Playmaji's modular retro-gaming platform Polymega will be getting N64 support, we can exclusively reveal.
The all-in-one console – which has finally found its way into the hands of customers this year after a prolonged delay – will be getting a new EM05 'Ultra' module soon, complete with a controller designed by Retro-Bit, based on its popular Tribute64 pad. In case you weren't aware, Polymega already supports original NES, SNES, Mega Drive / Genesis and TG-16 / PC-Engine games via its optional 'Element Modules', and the base unit itself can play CD games for the Mega CD, Saturn, PlayStation, TG-16 / PC-Engine CD and Neo Geo CD.
It has also been confirmed that modern-day cloud-streaming services will be supported in the future, and a digital storefront is also in development that will allow publishers and IP owners to leverage Polymega's massive internal database of titles.
We sat down with Playmaji CEO & Co-Founder Bryan Bernal to talk about the new N64 module, and what the future holds for Polymega now it's actually in the hands of customers.
Nintendo Life: Why did you pick the N64 as the next Polymega module?
Bryan Bernal: Because our customers asked for it. It's been our most requested module since the first four were announced, and Polymega is well suited to support it. There are virtually no other options out there for playing the N64 library legally, outside of the original hardware — so it's an obvious choice for us.
Is the N64 emulator you're using based on a pre-existing one, or is it custom-made?
I think Polymega will provide a more authentic experience for players because you simply can't have an authentic experience with just a handful of games on offer
Part of our licensing and development / co-development process is ensuring that nearly all games can be played without any complicated configuration or set up by the user, and that you can plug a legitimate cartridge and controller in and play it without any hassle, plug-in flipping, configuration, and so on. So, when this module is released, it will employ the best legal solution we can provide while hitting the same minimum 90% compatibility requirement we have for our CD BIOS solutions and other supported game systems. The specifics will be released a little later on before launch.
Nintendo has come under fire lately for the standard of N64 emulation on Switch. Are you confident your solution can offer a more authentic experience for players?
Nintendo has the tools and resources to improve their emulation significantly over time, so I imagine any issues that are currently present at the launch of their service will improve with future updates. If they wanted to, they could probably even perfect N64 emulation. But more directly to your question, I think Polymega will provide a more authentic experience for players because you simply can't have an authentic experience with just a handful of games on offer. N64 had nearly 400 games released for the platform across all regions. Even if Nintendo wanted to try to support every game on their service, it would be a very difficult undertaking and they probably wouldn't be able to secure the rights to every N64 game for the platform to release digitally. My guess is that the number crunchers have calculated that they don't have to, since they can get 80-90% of the effect with 10-20% of the games supported, albeit the most popular ones.
Are you able to offer 100% compatibility with all N64 games?
It's unlikely that 100% of games will be supported at the launch of the EM05 Ultra module, but it will be at a minimum above 90% working great to near perfect. Over time, that amount will likely increase.
Will you be offering any emulation options for this, such as higher resolution modes and so on?
Maybe. Truth be told, we don't particularly like the HD look and it's ripe for unintentional bugs – hence the reason we don't support it on our other consoles Polymega supports, such as Sega Saturn and PS1. Instead, we focus our efforts on virtual display filters which authentically re-create the look of classic TVs and smooth out jaggies significantly, the way they were meant to look. Polymega currently has some of the best scanline effects available anywhere, as well as CRT-style curvature — enhancing the effect significantly. Honestly, there are times where I think I'm looking at an arcade cabinet monitor while playing games – which is, in our opinion, how they were meant to look and how they were meant to be played.
The Tribute64 is probably the best third-party N64 controller on the market today, and the new pack-in RC05 Ultra Retro Controller is basically a new "wired" version of the wireless Tribute64 controller
Tell us a little about the controller that's shipping with the module; what's it been like working with Retro-Bit on that? Do you think N64 fans will be happy with it?
The Tribute64 is probably the best third-party N64 controller on the market today, and the new pack-in RC05 Ultra Retro Controller is basically a new "wired" version of the wireless Tribute64 controller, styled by us. You'll also notice our version of the controller has a 'SELECT' button, something not found on any N64 controller. This is so you can play other systems on Polymega using the RC05. We'll make sure this translates nicely to an analogue controller experience for Sega Saturn – so you can play stuff like Burning Rangers and Nights Into Dreams with it – and more. Retro-Bit has been great to work with, and we had met several times before this collaboration to discuss opportunities between our teams, so we're happy that this one worked out, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more collaborations between us in the future.
After quite a wait, Polymega is finally out; what are your thoughts and feelings now that the machine is in the hands of those who pre-ordered it all those years ago, and what would you say to those people whose confidence has perhaps been knocked by the delays, cancelled orders and lack of communication?
It's great to see it in the hands of so many people. Even though it took a while, it took that long because we did it right and didn't cut any corners. So, I think now that people have it in hand and are actually using it, it becomes quickly obvious that there's something special about the system. It's elegant, there's no setup, it's compatible with your real games, it makes them look amazing, and it even allows you to digitally archive your collection in a way that's highly addicting and fun. Seeing your digital game collection grow with that signature Polymega style is just awesome, and you really can't get that anywhere else. People tell us they feel like it's something they'll have forever; like there's nothing that could possibly improve upon it.
