Review: Retro-Bit Generations

It’s safe to say that we’re currently going through a tremendous mainstream resurgence in the popularity of retro gaming. One needs only to look at the incredible demand surrounding the NES Classic Edition to see this. Of course, some may point to the fact that the system is succeeding mainly due to its Nintendo branding. Other devices, such as the Sega Genesis console by AtGames, isn’t proving nearly as popular. One company that have recently released their own console is Retro-Bit with the Generations machine. This tiny device trumps the NES Classic Edition’s thirty games with a little over 100 titles for $60.

Quantity is not everything. A compelling reason for nostalgia toward the NES is that the included library is filled with excellent games. In comparison, most gamers will likely find themselves alienated by the majority of names in the Retro-Bit Generations collection. Instead of familiar series’ such as Zelda, the list is full of far more obscure releases such as Esper Corps. In fact, some of the games included were only ever released in Japan. A large chunk of games are not actual “classic” Genesis, Game Gear, or arcade releases but more modern homebrew releases. As such, it makes total sense that only the most diehard gaming lovers will really nod their head over the sprawling list of included titles.

In many ways, this is the key differentiating factor between Retro-Bit Generations and other modern retro console offerings. Instead of catering to the masses with obvious titles, they’re digging in deep to bring forth unique games you can’t easily legally obtain elsewhere. In the case of homebrew releases specifically, many of those were released as highly limited physical editions which are certainly not available on digital storefronts such as Steam or Nintendo’s eShop. On the other hand, some of the homebrew games are not as fully fleshed out or engaging as more known titles on classic platforms. It’s especially weird to see Creepy Bird and 2048 in the collection, given their obvious copying of Flappy Bird and Threes respectively. 

There’s also the matter of actually playing titles on a Retro-Bit Generation. As previously stated, a few titles are Japanese exclusives. While this does not matter for games with little to no text such as Holy Diver, others do feature Japanese text which can lead to a bit of confusion when trying to play them. It also appears that the emulation is not ideal for some games in the collection. For example, Apocalypse II appears to run much too fast compared to when running on actual hardware. At least one game also suffers from boot issues. There is most definitely room for improvement as far as emulation is concerned, though the majority of games run well.

It’s also impossible to ignore the two controllers bundled with the system. Modeled very clearly after the Sega Genesis six button controllers, they are familiar but not as pleasant to play with. In particular, the d-pad feels especially stiff and does no favors to games requiring precise controls. Still, the wired controllers serve their purpose whether the game in question requires just one button or all the buttons in order to play. There’s also the fact that the cable is far longer than NES Classic Edition’s paltry two feet. If you absolutely need to play with another controller, you can plug in another USB one – though not every controller is going to work with the device.

Retro-Bit Generations does its best to stand against competing devices by offering a variety of options for each title. There are multiple screen modes to select from (such as stretching out the game or playing in its native resolution) and some titles have multiple ROM versions to select from. Save states are also offered and are absolutely great to have. Just plug in an SD card to the back of the device to keep some additional saves for later. It also seems likely that this SD slot may come in handy in the future if and when Retro-Bit wishes to offer updates to the system, as it has no means of connecting to the internet.

At any time while playing a game you can simply warp back to the system’s menu, save, or just go select another title to play. The system only includes composite video cables, but there’s a HDMI port as well which is basically necessary these days. The aesthetics of the menu leave much to be desired when compared to Nintendo’s incredibly polished offering. Even loading (which takes a few seconds) feels a bit long in comparison. However, at the end of the day, it’s about the games on the system and not these extra frills which will be the determining factor for people.

Closing Comments:

There’s a tremendous amount of games to go through when playing with the Retro-Bit Generations. The library of goodies from Capcom, Data East, Irem and Jaleco is quite stunning, if perhaps not as wide as it could have been. Add in the large collection of homebrew releases (primarily via Pico Interactive) and you’ve got a tremendously unique budget console on the market. The main issues are that the Retro-Bit Generations is not a super polished device. With some games exhibiting emulation issues and a low quality default controller, there’s room for improvement. Fortunately, there’s hope that future patches can iron out some bugs to upgrade this device for current and future owners.

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Retro-Bit Generations