The Evercade series of products from Blaze Entertainment offers an intriguing new spin on the classic gaming system. Instead of using built-in games like the SNES Classic and the Sega Genesis Classic, or using original media like the Analogue Super Nt and the long-delayed Polymega, Evercade uses its own cartridges that hold collections of 8- and 16-bit games from a variety of developers. These games come from Evercade’s own library of games. The previous year was when we took our first look at the original Evercade, which is now known as the Evercade Handheld. It’s a portable gaming system that allows you to play Evercade cartridges everywhere you go, and it connects to your television through HDMI. On the other hand, it is quite small, has a short battery life, and does not really allow for cooperative gameplay with other individuals.
Now, Blaze Entertainment is working on the release of the Evercade Vs., and the game is expected to hit shelves in January 2022. This is the home console version of the Evercade Handheld, and it supports up to four players, outputs 1080p to your TV, and has two cartridge slots so that you can play twice as many games at once. It is a little bit more expensive than the Evercade Handheld and the majority of single-system retro consoles, coming in at $129.99 for the Premium Pack that we tested, which includes two game cartridges. Its controllers have a mushy feel to them, and the video output is not as crisp as we would like it to be. Despite these problems, however, the Evercade Vs. is just as strangely attractive as the handheld system. This is helped in part by the fact that it supports XInput gamepads. It’s a console that’s great for collectors since it gives you access to dozens of cheap classic games that are stored on cartridges that look nice displayed on a shelf. Depending on your preferences, you can stumble into games that you already adore or games that you have never heard of but that might make you laugh.
Not Quite Retro-Looking
The Evercade Vs., much like its predecessor, the Evercade Handheld, does not seek to replicate the appearance or gameplay of any one vintage gaming system. It’s just a plain old white box with rounded sides and a few teeny small pieces of nostalgia strewn all over the surface of it. There are two cartridge slots that may be accessed by lifting a cover that runs from the top half of the front panel to the front half of the top panel. This design is reminiscent of the door that the NES had, as well as the card slots found on the Master System and TurboGrafx-16. The Evercade is turned on with a click that is reminiscent of that of a NES and is located on the top panel’s right edge. The button is square and gray.
The lower half of the front panel is lined with four USB ports, which allow for support for up to four players using controllers that are compatible (though only two gamepads are included with the system). A micro USB port for power and an HDMI port for connecting the system to a TV are located on the back of the console. There is also a small reset button located on the back of the console. The Evercade Vs. requires at least 1W of power, so the USB ports on your TV are probably not going to be enough to support it. However, a USB-to-micro-USB cable is provided in the package.
Bring Your Best Gamepad With You.
The gamepads are rectangular in shape, but they bring to mind the first Evercade a great deal more than the gamepads for the Master System, NES, or TG-16. They have a long red USB cable that may be used to connect to the Evercade Vs, and they are white with red accent. In addition to its four face buttons, its Start and Select buttons, and its home/menu button, each controller features a sizable, circular direction pad in a gray color that has a raised + sign in the center to indicate the cardinal directions. Although the great majority of games on Evercade do not make use of any shoulder buttons, the top of each gamepad contains two pairs of shoulder buttons similar to those seen on modern gaming controllers.
Unluckily, the controls don’t have a particularly satisfying feel to them. The direction pad has some play when the thumb is placed on it, and the face buttons have a springy feel to them. In addition, the strips that make up the shoulder buttons are made of a rigid plastic that is uncomfortably small, making them difficult to use. In spite of this, the face buttons have a satisfyingly strong and clicky feel, just how they should.
The Evercade Vs. fortunately supports XInput gamepads, which means that you can plug in your Xbox Wireless Controller, your 8Bitdo Pro 2 when it is set to XInput mode, or any other controller that employs that interface. However, I was unable to get the system to work with any controller other than an XInput controller. This included the DualSense, a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, and even a generic USB gamepad designed in the form of a SNES controller.
