Evercade Review: Blaze Entertainment Hits the Nostalgia Sweet Spot

Evaluation:
8/10
?

1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
2 – Lukewarm garbage from Sorta
3 – Highly imperfect design
4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
5 – Acceptably imperfect
6 – Good enough to buy on sale
7 – Excellent, but not the best in its class
8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
9 – Shut up and take my money
10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $ 99.99

evercade with the evercade logo on the screenSte Knight

It was only relatively recently that I came across the Evercade retro game console on Twitter. It immediately caught my eye as I am a fan of retro games in general. The concept of playing some of my favorite games on a dedicated handheld really excited me. I had to know more.

Here’s what we like

Cool retro design
Wide range of officially licensed games
Easy and accessible to use
Recoverability factor

And what we don’t do

Screen resolution is a minor drawback
Quite short battery life

The Evercade is a portable console capable of running a wide range of retro emulators. There are currently 12 game cartridges announced (that’s right – physical formats!) From Atari and NAMCO, and more are in the works. With this kind of pleasure fueled by the nostalgia that overflows on the front of our collective T-shirt, let’s take a look at what is offered by Evercade.

So, who is Evercade for?

I thought it would be prudent to discuss who exactly will benefit from Evercade before embarking on a full review. If you are an emulator fan and you currently have an existing configuration, such as a Bittboy Pocket Go or a device running RetroArch, and you are happy with your current method of getting your retro patch, Evercade is probably not for you.

evercade premium pack boxSte Knight

The world of emulators can be a little complicated for a beginner. Various parameters must be modified to obtain the best results, not to mention the richness of the hardware of the emulator to browse. This can be discouraging for someone who is getting into emulation. I’ve seen a lot of chatter from emulator professionals asking, “What’s the point when I can get all of these games for free on my existing emulator?” Well, I will tell you.

The Evercade makes emulation and retro games accessible. There are no menus difficult to navigate. You don’t need to understand quantum computing to run Pac-Man. The games run smoothly directly from the cartridge. There is no switching between Atari 7800, Genesis, SNES. Just plug in your cartridge and play the game. It’s simple and without intimidation for all those who love retro games but who are not particularly tech-savvy.

The emulation of retro games is also a legal gray area. Is it really legal to download a bunch of ROMs without even a nod to the original developer? New retro players may not want to cross this type of legally questionable terrain. With Evercade, they don’t have to. All games are officially licensed by Blaze Entertainment. No muddy legal waters here, officer.

In addition, the Evercade console and its games are physical products. Where is the pleasure of downloading a ROM? Where is that nostalgic feeling of opening a box of physical cartridges and taking care of Centipede? Sorry, but it does not exist with downloaded ROMs. Tear the cellophane packaging, open the box, browse the manual, load the cartridge … all these physical acts contribute greatly to the experience.

And thanks to a tangible product, the Evercade console and the game carts, make an excellent collection hobby, much like Arcade1Up cabinets. Much of what draws retro gamers to retro games is the collection of games and devices themselves. I never heard anyone say “Ooooh, look at this list of 30,000 ROM files!” However, I’ve heard people say, “Ooooh look at those shelves full of retro SNES games!”

So who is Evercade? Well, everyone really, rather than the only techie emulation enthusiasts who are comfortable with managing the complications presented by unlicensed emulation. For anyone wishing to take their first steps in emulating retro video games, this is an excellent choice.

The Evercade console

Evercade in hand displaying the gameSte Knight

I must say that I am really in love with the Evercade console. Everything reminds me of something from my formative years. The white design with red highlights is reminiscent of Nintendo’s former Game and Watch series of notebooks (Ball, I’m Looking At You).

The large molded plastic chassis evokes memories of playing a SEGA Game Gear, although the actual size of the console is more like a PSP. Obviously, my hands playing Game Gear were significantly smaller than those playing Evercade! God, even the sound of the shoulder buttons reminds me of the unmistakable click of directional microswitches in my childhood Powerplay Cruiser joystick.

The circular D-pad reminds me to stand up and play California Games II on the Atari Lynx, while my parents scanned the boring white goods in the electronics store we visited that day. That’s what’s great about the Evercade console. Before it even turns on, memories of retro gaming experiences come back.

Best Evercade portsSte Knight

The console itself measures approximately 182x83x22 mm. So while it isn’t the smallest of pocket computers, it isn’t exactly bulky either. At just 220 g, it also feels light in the hands despite the sturdy plastic shell.

The screen is 4.3 inches with a resolution of 480 × 272, which PSP users will feel comfortable with, since the screen on both devices is the same size. To the left of the screen are the D-pad and the menu button, next to a power indicator and the left speaker jack.

To the right are four transparent control buttons with their respective labels A, B, X and Y under the transparent plastic of the button. Below are the “Select” and “Start” buttons and the right speaker jack.

The top of the console includes a left and right shoulder button, the power slider, and a mini-HDMI port for connecting the Evercade to a monitor. It’s a great touch because you can play retro games on a much larger screen if you want. Unfortunately, I could not test this function because I do not have the required mini-HDMI to HDMI cable.

lower evercade portsSte Knight

The bottom of the Evercade carries the volume buttons + and -, the micro-USB charging port and the headphone jack. Congratulations to Blaze for placing the headphone jack at the bottom. This completely denies getting tangled up in the headphone wires like a sort of Norseman repelling the Kraken. I might have preferred to see USB-C compatibility for charging, but that’s a small problem.

