Retrogames logo

NeoGeo starter FAQ

V1.30 (07.03.2004)
Q1: What is a NeoGeo? (short line up)
Q2: What is MVS / AES / NeoGeoCD?
Q3: Where do i get roms? (...and what the hell is a.b.e.m.?)
Q4: What emulators are out for NeoGeo?
Q5: What specs are suitable for the known Neo-Geo emulators?
Q6: How do i 'audit' my roms?
Q7: But i miss only one file of <insert game name here>!
Q8: My rom wont load <insert emulator name here>!
Q9: What are 'raster effects'?
Q10: Where can i see 'raster effects'?
Q11: Why takes it so long to load a NeoGeo rom? (normally newer ones)
Q12: Encrypted / Decrypted GFX - huh?
Q13: Nebula 2.18+ wont let me start Metal Slug 4, KOF2k1, KOF2k2 or Rage of the Dragons / [insert new game here]
Q14: What can i do aginst the slowdowns in <insert game name here>? (Overclocking)
Q15: All my roms wont work in NeorageX but work in Mame/Nebula etc (or vice versa).
But the roms are stated to work on <insert Romsite here>! What can i do? (MGD2 <--> MVS)
Q16: Im total stuck and the emulator docs are awful. Where can i find help?
Q17: Where can i find cheats / help / cheatfiles for <insert gamename here> / <insert emulator here>?
Q18: The game is in japanese, im sure there was a english version. How can i fix this?
Q19: I want red blood/bouncing boobs in <insert gamename here>! Can i change this and if, how ?
Q20: How do i create a working .cue sheet for Nebula and <insert gamename here>?
Q21: Whats the m1 / m1d rom hassle all about?
Q22: My PC slows down a lot when opening / browsing / extracting the or the Nebula directory! Why?
Q23: For what type of rom standing those numbers and sxx/mxx/cxx/vxx files inside the zips?
Q24: How to play King of Fighters 2002 / Kof2k1 / MSlug4/5 / RotD / SShowdown 5 etc.? Plus general info.
Q25: NeoGeo Bios changes Mame 0.69+ / Info ?
Q26: NeoGeo Removals Mame 0.74+ / Info ?
Q27: gngeo + NeoGeo Bios
Q28: NeoGeo Rom changes in Mame 0.80+ / Nebula 2.24+ / Kawaks 1.49+
A1: Neo-Geo Specs
  • Arcade system that is module based, so you could swap the games and only have to buy new carts, not the full board
    Like PGM / Super Kaneko Nova System / Taito F3
  • came in various flavors: 1/2/4/6 slot boards
  • Processors: Motorola 68000 (12Mhz, 16-bit), Z80 (Zilog-80a 4Mhz, 8-bit)
  • Resolution: 304x224
  • Color Palette: 65,536
  • Maximum colors on-screen: 4,096
  • Maximum sprites on-screen: 380
  • Minimum sprite size: 1x2
  • Maximum sprite size: 16x512
  • Maximum amount of game planes: 3
  • Sound Channels: 4-FM synthesis, 7-Digital Internal, 3-PSG, 1 noise channel
  • RAM: Internal RAM: 64kb, Video RAM: 68kb, Z80 RAM: 2kb
  • Memory Card: 8kb or *68-pin JEIDA ver.3 spec memory
    *Any 68-pin memory that fits the JEIDA ver.3 spec will work
  • AES = Advanced Entertainment System (home version)
  • Neo-Geo CD = CD based home version of the Neo-Geo hardware
A3: Rom requests
  • Don't ask here (and this includes Rage of the Dragons / KOF2002 / [insert new dumped game here]).
    Rom requests are not tolerated here, see the general rules. You could use a search engine like Google or a list like Filemirrors. Also the Usenet has some nice groups like alt.binaries.emulators.misc (aka a.b.e.m.).
A4: Emulators
A5: Specs for some Neo-Geo emulators
The RAM specs may vary, depending on the ROM you try to load. Remember: newer sets (with encrypted GFX) need much more RAM and time to load!
  • Mame: PIII 500+ and min 96Mb RAM
  • Nebula: PII 300+ and min 96Mb RAM
  • Kawaks: PII 300+ and min 96Mb RAM
  • Calice: PII 266+ and min 96Mb RAM
  • Ace: ??? and min 96MB RAM (discontinued)
  • NeoRageX: Pentium 166+ and min 64mb RAM (unhacked version wont run under XP!)
  • gngeo: PII 300+ and 96Mb RAM
But remember: more accurate emulation / enhancements need more power. So raster effects, blitter settings, video resolutions, sound interpolation all decrease speed more or less.
A6: Rom auditing
  • Auditing will help you to check the validity of your rom sets for the choosen emulator.

