Well we knew this was going to happen sooner or later: the Neo Geo X has been hacked. Well not really “hacked” in the sense most people would think. Portable systems like the Vita and the 3DS have some hefty anti-hacking measures implemented to stop would be code monkeys from having a field day. On the other hand the Neo Geo X is almost devoid of any protection. For perspective, it took hackers over a year to hack the PSP. In contrast it took only a few days for the Neo Geo X to be plundered and its goods for ready for the taking.
In fact some wonder if this was what Tommo had in mind all along as the anti-hacking security measures for the Neo Geo X were almost non-existent. In terms of hacking, everything was pretty much left out in the open waiting to be taken advantage of. Now most likely this isn’t the case. I doubt any company who produces hardware would want to be hacked. My thought is they simply didn’t have the time, care, or resources to develop and implement some leet code.
This video shows proof of the ability to load a ROM onto the system’s built in memory cards. For the moment, the ROM has to be renamed to one of the on board games in order to work. In this case the game Metal Slug was swapped for a ROM of Andro Dunos. You’ll notice Metal Slug was selected on the menu, but instead Andro Dunos was loaded. As it stands all you can do is replace an on board game with the same or smaller sized game. While he built in games can be replaced, you can’t load your own games on the external SD card yet. However I imagine these limitation will be overcome very quickly. Thanks to a wonderful Facebook user for a link to a working version of the video!
While the system has potential, there are still some glaring issues that this hack could end up fixing or improving. Modders could load a custom BIOS (ROMs containing the startup program) that would allow users to create save states, switch between AES and MVS modes, fix the resolution problems, save high scores, and a whole host of other options not found in the stock Neo Geo X. UPDATE: As I thought would happen, they have gotten the system to run the custom Uni-BIOS. I honestly think this hacking is the best thing to happen to the Neo Geo X.
In terms of how this will affect the sales of Neo Geo X software, I wouldn’t be too worried. Most of the people I personally know who own a Neo Geo X are die hard SNK fans. They bought the system along with multiple joysticks to support SNK. I simply see this as a way for owners of the MVS or AES version of games to play the ROMs on the go. This also means the floodgates are open for other systems and games to be emulated as the Neo Geo X is a powerful little portable.
UPDATE 12-23-12: One forum user has created custom images for games via the newly implemented Uni-BIOS. While not perfect, as the reflections don’t match the top image, it shows that considerable progress is being made towards getting custom ROMs to properly work on the system.
UPDATE 12-24-12: It’s been discovered there are at least two distinct different models of the Neo Geo X. One model has a removable mini SD card while another has a built in non-removable Samsung chip. At the moment there is no clear reason as to why this change was made. Though there is a possible connection between the firmware and the internal structure of the system. This could make hacking and modding the model with the non-removable SD card more difficult to mod.
UPDATE 12-25-12: A big thanks to Zaira for some clarification. The previously mentioned revisions seem to have distinct firmware numbers: 337 for the Micro SD model, 370 for the non-SD internal storage. As for the custom images, the reflections are stored in the same image. Zaira mentioned it was added work to change them and leaving them made it easy to cross-reference which games were under which original filename.
UPDATE 1-1-13: If you’d like a detail walkthrough of all the hacking news in a nice orderly fashion, one kind member of the Neo Geo forums has assembled all the important information into one convenient thread.
Make sure to check back here in the days to come (or better yet follow us on Facebook) for updates.
Brian is the Managing Director here at Substance TV. He is the host of Substance TV, Game Grief, and co-host of Substance TV LIVE. A graphic designer by trade, his other love of 15 years is the bass guitar. Though he shares his love with his family as well. Luckily he has a wife who supports his video game game addiction, and his two amazing children. You can find him on Google + or via his Twitter @fortressfruit.