A New Challenger Approaches
Despite the troubles this year, 2020 has been a pretty impressive year in gaming. Two new shiny and expensive consoles released, which many gamers appeared to be happy with. For me the biggest console launch was not from the titans of the industry but from a new contender looking to bring back the love of retro at an affordable price. Back in May the Evercade, a new handheld console, took a chance relighting the interest in retro gaming and the risk appears to be paying off.
Being a retro fan myself I purchased the system with a few games early on this year. But as always, due to work commitments and the joys of real life it’s taken a bit of time for me to finally talk about this fascinating system. If you love retro or retro inspired indie games this is probably a system you will want to look into.
Let’s kick off with the hardware. The system is a nice sized handheld with big old face buttons, comfortable clicky shoulder buttons and a slick D pad that feels good on the thumb. It feels surprisingly light and comfortable in the hands. The sound quality from the speakers is pretty good but if you prefer headphones, the system has a slot located at the bottom. The screen is back lit and a good size to enjoy some retro goodness.
The most notable feature about the Evercade is that it takes cartridges which slide in the back slot. These cartridges come in nicely presented boxes with a colour manual which includes some history about the games, as well as displaying the controls. It’s certainly a nice homage to the old days when manuals used to be useful. When the system first launched some consumers reported some cartridges were a tight fit. I’m pleased to report I have not encountered this problem though this may be because I purchased the system later in the year. Included on each cartridge is a number of games from a single game company such as Namco, Atari, Interplay etc. The system is capable of emulating 8 and 16 bit consoles though it appears it may be able to run some 32 bit games in future releases.
When you switch the system on you simply select a game and play instantly. No updates, no waiting around just straight into the action. A menu button allows to make multiple save states, as well as adjusting the games display from original to full screen. You can also adjust the button mapping for some games. This feature has been expanded with a recent update which I’ll talk about later.
You can connect the Evercade to the TV by purchasing a mini Hdmi cable not included with the system. I decided to invest in one so I could grab screenshots for the games as well as see how it fairs. It works fine and the games do look great on the TV but the cable feels a little clunky coming out the back of the Evercade. The system doesn’t seamlessly change from handheld mode to TV like the Nintendo Switch. When you connect to the TV the system totally resets before playing on the TV. My cable was a bit finicky so sometimes it would disconnect which meant the system reset and reverted back to handheld. For now I think I’m only going to stick to playing the system in handheld.
All the games for the Evercade out currently are various console ports from NES to Sega Mega Drive. What instantly stands out is that the Evercade gives some love to incredibly niche systems and game series’ like the Atari Lynx, a system I never personally owned but always had an interest in diving into. The carts of course have memorable titles from the likes of Namco like Pac Man and Dig – Dug but its important to keep in mind these versions are console ports and not the arcade versions. Additionally there is no way to play any game with simultaneous two play modes. Since the hardware is tied to the handheld this is a hard feature to currently implement but it makes many of the fighting games on offer lack a certain appeal. Currently if you’re investing in the Evercade you’re buying into a solo experience.
It’s not just about retro though as Indie developers have also started to show some love to the Evercade. Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood, two games developed recently, have found a home on the Evercade and Mega Cat Studios has also released a cart with 10 indie games. All these games are of course retro inspired but its nice to see the system doesn’t stick to the past. More carts appear to be on the horizon for the Evercade in 2021.
I guess the easiest niggle when it comes to the games selection is that I can almost guarantee that not every game is going to gel with every gamer. I love that the selection of games included on many of the cartridges includes niche games I’ve never heard of or got a chance to enjoy when I was younger. Curating only a small selection of games rather than a absurd list of titles you often see on some plug and play consoles gives many of these titles the opportunity to breath and be appreciated by the player. It’s worth mentioning though that these games are essentially just roms. The quality of emulation is good but retro enthusiasts will probably still notice its not 100% like the original. You’re also playing these old games in their authentic state which means all those retro warts like absurd difficulty and finicky controls are all intact for some of the titles in the collection. You also only see one console version per game. For example Earth Worm Jim is the Mega Drive port but the sequel is the Super Nintendo port.
A Nice Price
At the end of the day at a nice fair price point these niggles did not feel like a issue at all. I read a interview from the developers of the Evercade earlier in the year where they explained one of the ideas of the Evercade was to make retro gaming affordable. On Ebay a copy of Earth Worm Jim on Mega Drive will cost about £20 used. Earth Worm Jim on the Evercade along with 5 other Interplay games is about £15 new. Also the Evercade itself starts from about £60 and the console comes with one cartridge. The system also acts as a nice alternative to tracking down the old expensive retro hardware. It may not feel as authentic but it nice cheaper alternative.
The Evercade is a system that is for the retro fans but if you have ever had a interest in the old days of gaming then this is a nice little handheld well worth looking into and seeing what all the fuss was about. For me it’s perfect when you only have a few minutes to enjoy some gaming on the go or on one of my coffee breaks. I love that games start instantly and the whole physical cartridge thing brings back nostalgia of my collecting days.
Onwards and Upwards
2020 felt like a good year for the Evercade. Since its launch it has released four additional cartridges as well as announcing a further five to be released in 2021. As well as this they have also updated the firmware which you can do by following a handy guide on their website.
The future is looking good for the Evercade. If you love retro this is most certainly a console to keep on your radar. The Evercade takes us back to a time where gaming was a lot more simple and I for one enjoy dipping into that nostalgia any moment I can.