Retro gaming dealing with nostalgic experiences have almost carved out their own little market now that more games are going the digital route. While modern gaming has its conveniences a lot of fans of the old days prefer the thought of owning a cartridge, disc, etc that they can sit on a shelf and admire… and sometimes play! But the market has become more difficult to get into with games for some platforms becoming more expensive and shutting out future fans of classic games. This is where the Evercade from Blaze Entertainment steps in.
While handhelds that play classic games is nothing new, where the Evercade is different is that the games in its catalogue are fully licensed and sold in a cartridge format which makes it appealing for collectors. Many of the cartridges are compilations which allow fans to choose based on their favourite platform or publisher. On top of that the games are sold at a price that compares favorably to modern games – here in Australia you can get 2, almost 3, Evercade carts for the price of a new Xbox or PlayStation game.
After months of procrastination, I finally decided to pick up the Evercade EXP handheld, the third console release from Blaze after the original Everade handheld and the TV connecting Evercade VS console. Choosing the EXP was a little easier thanks to it being bundled with a number of Capcom titles in the console plus an cartridge of Irem arcade games that included one of my favourite shooters in R-Type. For me it was the ideal bundle to start with. The package the unit comes in is pretty compact with the handheld, a USB-C charge cable and the Irem Arcade collection. It’s all nicely presented which helps reinforce this is professionally built product and makes it feel like a platform and not a gimmick.
In terms of the hardware, it creates a good impression from the start. The screen is bright and clear, the unit has a comfortable weight to it in relation to the size and the buttons and direction pad work well. In hand while playing games in this horizontal configuration it’s pretty comfortable. The cartridge slot on the back of the unit leaves a big hole that invites dust and it’s recommended to simply leave a cartridge in the unit at all times. With WiFi support the machine can get firmware updates easily enough but I do miss not having the ability to use Bluetooth headphones – the wired headphone jack is fine but I think we’ve all been spoiled by the shift away from a wired connection. But for the price of the unit it feels like a quality package.
One of the cool new features of the EXP is the support for TATE mode. Pressing a button on the bottom of the unit allows the handheld to be rotated ninety degrees to a vertical orientation so that games which used that aspect ratio can fit better on the screen. It works especially well for a number of the Capcom games bundled such as 1942 and the EXP has an additional set of A/B buttons to facilitate it. Anyone familiar with the Atari Lynx and playing Gauntlet or Klax will have a good idea of what the experience is like. While it does work and makes great use of the portrait aspect ratio it is taking me time to find a comfortable way to hold it for longer sessions. I wish that the regular fire buttons used in the non-TATE mode still worked because I think I might have been more comfortable using those buttons instead and holding the unit Lynx style with one hand at the bottom using the d-pad and the other at the top with the fire buttons.
The games bundled with the system are a major selling point and the Capcom collection covers a number of genres and platforms that should mean there’ll be a few games in there to appeal to everyone. There’s eighteen games to choose from and when you include the size from the Irem Arcade cartridge that’s a lot of games to start with and great value. Seriously, there are game collections on the main platforms that have less games, cost more and are digital only. The packaging for the cartridges are well designed with room for the game and printed instructions too. They’re also small – you don’t need a lot of shelf space to store a sizeable collection.
Overall the Evercade EXP excels through a combination of solid hardware, a great assortment of games bundled and pricing that helps make it a platform that almost anyone can collect for. I’ve already started on more arcade collections, the Data East and Jaleco collections are favourites and with C64 collections also appearing it’s turning into a fun and collectible retro machine with a bit of something for any collector.
Categories: Gaming, Reviews & Impressions
Great to hear you’re enjoying it, and welcome to the Evercade family 🙂 If you weren’t aware, I’m the one who is responsible for the printed instructions (well, the text, anyway) and a lot of the stuff on the Evercade website. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be part of this project so far, and there are many exciting times ahead, too.
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Hey Pete, I’d seen you contributing a lot to Evercade on the site, Discord, etc (and your own sites too!) but it didn’t even dawn on me that you were involved with the instructions too… Really nice work and you’re such a great fit for this I’m glad it happened! P.S. My collection is growing as I write this! 🙂