Polymega was released during a very challenging time for many game hardware companies, and even today you can see the impact that the reverberating effects of COVID-19 have had on the release of nearly every gaming console product that was set to release in 2020-2021. The same issues happened to us, but earlier. We had to weather the storm just the same to get to the point where we are now shipping products to our customers. I would say our issues were particularly even worse because we had to deal with political issues in Myanmar, which is the country where Polymega Base Units are manufactured, so we're grateful to have emerged from that situation relatively unscathed and things have now stabilized.
What kind of reaction and feedback have you had from those customers who now have their consoles?
Polymega's store is quite far along in development and we've received a great deal of interest from publishers and developers on this front. Also, our internal game development and publishing studio is now ramping up to create and publish exclusive original content on Polymega
People absolutely love it. Lots of positive and encouraging emails via our web contact form, and expressing gratitude for making the system. I don't think we've had even a single returned unit so far and we've shipped thousands of systems and modules now. We've had a few issues here and there with CD drives, but the vast majority of customers are happily enjoying their systems without any problems.
You've been supporting Polymega with several system updates in 2021; can we expect to see more features and functions added to the system over time?
Yes, Polymega's crown jewel is our system software, and it's something we expect to continue improving into the foreseeable future, not just at launch. We're always coming up with cool new features to throw into a future update.
Are you still planning to launch a digital store on the console? Has there been much support and interest from publishers and developers in this?
Correct, Polymega's store is quite far along in development and we've received a great deal of interest from publishers and developers on this front. Also, our internal game development and publishing studio is now ramping up to create and publish exclusive original content on Polymega.
Are there plans for more modules after the N64 one?
Yes, there are several other modules and products currently in development that aren't ready to be announced yet. Some of these new modules don't directly correlate to game consoles (a la NES, SNES, etc.) but enhance the game playing experience on Polymega. We're not entirely ready to talk about that yet as we are currently focused on improving the availability of Polymega and fulfilment of pre-orders.
We'd like to thank Bryan for his time. You can check out our review of the Polymega here, and the system is available for pre-order direct from the Polymega site.
This article was originally published by nintendolife.com on Wed 24th November, 2021.
I rather Nintendo release a virtual console system to download retro games from all past consoles and handhelds plus the option of transferring Wii U VC games over.
Will it work in conjunction with an everdrive cart? That would be amazing
Really hoping this leads to an increase in original hardware players in the ZOOTR community. Virtual Console introduces longer reload times and emulator players have to be monitored due to the potential for dodginess in there. This module will hopefully be a more attractive proposition than an original N64, as long as it lets you use an Everdrive.
Still have my original N64 so I won't be needing this.
@nessisonett The other modules don't support everdrives. So I don't see why this would be any different.
Well, I guess it's a good sign they haven't opened up preorders for this right away; otherwise, I would question their motives in announcing this: meaning do they need more preorder money to fulfill all original orders?
I would love to buy this and all of its modules but it is too damn expensive
Any word on if that controller supports the GB transfer pak?
I know it's unlikely but that's what I really want
This is interesting, but probably not for me.
I am eagerly awaiting my pre-order, hoping it arrives in the next few weeks!
I don't really get why anyone would want to use this with an Everdrive. If you're not going to use original cartridges why pay this much for a device that provides software emulation of roms you don't own?
Goodbye, switch online expansion...
I just want to be able to play Mystical Ninja without having to dig out the N64 and that one awkward cable. Is this so much to ask? I hope this thingy works with it
This Ploymega and the Analogue Pocket should upgrade the old tech of the past.
The N64 alone has a lifespan of 20 years I have heard before failing caps.
Actual release of this probably in 2025.
Honestly I would be more happy if you could just load roms onto it. Didn't they say they will had an eshop-like store where you could just purchase and download new and old games to play on this? How come there's no word on that yet?
@Zuljaras Keep in mind the modules aren't as expensive as it looks really. $79 sounds expensive until you realize that includes BOTH a Module and Controller.
The Tribute64 they are bundling this specific module with is $24.99 standalone and that's not even considering this is a customized version (so it might be even more for them to make), that means at least 25-50% of the cost is actually the controller.
Somehow they've managed to create a controller that looks even more awkward to use than an official N64 controller
@BionicDodo Because not every game has a physical release (unreleased games) or it's way too expensive to acquire rare games? Even if you play 90% physical, there's still reasons to want to load ROMs and an Everdrive would be the only way cause they didn't add native support for loading ROMs into the system (cause they are going to launch their own store for companies to sell their retro games)
@Fiyaball They didn't make the controller, it's just Retro-Bit's Tribute64 http://retro-bit.com/tribute64
@BrandonGiesing I don’t know much on the legality of all this but I feel like letting people load roms onto the system would get them in trouble with Nintendo right? I feel like what they’re doing now is the most legal way they can do it
@BrandonGiesing The way I see it, the primary audience for Polymega is made up of people who have boxes or rows of cartridges and CDs, and given how modern takes of retro consoles have been popping up every so often, I think it indicates this target audience is a viable market. Those players have grown up and become adults with paying jobs. They got the money to spare. That's probably why Everdrive support doesn't exist; buyers already have the games, and these games get a second wind because the original consoles are dying out and parts may be hard to find.
