“We wake and whisper awhile,
But, the day gone by,
Silence and sleep like fields
Of amaranth lie.”
-Walter de La Mare
Sometimes you just gotta put Old Yeller down.
The NES I first owned from my childhood is long gone and buried beneath the sands of time in some pawn shop somewhere, but recently my wife’s childhood NES gave up the ghost. The ancient system will work now and then but it’s became tragically unreliable over time. Moth and rust, eh? Moth and rust.
That left me in a predicament. See, a little while ago I received some NES homebrew games packed onto physical carts from the awesome Mega Cat Studios . Just my luck that our NES simply refused to play any of these. A variety of alternatives opened up to me, which included picking the brains of my retrogaming peers and confidants . I ultimately decided to forgo the “oops I just snapped this tiny plastic piece in half with my giant bear-like hands” route in opening up the system and dealing with pins and springs, and instead I opted to buy an affordable replacement.
As I mentioned in my review of Mega Cat Studios’ side-scrolling beat ’em up Almost Hero, at the recommendation of my awesome friend the Deviot I picked up the Super RetroTrio by Retro-Bit. It is capable of playing NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis cartridges. Here are my thoughts on the device in an official hardware review. Seeing as how I’m relatively new at these, I’m going to take a different approach with this hardware inkling and focus on pros and cons rather than a list of points for and against. I like to analyze games but I prefer our hardware talks be a little more concise.
For a little more than half but less than three quarters of $100, the Super RetroTrio didn’t break my salmon-tone Suidae bank. Retro collecting can be an expensive hobby but there are evidently plenty of workarounds to having to snipe some auction on Ebay after watching it like a hawk for days. The Super RetroTrio is on the low end of cloneware consoles on the market. It’s more affordable than several alternatives. Though that leaves you with less comparative functionality, for me it does what I need it to do.
I mean c’mon, this thing is red and black. As we all know in the deepest recesses of our souls, things that are red and black are awesome. Newspapers are read and black. Red and black is just the best color combo ever. Shadow and flame. Passion and mystery. Did the simple arbitrariness of this consoles’ colors form the deciding factor for me to buy it? … “Yes“.
Easy to set up
The Super RetroTrio comes with a power cord and it can be connected to the TV via Composite and S-Video cables. I’m not sure how much longer modern HD TVs are going to support these connections but mine fortunately does. Odds are if you’re interested in buying one of these to play your old cartridges that you’re familiar with this slightly olde fashioned setup.
Works with NES, SNES, and Genesis carts
I was able to test all three and the functionality is great. I can cycle through each console type with a switch located on the front of the system. All three cartridge slots on the top of the device can be left occupied simultaneously. Keeping all three slots full is convenient but it serves no additional purpose beyond looking really cool like you own a lot of games. Impress the in-laws!
Works with old controllers
On the front of the system, there’s an array of ports allowing you to connect your old controllers to the Super RetroTrio. A simple switch lets you cycle between controller types. Yes that means you can play Genesis games with SNES controllers, like God intended. It also means that bangin’ NES game pad autographed by David Crane can finally make a comeback like mullets in 2018. As with the carts sitting in the top of the device, you can also leave all of the ports plugged full of controllers so you’ve a mess of dangling wires on your hands for that true retro gaming experience. Impress your neighbor’s dog!
Comes with two new controllers
Just in case your old controllers have gone the way of the dinosaurs, the Super RetroTrio provides you with two new ones. These are clearly based on the Super Nintendo game pad design, which is as it should be. The SNES controllers are simple and streamlined, comfortable and lightweight with a friendly button layout. Best of all, the controllers are red and black. My own NES controllers have frayed and exposed wires so these are a wonderful alternative, at the very least, to surprise electrocution.
Power switch is flimsy
As opposed to the Nintendo Switch, which is awesome, the Super RetroTrio switch which is used to power on the machine and cycle through the console types is rather flimsy. Some stubborn cartridges demanded the system be switched on and off before they would work but I didn’t want to push the power switch to its limits. Maybe a dial or individual buttons would’ve been preferable? There is a reset button, at least.
No HDMI port
The Super RetroTrio does not support HDMI connections. For some that may be nothing but an annoyance and for others it may be a deal breaker. I felt that this was the most important thing to know about the system beyond its tri-functionality. On the upside, at least you’re going to be playing these games like they originally looked: fuzzy and full of static. Quick, grab the remote and hit the tracking button! Authentic!
Had to route through my VCR
This isn’t actually the RetroTrio’s fault (beyond not having HDMI functionality; there are other Retro-Bit products which do). My HDTV refuses to recognize the signal from a handful of my retro consoles now and then: N64, PS2, Sega Saturn. The work around I had to use this time was connecting composite to VCR then coax to TV. Just something to be aware of that the RetroTrio may not be much more recognizable to some snooty modern television than the systems it emulates.
All in all, I’m happy to own the Super Retro Trio. I already had a working SNES but the NES and especially the Genesis functionality is awesome. I was delighted that the system ran both the homebrew carts from Mega Cat as well as some dusty old Genesis carts as well. I would recommend this system as an affordable way to get back to playing the classics!
Also… I didn’t toss out the old NES. Someday I’ll give it some TLC.
In your service,
-The Well-Red Mage
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