Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade Review – A High-Quality RetroPie Killer

Jason Faulkner
Super Retro-Cade Info

genre

  • Mini-Console

players

  • 1 - 2

Publisher

  • Retro-Bit

Developer

  • Retro-Bit

Release Date

  • 12/15/2017
  • Out Now

Platform

  • Hardware

rating

In the last five years or so there’s been an explosion of mini-consoles fueled by mass nostalgia for games from the 1980s and 1990s. These consoles run the gambit from shoddily-designed and made from the cheapest components possible to sturdy boxes that offer licensed games and a plethora of HD upscaling options. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot more of the former released than the latter.

Retro-Bit has released a few multi-system hybrids, including the RetroDuo Portable and Gen-X Twin Console, but their last mini-console featuring built-in games, the Retro-Bit Generations, left a lot to be desired. The Generations had poor controllers, lousy emulation, and just felt off-brand. The Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade, Retro-Bit’s newest machine, hit shelves over the holiday season and fortunately corrects a lot of the issues that were criticized about the Generations.

One thing that’s almost universal in these retro mini-consoles is that they’re just cheap feeling. The controllers included virtually always have mushy buttons and poor-quality cheap housing, and even if the internal hardware is adequate, the whole thing has a bootleg aesthetic going on. The Super Retro-Cade has an MSRP of $60, so it’s a little more expensive than many of the mini-consoles you see on the shelves at big box stores, but that little extra cash is absolutely worth it.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much out of the Retro-Cade so I was pleasantly surprised at its construction. The shell of the system is a recasting of the same mold Retro-Bit used for the Generations, this time in an attractive red and white color scheme. The plastic is durable, and the on/off switch has a nice springiness to it and gives a satisfying sound when depressed that is reminiscent of the NES’s power button.

Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade Review: Controllers

Retro-Cade-Controller

The controllers were the aspect of the system I dreaded most. These sorts of systems are notorious for having extremely poor controllers, and I was shocked when I used them for the first time. The controllers that come with the Super Retro-Cade are extremely well made, with a shape that looks like a cross between a SNES and Genesis gamepad. They fit in the hand nicely, and the D-Pad, face buttons, and shoulder buttons all feel great.

I compared the button action with a SNES Classic controller and I have to say that the Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade controller feels just as good and responsive as Nintendo’s product. As a bonus, both pads connect via an ordinary USB cable so you can use them on PC as well. They definitely rival any SNES-like pads you can buy for PC, and give my old standby, the iBuffalo Classic USB Gamepad, a run for its money.

Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade Review: Games

The games included on the Super Retro-Cade are a host of classics from Capcom, Data East, Irem, and Technos. One thing that’s special about the Retro-Cade is that many of the 90+ titles included are arcade versions. A lot of these mini-consoles just give you the easiest to run version of the games they include, but the Retro-Cade goes the whole nine yards and includes a lot of arcade titles that I’m not sure you can get anywhere else legally.

The full list of games included with the Super Retro-Cade is:

Arcade:

  • 10-Yard Fight
  • 1942
  • 1943: The Battle of Midway
  • Air Duel
  • Armored Warriors
  • Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja
  • Bionic Commando
  • Blade Master
  • Boogie Wings
  • Captain Commando
  • Cobra Command
  • Commando
  • Double Dragon
  • Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone
  • Dragon Breed
  • Exciting House – The Pro Wrestling Network
  • Exed Exes
  • Final Fight
  • Forgotten Worlds
  • Ghosts ‘n Goblins
  • Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
  • Gun.Smoke
  • Hammerin’ Harry
  • Heavy Barrel
  • Image Fight
  • Joe & Mac Returns,
  • Joe & Mac Caveman Ninja
  • Karate Champ – Player vs. Player
  • Ken-Go
  • Kickle Cubicle
  • Kid Niki: Radical Ninja
  • Knights of the Round
  • Legend of Hero Tonma
  • Magical Drop
  • Mega Twins
  • Mercs
  • Midnight Resistance
  • MotoRace USA
  • Mr. Heli
  • Mutant Fighter
  • Mystic Riders
  • Ninja Spirit
  • Pirate Ship Higemaru
  • Renegade
  • Secret Agent
  • Side Arms
  • SonSon
  • Strider
  • Super Burgertime
  • Super Dodge Ball
  • The Combatribes
  • Three Wonders
  • Thunder Blaster
  • Varth: Operation Thunderstorm
  • Vigilante
  • Wizard Fire
  • Xmultiply

Console:

  • Bad Dudes
  • Bionic Commando
  • Buggy Poper
  • BurgerTime
  • Code Name: Viper
  • Congo’s Caper
  • Dark Lord
  • Fighter’s History
  • Fighter’s History: Mizoguchi Kiki Ippatsu!!
  • Final Fight 2
  • Final Fight 3
  • Hammerin’ Harry
  • Holy Diver
  • Joe & Mac
  • Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics
  • Kid Niki: Radical Ninja 2
  • Legendary Wings
  • Magical Drop
  • Magical Drop 2
  • Major Title Golf
  • Mega Man 2
  • Mega Man 3
  • Mercs
  • Mighty Final Fight
  • R-Type III: The Third Lightning
  • Rocky Rodent
  • Section Z
  • Side Pocket
  • Spartan X 2
  • Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight
  • Strider
  • Super Birdie Rush
  • Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
  • Super R-Type
  • Super Side Pocket
  • Trojan

As you can see, Retro-Bit managed to license a pretty great spread of games. There are classics like Mega Man 2 and Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, but of particular note are two titles you may never have heard of. The Super Retro-Cade has the honor of debuting two games for their first domestic releases. Capcom’s Armored Warriors (Powered Gear – Strategic Variant Armor Equipment in Japan) has never been available on a home console before. Data East’s Boogie Wings (The Great Ragtime Show in Japan) also gets its first home release with the Retro-Cade and is one of the best side-scrolling shooters I’ve ever played.

Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade Review: Interface and Output

Retro-Cade-Menu

The Retro-Bit Generations had pretty terrible emulation, and the team behind the Retro-Cade must have taken complaints to heart. The Retro-Cade runs a custom interface on an unidentified Android chipset, but it seems like the emulation is handled by a regular old install of RetroArch. It looks like Retro-Bit did a bit of tweaking for compatibility, and whatever hardware is powering the Retro-Cade is potent enough to run almost every title included in a way that’s practically flawless. There are some issues with choppiness in Double Dragon and Midnight Resistance. Also, Boogie Wings can slow down at times, but for the most part, all titles run very well.

The interface itself is serviceable, though austere. It lays out the games in a grid system, and you just scroll to the one you want, hit Start, and you’re taken into the game. There are a number of options for each game, and each can save and load states. Unfortunately, one weakness of the Retro-Cade is that every title is set to stretch to full-screen by default. There’s no global option to switch all games to their original aspect ratio, so you have to do them one by one as you play them. The Retro-Bit offers two options for video and audio output. You can either go with HDMI, in which case games will be upscaled to 720p, or you can use composite out which maxes out at 480i.

Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade Review: Playing Back-Ups

The biggest attraction for some people that the Retro-Cade includes is the SD Card slot. There’s an undocumented function the Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade can do that makes its $60 asking price even more astounding. Out of the box, the Retro-Cade can run back-ups for many systems without any modification.

I’m not sure just how many emulators are available on the machine, but I know for sure that NES, SNES, Genesis, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance back-ups work flawlessly. While you won’t get the menu images that the base games that come with the Retro-Cade get, once you put the SD card in you can display a menu of whatever backups you have in the same grid format. You can choose options and save states with loaded ROMS just like you can any of the included games.

For gamers who like to back up their games and keep those old cartridge contacts clean and safe, the Retro-Bit Super Retrocade is an even better investment than a RetroPie, and may even run a bit better than a Raspberry Pi 3. The high-quality of the included controllers and console and the multiple connectivity options make this a no-brainer for someone who wants an affordable, easy to set up, plug-and-play device for playing backups.

Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade Review: A High-Quality Alternative to the RetroPie

Super-Retro-Cade Box

I’m honestly astounded at how capable and high-quality the Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade is. I really had zero expectations when I received it for review, and I admit I was a bit surprised it even turned on. This isn’t any fault of Retro-Bit’s, I’ve never had problems with its products in the past. I’m just a bit jaded from the cheap cash-in mini-consoles that feel like licensed bootlegs.

I can say with high confidence that the Super Retro-Cade is the best value mini-console on the market right now. Not only do you get over 90 licensed games, which are a great mixture of classics and awesome games you may have never gotten the chance to play before, but you get the capability to run backups of at least five (and probably more) classic systems. The Retro-Cade also has the horsepower to actually play all of these games with very little speed or graphical issues. The asking price of $60 is a steal for this device and it’s great to finally have a device on the market that can match the utility of a RetroPie in a plug-and-play package for around the same price.

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

4.5
Rating
Box art - Super Retro-Cade
High-quality build.
Controllers are awesome, and can be used on PC.
Built-in selection of classics from Capcom, Irem, Data East, and Technos.
SD Card slot allows you to play back-ups from multiple systems.
Some slowdown on certain titles.
No global option to set games to their original aspect ratio.