There is a textmode-like foreground layer (the "fix" layer, probably called that because it can't scroll) for UI elements like score, credits, life meters, etc..
Trivia: Neo Geo was not primarily designed by SNK, but rather by Alpha Denshi (ADK), presumably acting as a contractor. It bears some similarities to earlier boards for ADK and SNK games (see the MAME drivers "alpha68k" and "snk68").
"As a general rule, the most important thing to remember is to give a
good play value without resorting to shock tactics. Comedy in good
taste is a very good method to add gaming value to any game. If the
whole family can laugh together at a game with a sense of humor, it
provided a more enjoyable experience without being offensive. " page. 106 (guidelines).
I was too poor for having Neo Geo at home but I played it on arcades.
I recall playing a side-scrolling arcade RPG put out by Neo-Geo sometime in the late '80s/early '90s. From what I remember there was leveling and different classes of characters ( fighter, mage, etc ). It was something like Golden Axe, but a lot more detailed. Tried to find it later but never had any luck.
Or Sengoku: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZqBgAQak64
Or also possibly Dungeons and Dragons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8alVk4Zi5A0
D&D was by Capcom on the CPS2, a competitor to the Neo Geo.
Now this thing has 83x the clock rate and ~8,000x the memory for $9: http://getchip.com/pages/chip
I can remember reading articles about how fast and cheap computers would get, but man.
"The SNK custom video chipset allows the system to draw sprites in vertical strips which are 16 pixels wide, and can be 16 to 512 pixels tall; it can draw up to 96 sprites per scanline for a total of 380 sprites on the screen at a time."
And by the time the Neo Geo CD came out where this was suddenly not an issue anymore, it was too late alredy...
As for the price of Neo Geo games, just for some fun here is one that sold last week for over $5000: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Blazing-Star-Neo-Geo-AES-JP-import-1...
Many Neo Geo games are now in four figure territory.
The game size was still kind of an issue on Neo Geo CD since it was only a single-speed drive. The system was kind of infamous for long load times. Think of the loading time of an early PS1 game, and then consider that Neo Geo CD had something like 3x the RAM to fill, a drive half as fast, and no good way to "stream" or otherwise hide disc loading. A few later games had to stop in the middle of a level to load.
Color me pleasantly surprised!