Neo Geo FAQ: Boot or No Boot
This guide will help you distinguish legitimate Neo Geo MVS carts from bootlegs. Neo Geo bootlegs have many different defining characteristics, and they may be difficult to identify.
When purchasing an MVS cart (especially on eBay), make sure to request photos of the game's circuit boards--and at a high enough resolution to see details on the chips and soldering joints. Be wary of sellers that are unwilling to provide this.
Also, beware of scammers! Some sellers will try to defraud you by misrepresenting bootlegged games as original Neo Geo cartridges. For more information visit the neo-geo.com Feedback Forum, and the SCAMMERS, TIMEWASTERS, AND THIEVES thread in particular.
Boot or No Boot Sub-Forum
If this guide doesn't give you complete confidence in the legitimacy of your game (or if you bought a boot and want to show it off in all it's bootiness), post photos of the circuit boards in the Boot or No Boot Sub-Forum.
All chips on the SNK board match that game's NGH number
What is this "NGH Number" that I speak of? It is the identification number that was stamped on each chip within each Neo Geo cart. You can find this number in the Neo-Geo.com Master List. Really, this is the ONLY true way to know that your game is legitimate. While the label & case can be replaced, what matters in the Neo-Geo collecting/buying world to be original is that the boards & chips themselves are from the factory, made by SNK.
Label is shown as original but is scratched
While this may make a cart not of 100% pristine condition, this is actually not a bad thing. Think of it from a logic standpoint, why would anyone remove the serial number on an already illegal bootleg? This does not mean though, that the boards & corresponding chips inside are real, because someone could just as easily have removed the original boards, packed them into another spare case, and used the original case to try and pull a fast one. So again, the main fact above still should be investigated.
Possible Bad Signs
Windowed EPROMS present on the board
First, what's a windowed EPROM? A windowed EPROM is a chip that instead of having a solid top surface, in the center is a round window where you can see a smaller chip inside. In most cases, these chips are a sure sign that you have a bootleg. While there were some in house SNK repairs or manufactured games (see oddities section below) that have a windowed EPROM or two, if you see multiple or all windowed EPROMS, you're probably dealing with a bootleg game.
Non-SNK stamped board
In house manufactured Neo Geo games used specific boards with SNK stamped on them. If you have a game that DOESN'T have a board with this stamp, then it shows that the board is not an original release.
Original Label, Original Case, SNK Boards
All of these signs, while original manufacture, can easily be pulled off a copy of a cheaper version of the game (except for the label, just from trouble of transplanting one place to another). Remember, what's really important is what is on the inside and on the chips.
--Games that are not bootlegs with known oddities--
Power Spikes II - Blue Capacitor
Quest of Jongmaster - Blue Capacitor
SVC Chaos - Small daughterboard on top of chip
Samurai Shodown 5 - Small daughterboard on top of chip
Puzzle Bobble / Bust-A-Move - NGH # from PB and Power Spikes 2, several EPROM
Metal Slug 3 - Some carts may have a daughterboard (looks like a neo-geo pocket cart soldered to a normal mvs board)
King of Fighters 2000 - Daughterboard which appears to be a Neo Geo pocket cart soldered onto the MVS board
Kizuna Encounter - Shares NGH # from Savage Reign
Zupapa! - One windowed EPROM on the lower left of the board.