Ladies and gentlemen, it has finally arrived, only a few days well okay years later than expected the Neo Myth 64 for the Nintendo64 is now available for purchase. The N64 installment of the
Neo Myth series was announced way back in May 2006 with a late release that same year. But nothing happened and Team Neo became more and more quiet about the status of the project. That was until
sometime last year when the first beta kit went out to a programmer and just before christmas a bunch of testers were asked to mess around with the near final product. A few days later though it
was released to the general public, retailing at $199.
Once again I've been fortunate enough to become one of the testers of Team Neo's products, and to be honest the N64 version of the Neo Myth is by far the one I've been mostly interested in as I
pretty much from day one, launch, owned an N64 and no matter how badly people speak of the N64, I enjoyed lots of the games released for that system and remember it as a close second to my favourite
videogame system ever, the Nintendo Entertainment System. So here's my chance to relive the videogame part of my early twenties and it's time to wake up the memories of playing Super Mario 64 to
Wave Race 64 and my favourite videogame ever(!!) Conker's Bad Fur Day.
The visual presentation of the Neo Myth 64 is pretty much as expected, it's packed in an easy to open blister packaging like all of Team Neo's latest products. As if the N64 text on the actual cart wouldn't be enough
to convince potential buyers of the fact this is an Nintendo64 cartridge, Team Neo decided to add a relatively big gold sticker on the outside of the blister packaging saying "For: N64" which I'm guessing is to
seriously point out that this IS for the Nintendo64. It seems a little over the top though ;-)
As with any other Neo Myth cartridge you get a USB->MiniUSB (male/male) cable, a CDR with the somewhat latest software for most of Neo's catalog of flash devices, and there are quite a few by now. Sadly Team Neo has
once again decided not to include any form of quick guide to their product, neither in paper or digital format. As if that wasn't bad enough, not even the N64 PC software is available on the CD which then makes it
useless. So for the software you need to go to www.neoflash.com, which you'll probably end up doing anyway as new software is often released.
The Neo Myth 64 comes packed with a removable 512mbit flash storage, in NDSLite expansionpak style. The 512mbit is just enough to store one of the largest N64 games in existance, which is no more than 2 games,
Conker's Bad Fur Day and Resident Evil 2.
As mentioned the flash pak is removable and the NEO2 GBA pak with optional SD storage will be supported later on. However this means that you'll have to buy the extra "pak", if you do not already own one,
to be able to use SD cards. I'm not really a fan of that idea, but I'll get back to that later.
The Neo Myth 64 slightly taller than a regular N64 cartridge and is designed to fit both European and American/Japanese N64 consoles by making a small "negative tab" at the lower part of the cart wide enough not to
be affected by the lockout tab inside the cartridge slot. For a better explanation of what I mean, click here to go to NESWORLD's N64 piracy page.
Because no N64 lockout "CIC" bypass really exists an original N64 cart is required. The original cart will piggeyback the Neo Myth 64 and will work both as lockout bypass as well as optional saving, which I
don't recommend though, unless you have managed to backup your existing saves on the cart first.
The cartridge itself has built-in memory which can be used for game storage. Instead of using a standard memory card such as a SD or CF card, Team Neo for some reason decided to incorporate their own NDSLite/GBA flash
paks into the Neo Myth design. This means that instead you being able to decide the size of game storage, you're limited to only 65 megabyte (512mbit) out of the box and that's really not a whole lot. Team Neo's choice
to go ahead and use nds/gba flash paks is to me the biggest mistake they've made.
Sure later on the NEO2 adapter with SD card expansion will be available, but this means that Neo Myth owners will have to buy another Neo product to take full advantage of the options presented. It's of course a clever
trick for aditional sales from Neo's side, but I'm surely not a fan of that business model, and with a whopping pricetag of US$199,- I believe it's fair to say that buyers have paid enough for the product. I'm not
saying it's heavily overpriced, I'm just saying that they shouldn't be forced to buying another piece of equipment to take full advantage of what they've already purchased.
The GBA/NDS Flash cartridge goes into a slot on the top side of the cartridge and on the right side of the cartridge is the USB plug used to connect the cartridge to a PC where it will act as a docking station/linker
for the GBA/NDS which then can be filled with N64... homebrew of course :-)
Besides the USB plug an on/off switch also can be found. The On /Off Switch can be used to switch between two games, but there's a catch. To be able to toggle between two games they have to be added at the same time,
meaning the very same "burn" to the flash cart, you can't first add one and then another later on.
The internals (front) of the Neo Myth 64 show an Actel ProASIC3 which hold the firmware for the cart. On the right side of the cart there's an USB Upgrade Port which is
used to upgrade the cart firmware by testers. I do not know yet if/how end users will be able to upgrade the cartridge firmware, if needed. Underneath the upgrade port there's an open IC (chip) slot called U4 and rumor
has it that a CIC chip can be added here and therefore a piggyback cart is no longer needed. On the right side of the ASIC there's some internal memory (flash?) used to store game saves.
On the backside of the cart there's a "Neo Myth USB 388C" chip along with resistors, capacitors and other tech junk :-)
Also, the final product seems to be version 4.
GAME STORAGE CARTRIDGE
All versions of NDSLite flash paks and NEO2 memory carts can be used with the Neo Myth 64, but eventhough the older NEO2 carts feature a SD card slot, this can't be used for
storing roms, yet. I've also tried using a NEO3 (TF) cart which has a microSD slot and while it was recognized as a NEO2 it wouldn't work, as this cart is
nothing more than an adapter and doesn't have any internal memory and therefore won't work.
