REVIEW: Super Retro Advance

Super retro advance

While I have always loved the idea of portable gaming I have to say that console gaming is where it’s at for me. I just love relaxing in the sofa and playing games on a big screen instead of having to squint at a small one for hours on end which I find to be very tiresome. And this ladies and gentlemen is why I love Retro-bit’s Super Advance Retro adapter. It is a Super Gameboy-like adapter and allows for you to play your Gameboy Advance games on your regular TV through the Super Nintendo. Now, the Gameboy Advance was a system I was quite hesitant to collect for at first since I didn’t like the system’s screen that much and the selection of games available were mostly aimed at kids resulting in an overload of bad movie/cartoon tie-in games. But as I noticed, look a bit further and you’ll find an impressive selection of epic games that just deserve to be played on a big screen instead of on the horrid GBA screen. And lots of these games were good ports or sequels to 8 and 16-bit classics. And considering how many of these ports are cheaper and easier to obtain on the GBA than for their original consoles you can see how this is really cool for the non-purist collector.

Super retro advance

The Super Retro Advance is basically a SNES cartridge with a GBA cartridge slot on top reminiscent of the Super Gameboy of yore. But this unit is a lot more compact compared to the Super Gameboy and looks more like a typical European/Japanese SNES cart in size and shape except for the fact that they trade the traditional grey colour for a more sexy and sleek black. This is to differentiate the cartridge from the regular ones I suppose. Some more tiny differences you’ll notice is that at the sides of the unit there are two ports, one is for linking other GBA’s to the unit for multiplayer or data trading. The other is for connecting the unit to your TV as it is actually the Super Retro Advance outputting the signals and doing all the processing work instead of the SNES. The SNES just acts as the controller input basically. In case you have one of Retro-bit’s clone consoles though you won’t even need this port at all as you can just plug the unit in and the console accomodates for the output itself.

Super retro advance

Installing the unit is simple and straightforward. It was nice of them to include a manual but in all honesty, if you own even an inkling of common sense you won’t even really need it. You just insert the unit as if it were a regular SNES cartridge, hook it up to your TV, insert a GBA cartridge and boot up your SNES. Et voila, you’re playing the Gameboy Advance through your trusty old SNES. Sadly, the A/V lead through which you connect the unit to your TV is a bit on the short side. This should pose no problem if your console is close to the TV but if it’s not you’re in a bit of a pickle. Luckily though, you can use other similar cables like the ones supplied with the Dingoo 320 or Neo Geo X and they will work just fine too. Or you can find similar cables in an electronics store or online. One thing I noticed when inserting a cartridge into the unit is that the cartridges don’t click into the unit like they do when you insert them in a Gameboy Advance. This lead me to think that I hadn’t inserted the cartridge firmly enough but upon booting the unit the game just started as it was supposed to. So don’t force the cartridge waiting for an audible click. Trust me, the cartridge is connected.

Super retro advance

At first I was kind of afraid that the image might look horribly stretched out on a big screen but apparently the GBA actually has a pretty good resolution for a pre-PSP portable. It even employs all of the screen real estate which means no Super Gameboy-like borders. Also, it outputs at 60hz which is good news for Euro gamers as for us the image will also fill the entire screen. Graphically, the end result is comparable to a SNES game but more detailed and advanced looking as the GBA was after all a 32-bit system as opposed to the SNES’s measly 16-bits.

Super retro advance

The GBA games actually look a whole lot better on your TV than on your GBA screen and it feels like this is the way these games were meant to be enjoyed in the first place. Contary to what I first expected it doesn’t feel weird at all to play these portable games on a big screen. In fact, I felt some of the games were now easier and more comfortable to play as you have better visibility due to the bigger screen. In F-Zero: Maximum Velocity for example I found it easier to dodge other cars whereas on the GBA I kept bumping into them all the time. One thing you’ll notice though is that the text can be huuuuge at times as it was meant to be readable on a pretty tiny screen. But I can’t say it was something that bothered me. It’s just a rather funny sight that might take some time getting used to.

Super retro advance metroid fusion

So graphically I’m pretty impressed but the sound and especially music on the other hand can sound quite weak at times. But I don’t think the unit itself is to blame here as it really depends on the game that you’re playing. I’m guessing some of the sound and music for GBA games was mixed with the weak GBA speakers in mind and didn’t accomodate for TV speakers or headphones. I can say that Golden Sun and Metroid Fusion definitely have console-quality sound and music and sound just amazing. Other games such as F-Zero: Maximum Velocity and Sonic Advance sound rather weak in comparison and will make you think you are holding a GBA in your hands instead of listening to music coming out of an actual TV-set.

But all in all I can say that it’s definitely an experience to play GBA games on a big screen. In fact, I dare say I enjoy my GBA games more this way and it has inspired me to add plenty more to my collection. Metroid Fusion for example, which I have always loved, now feels more like playing the Super Metroid 2 we never got. It now really has it’s chance to shine on the big screen and it definitely feels more at home there. I can’t say much for the compatibility of the system but the small selection of games I own all worked fine. Classic Gameboy and Gameboy Colour games though won’t work even though they were compatible with the original GBA so keep that in mind if you’re interested in the unit. It’s strictly GBA!