Quirks for Cartridges
It may take some time to become used to the Evercade Vs., particularly if you aren’t aware with the peculiarities of cartridge-based game consoles that were popular several decades ago. Although the system is built on emulation and loads each game file into memory, replacing the cartridges powers everything down and prevents you from inserting or removing cartridges while the system is active. The up to two cartridges that you insert into the dual slots are the ones that you will be able to play with from the moment you turn on the system until the moment that you remove them from the system. Additionally, you need to press and hold the power button for a few seconds until the light under the door turns on. After that, the console will boot up and be ready to use in ten to twenty seconds (indicated by the light flashing cyan and magenta before turning red, and finally white).
The Evercade Vs. displays, on its home screen after it has finished booting up, a complete list of all games that may be played from either of the cartridges, along with a logo or cover art image for each game. It’s a simple and uncomplicated user interface. You are able to view the various games that have been loaded, select a game to obtain some further information about it in the form of a text description, and check out a diagram that illustrates how the controllers are mapped. That brings us to the end. The settings menu also has a few display choices, a few backdrop themes and frames that you can use when you’re surfing and playing games, and a mysterious Secret menu that invites you to input a code. You may use these while you’re doing anything from browsing to playing games. It is unclear what its purpose is.
The platform is an important piece of information that is missing from the interface for each game. When you choose a game, the user interface may inform you that it is an 8-bit or 16-bit game, or that it is an arcade game; but, it will not mention whether the version you are playing is the one designed for the NES, the SNES, the Sega Genesis, or another system. It can be a little aggravating, especially considering the very significant variations that exist between arcade and 16-bit console titles and their NES conversions, as will be discussed further down.
The Evercade Vs. has the capability to connect to the internet via Wi-Fi; however, this connection is solely used for updating the device’s firmware and software. There is no mechanism for you to download games onto the machine at all. The games on the cartridges cannot be transferred to the console in the same way that they can be transferred from the Polymega to more recent gaming systems. After you take out the cartridges and replace them with new ones, the Evercade Vs. will restart and display a selection of games that may be played using only the cartridges that are now inserted into its slots.
Numerous Games, Most of Which Are Unknown to You
Both the Data East Arcade I and the Technos Arcade I collections can be found on the two cartridges that are included in the Premium Pack. These are brand new collections that are distinct from the Data East Collection I that was previously offered as part of the portable Evercade Premium Pack and the Technos Collection I that could be purchased on its own. The fact that the boxes are purple rather than red and that the word “Arcade” is used rather than the word “Collection” elucidates this point. This indicates that each and every game contained within these two cartridges is a port from an arcade machine, as opposed to the majority of games contained on red-box cartridges, which were taken from video game consoles such as the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis. You have every reason to be overjoyed by this piece of information if you are familiar with console ports of arcade games released in the early 1990s.
One of the most significant issues that we had with the Evercade was the fact that the classic “arcade” games included in the red-box sets were frequently inferior console counterparts. This almost always indicates a considerable quality reduction for these games. On the Nintendo Entertainment System, for instance, Double Dragon II looks and plays substantially differently than it does in the arcade cabinet. This is despite the fact that the NES version of the game does not suffer from the same kind of mechanical degeneration as the original Double Dragon does. In addition, Evercade has produced Atari Arcade I, a collection that features the arcade versions of 13 classic Atari games rather than the Atari 2600 titles that are included in Atari Collection I and II. These games are not included with the Premium Pack, but they can be purchased separately.
The games that are included on the two cartridges are, much like the majority of other compilations released by Data East and Technos, a hit-or-miss affair. There are several great standouts, such Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja, Burger Time, Double Dragon II and III, and Block Out, which is a 3D version of the classic puzzle game Tetris. You’ll also find versions of iconic Namco arcade games reimagined by Data East and Technos, such as Lock ‘n’ Chase (Pac-Man), Sly Spy (Rolling Thunder), and Mysterious Stones (Tower of Druaga). It is a great smattering, but there are very few titles that absolutely have to be played, and the original Double Dragon arcade game is conspicuously absent from this collection.
