When we tried the original, it was a fun but intriguing concept. Old games on a new handheld device cartridges? A nostalgia box, basically. Whether you think it’s a good idea or not, there are now nearly 40 combinations available totaling hundreds of games. There is also the ability to play against friends on the big screen. Now, there’s it ($130 / £150), a refurbished laptop that improves on the original in some key ways. So, the stupid Evercade idea seems to be working.
In a strange turn of events, and potential further proof of his popularity, it appears to be a truckload of EXP consoles. Blaze, the company behind Evercade, has said that it’s working on restarting production to replace the missing mobile devices, so if you pre-ordered one, you might want to check back for more info.
The EXP brings with it an improved screen with a resolution of 800 x 480 – more than double the resolution of the original screen (480 x 272). Games look sharper this time around, though it’s still 4.3 inches diagonally which makes it a bit smaller for any kind of mobile device in 2022. Although there’s more physical power with a new 1.5GHz processor and a bigger battery it’s good to go. About five hours of gameplay.
A new, all-white design gives EXP a bit more character than the original, which looked like a mini-toy. The D-pad is particularly attractive, as it’s a large dial and seems to protrude out of the casing a little too much. It’s fine to use, but something a little smaller and less presentable might add to the feel of quality. The buttons, for one, are nice and easy to click and are just the right height. It’s a bit of a mixed bag but it’s functional although the moves in fighting games can be a bit tricky at times.
One of EXP’s main franchises is the built-in games from Capcom. The console also comes with the Irem Arcade 1 collection which includes six games (incl R type) but the real fun is among the Capcom classics like Street Fighter II Hyper FightingAnd the MeganAnd the Ghouls and ghosts And the the same fire (among other things). These are some solid titles that mean there are 24 games available to play right out of the box.
If that’s not enough for the first day, there’s also a way to increase that number to 29 thanks to a large banner on the home screen titled “HIDDEN GAMES” (all capital letters yes). This is a carryover from VS which introduced a ‘secret’ menu option – which, despite the name, isn’t hidden, it’s right there in the main menu and is literally called ‘secret’. Here, you can enter some codes and unlock more games. No spoilers here, but a little googling might turn up some clues.
Unfortunately, although you can connect the EXP to a TV via HDMI and there’s a USB-C port on the bottom, you can’t connect a controller — not even a VS console — to enjoy two-player mode in the built-in games. This is a real shame with Street Fighter II Sitting there, begging to be played as nature intended. Blaze told Engadget it’s something that’s being explored but there’s nothing immediate to share. All games on the VS console can be played in two-player mode, but licensing with Capcom only allowed the company to include games on EXP themselves, not as cartridges.
The final major update to EXP over the original is the inclusion of the “Tate” mode. Many of these early arcade games were played in portrait mode, rather than horizontally, and the EXP has a pair of extra buttons besides the D-pad so you can flip the controller 90 degrees and play these titles just vertically as if quarters were called for. Some of the included Capcom titles, such as 1942 And the commandos, use this mode, as many do in the Irem Arcade bundled cartridge. It’s nice to see these games with the option to play them in the right direction and will be of particular appeal to fans of vertically scrolling shooters (of which there are plenty on the Evercade platform).
Finally, EXP features a newer user interface than the original. In fact, it is borrowed almost directly from the VS console. The original portable has been updated to offer a similar-looking interface, but lacks a bit compared to those in VS and EXP. It’s simple and easy to navigate but it also has some useful added data in each game’s menu where you can see how many times and how long you’ve played a game among other information. You can also set a “coin” limit here to truly recreate that ’90s arcade experience where you only had seven quarters and had to use it wisely.
Most of all, EXP maintains the same authenticity and nods to the retro era that made the original and VS so much fun. Things like secret games and things to unlock were mainstays of the era, so combined with the nostalgia for cartridges, it all goes a long way to making the Evercade platformer something beyond just another way to play older titles. There is also a “Game of the Month” program that provides the opportunity to play upcoming releases for free for a limited time.
It’s not just about old games. Evercade already has a bunch of modern retro games, including a highly recommended Game Boy . There is also on the way. Old classics are one thing, but there are so many ways to play them. Evercade offers a nice legal option and one that compensates rights holders appropriately, but it’s also well-positioned to become a destination for modern, lightweight indie titles.
There are plenty of options for older games, be it other portable devices, things like Nintendo’s Virtual Console / Switch online or the semi-recent trend of “mini” consoles. Evercade’s approach is unique but it clearly takes a bit of a collector’s itch or penchant for lesser-known gems for it to really make sense. One thing is for sure, there is already a rally around the platform and for them and the like, the EXP elevates the device holding experience quite well.
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