AES/CD Neo Geo Arcade Sticks

Neo Geo

Review by Michael Shepard



AES: 9   CD: 8.5


Classic 2-d fighter fans have always demanded, better more precise control. After all, it's no fun to accidentally jump in the air only to land on someone's fireball. So thank goodness SNK has delivered the goods when it comes to their two arcade quality fighting sticks for the Neo Geo AES.

When the AES was released, SNK wanted to bring the arcade experience home. What better way then packing an arcade joystick to match the abilities of their new system? Later on SNK decided to release a new system with the same basic capabilities of the original AES. This led up to the release of the Neo Geo CD. With the new CD console, SNK decided to update their classic arcade controller, known today as the Pro controller and the "kidney bean."

Both controllers have the same 6-button control layout (a, b, c, d select start) and joystick.

Style, ergonomics:

neogeostick2.jpg (97938 bytes)The original controller was boxy, a rectangular shape with lots of plastic all around. It's perfect to rest grubby hands on top of. The middle area has a raised hump, that lets any ones wrist lie on the cool plastic and your fingertips on the appropriate buttons.

The buttons are recessed in a little canyon of sorts so as not to stick out to high. With each button press, they give off a nice little clacking sound. The joystick is the classic ball on rod (no snickering) micro switch style we are all accustomed to. Featuring the same plastic as the buttons, it's a little bigger then a gumball you'd buy at a vending machine. Cord length is bad at 4 ft 6in. You're too close to the TV. Remember, this was primarily a console for the Japanese home market and they have very small homes, but for the US gamer you must sit an inch away from your big screen TV. Either moving the console closer or buying an extension cable will remedy this problem.

The redesigned "Pro" controller is shaped very much like a kidney bean. It is also much smaller, there is very little room to rest hands on and anyone who has larger mitts then an eight year old will find their hands slipping off. It seemed SNK tried to alleviate the slipping problem by putting a grip like mold for right wrists but this doesn't help at all.

Softer plastics are used for the buttons along with some new colors, A/B are now red and C/D are gray. Much like the original arcade stick, the buttons are laid out to where fingers would normally go. The joysticks mechanics are basically unchanged. The plastic form has also been changed. Instead of the ball design, it's now more in the shape of a mushroom cloud. Cord length is still short, only a few inches longer at 4 ft 10 inches. Once again, if playing on a big screen TV, it will be nearly impossible with out moving the console much closer, or buying extension cables.


Both controllers are very sturdy. It's not often you'll see a broken Neo arcade stick. The joysticks seem particularly strong taking all abuse you can throw at it. The ball on the original is very prone to cracks; in fact original sticks with out ball cracks are nearly impossible to find. Luckily, the cracking is more of a cosmetic issue, as the ball does not shatter into little pieces; it marbleizes.

The casings on both are made of durable plastics, while the "kidney bean" has thicker plastic. Nothing short of a direct, sharp, heavy, blow will really damage the originals case. The buttons on these are top notch on both styles. They could be used forever with out destroying them. After all, they are just molded plastic. For some reason however, on the "Pro" style buttons, they seem to scratch up against the case and start to look roughed up on the sides. Just like the ball cracking on the original arcade stick, this is just another cosmetic issue.


neogeostick1.jpg (103510 bytes)Now we get to the main meat and potatoes, what these things are meant for. The joysticks them selves are very tight there is not much slop in any direction. When leaned to any side, they give a satisfying clack. For the Kidney arcade stick, the small casing will give your hands problems and they will have a tendency to fall off the base, which can really screw with the more intricate joystick moves. The ABCD buttons are just like you'd expect from an arcade company. They are big so fingers won't miss their target.

The buttons require direct presses for they have a fair amount of travel before they hit the mark. This isn't necessarily a problem, but for those used to Playstation pads, it may take some getting used to. Thanks to the travel required, accidental button presses are uncommon.

The start and select buttons are not really used so much in combat (other then grazing of course), but do come into play. The original stick has raised buttons that are a little to close to the joystick, and depending on how someone holds the joystick, some people will hit pause during a heated battle. This really can drag things down. Luckily, this problem was addressed in the "Pro" stick. The select and start buttons are now recessed into the casing, making accidental button press extremely uncommon to all but the most spastic of players.

Rubber feet, depending on how the controller is, can be an issue they hold the controller in place on hard surfaces. On both controllers, the rubber feet slide around too much but the "pro" stick is much worse. Instead of using rubber for the feet, SNK went with a cheaper material that grips even less. It's recommend to play on your lap or going to your local hardware or craft store and picking up some vinyl bumpers. With these, your stick won't move unless you want it to.

For those who somehow don't like either of these arcade sticks there are other alternatives. Hori made a joystick for the system that has turbo functions and is of even stronger heavy-duty construction. There is also a control pad from SNK featuring a very small micro switch for the directional pad.

Overall, the AES has some great options and you really can't go wrong with either SNK arcade stick. They each will give you precise control over any game. They have their faults too, but there strengths wash those problems away.


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Last updated: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 12:00 AM