In the age of plug and play consoles (which arguably began with AtGames shitty Genesis models and later became popularized through Nintendo‘s Mini-NES) there has now arrived several competitors. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese bootlegs might flood the internet highways, but only one so far has been officially licensed. Capcom, Data East, Irem and Technos have all worked together with Retro-Bit (a company known for selling various retro-products and ROM carts, among other things) to create the world’s first rival to the NES/SNES boxes called The Super Retrocade. Now, they tried this idea a year prior to that with the Retro-Bit Generations, which crashed and burned in more ways than I can possibly describe here. It was full of homemade shovelware and had dozens of emulation issues. After being burned once though, would gamers really trust the company again? Furthermore, would these companies? After all, Capcom also licensed the Generations.
In any case, it seems that these four companies felt that the hardware was suitable (and it was, more on that later) and decided to give it all another go during the 2017 holiday season. Now personally, I missed out on this. I thought Retro-Bit had learned their lesson after the last box, but secretly hoped they would build a better one – the Generations had potential, after all. It wasn’t until I’d watched a video with Metal Jesus Rocks and Radical Reggie that I learned about the console, to which I watched several other reviews of and bought nearly instantly.
Why? Because this thing is legit. First of all, coming out of the box we have a slew of different consoles and even arcade machines emulated here. It was meant to be an arcade at home, which is what many of us wanted without building a Retro-Pie system and all that good stuff. The Super Retrocade was a simple, easy solution for an emulation box at home. This box rocks, too. It has ninety titles and absolutely no shovelware (even though there exists both the console and arcade ports of some titles, which is a bit unnecessary) along with some Japanese only Arcade ports that have never seen the light of day in the west, like Armored Warriors, Three Wonders and Kickle Cubicle. Additionally, the entire Joe & Mac, Ghouls and Ghosts and Final Fight series are displayed, along with Final Fight Guy and Mighty Final Fight. Knights Of The Round? It’s here too. Even some lesser known beat em’ ups are featured like The Combatribes. You’ll also get some shmups, like the two R-Type titles featured. No, not R-Type Leo, but still worth playing. Holy Diver is also featured here as a title, even though the NES version of the game has just been recently released along with a load of goodies attached. So again, this box rocks.
Games can be displayed alphabetically, by style, company, favorites and more. The menu is very easy to use and I have no issues with it at all. The console games are only configurable on the menu screen though, rather than in-game and that is a drawback. Also, none of the switches in Arcade games can be affected in the way that MAME would have allowed. So if you like MAME, stick with MAME. If you like your Pie, stick with your Pie. The console itself comes in a cheap, hard white shell with a red power button that lights up when pressed. The controllers are each made with the same material, but they are solid and durable. The controller cords are ten feet long, giving the player plenty of room to move around. The console also comes with two controllers and an HDMI cord that allows for 1080p gaming. You can learn more about the various types of gaming HDMI cords on websites such as hdmi.org if you need more of a background and want to make a change.
But there’s a bonus feature on the system and the internet is still debating on whether or not it was intentional – the SD card. Originally meant to store saves, this thing is capable of reading a 32gb SDHC card. Now, I don’t know how many retro titles you’ve played, but you’d have to play thousands more than what could be stored on this console to fill up a card of that size. It wasn’t much longer until it was discovered that players can ADD THEIR OWN ROMS and the system will read those ROMS, just as it would any of the games on the console. It’s stupidly easy too, which is why many people think it was an intention. How do you do it? Well, you go into the SDHC card and create a folder called “retrobit games.” That’s it. There, you’re done. Put your ROMS in the folder.
Now that that’s done, let’s cover the ROM section of this baby. First of all, as soon as you insert the SDHC card (I’m differentiating this, as the console will not read a micro-SD) it will ask you to load from local storage or your SD card. Now one might ask, “Why does it want to bring up my saves from the SD card? So that I can delete them?” One speculation is that the SD card was meant to offer DLC updates to frame-rate and possibly additional titles optimized for the console, but because of something major that I am just about to reveal about the console, Retro-Bit has been largely silent on this. It’s been a month and we have yet to receive even the first update.
Next, you will notice that as of right now, the system simply throws your ROMS into the order that they were placed on the card and you have no artwork to go by. While you can get artwork for each and every game, if you have hundreds, it is an absolute waste of time. Simply put a PNG image of the game title screen in the folder and rename it the same as the ROM. Now do this about forty-seven hundred more times. Have fun, see you when you’re eighty. Joking aside, I have been able to discern a few quick tips about the console while testing it. They are as follows:
– I loaded the thing up with like five thousand arcade ROMS as soon as I got it and it went right to a black screen and powered down. I quickly realized that I’d nearly killed it and wound up deleting those five thousand ROMS from the SD card. This was just a test to see how much power it had – Surprisingly, not much.
