Neo geo cd faq

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Neo Geo CD FAQ

Originally written by Takumaji in 2003/2004.

Rev. 2.0, 10-09-2004


What is the Neo Geo CD?

The Neo Geo CD, or NGCD, is a video game console made by SNK, Japan, in 1994. It's based on SNK's Neo Geo arcade and home gaming system but uses CDs instead of ROM cartridges.

SNK's original idea was to build a CD player add-on for the cart system but the idea got canned in favor of developing a real game console.

How many different NGCD models are there?

There are three versions, the front loader, the standard top loader and the CDZ. The front loader was the first NGCD model initially released in Japan, followed by the standard top loader that made its way to the US and Europe. In 1996, SNK released the CDZ, a revised top loading model with faster cache RAM to decrease load times. Like the standard top loader, the CDZ got released world-wide.

What was the initial price of the NGCD front loader?

The NGCD front loader's price was put at $599 for the console, one controller pad and a pack-in game.

What are the differences between the Neo cart and CD consoles?

While the homecart or MVS system is able to directly address the cart memory and therefore can display graphics and effects immediately, the CD system has to load the data first. Initial load times range from 15 to 120 seconds, some games also load between levels, like the King of Fighters games after The King of Fighters '94.

That's why some of the later (and much "bigger" in terms of MBits) games have cuts in the CD version, objects or animations are missing, etc. This is due to the amount of data (sprites, backgrounds, etc.) a game displays at the same time; if it exceeds a total of 7 MB of data which is the size of the Neo CD's RAM, the CD either has to reload certain data or the excess data has to be cut in order to fit into the CD RAM.

However, the CD console offers CD-quality audio tracks and has a more consistent picture quality because unlike the homecart-system, there were less hardware revisions on the main boards. The picture output, specially via RGB/Scart, is crystal clear and much better than with some of the later homecart models.

Also, some CD games have additional features not found on cart, see 3.2. for more info about that.

Are the CD games cheaper than the cart games?

Yes, considerably cheaper in most cases. There are a few exceptions of CD games that reach prices of more than $100, but these are mostly collectors items or very sought-after games. For more info, refer to section 3.

Why are games like Metal Slug 3 or The King of Fighters 2000 not available for NGCD?

These two games are very big (688/708 MBits, respectively), so in order to put them on CD it would have been necessary to heavily cut them down which would have ruined the game completely. What's more, the load times of such games would have been unbearable with their estimated 3+ minutes.

What's more, at the time when Metal Slug 3 and KoF2000 were released, SNK already was not well anymore, that's why they cut any support for other systems than MVS and homecart.

Do Neo CD games have standard audio tracks?

Yes, and you can play them in your audio CD player. Just insert the CD and skip the first (data) track. Neo CDs are standard mixed-mode CDs that are compatible to the Orange/Red Book standard of CD media.

Some of the early games like League Bowling have no standard audio tracks, all the music and sound effects are done by code using the Neo CD's Yamaha FM synthesis chip.

Can I use my US/JPN games on my US/EU/JPN CD console?

Yes you can, all games in any versions are compatible to any CD console. You can play US games on a Japanese NGCD, Japanese games on an US console, etc. The territory setting of your NGCD (US, EU, JPN) determines the displayed language of the games, provided they come with additional English text. Some games are Japanese-only, like Samurai Spirits RPG or most of the Mahjong games. These games will always run in Japanese regardless of the language setting of your console.

Do I need a memory card to save games?

The NGCD has a built-in 2kb game save memory that is able to hold about 25 game saves, it's not possible to use an external memory card with it.

What can I do in the CD player menu that appears when switching on the console?

You can replay audio CDs and access the memory card manager. If you insert a Neo game CD, the console will scan the disc and displays "press start" to start loading the game. If you chose to listen to the audio tracks of a Neo CD (not standard audio CD), it will automatically skip the first (data) track and start replaying the 2nd track.

I have a Japanese Neo CD system and want to use the Memory Card Manager, what do the menu items mean?

While in the memory card manager, press A to activate an item, press A again to confirm any action (e. g. deleting, formatting) and press B to go back one step.

The menu items are:

    • 1. Backup Memory Format

Use this to format your NGCD game save memory. Caution: ALL data will be lost after formatting! If you have a brand new NGCD, you have to format the game save memory once before you can use it, so if you think you have a new console and can not save your games, format the memory first and then try again.

