The value proposition and target audience for these two new retro gaming options seem difficult to pin down. In 2020, a world where retro gaming has never been cheaper or easier, who wants to spend money on a cartridge based system or a modular disc-based emulation machine? The answer is me. Let me tell you why.
Before I get into what these systems are, I feel like I need to explain my philosophy on retro gaming and why the mainstream options available now don’t satisfy me. Media has an interesting phenomena where only the best of an era survives and the cream of the crop media becomes the nostalgic standard.
For example, “music today sucks!” Says the Old man. Then that same old man listens to the Beatles and laments the loss of an era that produced such amazing music. The reality is, the only 60's and 70's music that has survived on compilation discs and XM radio are the best tracks. Sure, The Beatles are objectively great but there was awful music from that era too. That music doesn’t get played anymore. After decades of people only remembering and revisiting the best games of late eighties, the NES catalog has been curated down to the point where people think the only games from that era worth playing are Super Mario. Bros and Mega Man 2. The bad games have been left out of the conversation BUT MOST IMPORTANT TO ME arethe mediocre games are left out of the conversation too.
Let’s look back at the Playstation One era of gaming and specifically the racing games of that time. If you were to ask anybody what the best racing game is for the PS1 era, the answer is Gran Turismo. Period. They could re-release Gran Turismo today and it would sell amazingly and it holds up really well. I loved Gran Turismo. I also loved Need for Speed High Stakes and Daytona USA CE for Saturn during that era. Test Drive was making great racing games in the PS1 era and so was Codemasters. Those are good games lost in the conversation of the era. Why talk about a mediocre game when you can just stare at the best? Why watch a documentary on Dominique Wilkins or Clyde Drexler when we can release another endless examining of Michael Jordan (yay)?
The middle of the road games are very interesting to me for both nostalgic and preservation reasons. NFL 2K5 is a legendary title but NFL Gameday ’98 brought 3D polygonal models to football. Gameday is a forgotten series. Content creators still talk about NFL 2K5 but Gameday is lost. Gran Turismo is still being dissected while Need for Speed and Test Drive are never discussed. This matters because if I want to learn about or enjoy Gameday, my only option is to play it on the original disc. Old Madden games show up on Plug and Play devices and still have life. Mega Man gets a new collection ever week but I want to play Need for Speed and Croc.
What is the Polymega? The Polymega is a modular disc based console that emulates media. The base of the Polymega is a disc based console that can play the neo-geo cd, turbo duo, sega cd, saturn and more all with multiple region compatibility. The modular aspect of the system refers to the ability to buy and slot in cartridge based system components. You can buy the SNES, NES, Turbo-grafx, and 32x/Genesis components to add onto the system. The biggest feature of the system is the disc drive. I have a lot of the systems on the Polymega like the Saturn and PS1 but the disc drives are failing and sound like death. The disc-based systems that I don’t own are super hard to find working. The Sega CD has been something i’ve wanted to buy for years but finding a working one is almost impossible. The few working Sega CDs I have found cost $130 or more. Finding a Turbo Graphics CD or a Turbo Duo cost hundreds of dollars, and the Neo Geo CD cost even more. The value proposition of a new disc drive to play these old games is also very high. The Polymega also allows you the ability to burn your discs’ ISO to the system so they don’t need be read during play. It’s a great way to save your discs, especially the rare games.
I guess all this talk about value proposition doesn’t make sense without acknowledging that the Polymega cost $400. The add-ons cost $80 each. That Price is a big ask when an Xbox One X can be purchased for less at this point. Systems like this are always a conundrum. They hit a really small niche but are usually very sought after by that group and once they sell out there won’t be a second run. This system will sell out at this price, no doubt. Much like the Analogue high-end FGPA products, the market for these consoles are rabid. The issue is if you don’t buy the first run there may never be a 2nd run and the aftermarket prices are INSANE. It creates a weird sense of urgency for something that is inherently non-urgent…the games for this system already exist. It’s something I always tell my Transformers Collecting friends, buy it new because it will never be cheaper especially for short packed figures and limited items.
What is the Evercade? The Evercade is a brand new handheld system that plays retro game collections. What separates it from other retro handhelds on the market are it’s build quality and that it uses cartridges. The Evercade is banking on collectors love of physical media as the selling point. Each cartridge has 10–20 games on it. There is a Taito cartridge, a Namco cartridge and an Atari cartridge for example. The idea is that the games are emulated perfectly and they come in a beautiful case with a manual. You can display and trade your cartridges and relive the glory days of previous console generations.
The value proposition for the Evercade is seemingly dubious on two fronts-
- Chinese manufactured emulator machines have tons of pre-loaded games and emulators on them for the same price or cheaper.
2. A lot of the games on the Evercade are available on many different systems at cheaper prices.
My thoughts on this are that the build quality on a lot of those Chinese consoles are awful and they lack customer support. As much as I support emulation and that scene, there is something to be said for being able to have access to great retro games and to be able to support the creators in the process. To the second point, as somebody who has Double Dragon on a Master System, PC, Xbox One, and Phone….why would I want it on Evercade? The answer is solid portable emulation with good tactile controls. Ports on new consoles can be iffy and I can’t take them anywhere. Games on my phone suck because touch screens don’t emulate tactile controls well enough for retro games.
The biggest perk of the Evercade for me is that all of my current ports of retro games are tied to internet access. Steam, Xbox Live, and the Eshop all need the internet. The retro games I play on the Switch are tied to having an online subscription. The Evercade doesn’t need the internet. Those cartridges are complete, no patches and updates. That’s very appealing to me. The Evercade cost around $80 for the console and it comes with a game. The games cost $20 per cartridge. It’s a good value and won’t cause sticker shock quite like the Polymega.
The one thing retro systems and games can’t defeat is time. These new console options are adding life to retro games and old hardware. The Polymega can be purchased at Walmart.com and the Evercade is available on Amazon.com. It’s incredible that in 2020 these consoles have mainstream distribution. It’s probably pretty obvious I am going to be getting both systems, but I recommend that you take a look too. Stay Safe, thanks for reading. Peace!