RetroGen Adapter: Really Cool or Retro Ripoff?
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.
Who ever said Genesis was outdated?!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.
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…
That’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?
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Posted on March 2, 2012, in Gadgets, Reviews, Video Games and tagged Genesis, Mega Drive, Nintendo, Retro-Bit, RetroGen Adapter, Sega, SNES, Super Nintendo, video game. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.