Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Retro Video Game Addict checks out the Retro Entertainment System!

 The original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was a wonderful machine. It was the video game console that popularized video games and made gaming cool, even more so than the Atari 2600 which brought the medium into the limelight but then flipped the switch off in the early 80's after they over saturated the market and released a slew of what consumers felt were bad games. When video games crashed in 1983/1984 it was Nintendo who picked up the pieces and ushered in millions of new players with their incredible system that featured some of the most recognized and well known games in the history of the business. But here we are about 28 years later and you can still buy an NES through major web sites or from small video game stores throughout the world, but the problem is that they may not work correctly anymore. Some people have even gone ahead and changed out the 72-pin connector inside of the console, but there have been so many complaints about the new connectors not holding up and ruining games that many have given up on finding an NES that works properly. That's where clone system (or “Fami-Clones”) come into the picture. These clone systems started seeing the light of day sometime in 2005 after the patent on the NES ran out and 2 small companies went to work on creating their own Nintendo Entertainment System consoles, those companies were Yobo and Play Messiah. I have Messiah's “Generation NEX” system and it's a wonderful NES clone that looks like an NES would look if it were manufactured in 2005. It was small, sleek, and sexy, it supported original Nintendo carts as well as Famicom games, and it offered support for wireless controllers. What a machine! But today we're not going to be talking about the Generation NEX, instead we're going to be talking about a machine by a company called Retro-Bit who in 2011 created the Retro Entertainment System (RES).
     The Retro Entertainment System itself is an extremely small unit that is no bigger than an actual NES cartridge except that it's much thicker, it also comes with two controllers that most who have used the system either love or hate. Personally, I don't think they're too bad at all and the buttons have a nice clicky feeling to
them that compliment the Genesis style D-Pad nicely. All in all this is a very capable controller, it even has an indentation on the back which helps to give it a better grip. For those who don't wish to use the controllers that are bundled with the system than that's fine, the connector ports allow you to use official Nintendo controllers as well as every Nintendo based accessory such as the NES Advantage or NES Max.
The console is made of a cheaper plastic and is very light, but it's not cheap enough to break after a small fall or anything, I just wouldn't be too rough with it if you plan on having it last a very long time. This isn't first party Nintendo quality here, but it's not a weakling either. Just be gentle with it, especially when removing NES cartridges from the unit itself, it grips the games pretty good and may require you to brace down the system when taking the games out. This is common with almost every clone system on the market, though. The quality of the controller is about the same. While it's a responsive controller when playing games and the buttons give you a good click, it's fairly hollow inside and the cord is really think and feels like it could separate if given enough force. So the mantra here is to be gentle with the Retro Entertainment System, especially if you want it to last a good while.
     Like with most of the clone consoles on the market the RES does not have 100% compatibility. It does not play games like Castlevania 3 and there is a small list of other titles that are incompatible on the unit, luckily some of them I don't own and for the ones I do I can play them in my original NES so this isn't a problem for me. Luckily it does handle the Game Genie nicely, which is a huge plus for me since I do enjoy using the cheat codes while playing certain games, especially those that are such ball busters that I can't get out of the first level. Yeah, you games know which ones you are you bastards.

     There seems to be a lot of debate over whether or not someone should invest in an NES clone. To me there was no debate, mainly because I love to collect hardware and I am in the boat that believes that eventually the original first party hardware is just going to fail and that the 72-pin connector swap is mainly a band-aid fix that has been met with so-so results. So why take the risk? Sure, every good collector has an original NES system in their collection, some may even have a top loader, but there is absolutely nothing wrong in investing into a clone system that will handle the job while the classic consoles rest nicely in retirement. Think about it this way: Let's say that you were a business owner and old Henry was 80 years old and couldn't handle the job very well anymore but yet he's a good friend and a loyal employee. Wouldn't you want to try to find a way to keep him around while you hire someone extra to pick up the slack in the downtime? Sure you would! Think of a clone system as doing just that and it will quickly become not such a bad idea. The Retro Entertainment System, the Generation NEX, the Yobo, the FC Twin, the RetroN 3 (and soon to be 5), and the Retro-Duo do just that and they do it well. Besides, some of these clone systems you can get for next to nothing on eBay and/or Amazon, so in essence you don't have a lot to risk in picking one up. I suggest you do it and if you do, please feel free to let me know how it all turned out, I'm not hard to find.

UPDATED on 10/6/13: Well, the thing didn't make it past September and is no longer working. Too bad too, it was a fun little unit but I guess the Generation NEX or the upcoming Retron 5 would be better substitutes for the real thing if you're looking to put less wear and tear on your original hardware.


© 2013 Bill Mulligan


  1. Excellent write-up! I happen to own the Retro Duo, which plays NES, SNES, Famicom and SFC games! I absolutely love it, but it is rather flimsy in design and is not compatible with ALL games (Battletoads comes to mind!). I do recommend clone consoles for retro game collectors myself, simply because of its lack of region locks, which plauged the original consoles. Again, great article! (-:

    Lumpz the Clown

  2. amazing this blog is I didnt know of so many after market nes consoles and their outlook look cool!

  3. Id be too scared to put my carts in this, some of them are more expensive to replace than it is!