Blaze tells us that the Evercade guts have a 1.2 GHz SoC Cortex A7 that performs a custom Linux configuration. Blaze has ported games from a wide variety of retro consoles, including NES, SNES, Genesis and Atari. The console uses emulators optimized for playing games. An example is the use of Blast-Em Genesis Emulator, which Michael Pavone, the author of BlastEm, brought personally to Evercade.

A library of instant games

evercade games collectionSte Knight

You can afford an Evercade console and get a bunch of games at the same time, which means you can just insert the cartridge, turn it on and play. If you enter Evercade Starter Pack, for $ 79.99, you get the Atari Collection 1 cart with. This means that you instantly have 20 games in your collection.

If you enter Evercade Premium Pack for $ 99.99, you get Atari Collection 1, Interplay Collection 1, and Data collection is 1. That brings you 36 games in total, so you have a lot of hours to play there. At the time of writing, 10 cartridges are available, with two more announced and one to come.

The cartridges have a price of $ 14.99, which means that you pay between $ 0.75 and $ 2.50 per game, depending on the number of games on the cartridge. Some, like the Interplay Collection 1 cart, offer six games. Others, like the NAMCO Collection 1, offer 20 games.

back of Evercade with trolley spaceSte Knight

Something for everyone is also on each cartridge. Blaze has carefully selected some of the best retro games from each respective developer. Straight retro arcade players will love the Atari and NAMCO collections. Want a 16-bit RPG action? Then the PIKO Interactive trolley is for you.

There are also developer carts like Mega Cat Studios, which create original games for older systems like Genesis and SNES, as well as for more modern consoles like the Nintendo Switch. Their first cartridge contains 10 games, my favorite being the Tanzer from Genesis (which reminds a bit of the first Turrican games). In this way, the purchase of cartridges directly supports independent developers.

As mentioned, all games are very easy to access. You simply slide the cartridge into the cavity at the back and it loads instantly. The selection of games is also simple, with no complex menus to navigate. Just scroll left and right on the menu screen and select the game you want to play.

In-game controls aren’t usually a problem either. While some games have slightly strange button configurations, Blaze has taken the comments into account and released a firmware update for button remapping so you can choose what the buttons do. In general, however, the controls are responsive and fairly straightforward too.

Perfectly plays games

evercade launches a gameSte Knight

Obviously, I didn’t have time to play every game until the end. However, I have tested all the games, and they work like a dream … even if your dream is the sadistically difficult Desert Falcon, available on the Atari 1 collection for the Atari 2600 and the Atari 2 collection for the Atari 7800.

The screen is the ideal size for playing games without straining the eyes. However, due to the screen resolution, some games are scaled a bit oddly, depending on the resolution used. Using a 16: 9 ratio results in stretched sprites. You can change the resolution between 4: 3 and 16: 9. However, these are the only two options available.

That said, I applauded the simplicity of Evercade and the ease of access for everyone. Adding more menu options will send the Evercade console to a more complicated gray market emulator, so I’m not too worried about that. The games are always played wonderfully.

The quality of control is also excellent. The D-pad is responsive and, due to its size, I have found that it makes fighting games a lot easier, where some controller combos are required to initiate special moves. It does not stick in its housing, so the manufacturing quality is good. Fans of Sega control commands will appreciate the cross-circle combo.

Likewise, the buttons on the controller are all well constructed. They work easily with perfect response time and their smooth finish makes them pleasant to use. The shoulder buttons are also delicious, with a weak action that won’t stifle your gaming efforts without making crucial millisecond decisions. They also have that satisfying microswitch click that I mentioned earlier.

evercade menu screenSte Knight

The battery life isn’t huge, so you may need to plug it in if your session is likely to last more than four hours (which is the indicated battery life). This is not a problem, as you can continue playing while the Evercade is charging.

You can also save the game at any time, via the menu button. Selecting a “State Slot” allows you to save the data of a specific game, with the possibility of returning to the same point by loading the appropriate backup. It’s great if you want to get away from a game but don’t want to lose your progress.

The sound is also excellent, with all the 8 and 16 bit soundtracks and sound effects in place. (Tanzer has an AWESOME techno soundtrack, but it’s not a retro game, per se, it’s just based on 16-bit games.) Even the opening animation with its retro intro jingle is nostalgic !

Overall, the games work well and are sensitive to button presses, which means you don’t feel like you’ve lost that last important life due to clunky controls. Blaze has done an excellent job of refining the emulators chosen, while focusing on providing a gaming experience as faithful to the original as possible in terms of gameplay.

Should I buy one?

evercade with blaze introSte Knight

Absolutely! If you are a fan of collecting retro games, the physical nature of Evercade means that it will take up a place on the shelves of your collection. The games are all well worn on the Evercade, without losing anything in the conversion.

With so many epic retro games out there, for my part, I’m excited to see which games will then head to the console, (I’m hopeful that we’ll see a Bitmap Brothers collection at some point – we’ll see.) in the meantime, I recommend grabbing one and seeing what it is.

If you prefer to take the gray market emulation route, then it is certainly worth considering the Bittboy Pocket Go. Otherwise, if you want to read original cartridges on the go, see the Super Retro Champ.

Evaluation: 8/10

Price: $ 99.99

Here’s what we like

Cool retro design
Wide range of officially licensed games
Easy and accessible to use
Recoverability factor

And what we don’t do

Screen resolution is a minor drawback
Quite short battery life

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