RetroGen Adapter: Really Cool or Retro Ripoff?

RetroGen Adapter in box

Recently I stopped into my local video game store and one item caught my eye. RetroGen Adapter? “PLAY YOUR GENESIS GAMES ON YOUR SNES” Holy crap! It’s like a Super Game Boy, or that Colecovision expansion module that plays Atari 2600 games. I love things like that, and it would’ve been amazing to have one of these in the 90s, so I bought it right then and there on impulse, without going home to research it first.

RetroGen Adapter on SNES with Sonic 2

Who ever said Genesis was outdated?! If you have an SNES Console or another 3rd party 16-bit console, you can now relive your Genesis days with the RetroGen Adapter by Retro-bit! Go on and punch those zombies in Altered Beast, slice your enemies in Golden Axe, and zap those fighter planes in Truxton. Just insert the RetroGen Adapter into your 16-bit gaming console along with your Genesis game cartridge, and YOU ARE OFFICIALLY RETRO!

I like how this implies that the SNES itself is not retro, only the Genesis. So the first sign that something is wrong here is on the box. A list of features is given in 5 languages, with flags to indicate what they are: USA, Spain, France, Germany and Portugal. Er, except all 5 of them are English. Whoops.

RetroGen Adaptor back of box

Opening the box, I find there is an AV cable inside. That’s odd, an alternate TV out like the handheld clones have? Anyway, I get the adapter out, plug a game in, plug it into the SNES… black screen. I clean the game and adapter, nothing. Try another game, and another, nothing. Then I remember the cable…

FUUUUThat’s right, you need that AV cable. The adapter doesn’t send any picture or sound out of the SNES itself, it just uses its power and controllers. The box makes no mention of this, it’s not shown on the artwork, and there are no instructions included either. So you’re not playing Genesis on the SNES, you’re playing Genesis on top of the SNES. The RetroGen Adapter is just a parasite, feeding power off the poor SNES.

Okay, dashed expectations aside, how well does it work?

RetroGen Super Street Fighter II glitch
Compatibility seems pretty good. Every game I tried (out of 35+) worked except for Super Street Fighter II (which had scrambled graphics) and Sonic 2 when attached to Sonic & Knuckles (which was just a black screen). Other S&K lock-on combinations did work, as did the Game Genie. Also working fine was the 4-player mode on Pete Sampras Tennis, one of the “J-Cart” games which feature controller ports on the cartridge. I’ve heard Virtua Racing doesn’t work, but I didn’t have my copy handy to test it.

RetroGen Adapter comparison
The adapter is shaped like a Super Famicom or PAL SNES cart, but with notches in the back to fit an NTSC SNES. So it should work in any SFC/SNES, but I don’t have a Japanese or PAL system to test that fact. There’s a region switch on the side, which serves different functions depending on the game.
1. It will defeat region lock on games that have it.
2. Some games have different title screens, graphics, sounds, character names, languages, or difficulty in different regions. e.g. In Sonic 2, he’s called Tails in the US and Miles in Japan. Streets of Rage (US) is Bare Knuckle (Japan).
3. Some games will run at different speeds in NTSC and PAL modes.

Tails - Miles
The controller layout has the Genesis ABC buttons assigned to YBA, and XYZ assigned to LXR. This is perfect for the 3-button games, but awkward for many 6-button games. The Street Fighter games can get around that by having a controller configuration, but many, like the Mortal Kombats, don’t. Eternal Champions has a control config, but inexplicably doesn’t allow you to change buttons between the ABC row and the XYZ row. Also, sometimes when you boot it up games don’t recognize that a 6-button controller is plugged in, so you have to turn it off and on again to fix it.

The audio sounds pretty good, not perfect at times, but a lot of the time I can’t tell the difference from a real Genesis. Definitely better than some other clones. Though I’ve never been a big fan of the Genesis’ sound capabilities anyway. I’m not the best judge of its accuracy.

Sega logo with RetroGen's poor video
The video output is a joke. Depending on the TV you use it with, the screen may roll, break up, the top will be faded in color, or all of the above. Even on TVs that do work there are still some places the picture will break up anyway, like the SEGA splash screen on Sonic 2. Out of 6 TVs and my capture device, only one had no problems at all. That’s especially a shame because when the screen is not freaking out the video output looks really nice for composite. It has nice bright colors and a cleaner picture than a real Genesis (except for some rainbow banding I noticed in Sonic 2 in places that were supposed to be transparent).

