Fellow retrogaming fans, how cool would it be to have a console that plays NES, SNES, Genesis, and even Game Boy Advance games? You want more? How about the ability to play Famicom games, too? Still more? Okay; how about multiple save states for each game you play, multi-region support, and even upscaling to high-definition?
And what if I told you that the whole thing was coming later this summer for less than $100?
Well, I’m not making this up. It’s a real console, and it’s called the RetroN 5 from Hyperkin. I got to see it in action at E3, and even got to play a couple of games on it to see how well it works… and the dream is reality. There’s still some work to be done before release, but Hyperkin certainly delivered at the show and there’s something here that’s definitely worth getting excited about.
The console will accept cartridges from all of the platforms that I mentioned at the top. NES, Genesis, Super Nintendo, and Famicom carts will go into their appropriate slots on the top of the console. Game Boy Advance carts will slide into a slot in the front of the console. Once inserted, you’re taken to a menu to set your region and display options, and then you’re off to gameplay. The UI is easy to learn and use; although it’s not as instantaneous as using the actual hardware, the convenience of using an all-in-one console and some of the nice features like save states and multi-region play make it worth using.
One minor change to the RetroN 5 is the elimination of RCA support. This means that HDMI will be the way to go here, and that’s okay as the upscaling looks very good. It’s similar the upscaling seen in Sonic’s Ultimate SEGA Genesis Collection. There are options for smoothing and scanlines, or you can leave the original display options as is (which I do). It wasn’t an easy decision to leave out RCA support, but leaving it in would have led to additional R&D time and a later release window. With the hardware so close to completion, it made more sense to move forward with HDMI support, and it’s a move that I agree with.
The emulation is software emulation, and the operating system will be included on an SD card packaged with the RetroN 5. While the size of the SD card is still being determined, I was assured by David Yu with Hyperkin that enough space will be left over to handle save states for multiple games. I was also assured that tough-to-emulate games like the Japanese version of Castlevania III and games with Super FX chip support will be compatible and emulated well. In addition, firmware updates will be available to get fixes for games that may experience compatibility issues. Hyperkin will be sending beta hardware to smaller independent retailers and select retrogaming individuals with deep cartridge libraries for pre-launch compatibility testing.
I spent some time playing F-Zero (SNES) at E3 on working RetroN 5 hardware and it ran like a charm. There was no slowdown, sound emulation and stereo spacing were accurate, and smoothed visuals for high definition looked quite good. I decided to add scanlines for that arcade-style effect, too. It was a bit of an enjoyable throwback to be playing a game from 1991 when new-generation consoles were being played in the same building and were a big focus for E3.
Hyperkin continues to listen to fan requests, too, with emulation for other platforms being considered as long as support and development can be justified. We discussed potential for TurboGrafx/PC Engine and SEGA Master System support, and these are options among others which are on the table.once the RetroN 5 project is complete. Retrogaming support is an important facet of Hyperkin’s business model, and the staff there takes retro very seriously.
It may be a long summer waiting for the RetroN 5, but as long as it stays on course and the final product is as good as what I got to play, the wait will be well worth it.