A lot of retro gaming purists frown upon using an aftermarket gaming setup, and for good reason. Early clone systems were laden with games that weren’t compatible, glitches in games that worked, poor build quality, and even some add on incompatibility. Even modern clones suffer from these issues, such as the Retron 5. The Retron 5 is currently the best clone system avalable in the US, with its only real competition coming from the Retro Freak (currently only available in the Japanese market, with no English settings). The Retron 5 suffers from being, at its heart, an Android based system, using emulators to run your game carts. While this isn’t a horrible scenario, the emulators used are not the top ones available, and the build quality is too low. Thin plastic and cart slots that seem to be built cheaply make the premier system a far cry from the original system. However, the Retron 5 also offers benefits such as HDMI upscaling, filters for making your games appear closer to the way they did on your tube television, and save states.
Of course, original systems have huge benefits. Authenticity is a major one, as you will be guarenteed to have 100% compatibility. The build quality of all of our retro consoles is rather high, and replacement parts are easy to come by in the chance you need to repair your unit. Also, there’s the feeling of playing the games as they were meant to be played. That’s something that no aftermarket console or emulator can ever replace. Sure, you can plug in your original controller on a Retron 5, but it still feels different sticking your cart in the Retron 5 than it does your SNES or NES, and it sure looks different seeing the console as well. It’s not all good in original hardware land though. One of the biggest problems is incompatibility with modern televisions without using a converter. While many televisions have composite cables, some are dropping composite altogether in favor of HDMI only. Also, if your battery backed up game gives out, you lose your data, whereas on an aftermarket system, a save state might recover your game.
My personal solution is the best of both worlds. My game room has all original carts and systems on a wall, with an older CRT television they all hook up to. My carts are all stored in a large walk in closet area. I’m lucky enough to also have room for my arcade machines in the game room, as well as its own bathroom off to the side for game parties. My living room, however, has a different setup entirely. I used to run a small PC from the television with emulators and ROMS for my games, but recently had the good fortune to switch to a Jri-Rigg Silver edition. For those not in the know, a Jri-Rigg is a Raspberry Pi board, with a solid aluminum casing that is leagues better than any aftermarket systems thin plastic case, and SD cards for both gaming and media. One card is set up with Emulation Station, all you have to do is add your ROMs and you are set. The other offers media center usage with OSMC for television and movies. Two controllers, and a media remote tie off the package as a setup thats perfect for a living room setup thats very slick looking.
But whats good for one isn’t good for all. I recommend users out there to first get their original systems, original games, and play the games as they were intended. But after that, if you are looking for something more convenient, get your aftermarket system or build your own using a Pi and whatever case and accessories suit your needs. I even use my Android phone with emulators and a Moga controller as an on the go gaming system while I am out and about, paired with a 64 GB SD card so I can carry all my games with me. No matter your preference in style, there’s a gaming setup out there to suit your needs.