Todd Goes Totally Retro

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Forget The NES Classic Mini from my troubles last week. I Found Something Better.

At the time I am writing this, the NES Classic mini is still nowhere to be found in stores. The good news is that eBay prices seemed to have peaked as a vast majority of them are not exceeding $200. Of course there is still the isolated greedy reseller (or troll) that thinks that they can get four grand for a unit, but it’s becoming few and far between.

I am still under the impression that Nintendo is not going to release enough of these to make demand until after the holidays are over. I’m also sure that when I go to MAGFest next month there will be some on sale for at least $100. Convention resellers can be just as bad as the ones you see on eBay (last MAGFest they had rare Amiibos going for at least $50.)

But I made a decision. I’ll just wait until after all of this is over. As I mentioned in my previous column I will stick with playing my NES via emulation, and for most of the time, it’s worked just fine for me.

I’ve also heard reports of another console called the Retro-Bit Generations, which features over 100 games developed by Capcom, Data East, Irem and Jaleco for starters. Sadly though I heard the console and emulation quality is quite poor, so I am giving it a pass as well.

retrobitinsideHowever, there is one retro console that I will recommend this holiday, and it will come as a surprise to many of you. I’m sure all of you are familiar with the Flashback consoles. The Atari ones have been out for at least a decade, and while they vary in quality (the first one was a terrible “NES-on-a-Chip” system, while the second was actual Atari 2600 hardware,) the rest of the consoles use the same hardware, but only increase the number of games. In fact the Atari Flashback 7 now has 101 games included.

In the past I’ve also had the chance to play the Intellivision and Colecovision Flashback consoles. Both of which were surprisingly good, but could be made even better as someone from the AtariAge forums went a far as modding them to add more games via an USB thumb drive. I never had the chance to try it out.

Being able to add new games is what I’ve wanted most in these consoles, and finally there is a Flashback console that is doing this. Oh wait, I should say console, but rather a HANDHELD. That’s right. They released the Atari Flashback Portable. While it comes with 60 built in games to start, which is far less than the Flashback 7 console, what won me over was how it supports external games by way of SD card. Even recent homebrew games such as the amazing Pac-Man 4K work flawlessly on it. But on the bad side, the upgraded Pac-Man 8K has glitches.

I will admit though that I had my concerns with this handheld, as they are running on the same Firecore emulator that runs their Sega Genesis handhelds. As a result, these handhelds were known for sub-par audio quality. I even made jokes that they removed the Streets of Rage games because the emulation destroyed the otherwise amazing soundtrack. But thankfully on the 2600 while there are some issues with the audio, it is less than an issue than with the Genesis.

However, there is one thing that surprises me the most. Considering how coveted this handheld would be, although not as much as the NES Classic Mini, I thought it too would end up being a target for eBay resellers. Surprisingly that was not the case. I was able to find units for sale, and not at the usual locations you would expect, but rather at Bed, Bath, and Beyond! And the price was only $40, which is less than the originally planned $60 retail price. I will give AtGames credit for getting these out without forcing people to spend hundreds of dollars on eBay.

In fact, if anyone out there finds this handheld for $40, I strongly recommend it, not for the games that are built in, but the ones that can be added via SD card. The only catch is the memory card can not be more than 8 GB in size, which is difficult to find unless you have spare cards lying around the house. But it makes sense considering most 2600 games are not usually larger than 8k in size. In addition, I strongly recommend going on the AtariAge forums as they have done a great job in getting all the games that do work as a single file that can be installed on an SD card.

Trust me, you won’t regret the results. And speaking of results, in two weeks I will be back with my annual awards, followed by the best and worst of the year! There might be some surprises this year, so stay tuned!

Currently Playing: Final Fantasy XV (Xbox One, and much to my surprise it is really good!), Dead Rising 4 (Xbox One)

Waiting For: MAGFest

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