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Posted on Mar 17th 2022 at 12:00:00 PM by (slackur)
Posted under Evercade VS


When the Evercade portable first released in 2020, there were many who scratched their heads in bemusement.  Surely in this day and age of the Switch, the various cheap emulation portables, and now the Steam deck, a new cart-based budget portable game machine was unnecessary?  What was this newfangled British toy, and was it fated to be another nifty but niche Game Gear or Lynx?  Or a comical disaster by way of Game.com or N-Gage?  Well, now that the Evercade has had a few quality of life updates and almost two years of cartridge releases, a better evaluation may be given.  Especially now that the Evercade VS, a home console version of the Evercade ecosystem, has finally arrived here in the US.  After spending a few weekends with the VS and the entire current library, here are my thoughts on everything Evercade.





First though, a bit of a disclaimer: I'm not going to go into the rabbit-hole about the technical specs or emulation; there are many more knowledgeable folks who have had detailed breakdowns and explainers about how the Evercade runs.  What I can say as a bit of an average-joe gamer is that I've not experienced any problems at all aside from a few sound issues on rare occasions, notably on my playthrough of Splatterhouse 2.  Other than that, I've not had noticeable additional lag, the colors and sound seem good, and the controls (when mapped correctly) feel just fine.  I like the portable's screen, d-pad, and buttons, and the VS's HDMI looks nice and crisp.  In summary, given the price points, I'm happy overall with the hardware, and my focus here is on other aspects of the Evercade ecosystem.

At this point the Evercade has twenty console game collection carts and four arcade game collection carts, each containing between 2 and 20 or so games.  The portable has had a few firmware updates to address bugs and emulation issues, and the VS console system has released in fairly robust form without any major hiccups concerning software and hardware.  Each cart plays in both the portable and the VS console, with the exception of the two Namco compilations which are exclusively licensed to the portable (I'll admit that was sad, as I really like that these include some games not traditionally included on the other Namco comps, like Splatterhouse 2 and 3, Star Luster, Warp Man, and the SNES classic Metal Marines, and I'd have loved to have these on the VS).  There are four more announced carts, and Blaze has stated that they hope to hit at least fifty carts.  This would likely put the number of games to approximately 500 or so, a library far exceeding many cartridge-based systems for either portable or console. 

Even as robust a collection of games as the Evercade already has and is likely to end with, I've never viewed the Evercade as the main setup gamers would play.  I think it was always catered to be an addition to say, a Switch, Xbox, or PlayStation; a budget add-on with some interesting and eclectic game compilations catering to collectors, retro enthusiasts, and those looking for inexpensive alternatives to grey-area emulation. If these areas are indeed the point to the Evercade, I personally think it is a resounding success!  Because both the portable and the VS console are budget-priced and every cartridge compilation is $20, the investment is far more palatable than most retro collecting.  The Evercade's emphasis is clearly on physical collectability, from the plastic casing to the included manuals.  And, while there are countless alternatives in the retro emulation market, having a truly licensed product is preferred by those uncomfortable with the ethical and legal matters of such devices, as well as those who lack the tech savvy necessary to set one up.

The portable and the VS console have small form factors, and, while neither feel like expensive premium products, both seem solidly build.  I've taken the portable around quite a bit, and, after putting on a makeshift screen protector, I no longer hesitate bringing it with me.  Each cart comes with a nice plastic clamshell case complete with instructions and the occasional poster or sticker sheet and are definitely made with the modern collector in mind.  Every time I open a new Evercade cart, I get a little whiff of that happy nostalgia of opening a new NES or SNES game from my youth, and I have no doubt that was the intended idea.

The VS controllers feel natural and comfortable, much like the portable; it is no SNES controller (my personal retro favorite,) but certainly closer to it than, say, the Atari Jaguar controller.  I've logged enough hours to say with confidence that, aside from some wonky default custom key-binding, I'm quite comfortable with them, and the VS console already supports various additional controllers if, unlike me, you just don't care for the included ones.

