RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Jul 16th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under retro, console, plug and play, HDMI, Data East, Capcom, where the heck is the Konami game man



I really dig summer, especially for writing (did I mention I love writing?).  This time of the year I typically spend a goodly amount of time not playing games but rather thinking about them, diving back into the glory days of the late 80's and early 90's, back when Metro D had a respectable amount of arcade games located in every conceivable place, save government buildings and banks (and I am sure they secretly wanted them).

What does this have to do with the article?  Early this year I spent a fair amount of time running my mouth about the past as my fourteen year-old son and I sat on the couch in the game room and played our way through the ninety (!) titles available on the Retro-bit Super Retro-cade.  And man, was it amazing.



The predecessor to the Super Retro-cade, the Retro-bit Generations, appeared in late 2016 with serious emulation issues (which is pretty bad considering that is the whole point of the plug and play).  Because of this is was widely regarded as a failure and can usually be found for a highly discounted price on the internet.  In a normal story, this would be the end.  I mean, look at what happened with the PlayStation Classic, and Sony pretty much disowned it within a week after release.  But Retro-bit apparently decided to try again (likely while they still had the licenses for many of the games) and by the end of 2017 the greatly improved Super Retro-cade was on the shelves, with some better choices in games, redesigned controllers, and better emulation.

Before we continue, there are two versions of the Super Retro-cade floating around, and little physical way to tell the difference save the list of included games on the back of the box.  The second version (1.1) removes one game (the 1988 arcade original of Cobra Command) and adds Act-Fancer: Cybernetick Hyper Weapon, Armed Police Unit Gallop, Crude Buster, R-Type, and R-Type II (all arcade versions).


As you can see the list represents a wide breadth of gaming, encompassing both arcade and console.  You have arcade games that most of us only know as console ports (Super Dodgeball, Image Fight, 10-Yard Fight, and Kickle Cubicle), console ports that most of us know only as arcade games (Burgertime and Fighter's History), both arcade and console titles to perhaps contrast and compare (Bionic Commando, Merc, Strider, and Magical Drop) some awesome console exclusives (Mega Man 2 & 3, Codename: Viper, and Might Final Fight), arcade schmups (Mr. Heli, Dragon Breed, and Thunder Blaster), run and gun shooters (Midnight Resistance, Heavy Barrel and Commando), a plethora of beatem' ups (Bad Dudes, Blade Master, Knights of the Round, Armored Warriors, and a bunch more), and some games that I've never played before (Holy Diver, Ken-Go, Wizard Fire, and many more).  Also included are what appear to be three nice little collections, for the most part representing three different arcade and 16-bit franchises (Final Fight series, Joe and Mac series, and a lot of R Type games).  And there is even an RPG (Dark Lord a Famicom title translated by [LOOK IT UP]).  There are just so many different games here, that it truly humbled me, as before I thought myself a well traveled child of the arcades.  Something as simple as this little white box certainly put me in my place.


Pic from HackInformer (I really need to invest in a HDMI capture device!)

A word on the controllers.  When I first saw and held them, I was very dubious.  They aren't uncomfortable to hold in or anything, but maybe I've held too many cheaply made controllers in my life, and at first blush the Retro-bit controller feels the same.  More specifically, it feels very light, and the wings give it a kind of "I'm cheap" look to them.  But within a few minutes of gaming any trepidation was gone.  These are meant to be retro controllers, so there are no fancy clicks from microswitches or any of that nonsense, and with ten foot cords they are meant to be played far back from the plug and play itself.  Functionally they are USB variants of Retro-bit's own "Super Retro Wired Controller for SNES" controllers, though instead of colored like the Japanese and European variants, the X, Y, B and A face buttons are even concave and convex, which is a nice little touch for me (I've always enjoyed this "feature" of the NA SNES controllers)..  This scored a lot of points for me, as I was a huge fan of that design from day one.  Another bonus was since they are USB, I can use them with all of my computers, and have become my choice for retro collections on PC (such as Mega Man and The Disney Afternoon Collection) as well as with most of my console and DOS emulation.  I'd say the only issue I had was the shoulder buttons don't feel quite as nice as the SNES controller (though this isn't a deal killer for me) and the d-pad lacks a central pivot, which makes it feel like you need to push harder than you actually do).  Mileage will certainly vary, but I like them.  They are adequate, if not great.  I tested a variety of other USB controllers and found little to none worked properly (usually it was d-pad functions that didn't work).  Retro-bit has a list of compatible USB controllers if you want to take a look.