    • 2. Display Data Name

Shows the contents of the save memory.

    • 3. Delete A Data

Delete game saves. Press A to select an item, press A again to confirm deletion, press B twice to return to main menu.

    • 4. File User's Name

Change the name of a game save.

    • 5. End

Exit to CD player screen.

Is there censorship in Neo CD games?

If you have an US or EU Neo CD console, the blood that can be seen in some games in Japanese mode is either white or invisible. You can trick some games into displaying all the blood and gore by setting it to Japanese language in the option menu, but that does not work with all games. What's more, not all games have a language option or even an option menu.

Even if you have an US version of a game, all blood and fatalities are still in it, it's just that the EU/US territory setting censors them, only the Japanese mode is completely uncensored. If you want blood in your games, you have to mod your NGCD, either by presetting it to Japanese or by installing a language switch that lets you switch between US and JPN mode.

Are there still new CD games coming out?

The development of Neo CD games has been stopped after the release of The King of Fighters '99 and The Last Blade 2 and the console had been officially declared dead. The current owner of SNK's licenses, SNK/Playmore, has no intention to re-live the CD system.

However, in 2002, a group of coders announced the release of a new fighting game for the Neo CD so the future of the console may lie in the home dev scene; no news about the new game yet, but reportedly, it is called Super Fighter and had been released for PC back in 1993 but now should get a NGCD port.

Buying and Collecting

Which CD system should I buy, Top Loader, Front Loader or CDZ?

Depends on how much money you want to spend and what you want to do with it. If you want an inexpensive and reliable CD console, get the standard Top Loader. It does not look as fancy as the Front Loader and takes longer to load a game than the CDZ, but it's readily available and actually sturdy piece of console if you handle it with care.

Some CDZ owners report sudden reboots of their console after it has been used for a couple of hours. This is due to the case design of the CDZ that prevents excessive heat from getting vented properly.

The Front Loader model is very huge (about the size of an Xbox) and because it has a lot more mechanical parts than the Top Loader or CDZ, it can get very troublesome finding spare parts for it. Also, a Top Loader in good condition would be the most expensive CD console because of its status as a collectors item.

What is a good price for a NGCD console?

For a boxed Top Loader with all cables, manual and controller pads in good to very good condition, you will have to pay between $150 and $200. Add $100 to $150 for a CDZ or $150 to $200 for a Front Loader. Subtract between 20% and 40% for a non-boxed/incomplete console.

Where can I find good offers for Neo CD consoles?

For the most part, you can not simply walk into a video game store and ask for Neo CD games and hardware, but some stores that are specialized in "retro gaming" will most likely have some decent stuff.

Although there still are shops that carry Neo stuff, the real market for Neo-related items is the internet. There are countless Trading Forums, online auctions and internet shops that sell Neo Geo games and accessories, such as

If all fails and you can not find your desired item in these shops, there's always eBay.

I'm about to buy a Neo Geo CD console, is there anything I should take care of?

Of course you should make sure that the seller is honest and reliable; Neo games and accessories usually reach comparably high prices, that's why a couple of scammers have chosen the Neo market as the playground for their shady activities. If in doubt, try to get references for a seller before buying stuff off of him, for ex. by reviewing the seller/buyer feedback of his eBay ID.

Anyway, if possible, you should

  • ask the seller about the production date/date of purchase
  • thoroughly check the console for visible damage
  • take a look into the drive bay and check for excessive dust
  • check all connector ports on the back of the console
  • make sure that the power supply fits to the console (remember, the EU uses an input voltage of 220~240V instead of the 110V of US and JPN)

I am a collector, are there any rare/expensive games that are worth collecting?

Since the release numbers of most common Neo CD games were quite high (>10,000), most of them are not really rare or very hard to find but there are exceptions. Eight CD games have been released exclusively for the Neo CD console, they are not available in other Neo formats such as MVS cart or homecart. These CD Exclusives are:

  • Chotetsu Brikin'ger
  • ADK World
  • Zintrick
  • Final Romance 2
  • Neo Geo CD Special
  • Samurai Spirits RPG
  • Crossed Swords 2

These CD-exclusive games are not really rare in terms of low production runs, they are just sought-after and therefore more expensive than others.

For other games, demand is high so that they aren't as easily available. These games are:

  • Metal Slug 1 and 2
  • Ninja Master's
  • Overtop
  • Neo Driftout
  • Breakers
  • Magical Drop 2

For these games, you will have to pay considerably more, sometimes >$100 if they are in very good condition and complete.

