Retron 5: The [Shadow] TAY Review

This thing kicks ass. Nothing else to say. But I'll certainly try. [Note: This is not an official TAY review, this is a review sponsored by the unofficial Shadow TAY that runs things behind the scenes, so it plays by different rules... Mysterious rules that are not to be questioned.]

So what is this fucking thing, PHC? Fuck you! It's a Retron 5. This is the gaming equivalent of a tribute band festival - it plays all the best cartridge-based systems from the last 20 years, as well as NES games. It plays games from all regions, including Glorious Nippon. The console features slots for Famicom, NES, Super Nintendo, Genesis, and Gameboy Advance. The Gameboy Advance slot also plays GB and GBC games, and the Genesis slot can be equipped with a Power Base Converter to play Sega Master System games.

The best element of the Retron 5, however, is that it is the bastard child of retro game consoles and emulation. The console is equipped with a cheat database, save states, audio and video filters, fast-forward, overclocking, and other features one would expect to see on an emulator. Unlike emulators, however, the games are processed with 100% accuracy, without any issues with lag, latency, or graphical glitches. And yes, this does include traditionally hard-to-emulate games like Star Fox, Castlevania 3 and Star Ocean. There is a misconception floating around that this is merely an Android-based emulation box, but this is actually not the case - the console DOES extract the ROM file, but this is only to apply the emulator perks listed above. The hardware on the cartridge is still used, which really means you get the best of both worlds, including an accurate rendering of these 20 year+ old games. And the best part? They look great on an HDTV (the console is HDMI output only).

Now in terms of compatibility, I'm confident in saying it's over 100%. Every single game I own that can play in this system, plays in this system. Even my repro carts of Terranigma and Seiken Densetsu 3, and my Chinese bootleg of Pokemon Green. There ARE some games with some small issues, like my Japanese copy of R-Type III that resets whenever I try to open the firmware menu, but Retron Tech (Hyperkin's staff dedicated to Retron firmware updates) is already proving excellent at patching issues as soon as they appear. There are varying reports of repro carts not working at all, but let's face it - 90% of the repros out there are just sports games with a different ROM dumped on them by some fatass in his mommy's basement. They will crash or reset themselves when played on a real console. In other words, they're crap.

My personal favourite feature of the Retron 5 is the ability to button-map controllers, and not just in the obvious way. I can use an SNES controller to play a Genesis game, or a Genesis controller to play a GBA game. Surprisingly, the SNES controller actually improves Genesis games, and really makes that blast processing shine - it was previously hard to tell, using the chunky-ass pillow buttons on most Genesis controllers. And of course, you can map the buttons however you please, on any game. It's awesome. The wireless pack-in controller is... Okay. It's all micro-switches, so it's clicky and really loud. However, I find it's really good for fighting games. For everything else, there's my SNES controllers.

So does the system have any flaws? Eh... Kinda. But they're really minor. Being that the console OS is Android-based, you have to hold the power button for like 5 seconds for it to turn on. It's nowhere in the manual, either. I don't know why Android devices have this shit, but I hate it, even on my tablet. Also, being that the console does not have online capabilities, you have to manually update the system firmware with an SD card - and they don't provide you with one. Since the day-one update enables cheats and almost doubles the compatibility list, this is kind of silly. Also, while the consoles are shipped with a 0.2.0 firmware version, updating straight to the newest version without first updating to 0.2.2 can brick your system. This is made explicitly clear on the Retron updates website, but some people are stupid. So if you're stupid, avoid this console. Also, the Genesis and NES slots grip the cartridge really tight, and while this isn't a problem for me, some people have broken those slots completely after violently trying to remove their games. But again - if you're not stupid, you should be fine.

All in all, this system is fantastic. It's everything I could possibly want in a clone console, and then some. The $140USD pricepoint is completely reasonable ($160CDN, 200 Euros, $200AU) for what you get, and early supply problems aside (don't expect to get one until August if you didn't preorder), it's definitely a console worth owning, even if you have the originals. For a guy like me that does not, the $160 I paid is just a steal.

This is a non-journalistic review written by PyramidHeadcrab, twice voted World's Sexiest TAY User by PyramidHeadcrab Magazine. PyramidHeadcrab does not formally endorse the views or opinions expressed by PyramidHeadcrab, and Polygon's moderation team can suck a fat one for continually being such neck-bearded asswipes.

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This review was made with the expressed written consent of Grand Chancellor Steve Bowling, Shadow Lord of TAY. The review was allowed under subsection 4b of Regulation #49562.