  • There are 2 good choices:

  • Romcenter is normally easier to use, because of the more windows-like interface, but Crlmame is also quite powerful with lots of great options for the advanced user and you dont need to install it.
  • The .dat files for use with the ROM-audit tools are located at Logiqx's homepage ( or can be generated by the emulator itself (Nebula / Kawaks). And remember, Clrmame can load RC .dat files plus both programs can recive new dats direct from the mame.exe...
  • There are also dats for NeoRageX 0.6b on (hidden in the old emulator dats).

    After auditing your set, you will know what is missing and can start to 'hunt it down'.
A7: missing file(s)
  • If you only miss a single file, you dont need to download the whole rom/zip again. Simply locate a valid rom and use a small tool called Iczellion's HTTP Zip Downloader (zipdl) for getting a single file inside a zip. Also some download managers (e.g. DlMage) support that feature (see the docs of your DL manager)
A8: rom wont load
  • 1st check if your set is valid (see Q5 for that).
  • 2nd make sure you got the NeoGeo bios files in a separate zip file, if not see Q3 for that.
  • Make sure you pointed to the right directory (rescan for sets if possible).
  • see if the zip file itself is corrupt in any way.
  • make sure you used the emulator with valid options
A9: Raster effects
  • It's when you change what's being displayed as it's being drawn by the monitor, i.e. synchronized to the electron beam. That's not hard to emulate in itself, but it may require substantial changes to an emulator. Many emulators let the emulated CPU run for 1/60th of a second (one frame), and then look at the status of the graphics hardware at the end of that frame to render it, so whatever settings the last beam-synchronized interrupt changed (or, if they're not emulated, the initial settings) are applied to the entire screen.

  • To truly emulate raster effects, you need to emulate the CPU running as long as it takes to display single line of the display, check the registers, and render that line. Or worse, per cycle of the graphics hardware (as in good C64 emulators). That obviously takes more processing power, but if you cheat, for instance, by assuming there's only one point at which there will be changes you don't need a line-based renderer. (taken from the CPS2 FAQ)
A10: Raster effects can be seen...
  • Desert in the beginning of level 1 of Metal Slug 2
  • burning house stage in Last Blade 2
  • Galaxy Fight
  • aodk 100 mega shock logo
  • viewpoin Sammy logo
  • zedblade parallax scrolling
  • ridhero road
  • turfmast Japan course hole 4 (the one with the waterfall)
  • fatfury3, 7th stage (Port Town). Raster effects are used for the background.
A11: Loading time
  • Loading takes some time because you dont have enough RAM, so Windows is forced to use its virtual memory. To avoid this get more RAM (~256MB will do, also 196MB was reported to work).
  • The reason why some games require such loads of RAM is that all the newer MVS games have encrypted graphic roms and to decrypt them you need quite a lot of memory. For a full list of games with encrypted GFX roms see Q12.
A12:Encrypted / Decrypted GFX FAQ
  • All the newer Neo-Geo games use a encryption of the GFX roms. That leads to the need of more RAM for the loading process of the rom. There is a way to get around that by using predecrypted GFX roms. They can be generated by activating the 'save decrypted roms' option in Kawaks.
  • After this replace the encrypted with the decrypted roms and check with an audit tool plus the right .dat, to see if all is right. Afther that you wont need that much ram and loading is as fast as for the other Neo-Geo games without the encryption.

