Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Retron 5 mini opinion.

Despite arriving well over a year late, at least in the EU, I finally got to try the Retron 5 last night and it did not fail to deliver.

First impressions were certainly mixed. The system is weird looking, as to be expected with so many cartridge slots. It's also feels lightweight and rather cheap, albeit solid in construction. The control pad is pretty poor and does lose connections from time to time but no retro gaming fan would use it when you can use Mega Drive, SNES or NES pads.

I spent about two hours with the Retron 5 last night and came away wanting one for myself. It runs a clean operating system with the usual emulator based options such as scaling, image size, region, force 60hz and the most important, scanlines. Scanlines add the black lines last seen many many years ago when it took multiple people to move a television from one room to another, when these systems the Retron is emulating were cutting edge.

The system was already set up before I played it so I cannot comment on any issues there, but the menu system was very intuitive to use and clean.
The first game I played was Super Mario Kart, a Mode 7 based game which doesn't run at all well on some systems such as a modded PSP.

Super Mario Kart ran superbly and looked lovely. I quickly forgot I was even playing an emulator device due to holding a genuine SNES pad in my had. The frame rate held up perfectly and was virtually indistinguishable from the original. Sound was also excellent.

Next up I put on Street Fighter 2 Turbo and it looks amazing. Easily better than using real hardware on a HDTV.  The sprites were wonderfully crisp and sound timing was pretty much spot on, an issue I had when trying to get the JXD to run SNES games.

I quickly moved on to the main reason I personally wanted to play on this system, Gameboy and GBA. I own a Super Gameboy and it is very good. Sadly is does not support enough later games, particularly colour exclusive games. I used to own the Gameboy Player on GC and frankly it's a load of rubbish. It forces the resolution to 480i which turns all Gameboy games into a flickery mess on the TV. It's a complete comedown after playing on the super sharp GBA screen, especially the Micro or AGS 101.
So, the Retron was the best chance of crisp and vibrant GB action and it delivered way above what I expected.

Metroid Fusion seen here in a slightly blurry picture looked absolutely incredible. The pixels were sharp, the colours blew out from the screen and it ran perfectly. Also the sound was excellent, something you cannot really get the most out of with a portable unless you use headphones. It controlled superbly, again with the SNES pad and seemingly ended my own personal wait to play these games on the big screen. 

Also popped on Revenge of the Gator which looked crisp and ran smoothly and after a recent update, allowed you to choose which colours you want to play in, much like the Super GB.

Finally I popped on the Mega Drive and it ran just as excpected. The MD is a much easier system to emulate than the SNES and GBA and as expected there weren't any real issues. The image was as crisp and the gameplay as smooth although I did use a SNES pad again.....

You can see here just how sharp it is, the only decent shot I took last night. All the games I played including the Gameboy ones were this sharp. It looks utterly sublime.

I haven't spent masses of time with it but the vast majority of games I am told work fine. There is an issue with it clearing battery saves which I wonder has anything to do with inserting carts while the machine is turned on. It certainly works differently from real hardware but once in game, it feels very real.

It was tested on a 55'' 4k television and still looked absolutely amazing. No scaling issues at all. I have no idea what the Retron 5 outputs as standard and if there is an option to change it, I didn't look to be honest. All I can say is that it looks better than real hardware when running through a HDTV. The only way real hardware will look as good as if you invest in a scaling device such as the Framemeister.

If you exclusively play games on a HDTV then I completely recommend it, especially if space is at a premium. If you are lucky like me and have a CRT in your lounge then it's not worth it, unless you want full screen GB action, It is probably worth waiting for the price to drop a little. For me I would pay around £100 for something like this as the current £130 price is a little high for something that comes with such a poor controller and the cheap feel to the plastic.


1 comment:

  1. Insightful and real review of the RetroN5, Martin! May need to invest in one for my living room, which rocks a 52" Vizio HDTV! Seems a more likely investment instead of an upscaler here in my neck of the woods! Great article! :-)