Hey Harvey!

Posted on Jul 18th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under Evercade

I've had time to give this new system the full run-down at this point. While I'm somewhat philosophically opposed to giving an outright 'review,' I thought it may be worth sharing my take on it.  I'm not delving too much into the technical aspects (which are widely available and the nuances debated) but rather sharing my impressions and thoughts.  I hope this write-up helps those interested!

The Evercade is a new portable cartridge-based system from Blaze Entertainment that plays licensed, official compilations of retro and recent retro-style games.  There are no online features, leaderboards, game downloads, or other modern features, with the exception of an HDMI output and easy-access save-states.  The size is slightly bigger than the PSP, with a little added bulk that makes the handheld feel quite comfortable to me.  Speaking of comfort, I found the d-pad much better than I feared; it feels a bit like the Saturn, rolls nicely, and has a good responsiveness.  Same with the face buttons, including nice clicky shoulders. 

The speakers are a bit tinny due to their size but are pretty standard quality for a handheld.  The carts are a very snug fit at first but after the first week they started feeling much better.  Even a few more weeks out they are still just a tad too tight and a bit more difficult to remove than I think they should be, but still not too big a deal.  What is a bigger deal is the lack of button mapping, and while I'm not going to need southpaw settings for these games, the default configuration is pretty awful for some games.  There is a firmware update that switches the button mapping around but it still is not ideal.  Also missing on the hardware is any option for 2 players, despite the option for such on many games.  Blaze has hinted that local multiplayer may be an option for future hardware iterations, but it is a definite strike against the current model.

In terms of overall build quality, the Evercade is priced as a budget portable but feels (and plays) leagues better than the cheaper import emulation knockoffs or the dinky At Games portables.  It occupies a sort of middle ground between a Dollar General knockoff handheld and the premium Cadillac of a Vita.  That said, it is definitely much closer to the better end of such a spectrum. 

Each cartridge has a MSRP of $20 and has between 6 and 20 titles per compilation.  The games feel like they were given some specific consideration and not just quick cash-grabs; even the usual suspects like Namco, Atari, and Data East offer interesting mixes of their library, and I found myself continually surprised at the included titles (more on that in a moment.)  Despite the name Evercade, thus far the library consists of console games and not arcade releases, though arcade game compilations are in the works.  Also announces are two carts full of Atari Lynx games, and as a guy who still boots my own giant Lynx up from time to time I'm very much looking forward to those.

I have a very positive take on the Evercade system overall, and look forward to spending plenty of time on it.  So, on to the first ten cartridge releases!

Centipede (2600), Missile Command (2600), Alien Brigade (7800), Adventure (2600), Ninja Golf (7800), Food Fight (7800), Motor Psycho (7800), Crystal Castles (2600), Desert Falcon (2600), Tempest (2600), Asteroids (2600), Canyon Bomber (2600), Gravitar (2600), Double Dunk (2600), Steeplechase (2600), Video Pinball (2600), Night Driver (2600), Aquaventure (2600), Swordquest Earthworld (2600), Yars Return (2600)

This one is a pack-in, and not the most inspired choice for a first impression.  But what makes this cart interesting and worthwhile are a few titles not commonly available on other compilations;
Alien Brigade, which is a spin on Operation Wolf
Food Fight, which is a decent arena shooter
Motor Psycho, a fair motorcycle racer that splits the difference between Pole Position and Hang On
And Ninja Golf, which is pretty much what it sounds like; a figure in black pajamas plays golf while being assaulted by natural course hazards such as giant mutant frogs and figures in evil red pajamas.  Guilty pleasure here.

These last four are 7800 releases and to see them all here is a pleasant surprise; I think they make what could have been a very lackluster debut cart into a statement of the intent to bring more than just the expected cash-grabs in these compilation carts.  Eclectic title choices end up as a recurring theme reflected upon most of the other compilations as well. There are quite a lots of surprises in the Evercade library...

Asteroids (7800), Yars' Revenge (2600), Millipede (2600), Basketbrawl (7800), Centipede (7800), Solaris (2600), Sprintmaster (2600), Submarine Commander (2600), Haunted House (2600), Planet Smashers (7800), Bowling (2600), Desert Falcon (7800), Radar Lock (2600), Human Canonball (2600), Street Racer (2600), Air Sea Battle (2600), Realsports Tennis (2600), Dark Chambers (2600), Wizard (2600), Demons to Diamonds (2600)

OK, this one is perhaps the weakest cart for me.  Basketbrawl, Planet Smashers,, and the 7800 additions of Desert Falcon and Asteroids are welcome, but it won't be worth the price of admission for most.