What are spine cards? Do all Neo CD games have them?

Spine cards are small pieces of cardboard and are wrapped around the spine of the jewel case. They show a screenshot and the title of the game and give the CDs a more uniform and catchy look when sitting on the shelf.

Some people think they would be part of the packaging and discard them, but others collect them and wouldn't buy a Neo CD game without it.

A complete Neo CD game always consists of:

  • a jewel case with a transparent Neo Geo logo in the upper right corner
  • a manual
  • a back insert with a short description about the game
  • the game CD itself

I got very good offers for a couple of CD games, how can I make sure that they are the real deal and no backup copies/bootlegs?

Modern technology brought us scanners, color copiers and affordable color printers that are able to authentically reproduce the insert, manual and CD stickers of a Neo CD game. However, most software pirates don't bother with reproducing the manual and just backup the CD. Sadly, you can get scans of covers of most games off of the Internet, that's why you will stumble across Neo CD bootlegs that look almost identical to the original.

Check for the following:

  • Neo Geo logo in the upper right corner of the jewel case
  • CD sticker accurately covers the entire upper part of the CD and does not shine
  • Data side of the CD is silver and has no visible rings/data areas
  • Professionally printed multi-page manual with good paper quality
  • The inserts are perforated on the sides to fit them into the case
  • CD, manual and back cover show a matching NGCD number
  • All inserts and the manual are of high printing quality, beware if you notice "watery"-looking images or pixilation

Which is better from a collector's point of view, collecting US or JPN versions?

There are a lot of games that had way less US releases than JPN releases, so US versions are considered more "rare" than JPN ones and therefore are more collectible. Normally, US versions are more expensive, but that's a matter of availability because you will pay about the same for a US version of an older (common) game. However, finding US versions of certain games like Ninja Master's can be difficult which adds to the price.

A real collector would go for a complete CD collection with all JPN and US titles anyway.

I heard people talking about Euro versions, are they for real?

For any CD game that came out outside of Japan, SNK printed an English manual and included an orange colored epilepsy warning card with text in English, Spanish and German. If people are talking about "US versions", they in reality refer to these international versions.

Commonly, these international versions are simply called US versions because they contain English text.

Games and Gameplay

How many CD games do exist?

There are 97 Neo Geo CD games, eight of them are CD Exclusives (see 2.5.). However, there are less US versions because games like Zintrick have never seen an official US release. There are some US versions of this game floating around, but the inserts of these versions are fan-made material.

What extras are in CD games?

Some games contain additional stuff such as galleries, extra options and even additional play modes, like Neo Turf Masters or the Metal Slug games. Most CD games also have unlimited continues.

What's more, there are a lot of CD games that come with an arranged soundtrack which is the same as the official sound track CDs of SNK games that can be bought via Japanese resellers.

What has been cut from the CD games?

Many of the later games have cuts. Examples are Last Blade 2, Samurai Spirits IV, Metal Slug 1+2, Art of Fighting 3, and so on. There are no cuts that would lead to gameplay or even scoring differences, most of them center around missing sprites, objects or sound effects.

For example, in Art of Fighting 3, the player sprites are slightly smaller than on cart. In Samurai Spirits IV, there are some background objects missing, etc.

Is there a chance that we see some of the CD Exclusives in cart form?

Apparently, some Neo CD games have been "ported" to Neo cart, but without sound. There is no official CD-to-cart release, and chances are almost zero that it will ever happen.

Is there a chance for a re-release of some CD games?

I don't really think so. Re-releasing a couple of sought-after CD titles wouldn't be too expensive or labor-intensive, but even in the market niche that is called Neo Geo, there's an even smaller niche called Neo Geo CD - in other words, the demand would be even smaller than for a cart re-release, so chances are very low that SNK/Playmore would do us the favor.

Why are there CD Exclusives at all? I thought SNK was all about big fat carts?

Between 1994 and 1996, SNK tried to compete in the market of CD-based game consoles with their Neo CD system, inspired by the huge success of Nec's PC-Engine CD/Turbo Duo and, to a lesser extend, the Sega CD.

SNK also tried to find a more economic alternative to the advanced but very expensive carts. When the Neo CD came out, SNK wanted to give the buyers an incentive to get the CD system and came up with the idea of CD Exclusives that were meant to help selling systems.