Beavis and Butthead on RetroGen's poor video quality
There was also a new portable SNES+NES there, called the RetroDuo Portable, which advertised this adapter on its box, but it was too pricey for me. Apparently this RetroGen Adapter will somehow send picture and sound directly through the cart port to the RDP, even though it doesn’t on a real SNES. The same company has also made a similar adapter for the NES, and I may be tempted to buy it, even knowing how bad this one is. I am weak.

So should you buy this thing? Hell no. Well, maybe if space is at a premium and you just want one 16-bit console under your TV, and you’re willing to gamble that your TV is one that it will actually work on (I had better luck on HDTVs than CRTs), and if your favorite games are 3-button games, then maybe. Also if you have that RetroDuo Portable, this might be a nice bonus. Otherwise, just get a real Genesis. This thing even fails on a novelty level, because it doesn’t actually do what it promises.

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About Collector

A frequent visitor to flea markets and the Goodwill, I enjoy collecting video games, toys and old electronics. Other interests include cartoons, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror movies, as well as wasting far too much time online.

Posted on March 2, 2012, in Gadgets, Reviews, Video Games and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Frustrated by your non-ownership of a $10 retro console? Just buy this adapter and rock all those games on your $60 retro console! Who is this even FOR? I mean, I own no less than four Genesis consoles (two model 2s and one of each other model), which are mostly accidental acquisitions, and every SNES I have owned since my first has come at some terrible premium.

    • I think it was mainly meant to complement the RetroDuo Portable, then suckers buying it for the novelty (me), with other uses being an afterthought.

      I sort of feel that way (who is this FOR?) about most clone consoles though. I’m often confused by people thinking a $20-40 clone that plays 75% of games is a better deal than $5-20 real console. I’d have to look hard to find a SNES that costs more than $40. The last one I picked up was $15 and came with 11 games.

  2. I just read in the march issue of MacWorld recently and they posted an article on a console converter that you hook up to your computer to play Genesis and SNES games. They say that it is pretty good, check it out.

    http://www.macworld.com/article/164605/2012/01/retrode_brings_snes_and_genesis_gaming_to_your_mac.html

  3. this works great with the powerbase converter if you have it to play your sms games. on my TV the graphics are glitched just a tad but the games are very much playable to even notice. SMS RTYPE is fully playable and the graphics glitches are not even noticable.
    its worth the dough. i have yet to try it on my LCD tv. but its wonderous on the CRT TV

  4. It’s not the adapter. The cable is just crap. Replace it with another male AV to 3.5mm jack and it will probably work.
    As for the rest, it’s probably:
    1. SF2 had a larger cart
    2. Sonic 2 was probably not cleaned, I’unno.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, but while I wouldn’t doubt the cable is crap, I don’t believe that’s the only problem.

      I rounded up a few cables to try it out with, and other than the one that came with the same company’s RetroPort NES adapter, none of them worked. So it looks like finding a working replacement could be difficult. The NES one wasn’t any better or worse.

      I think the problem with Sonic 2 is real, since I tried 2 or 3 copies of each game (giving them all a thorough cleaning), and I saw that someone else had the same issue.

  5. I have a super nintendo and am debating between this and the Retron 3? Anyone know which one is better.

  6. The reason why Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Knuckles doesn’t work when lock-on with the Retrogen was because all the datas for the game was on the S&K lock-on cart, not on the Sonic 2 cart. The Retrogen was unable to get a good connection from both games because of that. If you could hack Sonic 2, you’ll find no trace of Knuckles in the data but if you hack S&K, you’ll could find all the Sonic 2 & Knuckles datas on the cart. The reason Retrogen was unable to load them was that it found the Knuckles data in the S&K cart but found no knuckles data on the Sonic 2 cart so it can’t emulate the game which is why it showed the black screen.

    As for why Sonic 3 and Knuckles worked with the lock-on for Retrogen was because all the datas for the levels, characters, and stuffs were already in both Sonic 3 and the S&K lock-on. If you play Sonic 3 by itself and access the stage select, you’ll see all the levels (including the ones in S&K). If you play the Sonic and Knuckles lock-on by itself and use stage select, you’ll see all the levels (including the Sonic 3 ones as well) in the cart as well. Locking them together makes an accurate connection as the Retrogen was able to access them on one and the other which makes Sonic 3 & Knuckles accurately playable.

  7. just got retro gen adapter to play sega games on my snes and i have tried all the settings but it only has a black screen every time. what am i doing wrong i want to play shadowrun and its starting to piss me off. Any thoughts?

    • First make sure the cable coming out of the RetroGen is hooked up to the TV instead of the SNES AV cable.

      Other than that, I guess make sure the game is cleaned well.

  8. so the lock ons work and the game genie yes or no

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