NEO2 SD support is expected to be available soon, but as mentioned it requires the purchase of an aditional NEO2 cart if you don't have one already from a previous Neo Flash set.
SOFTWARE, FIRMWARE, COMPATIBILITY
The software used for the Neo Myth 64 is called "Neo Menu" even though is has absolutely nothing to do with a menu. The software is sort of universal as it's used for all types of Neo products, and from Neo Menu
version 2.95 the Neo Myth 64 is included in the software.
When receiving the Neo Myth 64 it's recommended that you do a full (N64) format of the 512mbit flash pak. Now here's where the bad part comes in. A full format of the 512mbit flash pak takes no less than 15 minutes
which quite frankly is insanely slow. I believe it's fair to just go with a quick format which will take no more than 3 seconds.
Of course the software also is used to upload binaries to the Neo Myth 64 and once again the speed of this thing is so far from impressive that it can possibly get. Uploading a 256mbit rom takes 6:35 minutes, a 512mbit
rom takes 14:23 minutes in my test and I I have to say that the upload speed is so horrible that my old Doctor V64 probably was faster and it used the parallel port of the PC and not the much faster USB like this one.
I seriously hope it's possible to improve the speed later on, otherwise the interest in this device is going to die out very soon.
Uploading is pretty straight forward and easy, but I honestly would wanted a stand alone program for the Neo Myth 64 as there are lots of things in the program that is unrelated to N64 and they may end up confusing users.
Also I hope the software later on will be able to list European CIC chips as well as the country ID of roms as well as the name of the game instead of just the filename, both are available in the rom header so it
shouldn't be much of a problem.
Team Neo has promised 100% game compatibility but the first official revision of the cart's firmware suffered from a bug that resulted in games, needing 16KB EEPROM to save, refused to boot. Also other games were
unable to save. But Team Neo pulled through and released a firmware upgrade to the testers that fixed both problems.
While the team of testers were given a so-called "Nero Dual programmer" to update the firmware, this device is not included with the retail version of the Neo Myth 64. This means that other Neo Myth 64 owners have to
buy the $50 programmer to get the firmware updated. Question is wether firmware updates will be loadable from the soon to come cartridge menu system, but I think it's highly unlikely. But with that said, now that
firmware 1.1 is out and working flawless, there's probably no need for future firmware upgrades anyway?
A great part about the firmware is that is has a built-in "boot emulator". This becomes very handy as the N64 had no less than 5 different CIC (lockout) chips used in games, and it would be a pain having to own a cart
with each of the CIC's and then also having to remember what's used for what game. The boot emulator means that you just need any N64 cart to piggyback the Neo Myth 64 and you're ready to roll without thinking of
the various lockouts. Nifty!
Unfortunately the software has another major flaw at this point. It's not possible to remove just one of the roms added to the cart, if you try to delete one, they all go. Hopefully this "bug" will be gone once the
multigame menu is finished.
Here's a part of the Neo Myth 64 I believe they havn't thought of making easy to use yet. There is no where you are able to be told what type of save the loaded rom uses and it'll often just point to the piggyback
carts' sram or eeprom, no matter what game you're playing and what type of save it requires, being (32K) sram, (1M)flash, (4K/16K)eeprom. A drop down menu is available to pick any of the save types mentioned and even
some that are not used by N64 games, why the need to confuse users even more?
I havn't looked into this feature much as I seriously hope it's changed soon, cause the way it is now it's just useless to be honest - having to manually extract savegames from the Neo Myth 64's internal flash ram,
again not knowing what type of save you're supposed to extract.
NEO MYTH CART MENU
Unavailable when the review was made, meaning that the cartridge only is capable of running one off the cartridge, the rest are not selectable. In the future though a menu will be available, so stay tuned for a review
update when it's released.
The Neo Myth 64 has been long awaited, it has been in development for over 3 years and with that said I can't help but feel a little let down about the final product which seems rushed. It's released without proper
software, speed issues, the lack of being able to load multiple roms to the cart and sloppy save support, well it saves alright, but it's a bit of a mystery where do find and backup the savegame.
The price is was whopping $250 but then lowered to $199 at launchday, a poor attempt to make it look like a bargin I don't know. As the Neo Myth 64 is the first of it's kind on the market you can't really argue against
the price, which some may say is a little over the top. Keep in mind that N64 copiers back in the day were $300-400, so that and the higher dollar exchange rate back in those days in mind, i'd say the price is about fair, but
still a little too much - the $199 price tag may make some reconsider buying one.
As there are no other products like the Neo Myth 64 on the market I can't really do anything but recommend the device, however once another similar product is released, Team Neo can only hope that they've sold the
number of units they hoped for, because if they don't get the SD card support, save support and last but not least the speed issues figured out, I think they'll loose the battle against other products.
I'll try to update the review as soon as new developments for the Neo Myth 64 occour, so stay tuned and thanks for reading :-)
· Finally an N64 flash cart! and the first one of this type released
· Good compatibility with firmware revision 1.1
· Dedicated developer
· Built-in Bootemulator
· Region free
· So damn slow it's not even funny
· No dedicated Neo Myth 64 software, for easy use
· The use of GBA/DS flash paks instead of SD out of the box, WHY?!
· Lack of easy to use save option.