The fans however didn't really want a CD-based system, they were happy with their carts and zero load times and were reluctant to change. The CD system was quite successful at first but sales soon went down as newer games came out with long load times, which inspired SNK to come up with a revised CD console version, the CDZ.

Some people call Neo CD games "ports" of the real thing (the cart versions) - are they right?

No, they aren't. Porting means transporting a piece of code like a Neo game that was made for the Neo's M68000 CPU and all its co-processors to a different hardware platform, say the Sega Dreamcast or Sony Playstation. Since the Neo CD has the same CPU and auxiliary processors as the Neo Geo homecart or MVS systems, Neo CD games are no ports but simply versions of the cart original, only with a different method of data access.

Is there an US version of (insert game name here)?

Let's put it this way, since only a few games have never been released as US versions, it's most likely that you will find US versions for all major CD games. Info like this is difficult to obtain because SNK didn't bother to keep track on all their countless releases, so there may be US/international versions of games only a few people know about.

Tech Section

I have a Euro/PAL Neo CD and want to get rid of the slow 50Hz mode and the PAL borders, what can I do?

There are a lot of documents dealing with Neo Geo CD modifications flying around the Internet. I have written such a document a few years ago, it still can be found here:

You will have to open your Neo CD system and do some soldering/cutting work. While the modifications are not really difficult if you have some basic soldering skills, you may ask a friend with more experience or a trained engineer to help you out here.

Remember that a poorly done mod may damage your system, so in any case, be careful.

Needless to say that my Neo CD modification info has been posted for private purposes, I will take no responsibility in any damage to yourself or your system.

How can I switch my Neo CD to Japanese language?

There are there territory settings, USA, EUR and Japan. USA and EUR are censored (white "sweat" instead of blood, no fatalities, etc.) while Japanese mode is not.

Visit the link found in 4.1 for more info and pictures on how to switch languages.

Now I have modded my Neo CD to Japanese territory setting but some games are Japanese-only now. Help!

You can mod your Neo CD with a three-way language switch. Switches like this can be found in most electronics supply stores, just make sure you actually buy a three-way one, a two-way switch won't work.

Now, visit the link found in 4.1 Picture no. 3 shows the territory matrix of your system. There are four jumpers responsible for the language/territory settings: JN1, JN2, JN3 and JN4. These jumpers are small wire bridges that go into two holes on each side. If you cut them open (i.e. open the bridge), they are inactive (X), if you connect them (close the bridge), they are active (O).

The jumper settings for the three territories are:

Japanese: JN1 (open) - JN2 (open) - JN3 (open) - JN4 (open)

USA: JN1 (open) - JN2 (open) - JN3 (open) - JN4 (closed)

EUR: JN1 (open) - JN2 (open) - JN3 (closed) - JN4 (open)

DO NOT switch between mode while your Neo CD runs. Although some people reported otherwise, it may damage your console.

Why does my unit start to reset sporadically after a few hours of play?

If you live in a hot climate and/or have chosen the wrong place for your console, it may overheat after two or three hours of continuous use. Normally, this leads to read errors and resets.

Always make sure that your unit is well ventilated. Don't place it on the carpet while using it, this will build up heat far quicker than on a clean and even surface. Better do not put it into a TV rack or something like that, it's best to let it rest on an even, fuss-free surface without any obstruction on the back and top. Use a small fan for some additional cooling and let it blow into the vent slits on the back of the unit.

My system starts to load a game but then displays a message like this: "DISK I/O ERROR", followed by a error code in brackets. I can only power off afterwards, what's wrong?

There are different error codes for specific conditions but you mostly see these:

0000 = General error. Clean disc and try again.

0001 = Read error due to damaged/dirty laser lens or disc.

0002 and 0003 = Mechanical problem or copy protection alert.

If you see one of those codes popping up, power off, let the system cool down, then use a Q-Tip and pure alcohol to CAREFULLY clean the small lens that sits on the CD reader. Don't use any force, just carefully wipe it and make sure there's no residue or fuss left.

Next, check the game disc for scratches or dirt, clean it if necessary but don't use any alcohol/cleaning fluid, just a fuss-free cloth.

If the error messages still appear with one game but not with another the game disc may be faulty. If the error messages pop up no matter which game you put in, there may be a problem with your CD reader unit.

You may want to check out some online stores (see 2.3) and ask for a CD reader unit replacement kit. Also don't forget to visit some internet message boards like or to browse for more info or to ask for help with system repairs.