Alpha's amazing role in the creation of SNK's masterpiece!

Here are some of the early pre NEOGEO Alpha arcade games


In 1989, after having already designed several arcade boards with SNK, Alpha Denshi got involved with PROJECT NEOGEO. SNK was looking for the next big thing and Alpha helped them put it together. While SNK has always been synonymous with the NEO-GEO name, most historians have overlooked the key role that Alpha had in making the system a reality. However, the primary focus of this article is not to discuss ADK's involvement with the NEOGEO hardware, but rather ADK's contributions to the NEOGEO software.

It is well known that Alpha's first two NEOGEO games were Magician Lord and Ninja Combat. Magician Lord (April 1990) was a launch title for the system and it was quite impressive. Ninja Combat (July 1990) originally began in concept as a sequel to Gang Wars, but underwent transformations which gave it a Ninja theme. Both of these titles were released under the SNK name. Alpha was an in-house second party developer during the first year of the systems lifespan, and broke away sometime in 1991 as one of the first third party licensees.

We know that Sun Shine was location testing in July of 1990. This would of course only be possible if the game had been under development during the previous months earlier in 1990. So it would then seem logical to conclude that Sun Shine was issued a very early NGM number and may have been intended to be released under the SNK name. However, the industry trade show flyer is inconsistent with the flyers from Alpha's previous games from that time period. (Magician Lord and Ninja Combat)

Alpha's third officially released game was RAGUY (Blue's Journey). This title began development in February of 1990 with a planned release date of October 1990. However, it was delayed and as such it did not see release until February 1991. Raguy (NGM-022) was given an additional part number of ALM-001 which was Alpha's first NEOGEO release as a third party licensee. This is a clue into what was going on at the time between Alpha and SNK.

Therefore, we can see that Sun Shine (July 1990) and Block Paradise (November 1990) and Fun Fun Bros. (March 1991) were all in turn abandoned and went unreleased. And as a result of that, the product numbers which they were assigned went unused. We also know that they spanned the time period from early 1990 (NGM-008) to late 1990 (NGM-012) and to early 1991 (NGM-026) And it does not appear that any of these numbers were reassigned to other projects.

The Sun Shine flyer is identical in format to Ninja Combat. However, one key difference is that it says ALPHA instead of SNK. This would mean that it was intended to be Alpha's first independent release. But Sun Shine was canceled and we know that RAGUY was Alpha's first independent release. It was even given a secondary part number by Alpha.

Why would Alpha release a visually inferior puzzle game in December of 1990 when SNK had just released Joy Joy Kid in November of 1990.?

Why would Raguy have been issued 22?

So sometime in late 1990, Alpha Denshi changed from being an in house second party software house to an outside third party publisher. And they introduced there own software product numbers with the ALM-000 format. (ALPHA MVS 0XX).

Both of these projects were canceled. FUN FUN BROS from March 1991 and MYSTIC WAND from June 1991. Presumably, Sun Shine began in early 1990, failed its location test in July 1990, became Block Paradise in November of 1990, and then became Fun Fun Bros in March of 1991. Sun Shine and Block Paradise were almost identical with minimal differences between them. While Fun Fun Bros underwent a major overhaul. It is still unclear if they occupy 2 or 3 of the early missing NGM numbers.

MYSTIC WAND (NGM-035) was a two player simultaneous action platform game. It's design and gameplay elements drew inspiration from Tecmo's Solomon's Key. After an unsuccesful location test, the project was killed and the game itself disappeared.

So by the summer of 1991, Alpha had already abandoned several projects. Fun Fun Bros (the final 1991 rebuild of the failed 1990 Sun Shine/Block Paradise shooting puzzle game from March of 1991) and Mystic Wand (the June 1991 action platformer which failed its location test in Japan).

Crossed Swords was released in July 1991. However, it is possible that it may have begun its life much earlier then that back in mid 1990 as an "action RPG" with a proposed release date of January 1991. It was assigned ALM-002 by Alpha. Thrash Rally was released in December of 1991 and was assigned ALM-003 by Alpha.

This unique time window leaves little room for any other place for an unreleased 1991 Alpha project to reside. So by definition, Alpha's unreleased 1991 Mystic Wand game, which was displayed at trade show exhibitions in the summer of 1991, would logically have been assigned NGM-035.

