It’s been a few years since the controversial release of Hyperkin’s clone console the Retron 5, and most of us have forgotten about it. The console, released in 2014, could play games from 10 different systems from the Gameboy to the Sega Genesis and used software emulation to dump the roms of the cartridges inserted.
Most hardcore gamer’s opinions about the console were unfavorable due to the fact that the Retron 5 was sold using emulators intended for free use. RetroArch, the original authors of the Genesis Plus GX and SNES9X open source emulators, claimed Hyperkin had used these, as well as using their source code used to create the Retron 5’s front end. On top of all the legal grey area the console existed in, the hardcore “retro game puritans” (part of the demographic the product was aimed at) seemed to universally scoff at the very idea of playing their games on a “clone console”. The argument between emulation and original hardware had always been an ongoing discussion, but the release of the Retron 5 brought the topic to the forefront of many YouTube videos, blogs and news sites.
I decided to give it a chance and purchased one for a good price at that year’s Fan Expo in Toronto. I liked the idea of having a system hooked up to my new TV in the living room, a bunch of buddies and I playing all my favorite carts from NES, SNES, Sega Master System and Genesis in glorious HD. I have to admit, the games looked amazing! There were many filters from smoothing to fake scan lines, but the simple fact my games finally looked great on my HD TV was exciting. The first week of owning it, I went quickly through all my games to see how my treasured memories would look in HD, and was overly impressed!
I was in the honeymoon phase. Due to my eagerness to try all my games, I didn’t put time into a long play session of any game, until I got to my beloved Wings of Wor on the Sega Genesis. This side scrolling shooter, although not the prettiest game on the system (with equally unforgettable audio) is my go to when I need a tense, thumb busting 16-Bit experience...but something was wrong. I do not claim to be the most amazing gamer, but I know I am good at this game and I couldn’t get past the second boss without problems. Was I losing my edge in my old age? Not entirely, at least not enough to play that badly on a game I have beaten several times. That is when I realized I had forgotten about the pitfalls of screen resolution and the dreaded LAG!
I put in Mega Man 2 for the NES, I noticed lag. I tried several other games before resorting to the internet to confirm my fears that the TV I wanted to play these games on so bad were the cause of the several frames of lag. Unless you had a framemeister, or a CRT with HDMI there was noticeable lag present and I was super disappointed. I reverted to playing on original hardware for my favorite games and Retron 5 sat unplugged for a long time.
The update that allowed you to apply patches to game ROMS via SD card released a few months later. I have a large “complete in box” collection of Super Famicom RPG games. Until now they were mainly shelf decoration commemorating my love for certain series released here and in Japan. Finally I got to play games I had for years and in english patches! The Retron 5 had just become my RPG machine! I also played a few rom hacks of some great side scrollers and shooters and quickly realised that this new update was more than just applying patches, you could literally download the roms straight to the SD card. After some manipulation with the rom’s file format, you can bring up and play any rom as long as the corresponding cart is inserted. Plainly put, if you have an SNES cart inserted you can play ANY SNES game stored on your SD card. Now I know you could simply hook up a PC, or even use your smartphone and tablet, but having a system I can use an original NES controller on to play Super Mario 3 on the big screen was a good feeling. I still regularly play it and am very happy with my purchase.
I know to this day a large number of people still hate the Retron 5. I totally understand where they are coming from, I agreed with a lot of their points but I have to say now I can’t speak badly of the system. There are problems with some systems not holding saves or over tight pin connectors ruining carts, but my experience with Hyperkin’s Retron5 has mainly been very positive. It is hard to admit it….but...Hi, my name is Ryan, and I love the Retron 5.