Before you go down the AES route, I'd try to figure out how much the games you really want go for. When I got into Neo collecting I was originally looking at an AES, but after realizing how huge the price difference was between the home and arcade carts I went down the MVS route instead. The very early Neo Geo games on the AES aren't generally that expensive, but games can get pretty astronomical. Especially if you want a copy of Metal Slug. That was almost the singular reason my interest in getting a home console died immediately.
I really have no idea what the current AES market is like, but I imported an MVS copy of Windjammers from Japan for a little more than a hundred USD. I'd recommend signing up at the Neo Geo forums if you have questions.
I kind of hate that Rorie has to be the one to deal with the worst of the worst, but he is amazing at it, and continues to do a fantastic job interacting with the community all around. Someone get that man a delicious Coca-Cola® beverage, cooled to exactly 33°C.
If your NES has the problem that all toaster NES's tend to have (the connector pins need replacing) it is a super easy job. Even if you're super mechanically inept it shouldn't take more than a half hour at most.
Seeing it in action made me realize that it was neater than I had given it credit for. Since I still own and play the systems it covers, I really don't tend to pay attention to these sorts of devices, but the stream sort of caught my interest. Even if it's just software emulation, it goes far enough that I could at least get the feel of playing old games with it, and the auto saving and time skipping features would really come in handy. In the end though, the stream did just as much to discourage me from a purchase. The apparent touchiness of the hardware, and the fact that you can only have one game plugged in at a time removes some of the convenience. If the inevitable Retron 6 fixes the problems of its predecessor while including a region switchable Hucard slot, well, that would be something else entirely.
I guess I'm in the very small majority of those that enjoy seeing them play old games. Partially because that's where my collecting habits lie, and partially because Jeff tends to be really knowledgeable about stuff. I mean, those are the games he grew up playing (for fun!), and cliche of "Negative Jeff" aside, it's fun to see them really get into it. I really loved the C64 and Amiga stuff, because that is something that I literally have no connection to and I like seeing what shaped people's gaming habits. As far as the Freedom Stream goes, I'm also not a fighting game guy, but watching Jeff take on Dan and Jason (and having those guys almost beat him) was genuinely exciting. The only part I don't really enjoy is the "pick a Japanese game at random", because let's face it: when you buy a lot of 100 old games for 100 dollars most of them are going to be inscrutable and/or terrible.
At any rate, it's not like they only focus on retro stuff. Sometimes you'll enjoy the show, and maybe sometimes you won't. It happens.
Edit: Having Brad try to beat his milestones silently was kind of weird, especially since you couldn't see what was happening, but Dan's introduction to DOTA/the Compendium and the complete befuddlement that followed was amazing, and probably my favorite part of the whole stream.
Everyone who was affected by his loss is in my thoughts. This turned out to be a much harder day than I thought it would be, especially when I loaded up the site and saw the Hotline Miami QL.
I poured a glass of scotch and watched the Harmonix stream, and right now I'm thinking about starting up the week after episode of the bombcast, even though I never thought I'd listen to that episode more than once.
This is what I wrote last year, and I guess it's worth writing again:
Fuck Ryan Davis, for leaving us behind and going much too early. Love Ryan Davis.
We still miss you man. It still hurts, and I can't imagine what this loss feels like for the ones who knew you personally. The difference for me now is that this can be a week of celebrating your memory, rather than of mourning. Thank you Ryan.