– The console reads Nintendo (NES), SNES (SMC), Genesis/Megadrive (BIN), Gameboy (GB) Arcade (ZIP – Keep Zipped) and Game Boy Advance (GBA) ROMS.
– It can also read Game Boy Color ROMS but they’ll need to be renamed to (GB) and some will not work at all. Game Boy Advance emulation varies, and I’d hope they add firmware updates to speed it up and make it smoother. Some games like Metroid Fusion and Pokémon Pinball Ruby/Sapphire are fully playable albeit with choppy music, but other games like Castlevania Harmony Of Dissonance and Pokémon Fire Red simply run too slow to enjoy. I’m beginning to think that the console was not made to run these, but that the software inside it was.
– A good rule of thumb for this console is that it will have a hard time running graphically intensive games. Starfox is an absolute no-go, Mortal Kombat will also run a bit slow. Any games that push a little more graphical power than 32 bits are probably going to choke this sucker. It’s really not that powerful, but good for what it does. Yes, even some of the 32 bit arcade games will choke a little.
– Good luck finding all of the right versions of arcade games to work with this thing. I’ve been told that (World) versions work the best and was able to get X-Men (4P) Aliens and X-Men Vs. Street Fighter running, among others. You’ll just have to test a bunch of different versions.
– As far as I can tell, the console saves an SRM based save (these are usually hardcoded into each game) from every game that you play. Yes, that means it will read the SRM saves on your PC. I confirmed this with Earthbound Restored and Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes. Yes, I got CE running on a flat screen at 1080p on this sucker. That says something.
– Sometimes you will get stuttering, though not often enough to matter. It also does some odd things with the music in some games. I’ve noticed that the emulation is generally smoother than that of the Wii and even my laptop emulators in some instances, which is a bit intriguing.
– There are no filter or cheat options, but you will need to reset each game’s aspect ratio to its normal size from the full-screen default. This is something else that can be handled through (eventual?) DLC updates.
That being said, now let’s get to the dirt of the situation. I’ve done enough research to get all the information, so let me talk about the really awful part of this equation. Retro-Bit used an open-source software on their chip called Retroarch. It was made by a collective called LibRetro who demanded that it not be sold. They still continue to work on it today and have made their own linux distribution called Lakka. Problem is, they maintain that the SNES9x and FinalBurn programs built into the Retrocade are their own work, which Retro-Bit referenced in an email (reprinted on the Retroarch website at the bottom of this article) more or less telling the team that they would be using their software for a sale product; which the team are strictly against. I’ve even read it from the group’s Patreon. They don’t want the rights to their open-source software to be sold in any consoles and have been hitting up companies left and right. A company called Retro-Freak recently announced that they were discontinuing their model until they could discover the core engine for it. Retro-Bit on the other hand, have remained silent. I’ve never even heard of Retro-Freak, while Retro-Bit is now infamous in the scene, especially now that they’ve licensed Holy Diver as well as the recent Sega partnership to license long-lost Sega peripherals, among other things. Retro-Bit is slowly climbing up the corporate ladder, so we may have a court case similar to Bleem! vs. Sony if this continues. Especially since Retro-Bit have announced a mini-version of this console with more games, that sort of looks kind of like an old-school Game Boy. I think what LibRetro are most upset about, is that Retro-Bit didn’t even credit the team or the program in their product; which all in all, is pretty shitty. They know the team that created it, they sent them an email and didn’t even so much as put their software’s name on the box. No royalty checks, no nothing. I do think that if this does become a problem in the future for Retro-Bit, they would probably use the android-based emulation software that Sega and other arcade creators use to run titles on phones. I’m not real sure, but I am sure that it would be just as good, seeing as it is coming from the original developers of the game software, though one cannot be sure. In any case, LibRetro hammered it rather hard for a month and now just post updates to their software, which claims to kill latency I games outright at this point. Judging from what I’ve seen on the console, this isn’t speculation.
Yes, I could have gotten a Pie. Even had a kit saved on eBay. But emulation on the Pie wasn’t legal or licensed, so I wanted to at least the pay the companies something for my little emulation box. Retro-Bit’s Super Retrocade is a great alternative for people who aren’t real tech-savvy and don’t want to fiddle around with a Raspberry Pi 3 and the Retro-Pie program. It has an easy setup, there are a bunch of great games on the box, (all fully licensed, and don’t forget that you can add your own through the SDHC) comes with two controllers and allows for HD gaming in 1080p. Best of all? The price point is only sixty dollars. Regardless of the controversy, this thing is still selling like mad and people really seem to like Retro-Bit’s little box. I think it’s a wonderful option for classic gaming on the cheap, so if you’re not concerned about the ethical violations like a great chunk of the world, apparently – then go pick one up!
The Retro-Bit Controversy (I should add that Retro-Bit fully intended to give LibRetro credit and then some, but claim they do not know what emulators it uses. Yep. That happened. Well, you’d better find out.)
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