Being a huge retro gamer, I’ve had my eye on Hyperkin’s RetroN 5 console since it was announced in 2013, but never really had a reason to buy one until about a month ago when my Super Nintendo stopped working a couple of weeks before I ultimately pulled the trigger.
For those who know very little about the RetroN 5, it is an emulation-based console that plays a literal ton of retro cartridge-based games from a variety of systems. The systems supported include all iterations of the Nintendo Game Boy, SEGA Genesis (as well as the Master System using an adapter for the Genesis), Nintendo Famicom, Super Famicom, NES and Super Nintendo. The console runs on an Android-based operating system and outputs in 720P via an included HDMI cable. It comes with its own Bluetooth controller, but also features six controller ports (three on each side) for various Super Nintendo/Super Famicom, NES, and SEGA Genesis game pads, each of which work with any game being played. For example, you can play Metroid for the NES with a SEGA Genesis controller.
On the back of the console, there is an SD card slot which you can use to update the system’s firmware, transfer saves and even use cheats after downloading the directory from Hyperkin’s website.
The RetroN 5’s functionality is technically impressive. The console rips the ROM files (and any saves) from the cartridge and uses emulation software to display the games in HD. To prevent piracy, games can only be played while a cartridge (one at a time) is inserted, and the console does not support the use of external/imported ROM files. The emulation software enables users to use many audio and graphical filters, as well as utilize save states and cheat codes if they so wish.
The RetroN’s save functions are a nice feature to have, not only for convenience, but as backup. If, for example, you want to replace the save battery in a cartridge, you can import the save to the RetroN, then change the battery and export the save back to the cartridge.
The in console software the Hyperkin has created some controversy as arguments over the legitimacy of selling a console using open-source emulation programs has come into question. As of now no apparent legal action has been taken and the website Hyperkin states:
“It is true that some of the Open Source Licenses [for the software we use] have a “Not for Commercial use” clause. Although the legality of such a clause is itself debatable, we do try to ensure that Retron only uses truly ‘Open’ Open Source as opposed to such ‘restricted’ Open Source,”
One of the most interesting features on the console is the ability to use patches for games. I played Square’s Chrono Trigger at a friend’s numerous times when I was younger and wanted to get a copy for myself. However, most gamers know about the insane prices Chrono Trigger goes for online and in retro game stores (about $250, without the box). Because the console plays Super Famicom cartridges, I was able to get an imported, boxed copy of Chrono Trigger on the Super Famicom for about $17, and used a patch to translate the in-game text from Japanese to English saving me over $230 on a legitimate copy of the game.
I have not run into many of the problems the console faced early on which included saves being wiped and the pins for some of the slots gripping cartridges too tight. Since release, most of these problems have been fixed in hardware updates (my console was manufactured in late 2014). Since purchasing the RetroN 5, I have nothing but praise for the console. Occasionally the system will not recognize a cartridge, but taking the game out and then replacing it almost always fixed the problem. The rest of the time cleaning the connections on the cartridge has done the trick. Although there isn’t 100% support for any of the console’s libraries, the list of supported games is constantly being updated. Chances are though, unless you own entire libraries of games for these platforms you won’t run into many problems.
So… should you buy a RetroN 5? The decision you make should really be based on how you view a couple of factors.
The RetroN 5 definitely helps with space. Instead of having multiple consoles taking up space in your living room with a web of wires hiding behind your TV, you have one unit that plays thousands of games that displays them through a single HDMI cord and boasts a bunch of really cool features, keeping your original consoles safe in storage.
The console is also a great option for someone who is interested in getting into retro gaming, but doesn’t have any of the old consoles. At around $130, buying the RetroN 5 would be much cheaper than trying to get a hold of each of the original consoles.
While Hyperkin’s newest console still has a few kinks and doesn’t yet fully support the full libraries for the systems it features, the pros far outweigh the cons. If the RetroN 5 is anywhere on your radar, it is definitely worth a look.