Burger Time, Fighter's History, Midnight Resistance, Burnin' Rubber (Bump & Jump), Karate Champ, Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics, Side Pocket, Magical Drop 2, Two Crude Dudes, Bad Dudes

Data East has recently gotten more into the retro compilation market, and this cart is a decent mix.  Midnight Resistance, Joe & Mac 2, and Magical Drop 2 are the highlights for me, as I don't recall seeing them around too often and I think all three are worth playing.

Earthworm Jim, Clayfighter, Boogerman, BattleChess, Incantation, Titan

Some classics here to be sure and some not too commonly seen on modern systems, particularly Incantation and Titan, both of which I really like.  And Boogerman, if that's your thing...

Earthworm Jim 2, Clayfighter 2, The Adventures of Rad Gravity, Claymates, Prehistoric Man, The Brainies

Some very uncommon SNES games in this one, like Claymates, Prehistoric Man, and The Brainies.  And even though I have it on a few platforms, I'm always up for some EWJ.  Another not-necessarily-essential purchase unless you are like me and just enjoy SNES games in general.

Multidude, Super Painter, Coffee Crisis, Little Medusa, Tanzer, Old Towers, Creepy Brawlers, Almost Hero, Log Jammers, Justice Duel

Here we go!  This is easily one of the best carts.  I've been a big fan of Mega Cat for years, and to have so many of their games in one
 compilation is excellent.  Given that these are recent games for retro consoles I think they are all worth trying.  You have beat-em-ups like Almost Hero and Coffee Crisis, a spiritual successor to Punch-Out!! in Creepy Brawlers, a goofy Joust-like in Justice Duel, some Turrican-like action in Tanzer, a Lolo-like puzzler in Little Medusa, just to name some of the neat gems in here.   Lots of variety and fun for old-schoolers like myself.

Pac Man, Galaxian, Dig Dug, Xevious, Star Luster, Libble Rabble, Mappy, Battle Cars, Metal Marines, Quad Challenge, Mappy Kids

Here's another list with some pleasant surprises.  By now we have a Namco compilation on every electronic device and a few models of sun dials.  However, like most Evercade compilations we have more than the usual fare here.  When was the last time you saw a translated Star Luster, Libble Rabble, or Mappy Kids?  How about Battle Cars and Quad Challenge?  And the crown jewel, an official portable version of the SNES classic Metal Marines!!?  Easily one of the best carts for me just for that.

Galaga, Pac-Attack, Tower of Druaga, Phelios, Dragon Spirit, Dig Dug 2, Burning Force, Weapon Lord, Warp Man, Splatterhouse 2, Splatterhouse 3

Namco continues the uncommon titles mixed with the usual suspects, including the fun puzzler Pac-Attack, overlooked and ahead of its time 3D shooter Burning Force, Warpman (was that even released on anything after 85?) and Weapon Lord, which I've tried and failed to like but I know it has fans.  And recently Namco remembered Splatterhouse was a thing, because the first game has seen some recent ports and now we have 2 and 3 finally here!  Now I don't have to play the 360 game to unlock them and then be disappointed in a redone Splatterhouse 3.  But I digress.  Save States means I may actually get the best ending this time.  Way to go Namco,  I'm impressed with your Evercade output thus far.  Just for the sake of honesty, Splatterhouse 2 did have a little bit of audio hiccup sometimes and was the first game in which I noticed some emulation flaws, but nothing that got in the way of enjoying it.

* OK, I'm going to break down this list a bit differently, because this cart is chock full of goodness and surprises.  Reading about this compilation is what sold me on preordering the system.  We all have our peculiar publishers we like to follow, and while many of Piko's games aren't top tier, this collection is a sight to behold just to see all these titles together.  Onward!

