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Evercade VS Review – IGN

The Evercade VS is a sleek little console that perfectly encapsulates its retro aesthetic – from its white, red, and grey colorway to the top-loading cartridge flap reminiscent of some VHS players and old consoles. Yet, it’s not stuck in its old ways. Instead, it provides a modern experience that pays homage to decades of retro gaming, while making it accessible to more than just hobbyists.

Evercade VS

Evercade VS – Design and Features

From the moment you pick up the Evercade VS, you can tell a lot of care and attention was put into its minimalistic design. It’s fairly compact by contemporary console standards – roughly the size of two books stacked on top of eachother – but definitely larger than many micro consoles that have become popular in recent years. Despite its size, it’s extremely lightweight, making it easy to bring over to a friend’s house to play together.

The Evercade VS features a top-loading dual cartridge system that lets you enjoy up to 40 games at once. It’s got a satisfying front flap to lift that houses two Evercade cartridge slots. Just below the front flap is a small LED light strip that illuminates upon startup, dancing through a few colors before settling into a solid red hue that’s reminiscent of Robocop’s glowing visor. This light was absolutely not necessary, but damn it if it doesn’t look great. Nearby, you’ll find a power button, as well as an HDMI port and Micro-USB port for power on the rear of the console.

Below that lightstrip are four USB ports for the controllers. Depending on which version you pick up, you’ll get either one or two Evercade controllers, with additional units available separately for $24.99 each. Even better, the Evercade VS supports many third-party USB controllers, both wired and wireless. During my testing, I found most wired USB controllers to work with plug-and-play ease, while only a couple weren’t recognized.

The biggest knock against the Evercade VS are the controllers themselves. While they match the console’s design aesthetics with rounded edges and red trim, they don’t feel good to hold or use for an extended period of time. Largely rectangular in shape, the Evercade controller looks like a chunky NES controller with additional face and shoulder buttons added on. Unfortunately, the build quality is on par with a child’s toy, as it’s entirely made of plastic and feels completely hollow when held.

The face of the controller is made from a glossy white plastic with four translucent face buttons as well as Start and Select. Directly in the center of the controller is a square menu button which can be used in-game to open the Evercade menu to adjust settings, create a save state, or return to the home screen. There are four shoulder buttons on top: L1, L2, R1, and R2, each one nearly identical in size and shape and featuring a prominent click with almost no travel at all when pressed. The D-Pad is a cross between a traditional four-way directional pad and a joystick – and it doesn’t nail either. You’ll likely want to bring your own controller for the best experience.

Additionally, if you happen to have an Evercade Handheld, you can connect it to the console with a special cable (sold separately) and use it as a controller. Unfortunately, there’s no additional functionality such as syncing cloud saves that could’ve turned it into a pseudo Nintendo Switch when used in conjunction with the main console.

The Evercade VS also features built-in WiFi to enable easy firmware updates for the hardware itself and potential patches for released games. Unfortunately, there’s no additional online capabilities such as multiplayer support for compatible titles, which would’ve been a fantastic addition. There is hope, however, as Blaze Entertainment says online play is “possible in the future.”

Evercade VS – Software

After the initial Evercade VS splash screen, you’re immediately hit with splashes of blue, purple, and teal against a star-laden grid background that’s accompanied by some fitting synthwave music. It’s a retro vibe. The home screen features gorgeous high-resolution photos of all the original box art that’s an absolute joy to scroll through and looks fantastic on a 4K TV, despite only outputting in 1080p. Overall, it’s a huge step-up from the barebones OS included on the Evercade Handheld. Thankfully, Blaze Entertainment plans to bring the overhauled experience to the Evercade Handheld via a software update before the end of the year.

Games can be viewed by what’s available on individual cartridges or combined into one large list. Beyond that, you can sort alphabetically, by release date, or number of players supported. The top of the screen indicates which cartridges are inserted, as well as how many games are contained within.