But what about the big deal: the game library?  Here's the main point I wanted to write about.  The initial game announcements were admittedly lackluster, and, almost by definition, the system has no true exclusives (given the main point of the library is centered around licensed ports and indie games that are also on Steam).  I mean, do we really need yet another method to play the same Atari and Namco games we've seen rereleased for decades? The skepticism was/is warranted.

Ah, but if you've read my previous articles, you know I'm an apologist for a good misunderstood underdog.  While it is true that the Evercade library has its share of stuff you can find elsewhere, I would argue there is far more here.  Let's take those Atari and Namco comps, for example.  Littered in the usual suspects are some gems rarely found in other compilations: Alien Brigade, Ninja Golf, Motor Psycho, Basketbrawl, and the 7800 version of Desert Falcon are pretty uncommon on these Atari comps in my experience, and the aforementioned Namco games really make me want those on the VS.  Still, I'm pretty delighted to have Metal Marines on the go.

In fact, almost every cart has at least one or two (or more) atypical entries, not to mention carts like the Piko collection that are stuffed full of unusual suspects like Joe and Mac 2 and Dragon View.  If you grew up on the classic systems of Atari 2600 and 7800, NES, SNES, Genesis, and even the less common Intellivision and the Lynx, the Evercade is like a one-stop library of old consoles.  Of course, there are countless holes, but if you are looking for a Sonic or Mario, you already have plenty of options.  The Evercade is home to the oddball, the eclectic, an easy way to play four player arcade Warlords, the "oh yeah, I remember that!" random game and... Boogerman.


Personally on this cart I prefer Battle Chess, Earthworm Jim, Titan, and Incantation, but to each their own.

But the Evercade isn't just about collecting a few odd retro games I once enjoyed.  Growing up in America, I've had little experience with the European retro scene.  Blaze Entertainment is a UK company, and the Evercade is primarily marketed there (I've had to import through Funstock and Amazon).  In fact, the vast majority of their publishers are based in the UK, including Big Evil Corporation, Bitmap Bros., Bitmap Bureau, Code Masters, Gremlin, and Team 17.  Morphcat games are German, and Gaelco is a Spanish developer/publisher (and to round out the research, Data East, Jaleco, Namco, Renovation, and Technos are Japanese, and Atari, Interplay, Mega Cat, Piko, and Songbird Productions are American).

The relevance here is that I now have access to a whole lot of European games I've never played.  Xenon 2, Sensible Soccer, Mega-Lo-Mania, a ton of Dizzy games, all sorts of stuff I'm playing for the first time.  Are they all classics?  Well, is every game on the NES a 10 out of 10?  Some of these really do hold up; the inspired lunacy of Alligator Hunt, four player Super Skidmarks, and a cheap and easy way to grab DreamWorld Pogie come to mind.  I'm finding all sorts of interesting games from a library I've barely previously sampled, and that's been a lot of fun!

Another main selling point for me has been the support of physical indie releases.  I'm a big fan of Mega Cat Studios, and they have 18 games across two carts here. I absolutely adore Bitmap Bureau's Xeno Crisis, and the first Indie Heroes collection has all sorts of nifty stuff like Aguna, Quest Arrest, and the creepy Deadeus

I'd be remiss if I didn't also give a shoutout to the fact that most of the best Lynx games are on here too.  The giant portable has always had a spot in my heart, and the ability to play Blue Lightning, California Games (I still enjoy the fantastic BMX and surfing on this version), Checkered Flag, Dracula: The Undead, and Crystal Mines II without the rough screen and horrendous battery life has been fantastic.  At this point, you would save a ton of money buying an Evercade portable and the two Lynx carts over an actual Lynx and the respective games and have a much better screen and a system that doesn't need MC Hammer's pants to carry around.

As for the future, there are four more carts scheduled to release over the next few months, including another compilation of Intellivision games, more Indie games, another cart of Euro goodies by publisher Gremlin, a cart by Renovation, and more supposedly on the way.  That Renovation cart may be one of my favorites so far, as it includes Arcus Odyssey, Beast Wrestler, Dino Land, El Viento, Exile, Final Zone, Gaiares, Granada, Sol-Deace, Traysia, Valis: The Fantasm Soldier, and Valis 3.  Just to be able to play some of these on a portable with save-states has me quite thrilled; maybe I can finally take down Gaiares.