Around late 1991/early 1992 SNK announced that the third party publishers had now come of age. Alpha was joined by Pallas, Monolith, Aicom-Sammy, Wave, and Visco. Larger and more well known companies such as Taito, Data East, and Video System would not jump on board until 1994.

Alpha's last project before the Street Fighter era took over the arcade industry was original and impressive. Capcom's sequel to Super Joe/Commando called "MERCS" was released in February of 1990. Alpha took this run and gun formula and mixed in a Ninja theme. And in April of 1992 they released Ninja Commando. It just barely slipped through the release gate because after Alpha's next title, all other projects were either placed on hold or outright canceled.

World Heroes (July 1992) was Alpha's first entry into the fighting game craze. It was a huge hit and helped make a new name for the company. Work began immediately on the sequel. So fast in fact, that the NGH numbers are so close for WH1 and WH2 that only 3 games are in between them on the list.

Capcom's Street Fighter 2 made such an impact on the video game industry that every software development team in the world changed their gameplan. Not only did Alpha release 3 versus fighting games in a row, but they were literally all World Heroes games!

While the popularity and success of the fighting game genre at the arcades helped bring about some of the best games of all time, there was sadly however some collateral damage as well. In September of 1992, NGH-054 (Crossed Swords 2) was being location tested. But due to the overnight success of World Heroes, it was instantly ignored and immediately dropped from the project list. It would then sit dormant for 3 years and was only revived when it became usefull again as a promotional NEOGEO CD system exclusive title. Were it not for this matter, it almost certainly would have joined the previous abandoned Alpha projects from 1990 and 1991.

Released in record time by April of 1993, World Heroes 2 managed to outperform it's predesesor and became a staple in video arcades across the country. And of course, Alpha was already working on yet another update for the game.

Although there were only 13 NEOGEO games released with ALM product numbers, Alpha made 22 NEOGEO products! Because some of their products were released under SNK and some of their products were exclusively released for the NEOGEO CD. And of course, they also had several unreleased protos; much more then any other NEOGEO developer.


ALPHA 01 -- 1990 -- NGM-005 -- ( --SNK-- ) -- Magician Lord

ALPHA 02 -- 1990 -- NGM-008 -- ( --N/A-- ) -- Sun Shine

ALPHA 03 -- 1990 -- NGM-009 -- ( --SNK-- ) -- Ninja Combat

ALPHA 04 -- 1990 -- NGM-013 -- ( --N/A-- ) -- Block Paradise

ALPHA 05 -- 1990 -- NGM-022 -- ALM-001 -- Blue's Journey

ALPHA 06 -- 1991 -- NGM-026 -- ( --N/A-- ) -- Fun Fun Bros.

ALPHA 07 -- 1991 -- NGM-035 -- ( --N/A-- ) -- Mystic Wand

ALPHA 08 -- 1991 -- NGM-037 -- ALM-002 -- Crossed Swords

ALPHA 09 -- 1991 -- NGM-038 -- ALM-003 -- Thrash Rally

ALPHA 10 -- 1992 -- NGM-050 -- ALM-004 -- Ninja Commando

ALPHA 11 -- 1992 -- NGM-053 -- ALM-005 -- World Heroes

ALPHA 12 -- 1992 -- NGM-054 -- ( --N/A-- ) -- Crossed Swords 2

ALPHA 13 -- 1993 -- NGM-057 -- ALM-006 -- World Heroes 2

ALPHA 14 -- 1994 -- NGM-064 -- ALM-007 -- World Heroes 2 Jet

ALPHA 15 -- 1994 -- NGM-074 -- ALM-008 -- Aggressors Dark Kombat

ALPHA 16 -- 1995 -- NGM-090 -- ALM-009 -- World Heroes Perfect

ALPHA 17 -- 1995 -- NGM-091 -- ( --N/A-- ) -- ADK Special

ALPHA 18 -- 1995 -- NGM-203 -- ALM-010 -- Master of Syougi

ALPHA 19 -- 1996 -- NGM-211 -- ( --N/A-- ) -- Okidashi Zintrick

ALPHA 20 -- 1996 -- NGM-212 -- ALM-011 -- Over Top

ALPHA 21 -- 1996 -- NGM-217 -- ALM-012 -- Ninja Masters

ALPHA 22 -- 1996 -- NGM-224 -- ALM-013 -- Twinkle Star Sprites