Something to bring up is the game emulation.  While the majority of the titles play great with little to no slow-down, some of the games do play noticeably slower than they should.  The odd thing is that this slow-down is usually not consistent throughout the game.  A few such examples are Armored Warriors and Legend of Hero Tonma.  Both the games have some slow down at different points (in the middle and beginning, respectively), with Tonma having some crackly sound.  Not terrible, and this didn't keep me from playing (and finishing) both games, though this likely won't be the same for all people.  I also felt that Midnight Resistance played a bit slower than the arcade, though my only source for this is Youtube, but really the controls keep me away from that one.  Which also prompts me to bring up some of the emulated controls.  Several of the titles used special rotary joysticks in the arcades, used for both movement and aiming.  The "twist" part of the rotary joysticks are emulated on the Super Retro-cade by using the shoulder buttons, which I find awkward.  It helps that I don't find the "rotary" games on the Retro-cade aren't my favs, when combined with the emulated controls makes those titles "one off" plays for sure.


The lone RPG in the pack

Unlike much of the competition, the Super Retro-cade comes with both composite and HDMI capabilities, and both are not half bad, though certainly not at the top of their respective classes.  For testing I gamed on four different displays:  a 40" 720p LCD, a DLP projector at about 60" (both HDMI), and two composite CRTs (36" and 27" both standard).  The HDMI runs at 720p and is exactly what you think; brighter and sharper than composite, though all games run stretched by default through it, which is a bleeding shame.  You can set each game to the original aspect ratio to fix this issue, but there is no "global" option available for all games, and coupled with the inability to save the individual setting changes you make, you are forced to set the aspect ratio every time you exit and reenter a game.  Gaming on composite is much nicer than I anticipated, given the general amount of bellyaching I observed on the internet, though much of that will be down to the individual display.  In my case, both CRTs looked great and defaulted to native 4:3 (which means switching games is faster).  Outside of that, the only caveat here is that the game menu is obviously meant for HD, as it seems a little small with hard to read text while playing composite, but it is limited to menu.  Overall I am not sure which I prefer, and I have been regularly switching back and forth between them in an attempt to come up with an answer, though I expect laziness will rule the day in the end, as will it just sounding better through my sound setup versus the speakers on my JVC TV.

Something that a friend brought up while discussing this article was adding games.  I have not tried this, though from what I read online it is not only possible, but fairly easy.  The Super Retro-cade has an SD card slot in the back, primarily meant for game saves outside of the plug and plays internal memory (which are save states) and all you really need to do is pop your ROMs on an SD card and load from the systems sub-menu.  You can even add art to make it a more complete experience, if that is what you want to do.  Keep in mind that I have not done this, but everything I have read online corroborates the ease of hacking the Super Retro-cade.

It is difficult for me to explain just how much I enjoyed I had playing the Super Retro-cade, despite having to mess with aspect ratios and occasional spotty emulation and crackly sound.  While some of this enjoyment is no doubt due to having my son along side me, my first thought when I first purchased it was just how much I wanted to play the included games.  It started as a way to legally play some of the games I don't already own, but quickly turned into a nostalgic gush-fest and journey of discovery rolled into one, and having my son along with me made it all the sweeter.


Thanks for reading!



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Comments
 
Have been really tempted to try this in the past, thanks for the review- may just pick one up now! Smiley
 
Yes, thanks for the review - based on a handful of games on there, that aren't available in any other format, this might be worth picking up.
 
Thanks for commenting guys!  Though I have played a few modern-ish games, this year has truly been about retro games for me, and this was the first big one that I tackled.  More to come!

Oh, and just to make sure you get the right one, looking at the back of the box you will see Act-fancer listed in the available titles.  As far as I know this is the only way to tell the difference outside of turning it on (especially since online retailers don't make any distinctions).  This was a brick-and-mortar purchase for me!

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