It’s taken its time getting to Australia officially, but the international version of the NeoGeo Mini is now available and we were itching to have a play. So we did!

As the ‘Mini’ bit suggests, this take on the legendary arcade console from SNK is another piece of shrunken retro kit. Rather than taking the fairly nondescript black box of their original home release, however, SNK have given us a teensy tabletop arcade machine. Look at it, cool, huh?

This also means that, unlike its competitors for the mini-me retro gaming space, it includes a screen – and a pretty good one, too. As such, this baby’s portable – even if a tad awkwardly, both due to its shape and the need for some form of USB power (the lack of battery power provision is odd). You’ll also likely require a flat surface of some sort to rest it on – the old lap balancing act can be fraught if you’re getting into those complicated fighting moves.

Still, in small bursts the wee, blue ring-lit controller works well – although arcade-styled directional gating would have been preferred to the supplied analogue system. Should you wish to go for an extended nostalgia session, however, there are options that will save you a dose of serious hand cramp, as well as possible eye strain.

A separate controller, modelled on that of the original Neo Geo CD-based console of 1994, is available at a reasonable price. One or two of these plug into either side of the NeoGeo Mini, and offer a more authentic control experience. But you’ll really want to pair them with a TV, which will require a mini-HDMI to standard HDMI cable, which – frustratingly – isn’t included. What is in the box is the machine, a branded USB-C cable and a choice of stickers for the cabinet.

You have the ability to save game states, should you need a break. This doesn’t work like the original SNK memory cards that you could switch between home machine and arcade though, despite prompts appearing for such saves. These will disappear when power is turned off, so you need to make sure to go through the Mini’s menu system if you want saves to be retained.

Once hooked up to a TV, you have a choice of original 4:3 screen ratio, or you can stretch things out so everything’s short and squat should you be insan- erm, prefer. The presentation is fairly rudimentary compared to offerings from Nintendo, with only one filter option and not a lot else. Simulated scanlines, at the very least, would have been welcome.

As always, a console such as this succeeds or fails depending upon its game list. SNK are renowned for their fighting games, and these feature prominently, with 16 martial arts based romps, alongside 24 other games. The latter range from sports through to schmups – here’s the complete list, with fighting types first:

Art of Fighting
Garou: Mark of the Wolves
King of Fighters ’95
King of Fighters ’97
King of Fighters ’98
King of Fighters 2000
King of Fighters 2002
Kizuna Encounter
Fatal Fury Special
Ninja Masters
Real Bout Fatal Fury
Samurai Shodown II
Samurai Shodown IV
Samurai Shodown V Special
The Last Blade 2
World Heroes Perfect

3 Count Bout
Blazing Star
Blue’s Journey
Crossed Swords
Football Frenzy
Ghost Pilots
King of the Monsters
King of the Monsters 2
Last Resort
Magician Lord
Metal Slug
Metal Slug 2
Metal Slug 3
Metal Slug 4
Metal Slug 5
Metal Slug X
Mutation Nation
Puzzled
Robo Army
Sengoku 3
Shock Troopers
Shock Troopers 2nd Squad
Super Sidekicks
Top Player’s Golf

When you consider that separate Neo Geo game cartridges back in the day cost hundreds of dollars each, you could argue that the value offered by the NeoGeo Mini is off the charts. In these days of emulation probably not so much, but it does offer an affordable and novel way to dive into many SNK classics today, in an officially sanctioned way. Plus, even if you don’t play with it, the stylishly-designed NeoGeo Mini is going to look really great on any shelf!

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi