When we tried the original , it was a fun but curious concept. Old games on a new handheld with cartridges? Nostalgia squared, in short. Whether you thought it was a good idea or not, there are now nearly 40 collections available totaling hundreds of games. There is also the to play against friends on the big screen. Now there is the ($130/£150), a revamped handheld that improves on the original in some key ways. So Evercade’s wacky idea seems to be working.
In a curious turn of events, and potential further proof of its popularity, it appears to be a literal console EXP loadout. . Blaze, the company behind Evercade, said it’s working to restart production to replace missing handhelds, so if you’ve pre-ordered one you might want to check the for more information.
The EXP brings with it an improved 800×480 display – more than double the resolution of the original (480×272). Games look much sharper this time around, although they’re still 4.3-inches diagonally, which feels a little undersized for really any type of portable device in 2022. Although there’s literally more real power with a new 1.5Ghz processor and bigger battery that’s good for around five hours of gaming.
The new all-white design gives the EXP a bit more grown-up vibe than the original which looked a bit toy-like. The D-pad is particularly eye-catching, as it’s a large disc and it almost looks like it protrudes a bit too much from the case. In use it’s fine, but something a bit smaller and lower could add to the quality feel. The buttons, for example, are nice and clicky and are just the right height. It’s a slightly mixed but functional combo although the moves in fighting games can sometimes be a bit tricky to pull off.
One of the main benefits of EXP is Capcom’s built-in games. The console also comes with the Irem Arcade 1 collection which includes six games (including R-type) but the real fun is among those Capcom classics such as Hyper combat Street Fighter II, mega man, Ghouls and ghosts and breath of fire (among others). These are solid titles which mean there are 24 games available to play right out of the box.
If that’s not enough for day one, there’s also a way to expand that number even further to 29 through a large banner on the home screen titled “HIDDEN GAMES” (it’s in all caps yes) . This is a carry over from VS which introduced a “Secret” menu option – which despite the name is not hidden, it is right there in the main menu and is literally called “Secret” . Here you can enter codes and unlock even more games. No spoilers here, but a little googling might reveal some clues.
Unfortunately, even though you can connect the EXP to a TV via HDMI and there’s a USB-C port on the bottom, you can’t connect a controller – not even a VS controller – to take advantage of two-player mode on built-in games. . It’s really a shame with Street Fighter II just sitting there begging to be played the way nature intended. Blaze told Engadget it was something being explored but there was nothing immediate to share. The games on the VS console can all be played in 2-player mode, but the license with Capcom only really allowed the company to include the games on the EXP itself, not in cartridge form.
The last major EXP update over the original is the inclusion of the “Tate” mode. Many of those early arcade games were played in portrait mode rather than landscape mode and the EXP has a pair of extra buttons next to the D-pad so you can flip the console 90 degrees and play those titles vertically as in the days when quarters were required. Some of the included Capcom titles, such as 1942 and Commando, use this mode, like many on the bundled Irem Arcade cartridge. It’s nice to see these games with the ability to play them in the correct orientation and will be especially appealing to fans of vertical-scrolling shooters (of which there are plenty on the Evercade platform).
Finally, the EXP sports a newer UI than the original. In fact, it’s borrowed almost directly from the VS console. The original handheld has been updated to bring a similar interface, but it’s a bit lacking compared to that of VS and EXP. It’s simple and easy to navigate, but also has some useful extra data in each game’s menu where you can see how often and how long you’ve played a game, among other information. You can also set a “coins” limit here to really recreate that ’90s arcade experience where you only had seven quarters and had to put them to good use.
Above all, the EXP retains the same authenticity and nods to the retro era that made the original and VS more fun. Things like secret games and unlockables were a mainstay of that era, so combined with the cartridge nostalgia, it all goes a long way to making the Evercade platform something beyond just another way to play. to old titles. There’s even a “game of the month” program that offers the chance to play future releases for free for a limited time.
However, it’s not just about vintage games. Evercade already has a of modern retro games, including the very recommendable Game Boy game . There is a also on the way. Old classics are one thing, but there are plenty of ways to play them. Evercade offers a nice option that’s legal and remunerates rightsholders appropriately, but it’s also well positioned to become a destination for modern retro and lighter indie titles.
There are plenty of options for retro gaming, whether it’s other handhelds, things like Nintendo’s Virtual Console/Online Switch, or the semi-recent trend of “mini” consoles. Evercade’s approach is unique but obviously requires a bit of a collector’s itch or a fondness for lesser-known gems for it to really make sense. One thing is certain, there is already gathering around the platform and for them and others, the EXP enhances the portable experience nicely.
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