I know i’m pretty much gushing over this thing and I wish I could be more critical but in all honesty, I just love it! You’ll be surprised by how much more fun the games are by playing them on a TV screen and how well the device handles it. And for a bit more than the average price of a second hand Gameboy Advance I’d say this isn’t a bad deal at all.

5/5

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Pick-up Time!

Alien soldier road rash golden axe warrior

Boy, am I excited about this batch of games I received a while back. I mean, Alien Soldier! You’re seeing that, right? Frickin’ Alien Soldier is now in my collection. And I got it for a bargain too, not the usual 100+ $ it usually goes for. One thing bothering me though is, I suspect it’s a fake. Booooooh! No really, the printing quality of the sleeve is setting off some serious alarm bells as some parts tend to show slight bleeding of the ink and the cartridge label is peeling off on top. But hey, I won it relatively cheap and it damn well looks much more presentable on my shelf than the obviously pirated copy I owned before. It came in a paper sleeve y’know.

Oh, and Road Rash *sigh* :). Who doesn’t know (and hopefully love) good old Road Rash? I used to own this for PC and me and my brother played it to death. It was the classic RR experience we knew from renting the first game on MegaDrive except now filled with ridiculous FMV which was actually rather entertaining in a very silly way and menus filled with great Alternative music like Therapy? and Soundgarden. Which I, by the way, was just nuts about in those days. Sadly I don’t own that copy anymore but upon seeing it featured on an episode of Game Sack my Road Rash-itch started, well, itching again so I bought it for the Saturn this time around. And it still is amazing stupid good fun.

Golden Axe Warrior I also got to know through Game Sack and a Zelda-clone in the Golden Axe universe just seemed too awesome to miss out on. So I boughtst it, I boughtst it real good. It’s an okay game, you’ll love this if you loved the first Zelda game.

HD Retrovision Component cables for your retro consoles [UPDATED]

[UPDATE:¬†The people at HD Retrovision informed me that their cables are similar in output to RGB SCART but have the added bonus of compensating for the colour difference between console revisions. Also, these are intendee mainly for the US market where most TV’s lack SCART inputs.]

Lately, a new company by the name of HD Retrovision has announced a series of cables which will let you hook up your retro consoles to your HDTV by means of Component input. The first batch coming out will be leads for the Super Nintendo and Sega MegaDrive/Genesis.

Myself, I am quite content with regular old SCART for hooking up my retro consoles to my HD TV but out of curiosity I decided to check up on the company that produces these cables and see what exactly they’re promising us. Well, first of all and probably most importantly is that these cables will not display your games in HD as that’s, quite frankly, impossible! Which makes sense as a mere AV lead can’t just magically upscale the image coming from the console. It can only serve the purpose of bringing the image that the console puts out onto your screen and translate it as accurately and undiluted as possible. So resolution-wise nothing changes which for me just seems to defeat the purpose of a HD branded cable anyway. If your TV tends to blow up the image coming from a retro console to an¬†unsightly pixelfest then it will more than likely continue to do so even with these cables. They are however supposed to result in an accurate output of the console’s signal which means a crisper and more detailed image with colours that pop off the screen.

Hd retrovision

The images and videos on their site clearly illustrate said difference. Buuuuuut, what they seem to do with the image comparisons is that they start from Composite input which looks pretty terrible on any kind of TV. So what I’m asking myself is, will the picture that their Component-cables put out be much different from from what a RGB-SCART connection puts out? Because a SCART cable will basically do the same thing which their Component cables promise to do. From what I can tell from the videos and pictures on their site is that the results seem pretty comparable if not exactly the same to those of a RGB-SCART output.

So for me it looks like I will be hanging on to my trusted SCART cables. I just see no reason to upgrade to theirs as I’m already benefitting from a clearer image and an accurate depiction of the colours. It would be nice if they could output in HD but that’s just not possible without an expensive upscaler-unit. So I’m thinking that these cables don’t seem to hold much value for the average retro gamer as most of them will have their consoles already hooked up to the SCART or S-Video inputs of their TV. If you don’t then these may be interesting for you even if they seem a bit pricey at 35$.

Regardless I am looking forward to what people will have to say about the finished product and maybe they will prove my reservations wrong. The reservations that I have are after all based on pure speculation. You just can’t judge a product on promo material alone so I’ll hold off on any final judgement and wait till I hear what the early adopters have to say about this product. And we’ll see, maybe they turn out to be pretty special after all.

If you happen to be interested in the HD Retrovision Component cables here’s their website.

Pick-up Time!

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A few days ago I received a lot of MegaDrive games and one for the Master System that I won on eBay. There were 11 games in the lot but after some meticulous (not really though) testing I decided on keeping these four and selling the others.

‘Sonic 2’ and ‘World of Illusion’ I already owned but ‘Sonic 2’ I have on a very unsexy loose compilation cart (oh poo!) so a boxed copy definitely looks way better on the shelf. Same for ‘World of Illusion’ which I had as a loose cartridge. My shelf will look that much fancier now ^-^.