  • Games that use encrypted GFX:
    • Bangbead
    • Ganryu
    • Garou - Mark of the wolves
    • King of Fighters'99
    • King of Fighters 2000
    • King of Fighters 2001
    • King of Fighters 2002
    • Matrimelee (? not sure)
    • Metal Slug 3
    • Metal Slug 4
    • Metal Slug 5 (? not sure)
    • Nightmare in the Dark
    • Prehistoric Isle 2
    • Rage of the Dragons
    • Samurai Showdown 5 (? not sure)
    • Sengoku 3
    • Strikers 1945+
    • Zupapa
A13: Game lock of MS4, KoF2k1, KoF2k2 and RotD in Nebula 2.18+
  • ElSemi, the author of Nebula decided to not support such recent released games, so they are locked out of Nebula for now. If you really need to play the games, your PC should (as you can use Nebula) be capable of running Mame. So simply remove the testdriver status in the Mame source and compile your own binary with the games enabled (pre Mame 0.74). For details see the How to compile FAQ's on

  • Sorry for sounding like an ass, but its my view. Thanks.

  • The selfcompile option only works until Mame 0.73. Version 0.74 removed all 2001 titles and all later testdrivers so you need to add them manually to the new builds or stay with 0.73.
A14: Slowdowns
  • Slowdowns are most of the time, normal behavior of the MVS hardware. The MVS hardware is quite powerful, but sometimes the proccessor is simply outnumbered by all the things on the screen. To get around that it starts to slowdown and to flicker. You can avoid this by overclocking the game.
    See the manual/docs of the emulator you use; e.g. set 'cheat' to 1 in the Mame ini than cycle wtith ^ trough the options. BUT: this overclocking can lead to some strange issues in the games.

    Some games are well known for their slowdowns:
    • Captain Tomaday
    • Metal Slug 2
    • Shock Troopers 2

  • On the other hand in S1945+, if you see a slowdown by shooting at an enemy, this is a bug that should be gone in newer Mame/Nebula versions.
A15: convert older romdumps (MGD2 to MVS or back to MGD2)
  • There is a way to convert the old dumps for a few games to the correct MVS format. The tool is called redump and can be found e.g. in the utilities section of

  • Here is a list of supportet games:
  • 2020bbh, 3countb, alpham2, androdun, aof, bakatono, burningh, bstars, crsword, cyberlip, eightman, fatfury1, fbfrenzy, gpilots, joyjoy, kotm, lbowling, lresort, maglordh, minasan, mutnat, ncombat, ncommand, ridheroh, roboarmy, sengokh, sengoku2, socbrawl, superspy, tpgolf, trally, wh1

  • To convert the newer dumps (MVS) back to the old one supported by NRX use a tool called ROMBuild. You can also use redump to convert them back to MGD2, but to quote smf on this:
  • ...not always exactly the same as the old dumps, but I'm not convinced they were valid mgd2 dumps anyway ( some of the 128k roms were converted to 64k if the first and second half were identical ).
A16: Further help / Visual Guides
  • If you cant get any further and this FAQ here isnt enough, Easyemu should be your next way.
A17: Game Cheat / help
A18: Region Change
  • Normally this is done through an option of the emulator.

