Should you buy a Retron 5?
The Retron 5 is a retro gaming console made by Hyperkin. It plays Famicom (Japanese Nes), Super Nintendo (also Super Famicom), Sega Genesis (Megadrive), Gameboy, Gameboy Color, and Gameboy Advance games. It will also play Sega Master System games by using a Power Base Convertor. It does not support the 32x however. All of these games are played in HD quality via HDMI.
When you buy the Retron 5 console, you get the console, power cord, Wireless controller, controller charge cord (micro usb to mini usb), and HDMI cord. The power cord is a 5v 2 amp adapter and it is very important to use the supplied one. I have heard of multiple consoles getting fried due to improper adapters.
The Included Controller is Horrible….
To be completely fair the wireless controller included with the Retron 5 is garbage. Yes it does work to play all of the games but it is just uncomfortable and has a few flaws. First and the most irritating is that Hyperkin decided to use a control stick instead of a directional pad. The problem with this is that not a single console that the Retron 5 supports came with an analog stick based controller. You begin to notice on games that require precise controls for jumping etc., for instance in Castlevania or Donkey Kong Country. The second problem is that it is quite uncomfortable just due to the bizarre shape and form factor. Lastly, and this may just be a personal gripe, I just hate how loud and clicky it is. Every single button and especially the controls stick, makes a loud clicking noise when used.
It is not all bad however, as there are positives to the included controller. The Retron 5 Controller is wireless and works out well for use in a big room. For instance if you have a large tv in your living room but the seating is on the other side of the room it works out quite nicely. Also the charge on the controller seems to last a long while. I haven’t used mine a ton, but Ive put maybe 2-3 hours into it and haven’t had it go dead yet. Lastly there are convenience buttons on the controller. The home button takes you to the menu and also there are 2 buttons that can be programmed to macro. For example, they can be used to save or load savestates (more on this later).
No need to worry however, as you can even use the original controllers as long as they are NES, SNES, or Genesis controllers (Super Famicom and Mega drive also). There are 2 ports for each of the previously mentioned classic controllers (1 each on opposite sides on the Retron 5). It doesn’t even matter which controller you use, if there is enough buttons then it works. For example, I play all my Gameboy games with an NES controller. It will also let you use a mix of controllers. Say you were playing Secret of Mana on the SNES. You could use 2 SNES controllers and a Genesis controller for multiplayer. There is actually another set of controllers that are supported with the most current software update, and are the ones I highly recommend. The 8bitdo bluetooth controllers, mainly the SFC30. You can check out our SFC30 review here.
The console itself is relatively easy to use. Basically, just turn it on and insert your game (1 game at a time only.) The Retron 5 will load it and show the title on the menu. From here you can start the game, change video settings, etc. The way this works (and the reason the console’s main issue in most people’s eyes) is that the Retron 5 will actually load the entire game into memory. Once it loads the game you aren’t actually playing using the game cartridge. How this is done is through emulation, basically the Retron 5 pretends to be a NES, SNES, etc to run the game it downloaded from the cartridge.
There are a lot of people that have issue with the emulation aspect. I do understand that, as nothing will ever be able to beat playing the original game on the original hardware. The original hardware generally doesn’t have any sort of input lag, game compatibility issues, etc. A major downfall of retro systems however is that they just do not display well on a current HDTV. This is where the Retron 5 comes in. Being an HD system it will look great even though it is emulation based.
Emulation has is perks. One bonus is being able to save you progress at virtually any point due to save states. Many older games, Ninja Gaiden on NES for example, did not support saving. This meant you had to sit down and play all the way through the game in one sitting. This may have worked great as a kid with no responsibility and all the time in the world. As an adult however, not so much. That’s what makes it great. You can play for 15 minutes or so, and then just save. When you comeback later you can load from that point (there is also a setting to make it automatically load). Also old games were TOUGH, Nintendo hard is a term I generally use. Let’s go back to Ninja Gaiden for example. (SPOILER ALERT) When you get to the last Boss of the game, you have to beat him in one try. Otherwise you dont go to right out side his area, or the beginning of his stage, you go back to the beginning of the world (term I am using to describe a group of stages). That means you have to play through 2 full stages again just for another shot at the boss. This is where a save state comes in handy. You can save at the beginning of his stage, or right before him, or even both if you like. That way if you lose, then just fire that save state back up and you are right back at it again. Some people may consider this cheating, and maybe it is. At the end of the day however you are playing these games for enjoyment, and if it makes better use of your time, and you enjoy yourself, then who cares?
My personal opinion for the best feature of the Retron 5, and my personal reason for buying the console is the ability to use translation patches. If you don’t know what translation patches are, they are effectively patch files you can download to the console that let you play games that are in another language. The patch will translate the game into your language of choice. For example, you can play Japanese games in English. This works out great because a lot of Super Famicom games are significantly cheaper than their USA Super Nintendo equivalents. Mainly this works out with RPGs, since they were so plentiful. Here is a link for the US version of Chrono Trigger on ebay, and the Japanese version of Chrono Trigger to show an example of this. You can really save some money if you just want to play the games and don’t care about the region.
The console does have flaws however…
Other than the aforementioned controller issue, the main issue with the Retron 5 would be the cartridge slots. The cartridge slots are incredibly tight. So tight to the point that you have to wiggle the cartridge from side to side when removing to get it out of the console. I would not recommend using any very high value or rare games with the Retron 5 because there are reports of the games being damaged. I have never experienced it, but I have heard of it.
What I have experienced though are the pins bending in the console’s slot itself. My pins in the NES slot had actually bent to the point where it would not read games. I was able to bend them back and it works like a champ, however it is something to think about. Generally however just make sure that your games are clean and you should not have an issue.
Lastly is compatibility issue. Not 100 percent of games out there will work. Mainly this is an issue with multicarts or reproduction games, but there are some common things that do not work. The Super Gameboy will not work for example, mainly due to the way the console reads the games. It cannot load the data from both the Super Gameboy and the Gameboy game at the same time and have them work together. This is not a huge deal since the Retron 5 plays Gameboy games. What is disappointing however is that the Sonic and Knuckles lock on feature does not work. (Edit! I have recently tried this and apparantly Sonic and Knuckles with Lock-on now works!) You can play Sonic and Knuckles, but you cannot add Sonic 2 or Sonic 3 and play the modified games. Also you cannot play Blue Sphere by using another cartridge locked onto Sonic and Knuckles for the same reason. The Game Genie also doesn’t work, but you can load cheat files to the console and get the same effect.
Do I think you should purchase the Retron 5? Well that really depends on what you already own and the intended use. If you have multiple consoles modified for RGB and absolutely feel you have to play on the original hardware then this may not be for you. Also I would say the same for the diehards that insist on playing on a CRT. Yes the Retron 5 may have various look alike filters you can apply, but they do not come close to the real thing. On the other hand if you want to just be able to play the games and have them look good on your television, or clean up clutter by not having multiple systems hooked up then this may be for you. I personally keep mine hooked up to my bedroom television and it works out great. That coupled with the ability to use the translation patches makes it very well worth the purchase. Just do yourself a favor, ditch that horrible controller.