Hyperkin's RetroN 5 is a hardware emulator and the current darling of retro gaming fans. After delays due to faulty pins found in some consoles, the console finally has a release window (Q1 this year). We checked out the RetroN 5 at 2014 International CES, and we liked what we saw.
The previous version of the RetroN was actually the RetroN 3, which only supported NES, SNES and Genesis. Aside from providing support for additional game formats, Hyperkin has added HDMI connectivity, which is in addition to the existing AV ports used for connecting older TVs.
In all, the RetroN 5 supports ten obsolete game formats. It can also play region-exclusive games, such as cartridges released exclusively in Japan. However, playing Sega Master System games in the Genesis slot requires the Sega Power Base Converter. Supported game formats are:
- Super Famicom
- Gameboy Advance
- Gameboy Color
- Mega Drive (imports and PAL)
- Sega Master System (with an adapter)
One of the main challenges facing developers of all-in-one retro consoles is finding the appropriate pin connectors. Right now, these pin connectors aren’t being manfactured, and most companies don’t see a cost-effective market for mass production of old console hardware. This is why new systems, such as the RetroN 5, are focused on gradually finding ways to upgrade and support new game formats.
Hyperkin created a custom user interface for navigating the RetroN 5's options. The interface is based on the navigation systems used on modern consoles, due to ease of use and player familiarity.
The RetroN 5’s Bluetooth controller includes six buttons, two bumpers and two keys that can be used as macros for custom controls, such as overclocking (speeding up the game) or loading game saves. The buttons can also be remapped to create a custom gameplay experience. Battery life of the rechargeable controller will be anywhere from 8-12 hours, depending on usage.
If you don’t want to use the Bluetooth controller, you can also connect your retro controllers for each system. However, the RetroN 5 also allows cross-platform compatibility. For example, you could custom map a Genesis controller to plan a SNES game. All told, console has two controller ports for every legacy system it supports.
Like many software emulators, the RetroN 5 will allow you to save and resume any game, at any point. When you save, you’ll have the option of saving to the console, game cartridge or a removable storage device. Since the RetroN 5 has an SD card slot in the back of the system, you can also import game save files downloaded online.
The interface includes modifiers for audio, controller button mapping, upscale/downscale video quality, and console region, among other settings. Players can render audio at a higher output frequency by tweaking the RetroN 5’s settings. While this will improve the game’s sound, it may take away some of that 8-bit nostalgia. You can also hook up a surround sound system and change audio settings to optimize quality.
The RetroN 5 can actually fix the blurring effect often seen when playing older games on HD televisions. Back when the games we now call retro were first programmed, displays actually had a space in between every pixel. However, most of today’s TVs aren’t able to see that empty space, so they try to blend the colors of surrounding pixels to cover it. This is why connecting a retro console to a HD TV often results in worse image quality than playing on an older CRT television. The console actually removes this blending effect, and puts the old-school pixel spaces back into the output image.
The future of Hyperkin’s RetroN line of consoles will include Nintendo 64 compatibility, and possibly support for original Playstation games. RetroN 5 will launch during Q1 of 2014, and will be priced around $100.