Hyperkin Retron 5 – Initial Impression

Retro gaming. It has become very popular in recent years with many many people going out and looking for old school games and hardware to play them.  This is great as it introduces a new generation to the classics such as The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man 2 & 3, Altered Beast, Super Mario World, Sonic the Hedgehog, Shinobi, Golden Axe, and so on and so on.  There truely is nothing as great as the old school stuff as it gave you an appreciation for insane difficulties and replayability (I am not saying I dislike modern gaming, just that I grow up during the second coming of games after the crash of 1983).  What does not help the classics is the sudden price hikes on games and the advent and proliferation of HD TV’s as playing these classics often turns into an exercise of frustration as input lag and video output suffer with image stretching and severe pixelation.

Now there is not much that can be done to stem the price hikes on classic games other than through digital distribution via the Wii U, PSN, and XBLA but that only does so much.  It has not prevented prices of games such as Earthbound climbing upwards of $500 over the years.

But what if you do spend $500 on a copy of Earthbound and want to play it on an HD TV without the effects of input lag and pixelation? What can you do? Enter Hyperkin. Now I can’t speak to the companies history as I am not overly versed in what they have done beyond various multi-cart systems that let you play classic games using the original carts and their latest product is the Retron 5.

I have been patiently waiting for the day that I would receive my Retron 5 even with all of the production delays and last minute price increase I knew that it would be worth it to me.  Having received it on release date (June 6, 2014) I eagerly opened up the packaging and hooked it up.

20140608_183242 20140606_172340

 

The system is designed with 5 cartridge slots, 4 on top and 1 on the front, allowing for the use of the NES, SNES, Genesis, Gameboy (Original, Colour, Advance), Master System, Famicom, Mega Drive, and Super Famicom.  In addition to the cartridge slots there are 6 controller ports split into 2 groups of 1x SNES, NES, Genesis ports on the left and right side of the system.  The console also comes with a bluetooth controller that is usable with each system (no pictured) and has additional marco buttons that can be programmed for different functions.  I will also mention that there is an SD card slot on the back of the system that is used as a means to update the system and for additional storage.

With the system all set up I went through the very odd process of updating the OS which involves generating a request file onto the SD card, taking that to you computer, going to a website where you upload the file, download the update and then place the SD card back into the system where it will auto update.  Not the most intuitive process but it seems to work.

Now I have gone and played games for every system but the Sega Master System and the Sega Mega Drive as I do not have any NTSC-Japan or PAL games nor the Power Base Convertor to test them but everything worked well.  I started playing games with the included controller but found it to be fairly uncomfortably in my hands and switched to a SNES/SFC controller for the everything but the Genesis where I plugged in a Genesis controller.  At this time the system is limited to one cartridge installed at a time so if you want to change systems you will have to remove whatever your playing and insert the new game which is not that big a deal.

Part of the appeal of this system is that you have the ability to perform save states and take screenshots.  The ability to have save states cannot be overstated given that many of the older games that had save systems in place used a battery back up that will eventually fail (I personal have a number of games that no longer save) so you can play Final Fantasy 3 (USA) and create a save state to come back to later.  On top of the save states you can set it up so that the next time you insert the game you can resume play from were you left off, and if you need to return to the menu of the game there is a popup menu like on Xbox 360 that you can select reset from.   Screenshots are great as well as you can capture crazy stuff that may occur in these classic games, but the only gripe I currently have is that they are low pixel count screens (yes I understand that old games were never made to run at 4K resolution).

Overall I would say that from what I have played so far I have not run into any issues and in some cases it does require some finesse to get games to work like on the NES.  Now I know that the libraries for each of the systems supported constitute hundreds of games and I don’t know how great compatibility is for everything but I will list what I know works from what I played below.

  • Darkwing Duck -NES
  • Spyhunter – NES
  • Silver Surfer – NES
  • Rad Racer 2 – NES
  • Jackal – NES
  • TMNT 3 Manhattan Project – NES
  • Rolling Thunder – NES
  • Micro Machines – NES (Black bar’s present at mid screen)
  • Star Wars – FAM
  • Transformers – FAM
  • Magic Sword – SFC
  • Shin Crayon Shin Chan Arashi wo Yobu Enji – SFC
  • Super Mario World 2 Yoshi’s Island – SFC
  • Populous – SNES
  • U.N. Squadron – SNES
  • Sim City – SNES
  • Darius Twin – SNES
  • Shaq-Fu – SNES
  • Metroid Fusion – GBA
  • Metroid 2 – GB
  • Mutant League Football – Genesis
  • Mutant League Hockey – Genesis
  • Ranger X – Genesis
  • Shining Force – Genesis

As you can see I have played a wide range of games from a variety of systems and I have included some screenshot below.

20140606_194707

(Does not like Shaq-Fu?! It still plays it, I think it knows its a bad game)

Metroid II - Return of Samus (W) [!]-0 Metroid II - Return of Samus (W) [!]-1 Mutant League Hockey (USA, Europe)-5 Shaq-Fu (USA)-1 Shining Force (USA)-0 Tatakae! Chou Robot Seimeitai Transformers - Convoy no Nazo (Japan)-0 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III - The Manhattan Project (USA)-0

Would I recommend the Retron 5 to those looking at playing old games on HD TV’s at 720p? Yes I would. It’s great to play these old games without the need to find a CRT TV. Granted there will be no light gun games given the way they are programmed but that’s a small price to pay (I am basing this judgment on knowledge of the way duckhunt worked and experience, this could be different now).

Rating 9.0/10

Pro’s:

  • Variety is the spice of life, 10 systems thousands of games
  • HDMI output helps clean up images and reduce input lag
  • Built on Android
  • Includes original controller support
  • Save States
  • Screenshots
  • Image Filters

Con’s

  • The black price of plastic that the cartridges slot into feels weak. There is no internal support there so be careful
  • Updating the OS is a bit of work
  • Full game compatibility is not yet known

Other

  • Controller is hit or miss for ergonomics
  • Price (as of June 2014) $140

 

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