    • Nebula: Game -> NeoGeo options -> Region
    • Kawaks: Game -> NeoGeo settings
    • Mame: TAB -> DIP switches

    ...and don't forget to reset after the change! If that doesent work, try to delete all game related files, as eeprom saves, nvram, cfg files and try again.
A19: Red Blood
  • This setting can be found in the Neo-Geo Bios. See your docs for the default (or your own set up) for the so called 'Service Mode / Test mode' (default F2 for Mame/Nebula; F11 for Kawaks).
  • When you entered the Bios and its in japanese (and you cant read that ;) than first switch the region (see Q18 for this).
  • Now: setting up the soft DIP -> select the slot your game is in -> Change the settings.
  • Than go back to the first screen by pressing Neo-Geo button C. Than go to exit. Now they should bleed right...
A20: how to do a 'correct' .cue sheet for Nebula
  • Simply use that example below as a guide for the renaming/creating of the .cue sheet (the names in the .cue sheet should correspond with the names of the files on your HD).
    FILE "IronClad (Redump) - Track 01.iso" BINARY
      TRACK 01 MODE1/2048
        INDEX 01 00:00:00
    FILE "IronClad (Redump) - Track 02.mp3" MP3
      TRACK 02 AUDIO
        PREGAP 00:03:00
        INDEX 01 00:00:00
    FILE "IronClad (Redump) - Track 03.mp3" MP3
      TRACK 03 AUDIO
        INDEX 01 00:00:00
    FILE "IronClad (Redump) - Track 04.mp3" MP3
      TRACK 04 AUDIO
        INDEX 01 00:00:00
    FILE "IronClad (Redump) - Track 05.mp3" MP3
      TRACK 05 AUDIO
        INDEX 01 00:00:00
    FILE "IronClad (Redump) - Track 06.mp3" MP3
      TRACK 06 AUDIO
        INDEX 01 00:00:00
A21: m1 / m1d
  • Its like this: the m1 rom of some newer games on MVS hardware is encrypted. Mame loads it for reference so that the romaudit tools like Romcenter and Clrmame wont delete it. It will be needed at the point when the encryption is broken. Until then the unecrypted m1d is used.
A22: Browsing / directory slowdown
  • Nebula is packed after the compiling with an derivate version of UPX (Ultimate Packer for Executables). Some Antivirus soft scans the file very intense and causes due this scan a huge slowdown on some machines (e.g. Norton AV). Disable the soft for a test, if it works - exclude the Nebula.exe from scans (if this is possible for your software).
A23: Rom file name explanation
  • The numbers represent the ID of the game and are present on the actual cart/PCB and stored at address 0x0108 of the program ROM.
    • P = 68k Program
    • S = Text Layer
    • C = All the other GFX (Sprites)
    • M = Z80 Program
    • V = Voice / Samples
A24: Kof2002 / MSlug4 / RotD / Samshow5 / MSlug5 etc.
  • Nebula V2.21+ plus correct dat file plus reading a bit of the Mame source
  • pre Mame 0.74 selfcompiled Mame (by removing the testdriver status, source)
  • KOF2002 introduced a new P-Rom scrambling that has already been figured out and the usual M1 / V-Rom 'protection' that will be worked around with unencrypted dumps of the roms obtained from an original cart. (only the sets that where already Testdrivers until Mame 0.73)
  • later sets: Drivers etc. from a.b.e.m / don't know / don't want to know.
A25: NeoGeo Bios changes Mame 0.69+
  • The latest Mame Builds introduced some changes in the NeoGeo Bios files. The region is now represented by the right bios rom and not like before trough hacks. This leads to a new NeoGeo Bios file 'structure' (:

    • 000-lo.lo
    • sfix.sfx
    • sm1.sm1

    • Zoom rom, bios gfx etc.

    • sp-s2.sp1 - Europe, 1 Slot, has also been found on a 4 Slot (the old hacks were designed for this one)
    • sp-s.sp1 - Europe, 4 Slot
    • usa_2slt.bin - US, 2 Slot
    • sp-e.sp1 - US, 6 Slot (V5?)
    • asia-s3.rom - Asia
    • vs-bios.rom - Japan, Ver 6 VS Bios
    • sp-j2.rom - Japan, Older

    • There is also an AES (Console bios) dumped, Raz' Universe bios hacks and debug bios (and the special trackball asia version for irratatingmaze).

