I got my Retron 5 just under a week ago. I was only able to fully experience it for one day. Right now, I'm stuck playing Tetris DX, which is okay and all, considering that I love Tetris, but it'd be nice if this $150 hunk of plastic actually played the games it was supposed to play.
I was hyped up on the Retron 5 ever since I first heard about it whenever-ago. I collect video games, and over the past year-and-a-half, I've tripled my collection of retro games. But also over the past year-and-a-half, a lot of new technology has dropped, and being somewhat of a tech geek, I like to keep things up-to-date. A Playstation 4 means finally upgrading my TV, and all-HD means upgrading my sound system to be compatible. So eventually, I knew I would have to compromise and choose new or old. I sided with new, because I do love retro games, but I'm excited to experience a lot of things coming out soon. Besides, dragging out and hooking up all my retro systems has always been a chore. Digging through containers full of controllers, unwrapping and hooking up wires, finding extra outlets... It was a pain, and unless I was planning a night of gaming with friends, it almost wasn't worth it. That's why the Retron 5 was really appealing to me: all my games in the convenience of one system AND in magical, upscaled HD?! Shut up and take my money.
I realize clone systems aren't ever perfect. I've furiously debated with myself numerous times before whether or not I should pick one up, and I've always ended up passing due to them usually being cheap emulators that don't work properly. But I thought for sure that Hyperkin had finally realized their mistakes, and with everything they promised with the Retron 5, it genuinely seemed like a decent investment. I even got to play one at E3 this year and it worked really well.
And heres the thing: For the few hours it worked, it was awesome. It's just too bad that my time with the full, working console was so damn short.
Hyperkin's Retron 5, in all its glory(?)
- When the Retron 5 worked, it was phenomenal. It was all I was hoping for in terms of playability of old-gen on current hardware. I tried 12 or so games ranging from almost every system the Retron 5 claims to support, and I only had trouble with two titles: a Japanese Super Famicom game (which I didn't think was unusual, due to it being an import) and a busted up copy of Bad Dudes for the NES (which I chalked up to it being the most beat-up game I own). But for the most part, every game I tried loaded the first time, and ran smoothly without any errors. Maximum Carnage upscaled through one of the included on-the-fly filters looked just as nice as the X-Men Arcade Game remake on XBL/PSN. Donkey Kong Country ran superbly and didn't look stretched or pixelated on my 42" screen. And the Retron 5 upscales pixels magnificently. Super Mario Bros. 3 and Tetris DX looked stunning in high-res 8bit. In terms of visuals, it was nearly perfect.
- There are a lot of cool bells & whistles inside the Retron 5. I liked that the system has an OS that you can back out to and change settings — something that seems almost necessary in this day & age. There are quite a few included filters as I mentioned, giving you the choice to give your classic games a quick HD makeover, or preserve the true 8/16bit nature of the carts. You can even add scanlines, change refresh rates, adjust the sound, and even take screenshots (which I think is really cool!). I messed with everything quite a bit, and found that each game I tried had a specific set of custom settings that made it look and play the best.
- I had no issues with input lag, but then again, I knew to put my TV in "Game" mode, which so many other people couldn't figure out.
- Mappable buttons on the controller is a plus, even if the controller is close to horrid. But you can set certain buttons to be hotkeys to do things like take a screenshot, change the filter, or create a save. Super handy so you don't have to back out to the home or pause menu and interrupt your gameplay.
- It's still playing my copy of Tetris DX.
Not the best photo, but this is Tetris DX upscaled on my 42" LG TV and it looks great.
- It broke in a day, and I don't know why. Like I mentioned, I tried somewhere around 12 games the first day I got the system. After Bad Dudes didn't want to work, I moved on to other systems and thought nothing of it. The last thing I played that day was Tetris DX for the Gameboy Color. This was after I had updated the firmware (which was complicated, but doable, and happened no thanks to the manual included with the system) in hopes that maybe I could get Bad Dudes and my Super Famicom cart to work the next time I tried. The following day, I had the urge to play Vectorman for the Genesis, but it wouldn't load. Okay, it's a 3D rendered game... They're notoriously difficult to emulate... So I tried games that had worked the day before. Mario 3, Maximum Carnage, Chrono Trigger, Streets of Rage. Nothing. Just "Unrecognized Cart" on the screen. Even manually forcing the system to play them yielded no results, and cleaning the cartridges didn't help either. The only thing that still works is the Gameboy port on the front, which is — I'm assuming — because it's not attached the same part of the motherboard that the pins for the console game carts are on.
- Turning on the system is difficult and confusing. Powering it on takes a ludicrous 10+ seconds of holding down the power button. This is annoying. It's a minor annoyance, but when you have no idea how this thing works, and you're excited and just wanna play some games, it takes a couple of tries before you figure out you have to hold the power button down and then stand there like an idiot for 15 seconds.
- The included AC adapter power cable is way too short. I want to say it's like a foot and half long, which sounds long, but it's not. Way too short for my taste, and I feel like it's worth noting.
- The included wireless controller is the antithesis of ergonomic. Other than feeling cheap, it's an okay, whatever controller, except for the portion of the controller you actually grip with your hands. It's angled and protrudes, and isn't comfortable for, you know, actually holding. How this design ever got past the drawing board is beyond me, but it speaks to Hyperkin's business ethic. The D-pad(?) is also a nightmare, and that's purely because it clicks with every press. It makes playing almost anything really annoying. I'm also not fond of the button layout being "+ left up" on the top row, and "- down right" on the bottom row, instead of the typical "a b c"/"x y z" of most retro controllers. Again, why? It makes shit confusing.
- The whole thing is made out of cheap plastic, which doesn't really bother me all that much, beyond the plastic around the cartridge slots. It's super flimsy, and with the force you have to put behind inserting and removing games, it feels like it's going to break with every slight press.
The Even Worse
- Hyperkin's customer service. Why? Because it doesn't exist. At least not through the avenues I went. I emailed Hyperkin customer service via the provided support email provided on the Retron 5 website four times and have yet to receive a response. I also tried contacting them on their official Facebook page with no luck. They're active on the page, but are choosing to ignore customers who are having problems, with not even so much as a, "Please direct all support issues to ______." I've been told that calling sometimes yields better results, but in the digital age, there is no excuse for ignoring emails and social media, especially following the launch of a highly anticipated product. I've just decided to return the product (despite the fact that I really don't want to) and hope that maybe the next batch are a little more successful.
Overall, I'm really disappointed. Not only in the broken system sitting useless atop my entertainment center, but with how Hyperkin is handling this whole thing. I know better than to gossip, but everything I've read about this botched product & launch has been horror story after horror story. It's a major bummer because when the system works correctly, it's fantastic. It's just too bad it's bogged down by cheap parts and poor support.
At least Tetris is still chugging along.
Hyperkin's bio states: "We're not here to make products that win awards." Well that's for damn sure.