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Home » Retrogaming, Technology

Need a new system for those NES and SNES games?

By: 29 December 2010 2 Comments

There’s a problem inherent in retrogaming — those old systems do tend to wear out over time, don’t they?

What can you do? You can, of course, head to eBay and replace a broken system, or you could buy something that’s new that emulates an older console.

A lot of companies make those new system that play old games, but how well do they actually work? The prices on them tend to be low, but not so low that you’re willing to throw away some cash on a piece of junk, right? Hey, the economy is terrible and every extra dollar counts these days.

About a year ago, I got tired of fighting with the flaky power switch on my Super Nintendo. I decided to take a chance on one of those new systems — the Retro Duo Twin Video Game System that I found for around $45 (click the link to grab one of your own). The Retro Duo plays both Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) games and plays them well. Mostly, anyway.

Let me explain. The Super Nintendo emulation is just about perfect. The system plays every game I throw at it without a hitch. The sound and graphics have — so far — been absolutely perfect. I’ve even read reports that the system will support the Game Genie (for cheating) and the Super Game Boy (for playing Game Boy carts).

That’s great and all, but the weak part of the equation is in the NES emulation. While it runs the vast majority of games just fine, just about every game I’ve tried has a problem or two when it comes to graphics and sound. The colors are sometimes just a bit off and the sound plays at a higher pitch than it should. That’s just strange. You can play the games just fine, but there are times when a weird color or stray note will pop in and cause a brief distraction. Most people might not even notice the difference, but those of us who grew up playing NES games will be a bit annoyed.

Furthermore, the NES cartridge slot is a problem in that it grips on to cartridges so tightly that I’ve often wondered if I’ll break a game jerking it out of the machine. I’ve read that phenomenon is common on new hardware that emulates Nintendo games.

Fortunately, I’ve got a top loader NES that’s built like a tank. I tend to pull that one out when playing NES games rather than relying on the Retro Duo.

On the whole, this machine just feels like it was set up for SNES emulation while the NES part was added as an afterthought. The controllers included with the system are obvious knock-offs of SNES controllers and they are pretty good. They don’t feel exactly like the stock SNES controller, but the ports allow you to use your original equipment stuff anyway. Frankly, I can’t tell much difference between the Retro Duo and the real thing when I’m playing an SNES game with honest-to-goodness SNES controllers.

What that SNES controller port means is that you can’t use your original NES controller. No, the NES action buttons are mapped to the SNES controller and that works well enough. It doesn’t “feel” quite right on some games, however, and you can forget about using NES peripherals such as the Zapper and other specialty controllers.

Even the video outputs on the system reveal that the folks at Retro-Bit emphasized compatibility with the Super Nintendo. You’ve got a standard composite (RCA) jack and an S-Video jack. S-Video only works well with the SNES, while both SNES and NES use composite well. Sure, S-video wasn’t around in the NES days, but still — the whole package just feels like Retro-Bit was going for great SNES emulation and kind of threw the NES side of the equation in as a bonus.

As for construction — well, the unit is Chinese. That means the plastic is thinner and the fit and finish isn’t as good as you’d get with the original Nintendo hardware. However, it is durable enough to last unless you abuse it. You do have several color choices, but I opted for the gaudy red and gold color scheme.

Another great thing about the system is that it will handle games released for North American, European and Japanese markets. Yes, those import games will work just fine with this. Pull out those Famicom (provided you have the requisite 60-pin to 72-pin adapter) and Super Famicom games and go nuts.

On the whole, I’m glad I picked up this system and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good replacement for an aging SNES system. The NES emulation works just fine, but there are some problems with graphics and sound. However, this is a well-built, compact unit that may well work for those looking for one, affordable system to play both NES and SNES games. The NES emulation isn’t perfect, but it’s probably good enough for most people.

Stay tuned — more reviews to come in the “retrogaming” category here at First Arkansas News.

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.

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