  • Note that MAME now lets you select which one to use with the -bios option (by default it uses the same rom that it alwas has done, so you don't need to download any new ones just to play US/MVS).
A26: Neo Geo Game removal in Mame 0.74+
  • Affected are the following sets of released 2001+ Neo Geo titles
    • Zupapa! [name: zupapa]
    • Sengoku 3 [name: sengoku3]
    • The King of Fighters 2001 [name: kof2001]

    Not only the games are somewhat disabled, no they are completely removed from the source tree. This affects also the following drivers that where befor in a 'testdriver' state:
    • cthd2003
    • mslug4
    • rotd
    • kof2002
    But the changes did not only affect Neo Geo games, to be clear. Also - the games may be back, sometime later this or next year.
A27: gngeo + NeoGeo Bios
For gngeo you need an older

 neo-geo.rom	131072	25357	19%	03-12-97 15:54	.....A	9036D879 
 ng-lo.rom	131072	1516	1%	06-03-98 16:20	.....A	5A86CFF2 
 ng-sfix.rom	131072	14113	10%	06-03-98 16:21	.....A	354029FC 
 ng-sm1.rom	131072	10462	7%	28-10-98 22:58	.....A	97CF998B 
The Bios roms should be placed unzipped in /usr/local/share/gngeo. After that it should work just fine (for 0.61 of gngeo). More answers/info in the FAQ file of gngeo.
A28: NeoGeo Rom changes in Mame 0.80+ / Nebula 2.24+ / Kawaks 1.49+
  • In Mame 0.80 and the other above mentioned emulators, a lot NeoGeo sets changed because they where redumped.
  • The story behind this (direct quote from Sixtoe):

    The "in a nutshell" version.
    A lot of the neogeo roms were dumped badly and have been redumped.

    The "Bit more in depth" version.
    If you were around in the early neogeo emu days it was a nightmare with multiple redumps of roms by inexperienced dumpers/hackers, and when dumps were made that didn't have any visual or sound errors they were assumed to be good. Well, recently a couple of experienced dumpers (Guru and another) have got hold of a few carts and have found that a lot of them have been dumped incorrectly, it could well extend to most of them in fact. The bad roms currently in MAME actualy have swapped first and second halfs swapped, so the new MAME when its released supports the new correctly dumped sets.

    An additional comment from smf:
    All that has happened is the roms have been dumped again. In most cases the files didn't change contents, just the order of the data in the roms. The first/second half swapped problem was often due to the lack of support of the roms in the eprom burning software. A common way round it is to ground the top address wire and dump the rom, then connect it to +5v and dump it again. Then manually merge the contents. As you can imagine this is open to error.

    The affeceted sets are:
    • 3countb
    • aof3
    • blazstar
    • goalx3
    • kabukikl
    • kotm2
    • lastblad
    • magdrop3
    • mslug
    • neobombe
    • neodrift
    • ninjamas
    • pulstar
    • ragnagrd
    • rbffspec
    • samsho3
    • samsho4
    • shocktro
    • sonicwi3
    • ssideki4
    • turfmast
    • twinspri
    • tws96
    • wakuwak7
    • whp
    • wjammers

    To fix existing (valid 0.79 roms) you can use a) Clrmame and its 'Deep ROM checksum analysis' or b) Logiqx special version of Rombuild. Read the docs that are comming with both tools an it will save you a lot of time and money redownloading roms. Thanks to both of them for making such great tools.

Credits: Crappy FAQ by Iron Man with help from the CPS2 FAQ. Any suggestions can be posted on the Retrogames NeoGeo board or PM me. I'm free for suggestions and wont flame anyone, if i did something wrong here. Feel free to correct me.

Greets and thanks to all who asked the questions and to the ones answering them and helping me to make this mess here a bit better (hi to Haze, Pi, smf, Tourniquet, Sixtoe, Logiqx)...