You are in luck since you may choose from hundreds of different games that are either old-school or updated in a retro-style. on their own individual cartridge sets for the price of twenty dollars each, complete with their very own plastic cases and color instruction manuals. The Tanglewood/Xeno Crisis twin game cartridge is the only exception to the rule; all other cartridges include between 6 and 20 games each. Despite the fact that Capcom, Nintendo, and Sega have not made any contributions to the Evercade’s catalog, there are still a large number of classic games available from publishers such as Atari, Bitmap Brothers, Codemasters, Data East, Interplay, Jelico, and Technos.
The Codemasters and Oliver Twins collections are particularly nostalgic for people who grew up in the United Kingdom, which is understandable given that Blaze Entertainment is also based in the United Kingdom. Overall, the library is quite large and contains a large number of interesting games, despite the fact that some of them border on being obscure. If you are a collector of classic video games, the affordable prices and appealing casings of the cartridges may be intriguing to you; the cartridges themselves are not ancient releases, but they have a great appearance on a shelf and are filled with digital gaming memorabilia.
Graphics and Overall Feel of the Game
The video is output by the Evercade VS at a resolution of 1080p, and when seen on a 4K television, the menus appear clear and crisp. The games, on the other hand, are not particularly challenging. The sprites’ edges frequently have a little of fuzz, however it is nothing near as terrible as what I’ve seen with older, third-party retro game systems, such as the Retro-Bit Generations or inexpensive systems that only broadcast over composite video.
It is not an unpleasant appearance, and some arcade games may benefit from the slight fuzziness, but the graphics simply aren’t as crisp as they are on systems such as the SNES Classic, Sega Genesis Mini, or TurboGrafx-16 Mini. There are only three screen size options available, with Pixel Perfect often providing the smallest window but the sharpest picture. Additionally, there are two scanline filters that can be used as an optional extra.
Since the Evercade Vs. is built on an emulator, it is able to take advantage of a software hack that simplifies challenging games. It offers save states, which is a function that is common in older game systems, so that you can pick up at a certain point without having to start the game over completely. This is especially helpful for older games that do not have a save system. The great majority of the games in the Evercade’s collection fall into this category. There is no rewind option, and you cannot install your own roms or edit games with patches. That is all there is to it in terms of the capabilities offered by the emulator. To be fair, the vast majority of other vintage game systems lack these functions as well.
In spite of all of these concerns, the games are enjoyable to play. At the very least, I was able to successfully play them using an Xbox Wireless Controller. The bundled gamepads have a somewhat mushy feel to them, which makes the already sluggish controls of traditional beat ’em ups feel even slower and more awkward. The games are not unplayable with the gamepads, but you will need to get used to a rather loose direction pad, which can be bothersome with certain titles. The games are not unplayable with the gamepads.
A Strange Console Designed for the Strange Collector
Similar to the original Evercade Handheld, the Evercade Vs. is a one-of-a-kind piece of hardware that caters to a specific subset of consumers. The latest home console gives users the ability to play a broad variety of retro video games, some of which may be less well known than others, on their televisions, with support for multiple players. The option to utilize your own controllers makes playing these games a far more enjoyable experience than it would be on a screen that is only 4.3 inches in size and with a battery life that only lasts between four and five hours. On a large television, the upscaled sprite-based graphics could appear a little bit clearer, but overall, they still look nice.
It is the game library that will define whether or not the Evercade Vs. is appealing to you. This is true of any system. On the first-party retro systems like the Nintendo Switch, you can play classic games from Capcom, Nintendo, Sega, and even Neo Geo. This leaves plenty of room for less well-known games from other creators and publishers, some of which may become fan favorites in the future. Even if it is not included in either of the two cartridge collections that are included with the Evercade Vs. Premium Pack, you will almost certainly discover something that strikes your eye among the dozens of cartridge collections that Evercade offers. It is recommended that you take a look at the Evercade Vs. if you have even a passing interest in classic video games.
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