The Amazing Story of my Very First Arcade Machine - the custom Neo Geo MVS!



You know I really like beer but I think my overall brain cel count is OK because I can still remember the first time I played a Neo Geo arcade machine. It was the fall of 1990 at the university of Platteville Wisconsin. Some sort of parade or something, I was there for high school band. Anyway since 80% of high school consists of goofing off we were all in the student commons area. And they had a Neo Geo machine with I think Magician Lord, Baseball Stars, Nam 1975 and The Super Spy.

Naturally being a die-hard EGM reader I remembered all the ads for the Neo Geo. Specifically the one where a Genesis was represented by a plain hot dog whilst the Neo Geo was this overloaded Coney Island-esque cardiac-arrest-on-a-bun monstrosity. (The Nintendo, being 8-bit, was something along the lines of a wilted, sat-in-the-case-all-day gas station dog) So yeah, I knew the system was supposed to kick butt (or at least taste good) and upon playing one found it to be true!

The actual ad, found during an archaeological expedition in a warehouse slated for destruction. Click to enlarge.

So from then on my dream was to own a Neo Geo! The home system was a LOT of money back then, like $500 or so, and it was certainly out of my reach. As the years passed I played Neo Geo arcades whenever I could, Samurai Showdown, the kind of weak World Heroes, etc. Probably the last Neo I saw in an arcade was in 1996 when I was filming helicopters in Wisconsin Dells on the 4th of July.

Years passed... A friend of mine introduced me to Metal Slug. He had it for the Saturn but said it came from the Neo Geo. "Wow the Neo Geo has new games?" I thought. "That sure puts the Neo in Geo!" In the following years Neo Geo emulators came out and I was able to relive some of the glory days of the system, while playing stuff I'd never seen in the arcades (like the awesome Neo Turf Masters and of course the Slug series)

Finally in 2002 I broke down and bought myself a 6 slot Neo Geo arcade motherboard, controls and some games. I could play it on a 1986 model Commodore Amiga monitor, which I believe was a whopping 12 inches in size. Still it was fun, even if I had to rub wires together to "insert coin"

Still more years passed... then my lucky day! Someone saw my site and wanted a Neo Geo Portable - and they offered me something I couldn't refuse, an arcade monitor! Thanking my lucky stars I said yes and promptly began designing my Neo Geo MVS Arcade Machine!

Designing the Neo Geo Arcade Machine

Not owning Autocad I booted up old Adobe Illustrator 10 and went to town! I didn't see why this would be any different than the portables I design, just a lot bigger and well, not portable. And made of wood. Ok so it's a lot different, so what?

Line drawing of design, side. With "Top" and "Bottom" labeled, apparently in case I accidently designed this standing on my head.

I design and build a lot of videogame-related stuff but sell almost all of it. This Neo Geo, on the other hand, was just for me! (HA HA HA HA HA HA!) Therefore the control height was designed for someone 5'8" and the 4 action buttons were laid out to match the spacing of my fingers. Ridiculous, yes, but why not?

I designed the cabinet to be assembled like cheap furniture from Target (um, not that I own any of course!) Channels/grooves would be routed in the side panels and the middle panels (really technical names, eh?) would slide into these grooves and be wood glued / nailed in place. Originally I planned to have the cabinet be all woodgrain (oak plywood) but when I did a layout like that I hated it. So I decided to go with a color. Red is the typical Neo Geo color but it's kind of gaudy. The solution was a darker shade of red and gradiations into black, to mute the overal "brightness" of the red.


The next exciting step - yes the actual "making of" starts now!