digital controls.
I was also disappointed that the 2-Player option didn’t work on the games I tried. The emulator recognized both controllers, but it wouldn’t let me hit the Start button on both in order to do a VS match on Magical Drop 3. I’ll have to try more games to see if its a common problem.
The interface for Neo4All AES is probably one of the best ones I’ve seem on the Dreamcast. While it was not quite as user-friendly as NesterDC was for booting games quickly, it was intuitive, attractive, and gave the emulation options in a simplistic and intuitive manner.
In an emulator that is in its early stages, its important to have easy access and modification of certain options, so I applaud the developers on making it simple. I also appreciate the fact that even my wife was able to boot up and launch the ROM she wanted without any assistance.
I also greatly appreciated the accurate loading bar to indicate how much longer it was going to take to load a certain ROM. This is SO much better than the older Neo or MAME emulators in which you were staring at a black screen wondering how much longer you needed to wait and/or wondering if the thing was working at all.
Neo4All seems to be one of the few Dreamcast emulators that still is actively being worked on. It seems that they have the basics of emulation working quite well, added on the innovative feautre of loading large ROMs, and have polished the interface. My biggest recommendation is that they work on making the controls as perfect as possible and then try to perfect the emulation on the more demanding games. I would assume that the control issue would be easier to fix.