When a game is selected, you’ll be taken to a separate screen that displays the year it was released, platform, and how many players are supported. It also includes a synopsis of the game, as well as a diagram showcasing its control scheme. You can jump right into the game by selecting Play, or choose to jump straight into your most recent save.

Aside from the home screen, you’ll find a settings menu full of customization options. You can swap between a few different themes to adorn your box art including a dark and light mode, as well as swap aspect ratios for your games between the standard 4:3 offering, a pixel perfect mode, or a full-screen option that stretches the image to eliminate the vertical black bars on the sides of the screen.

If you’re not a fan of the standard black bars that sit on either side of your game but still want to play in 4:3, you can swap those out for one of six other options that include your standard 80’s aesthetics such as wireframe or lightning as well as various arcade company logos and popular game box art.

As with many retro consoles, you have the option to turn on artificial scanlines to replicate the visual effect of a CRT television. What’s welcome here is that you have individual scanline options for both the home screen and in-game experiences. Furthermore, you can opt for subtle or strong scanlines in-game, with the subtle option providing a happy medium that offers smoother pixelated images without feeling overly artificial.

Additional settings allow you to update the firmware over WiFi and remap controls at the system level. There’s even a section titled “Secret” where you can enter in some codes, though I haven’t been able to hack into the mainframe and find anything of note, unfortunately.

Accessibility features are noticeably lacking at the system level, as the only option available is a high contrast mode. It’s still missing many basic features such as modifying text size and colorblind options, however, the Evercade VS does natively support the Xbox Adaptive Controller for input which offers some consolation.

Evercade VS – Gaming

The process of selecting a game and jumping in is great, with games loading almost instantaneously after being selected from the main menu. Additionally, you can jump right into your most recent save to quickly pick up where you left off. The full system menu can also be accessed at any point in-game, allowing you to change aspect ratio, adjust scanlines, check controls, and more.

As previously mentioned, the included Evercade controllers don’t offer the best experience. The odd D-Pad led to quite a few missed inputs when sliding my finger around quickly while trying to change directions. It’s definitely a serviceable controller, but honestly, you’ll likely want to use something you’re more comfortable with. I tested a number of controllers and found mixed results with regards to compatibility. Most wired USB controllers worked without any issue, while plugging in a PS5 DualSense and Nintendo Switch Pro Controller with a USB-C cable were surprisingly not recognized. The Xbox Series X controller, however, did work while plugged in.

Where the Evercade ecosystem really shines, though, is with its vast library of cartridge-based game collections. The Evercade VS supports more than 260 games from some of the most popular arcade-era brands such as Atari, Intellivision, Data East, Interplay, Codemasters, and more. The only notable absence here are both of the Namco Collections, as they are specifically licensed for use with the Evercade Handheld. This means you won’t be able to play classics such as Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and Galaga, just to name a few. Thankfully, Namco is no stranger to releasing its collections on just about every console known to man, so you likely already have those games elsewhere. Blaze Entertainment have also stated that all future cartridges will work on both the Evercade VS and Evercade Handheld, so there won’t be any confusion about compatibility going forward.

Both editions of the Evercade VS include Technos Arcade 1, which features eight games highlighted by Double Dragon 2 and 3. If you spring the extra $30 for the Premium Pack, you’ll get an extra controller for multiplayer play as well as Data East Arcade 1, which includes 10 games such as Burger Time, Pac-Man knockoff Lock ’n’ Chase, classic beat ‘em up Bad Dudes vs. DragonNinja, and my personal standout, enemy-vacuuming platform fighter Tumblepop. In all, that’s 18 games to play, many of which are obscure titles that don’t particularly stand out.

Besides the pack-in titles, most collections will run you about $20 and include anywhere from two to 20 games ranging in quality. Factoring in a couple extra collections, the total cost for entry moves well past $150, making this less of an impulse buy and more of an actual commitment. But with many of these retro games difficult or downright impossible to come by these days, it’s a small price to pay to enjoy the past again.

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