Disclaimer from Aurora: This article is based on my opinion. You don’t have to agree with everything that I wrote and if you decide to voice a disagreement, do it in a civil manner and justify your opinion.
Whether one admits it or not, the great feeling one feels when getting a new device (even if it’s a cheap feature phone) is one that they want to feel over and over again. Recently, micro-consoles that play retro titles have been getting somewhat popular thanks to NES classic edition but are they really the best way to spend your hard earned money?
What exactly are micro-consoles?
The word micro-console can mean a variety of things such as a ‘game console’ that works with Android, like the failed Ouya, but it can also mean a system that’s designed to only play retro games.
The NES classic edition is a prime example of the recent retro micro-console boom and it has sent quite a few ripples over the internet thanks to the limited amounts it was available in. Another such console is the upcoming SNES classic, an $80 micro-console, which as you probably guessed, plays SNES games.
On the portable side of things, one can mention the BittBoy which is a $40 handheld that looks GameBoy classic-esque BUT plays NES games.
Why should you get a micro-console to play retro games?
While homebrew lovers may think of the disadvantages first, there are some advantages to owning a micro-console:
It’s the best way to play your favourite retro games in a legitimate manner (although this doesn’t apply to all retro micro-consoles). (No, even though retro games of consoles like the NES are old, getting ROMs off the internet is still illegal; whether you’ll be prosecuted or not is another matter)
The infamous NES classic edition. A retro micro-console that emulates the NES and has an HDMI output!
Thanks to micro-consoles, you’ll be able to play retro games in an instant which is great if you don’t have much time to spare. Unlike when setting up emulators on another device, you don’t have to fiddle around with emulator settings, different emulator versions and controller connection issues.
Some retro micro-consoles such as the NES and SNES classic edition and their controllers closely mimic the design of the console they’re emulating which makes them more appealing to look at next to your television. Other retro micro-consoles like the BittBoy don’t mimic the design of the console they’re emulating but they mimic another retro device such as the Nintendo GameBoy in this case.
Some may offer a nicer UI than that which is offered by some emulators (but thanks to front-ends like RetroArch, you could make the situation better if you do a DIY retro gaming system).
They’re a cool and cheap gift to give to your family members or friends that are into retro gaming.
Probably more that I didn’t think of! 🙂
Why should you keep your hard-earned money to yourself?
The above section was dedicated to demonstrating the advantages of retro micro-consoles but now let’s look at the arguments against buying one:
You’re essentially buying a low-powered computer that emulates an old system that could be emulated on virtually any other system you own. With some time and tinkering, you could play the same games on the devices you already own.
A major disadvantage to micro-consoles such as the NES classic edition and the BittBoy is that you can’t add any games of your own to them. You can only play what’s built-in and nothing more!
Buying retro micro-consoles is in a way contributing to the global waste problem since you’re buying a console that can do something that your existent equipment can already do perfectly or almost perfectly.
Some retro micro-consoles such as the NES classic edition and BittBoy let you play retro games but they don’t do much more else. That means that you’ll be buying a single-purpose device that you can’t use for anything else except to play a
Is it really worth paying $60 (price of the NES classic edition) for not a lot more than a single chip (NES On a Chip) in a fancy case? (Image from “http://kevtris.org”)
limited selection of games, some of which you may not even like!
Cheap retro micro-consoles from China may have various quirks and a large amount of ROM hacks to increase the game count which can make the experience less than satisfactory.
The experience given by the real console may be different since many retro micro-consoles have slight inaccuracies when it comes to the colour palette or speed of the game.
Probably more that I didn’t think of! 🙂
Getting a retro micro-console may seem like a good idea at first but this article is here to make you think twice before spending your cash on one. As always, before buying something ask yourself whether you really need it and what you’ll be using it for.The above disadvantage list may be somewhat altered if the micro-console gets some hacks which let you add your own games and do other things.
In my opinion, retro micro-consoles are a waste of money since you could play older console games on your existing hardware such as an old computer, a PSP/PSVita or something else.
I'm a girl that's liked technology from day 1. Mostly interested in the PSVita/PSP scene but I've always modded my stuff when it's possible, that is :)Contact me via DM at @KawaiiAuroraA on Twitter if you have any questions/concerns about my articles or if you have any article requests.