Third party consoles, or hardware emulation devices, are nothing new. There have been consoles released in the past which have emulated the hardware of the NES, Super Nintendo and even Genesis so that they can accept and play original carts form those systems. Hell, multi-system hardware emulators aren’t even a new thing, which most being made with slots to accept carts from different console types. RetroFreak is looking to take the concept to a whole new level.
This device claims to do it all. Not only does it have support for a number of consoles, including the NES, SNES, Genesis, PCEngine, GB, GBA, but also boasts save states, cheats, output filters, multi-gamepad support and, possibly most controversial of all, the ability to copy the game file from a cart and add it to an on-board library of games. This means that you can play games without actually having to use the cart (well, you would have to use it the first time to rip the game, but you know what I mean).
While this all sounds amazing, it seems to me that the creators have simply taken a PC, installed some custom emulation software and and housed it in a console-looking case. It’s not too bad, and it does have the ports to accept original game carts, but I question how accurate a device like this can really be. The console is still unreleased and there is surprisingly little about it online, although it did have a booth at a recent game show in Taiwan.
So what makes this any better than a simple PC which you can install emulators on and hook up to your TV with an inexpensive HDMI cable? Well, it’s priced cheaper than a PC at ¥20,000 (about $160 USD), though it can’t do nearly as much. There are also some absences from the list of devices that it supports, most notably the Sega Master System and Atari systems. It is being called a ‘retro’ system, so it does not support the Playstation One, the Saturn or the N64, which even a modern net-book can emulate (well, not perfectly, but good enough).
The release has been scheduled for October 2015 in Japan, so I guess I am going to have to wait until then to get my mitts on one and give it a spin to find out if it’s worth the price tag. Also note that the gamepad adapter is sold separately, and will sting you another $20 or so.
As the image above shows, it has a removable hard-disk which is used to store games and save files. The site mentions that it is possible to transfer save game files to other systems. The site also mentions that ripped games can only be used on the console they are ripped to, though I have a funny feeling people will find away to transfer games. And if that’s the case, it’s not a whole lot different to a multi-system emulator that sits on your desktop.