At this point, if you couldn't tell, I'm quite sold on the Evercade ecosystem.  It brings a nice value to our collection, an opportunity to easily play all sorts of games I don't have easy access to otherwise, and a better and more accessible way to play some of my favorites.  Certainly, the Evercade or the VS is not for everybody, but for the niche they are looking to fill, I think they are doing quite well, and I'm a big fan.

Smiley


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Comments
 
Good write-up. I've been thinking about the Evercade VS for a little while now, and it seems like a reasonably good value proposition, even if I might prefer to actually play stuff on the MiSTer most times for convenience. But I like that someone is making these old games available again, and keeping them at least somewhat commercially relevant. And the indie collections really make sense, and I hope we see more of that.
 
This...  ahem, ecosystem has been on my mind for quite a long time, and despite me not being an active collector anymore I've followed it from the beginning to now.  I've several excuses over the years why I wouldn't buy into this, ranging from the odd button ordering (and the double-down on the often toxic "you'll get used to it" attitudes that arose on social media sites for a while) to the difficulty of getting some of the carts and the almost complete disappearance of the handheld console (save on ebay at expected pricing).  My current is, "Am I just buying these to start collecting again?" which is a real concern to someone like myself, who can collect no more than I can write.

All of that being said, a lot of my defenses have worn down over the years, and despite not really being into "television" based console gaming I've been overall impressed with Blaze's apparent pro-consumer attitude.  Carts that I've thought to have disappeared are now available at their original price, and the VS manages to be compatible with a impressive amount of third-party controllers.  Now if we could manage to get a composite version of the VS...
 
@MetalFRO:  If you aren't in the collector mindset and already have methods to play the games included, yeah, the VS may not be the best investment, but it sure is nifty to have this as a physical collection Smiley

@bombatomba: I hadn't realized the handheld was a little harder to find, although it is still up for sale in a bundle on Funstock.co.uk.  I've been picking up the carts as they come out (only one or two release every few months, so it hasn't been too bad when I catch free or cheap shipping.)  The button remapping is better now but it is a pain and must be done for each individual game.  I don't think they will go for a composite variant, but these games sure look nice through HDMI Cheesy
 
I own the VS and can't help but notice that games on this system look very blurry.  The menu screens look like a very sharp 1080p image as expected but the games themselves almost look closer to 480p to me.  Besides an old thread on Reddit, I have not found too much online about this issue.  But comparing Bad Dudes for example, The AtGames Legends Gamer Pro looks much much sharper than the Evercade VS.  Night and day difference in picture quality.  Xenocrisis is another example, when comparing the xbox version of the game with the VS version. 

Has anyone else here experienced this?

I love the VS.  I just wish I could figure out if I was doing something wrong with my display settings or if that's just the way the system looks.
 
@Voodoo Monkey:Hmm.  I just loaded up Bad Dudes and Xeno Crisis on a 1080p display using the VS. with the latest firmware update, and I'm not seeing blurry issues with mine.  If anything, it is sharp enough that I sometimes use scanlines, which I don't often do on other systems.

May be a tv issue, or a specific unit issue, or perhaps I'm not seeing it myself.

I'll try to set aside time to load up my own AtGames Legends Gamer Pro and compare Bad Dudes when I can.
 
@slackur Thank you for taking a look.  I guess I should see what firmware I'm running on the VS.  I don't think I ever updated that.
 
I wanted to give everyone a quick update here.  Thanks to @slakur I decided to get my system online and upgraded the firmware from 2.0.0 to 2.1.0. 
What a huge difference!  Every game looks exactly as it should now, very crisp.  Pretty much perfect.
I actually want to play these games now.  Thank you!
 
@Voodoo Monkey:Oh good!  Glad that resolved the issue.  Yeah, I'm really enjoying the VS lately, and I'm eager to play the Renovation cart (delayed for another week or too because of shipping issues) and the new stuff announced, including more interesting arcade comps and indie games.

I'll try to keep updating every now and then with the new releases as they come out.

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