The NEOGEO is generally characterized by, with only a few notable exceptions, fighting games and Metal Slug. Within a couple of years of its launch, the vast majority of the output on the console seemed to be mining (quite successfully) a few particular types of games. To be fair, such was the state of arcades by the mid-1990s. If you weren’t making a fighting game, a licensed beat-em-up, a shoot-em-up, or a puzzle game, you were rowing against the current.
Over the last few years, the Backbone One has been the controller I see recommended the most for iPhone. Jared has been praising it a lot as well when I ask about dedicated grip controllers. While I’ve been using my PS5 and Xbox controllers recently, iOS 16 made me revisit everything and also test out the new(ish) Backbone One PlayStation Edition to compare with the Razer Kishi V2.
In recent years, it feels like the Backbone One has been the de facto controller for playing on iPhone. While on an iPad you have the flexibility and convenience of using any console controller with the iPad set on any surface, it never feels as good when using a traditional controller with a clip and iPhone. Having spent the last week or so using both the Razer Kishi V2 and the Backbone One on my iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 to try out various games and both apps, both controllers offer something over the other, but are held back for different reasons.
It’s been seven years since Aquiris’ outstanding arcade racer Horizon Chase (Free) arrived on the App Store. Since then, the game has been on a tour of its own, hitting a variety of other platforms and constantly adding new content to enjoy. About a month ago, we finally got a sequel when Horizon Chase 2 () roared onto the Apple Arcade service in anticipation of a wider release in 2023. I’ve been playing the wheels off the game since then, and I figured I’d write up a review in case anyone needs a nudge.
Shovel Knight first released a little over eight years ago, and thanks to a bevy of updates and cameos it feels like the character has never really left the spotlight. Still, if we count all of the updates to the main game as simply being part of that game, Shovel Knight Dig is just the third game in the series. This is also the first game in the series to hit mobile, which was roughly the last active platform on the planet without a Shovel Knight game on it. This comes to the platform through Apple Arcade, so if you want to play the game you know what you have to do.
A few months back, Video System’s Aero Fighters 2 ($3.99) arrived on the mobile Arcade Archives. I found it was a good fit for mobile play in my review, and gave it a hearty recommendation. At the time I noted that it probably wouldn’t be long before Aero Fighters 3 ($3.99) rolled in and, well, here we are. Originally released just over a year after the previous game in the series, Aero Fighters 3 is certainly a more confident game than its predecessor, but is it better?
If I can tie a common thread between all of the NEOGEO’s most popular games, that thread would be named “games you can enjoy playing with a friend”. Some of those games, like Metal Slug and Sengoku 3, were cooperative in nature. Others, like King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown, were competitive games. Some genres lend themselves more naturally to one style or another, of course. Cooperative beat-em-ups make sense. Competitive one-on-one fighters are another natural fit. Twinkle Star Sprites ($3.99) is a rare shoot-em-up that chooses violence between its players, and that’s exactly what makes it so great.
For our younger readers out there, it’s a bit hard to explain just how hot mutants were in the 1990s. Between Marvel’s X-Men hitting soaring heights and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles slicing and dicing their way into the hearts of kids everywhere, there was no better time to have genetic anomalies. It seemed like every company with mutant characters were pushing them forward, and every company without them was making their own. Just the word ‘mutant’ itself was enough to draw attention. So it was perhaps no surprise when SNK introduced Mutation Nation ($3.99) in 1992 for its NEGOGEO system. A beat-em-up filled to the brim with mutants to battle? Sure, why not?
A few weeks back, we took a look at Burning Fight ($3.99), one of SNK’s many early attempts at striking beat-em-up gold on its fledgling NEOGEO platform. It almost shamelessly cribbed from Capcom’s Final Fight, and it was perhaps that lack of thematic individuality that hurt it in the end. Well, no one can accuse Robo Army ($3.99) of not having its own identity. Robot warriors that can beat down their robot enemies with their own arms, and sometimes turn into cars for a while? Yes, I think SNK got to that particular well first.
One of the tough things about being a newcomer to the console manufacturing party is that you generally won’t get a lot of third-party support until you’re well-established. That means you have to carry your system with your own power, filling any and all gaps as needed. The NEOGEO was not a typical platform, of course. Indeed, the home console version was likely of secondary concern to SNK. But even in the arcades, it was selling a platform. If SNK couldn’t provide fresh titles in the genres players wanted on a regular basis, there was always going to be room for another company’s cabinet. It’s a big ask, and it’s a rare company that can handle that kind of demand with grace.