Gadgets

This extra-large handheld Nintendo works (and feels) like the real thing

Portable retro gaming machines come and go, but some go as simply and effectively as My Champion of the Retro Champion . You stay in your NES cartridge, press the power button, and assuming you've had it before, it starts. It is distinguished by its large screen, compatibility with Famicom and a huge autonomy of 35 hours.

I played with the Retro Champ at CES, where they had an underkey – it's not the production version, but it will happen in the spring. But it works as you wish, and I was delighted to find it responsive, comfortable and pleasantly ridiculous. It's really big, but not as heavy as it appears.

The 7-inch screen is bright and the color is beautiful. it was responsive and the device was well balanced. The controls are exactly what you expect, with big scoops on the back of the case to help you grab it. The NES cartridges are placed at the top (and stand out as you see it) and the Famicom cartridges at the bottom.

There is a support that allows you to keep it in place and use wireless controllers with this one (not included; they try to keep the price down), and you can also plug it directly into your TV via HDMI, which basically makes it a spare NES home console. (I'm waiting to hear resolutions and technical details on the screen again.)

Finally (and hilariously), there is a concealed cleaning kit with room for a few Q-tips and a small bottle of solvent, to help you run these really depressed games.

My questions arose at the usual pain points of scrupulous and retro-loving players like me:

Yes, it's a 16: 9 screen and, of course, the NES games were 4: 3. So, yes, you can change that.

And no, it's not enough to just load the ROM data into an emulator. This is the usual way of doing it, and it produces artifacts and incompatibility with some games, not to mention the delay of control and other problems. Things have improved, but it is good to cut the corner.

I discussed with Amir David, Creative Director and one of the device developers. Although he can not go into technical details (patent pending), he explained that they had developed their own chip that handles the game in the same way as a real NES.

Thus, any cartridge that runs on the NES, including homebrew and pirated games, will load without problems. This means that you can also use a cartridge with an SD card slot, such as an Everdrive drive, for hard-to-get and hacked titles.

Some features are outstanding, such as backup states. It is possible, but since it is actually a small Nintendo and not a virtual, it is also delicate. We will see.

I was also curious about why there were four round buttons instead of the traditional NES keypad. David said that they were still waiting for feedback from the players on what worked best; for a real controller, the original D-pad might be good, but maybe not for the pocket style. They are therefore considering some configurations. as well as the buttons on the right – they could get some adjustments before publication.

The device costs $ 80, which seems fair to me. If you want absolute fidelity for a home console, you can spend five to ten times more, while for handhelds there are cheaper and cheaper devices, most using emulators. They are aimed at enthusiasts who want an easy but uncompromising way to play their cartridges – many of us have consoles sitting in cartons, but it's hard to install them. The Retro Champ could be one of the easiest ways to get back into the game. It is shipped in June.

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