Retron 5 Review: Bringing Old Games Back To Life
- Nerdbot Original Article
Xbox One, Playstation 4, and the Wii U are what most people think of when mentioning video games these days.
There exists a minority of people, however, who enjoy games that younger players today would refer to as “boring” or “too old”. I am talking, of course, about retro games (Atari, NES, SNES, Sega Genesis to name a few). To me, these games aren’t “retro” - they’re classics. Games I grew up with playing hours and hours on end until I fell asleep or was told to turn off the TV by my parents. Lately, retro games have seen a resurgence, with people collecting the actual arcade game cabinets as well as creating such a demand that the prices of systems and carts has gone up considerably.
After getting bored with the current and next gen games, I dug up my NES, SNES and N64 systems about two years ago to get back into gaming from a simpler time. A time when I didn’t have to listen to 12 year-old boys calling me names after kicking my ass in the latest CoD clone. Sure, I’m in my early thirties and am not the spring chicken I once was but like I said before: modern video games are just boring to me and seem the same. Classic games were like a variety show of different types of strategy and each time you had to learn how to play through trial and error and then get good, not be taught by some boring, paint-by-numbers training mode.
After finding out my original NES was in need of repairs, I tried to fix it using a variety of website recommendations, YouTube videos and of course, trial and error. With no results in sight, I looked into other options: Enter Hyperkin’s Retron 5 – A classic video game system that plays NES, SNES, Genesis, Gameboy, GB Color, GB Advanced, Famicom and Super Famicom games all while updating the picture with HD quality via an HDMI plug. NOTE: It does not have an option to use composite output. After reading and watching various reviews on the Retron 5, I was not sure if this was for me. After all, I was content with a working SNES and N64. I then switched my focus to reading reviews of the Retron 5, which left me unsure about buying a new retro console. I will address some of the things I found and tell you the truth about the Retron’s functionality.
Hyperkin boasts close to 100% compatibility with all of your classic games. From what I could find, it will not play bootlegs, multi game carts or homebrews but it will supposedly play PAL games (I don’t have any to test it). It will not allow you to play with Game Genies or Super Gameboy (you can already play Gameboy games on the Retron 5) but it does have its own cheat system, with the addition of an SD card. It will also allow you to use the Sega Power Base Converter to play Sega Master System games. There have been some reports that certain games do not play in their entirety but that is a small list of mostly rare or obscure titles. Upon trying your first game you will notice that the pin connectors inside the Retron 5 are very tight so be careful removing your games and make sure they are cleaned before inserting them. I use Q-Tips with a little Windex on the connectors and then use the other side of the Q-Tip to dry.
The Retron 5 runs on an Android operating system and is basically an emulator that uses ROM dumps from the cart itself, instead of playing the game directly from the cartridge. You can also save your games at any point using save states which can come in handy if you know you’re about to fight a tough boss or try an impossible level, especially if you are low on lives and/or continues; it’s saved my ass a few times already. Another handy feature is the ability to load and unload previously saved games back and forth from the game to the system which comes in handy in case you have to switch game batteries out and don’t want to lose that saved game.
When it comes to image quality, the Retron 5 presents games in 720p and allows you to add scanlines in the settings menu, giving you that classic CRT TV look. Personally, I did not like that option as it felt generic on my 46” HDTV. I was also unsure of the 720p image as it felt too smooth and not original. I’m a sucker for the legitimate real deal and I felt it looked too good. After a few inebriated nights of playing and beating Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 and DuckTails for the NES, I had gotten used to it and as of this moment, I prefer it to my old NES mainly because I use an HDTV. If you aren’t comfortable with a pristine HD up convert of these games, don’t let the fact that I was inebriated sway you as you too will get used to the image quality and probably come to prefer it.
Sound quality is good and consistent, and the menu even allows you to add a bass or treble boost, however I prefer not to use them. It did remind me of a Sony boom box from the 90s and how they added a bass boost option. You either like it or you don’t. Overall, I had no issues with sound, although Sega Genesis games still sound as bad as they did back in the day but that’s a fault of the games, not the Retron 5.
Will say that when it comes to the controller, the Retron 5 controller is a piece of crap: It’s awkward, cheaply made and has no precision when using it to actually play games. Luckily Hyperkin has allowed the Retron 5 to function with the original controllers and provides ports for NES, SNES and GEN controllers on both sides of the machine. Since it is wireless, a USB charging cord for the controller is included and oddly enough the Retron has a place built-in to the machine to hold your controller most likely for storage while you’re not playing. It’s an odd design choice but my advice: just keep it close to you while playing so you can save your games.
When all is said and done at the end of the day, I end up recommending the Retron 5 as it does just what I bought it to do: play my old games. The added bonuses are things like the HD picture, steady sound, save states and that I can expand my gaming library to include games I never had the systems for. Being able to use the original controllers is a major plus as I wouldn’t have even considered buying this system.
At $140 I can say that it was worth the expense and even though I would have preferred playing on my original systems the Retron 5 breathes a new life into games I haven’t played in years; I have since put my old NES up for display and look at it occasionally, thinking fondly of all the fun we had.