Brave Battle Saga A fully translated Taiwanese Genesis RPG, and it is wonderful!
Water Margin Another translated Genny game, this time a classic beat-em-up.  Really fun!
Magic Girl A translated Genny vertical cute-em-up, rather average but not bad.
Dorke and Ymp An unreleased SNES action platformer.  Another seemingly average affair thus far.
Switchblade An old Atari ST action platformer.  Played the sequel on the Lynx, and this is very similar.  Interesting choice to end up here.
Way of the Exploding Fist Another early computer game, a one-on-one fighter with 18 different moves from just the directions and a single button.  Quite neat and ahead of its time.
NightShade The NES cult classic.  I dig this game, even if the controls are pretty awkward.
Top Racer Also known as Top Gear, I still get pumped from the SNES soundtrack.  And still fun to play!
Tinhead A decent 16-bit platformer.
Radical Rex Another "eh" 16-bit platformer.
Jim Power - The Lost Dimension My EYES!  The colors!  The scrolling!  AAGGH! (Not my favorite game.)
8-Eyes A decent NES outing, as long as I'm not comparing it to Castlevania.
The Immortal The Genny classic, full of awkward combat, tricky puzzles, and surprising animations.
Dragon View A very underrated gem of a SNES game in my book, nice to see it here.
Drakkhen Another SNES classic, hasn't aged as well as the sequel but still worth a go.
Power Punch II OK, still not as good as Punch-Out!! but a fun game.
Power Piggs of the Dark Ages A practically forgotten SNES action platformer, plays OK but nothing noteworthy in my opinion.
Iron Commando Another recently translated title, a SNES brawler whose hit detection I just can't get the feel of.  Maybe I just need to spend more time with it.
The Humans I really enjoyed Lemmings back in the day, and I've read this one is right up that alley so I should give it a shot sometime.
Canon - Legends of the New Gods Finally yet another translated Taiwanese Genny title, this one is similar to Warsong/Langrisser (or Advance Wars if you didn't play turn-based strategy games on the Genesis).  I tinkered with it and like what I see, but these are notorious time-sinks so hopefully someday...

As you can see, the Piko cart has a ton of interesting titles here, with lots of recent translations of retro games and hard-to-find old school gems.  This is my favorite cart so far.

Double Dragon, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Crash 'N' The Boys: Street Challenge, River City Ransom, Super Dodge Ball, Super Spike V'ball, Super Double Dragon, Renegade

For better or worse, the recent Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle makes this cart somewhat obsolete on arrival, although the only physical edition of said brawler bundle has no english.  There are no shortage of ways to play most of the games on this Evercade cart elsewhere and the lack of two player support really drags the fun down.  Not to say the games themselves aren't worth it, but this is another cart you could probably pass on if you have a better way to play them.

I'm very happy with the hardware and library, although neither are flawless.  I read some negative things about the emulation quality on pre-release versions, but my experience is overall very positive; some shimmering, occasional audio skips on a couple of games, and a lack of 2 player options haven't kept me from really enjoying the Evercade.  Each cart is only $20, so even the lackluster compilations may have something worth grabbing it for.  New carts are already releasing (The Oliver Twins one is due this week) and if developers make good on those Lynx and arcade compilations in the future, I'd say the Evercade will settle comfortably next to my other go-to portables. 

Should you get one?  Well, the budget price helps a lot, but it naturally depends on your expectations.  I can say that one of my good friends and fellow retro enthusiast tried ours on a Saturday night, stayed up all night playing, and in the morning he promptly ordered a system and three carts for himself.   If you much prefer legitimate physical media over digital, enjoy portable gaming, and are a retro video game enthusiast, I'd say to look over the current and future compilations to find anything of interest.  I know for me, the answer was pretty clear. 


Bonus!  Aside from the aforementioned arcade compilations in the pipeline, here are the announced carts so far for the year;

Scrapyard Dog, Basketbrawl, Super Asteroids/Missile Command, Awesome Golf, Crystal Mines II: Buried Treasure, CyberVirus, Dracula the Undead, Gordo 106, Ishido: The Way of Stones, Jimmy Connors Tennis, Loopz, Malibu Bikini Volleyball, MegaPak, Power Factor, Remnant, Super Sqweek, Xump

California Games, Todd's Adventures in Slimeworld, Electro Cop, Gates of Zendocon, Zarlor Mercenary, Blue Lightning, Chips Challenge, Checkered Flag

Huge fan of my Xeno Crisis on the original Genesis, and I definitely want to try Tanglewood.

Treasure Island Dizzy, BMX Simulator, Fantastic Dizzy, Super Robin Hood, Go! Dizzy Go!, Dizzy The Adventurer, Panic Dizzy, DreamWorld Pogie, FireHawk, Wonderland Dizzy, Mystery World Dizzy

This is the one that is supposed to be released soon, maybe by the time you read this!  I may add an addendum in the comments once I get it.

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I'm curious about this, but the button mapping issues are a pretty big issue for me. If I can't customize the controls so they feel natural, it's a hard sell. Still, there's plenty to like about the line-up, and I look forward to seeing more stuff released for it, if only so that some of these IPs continue to be relevant, and have some commercial availability, now that the Wii VC is gone.
The lack of remapping is very annoying, but the reconfiguration after the last firmware update does help a bit.

And let me tell you, some of these golden oldies + save states + portability makes the Evercade very worthwhile for me. Smiley
I'm too young to understand any of this. :/

Also I'm on the discord now, you can find me as Milesathon#2265 Smiley

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