@Tasuki One day, all N64 consoles will stop working, by that time, you will be old or dead, but what about future generations?
We need emulators and those replica consoles to keep videogame history alive, unfortunately, the Nintendo 64 was not properly analysed yet and we still can't make a proper N64 clone, in the 1980s, it was already possible to clone the NES/Famicom, a good N64 clone would not need an emulator, it would be a N64 replica, but I think not even Nintendo can make one.
Sadly with increasing cost of old games I'm not sure why you'd want one unless you had the money, and space. Those with already large collections of games though, I can see the appeal. Me, I just want a choice of classic and new games on my current system.
@BrandonGiesing Don't get me wrong, I totally get owning an Everdrive if you play on original consoles, and I guess if someone already owns an N64 and an Everdrive then being able to use the combination of their existing carts and the Everdrive with the Polymega might be useful. The idea of someone buying just an Everdrive + Polymega as a solution to play N64 games would seem nuts to me though as they'd be better off getting a Shield TV or something.
I thought the point of the Polymega was that it recognises original carts and adds the game to your database with artwork and info etc, giving you the option to rip it to the hard drive, so I don't personally think an Everdrive really fits with that design. That said, pretty sure the Polymega will get hacked in the not too distant future and side loading on roms will become a thing.
I think convenience will be key here for a lot of people. You slap this module in, connect via HDMI and you're set. No need to worry about modding OG hardware, finding a "to HDMI" cable that actually gets decent results, no plugging in a PC and finding some of the R word which is a grey area and comes with technical issues, just ideal N64 gaming on a modern TV bar the Switch/Wii U/Wii's limited libraries.
Expensive yeah, especially having to buy the module with the system, but you will get many disc consoles to go with it. Heck, PS1, Saturn and N64 all in one set up? That's a daydream for any late 90s kid.
@victordamazio Why would Nintendo make an N64 replica anyways? They had no reason to as old techs and parts of the device were already gone. They could always just port, remaster or emulate the N64 games to their modern systems anyways. Those who want to clone the N64 would find ways to do so whether through the emulation route, FPGA route, or cloud streaming route.
Polymega is a good product for people looking for that sort of thing. If you just want to play Nintendo 64 games on a modern TV, I encourage you to compare these options:
Base unit - $450 U.S.
Ultra (N64) Module + controller - $80
TOTAL - $530
Compatibility: ~90% of games; no Everdrive support
Used Nintendo 64 in good shape - $80
N64 HDMI upscaler - $150
N64 controller (OEM, Brawler64, Commander) ~ $50
TOTAL - $280
Compatibility: 100% of games, works with Everdrive
Original hardware is a better choice for many, and is much less expensive. I have the setup described above, with an EON HDMI adapter + upscaler and a Brawler64 controller. The picture is excellent - almost as good as an HDMI mod to the console (which is the best possible image but VERY expensive).
If picture quality is less important to you, you can save even more money with a simple N64 to HDMI adapter cable, available for around $30 U.S.
Final note: if it's not clear from the article, Polymega is software emulation, not hardware emulation. It downloads the game ROM from the cart and runs it through an emulator, similar to a RetroN console. True FPGA hardware emulation for N64 (similar to Analogue products) is probably still a few years off.
Getting closer to tempted! I'd probably get a Polymega with the N64 module IF / WHEN the base unit played Dreamcast! Most of the old games I own that I'd want to be able to easily play are on those 3 systems... Dreamcast seems like a possibility so fingers crossed
@Fiyaball I have a tribute64 controller and it’s really good, far better than the original controller in my opinion.
I am interested in a Polymega, I have a huge library of original Mega CD & Saturn games in EU and Japanese. This is a convenient way of playing old games. My Mega CD V1 with 32x is a nightmare for plugs (they are huge)
@JJtheTexan yep there’s one slight thing you’re forgetting there, the base cd drive plays Sega Saturn, turbo Grafx cd, neo geo cd, and PlayStation 1 games (albeit all emulation as you’ve noted) so that adds significant value to getting a polymega for some but if you’re interested in just playing the modules only then sure it’s bad value.
You actually didn’t mention the most ridiculous thing about polymega, you can install your games onto the polymega hard drive and don’t technically need the modules ever again, so they kinda become pointless and you can just sell them on, a bit weird!
@farrgazer Did you even read the comment you replied to? I said there's reasons even people with massive collections might want to load ROMs 😂Unreleased games, homebrew, super rare expensive games, etc. It still makes sense to support Everdrives or a native, on-device loading abilty
@BionicDodo Like I said in my original comment, even people with massive collections might still have some games that they need an Everdrive or native ROM loader for. Unreleased games, homebrew, super rare expensive games, etc.
I never even implied someone would buy ONLY an Everdrive + Polymega, I'm just saying they should support some way to load ROMs cause there's still legitimate reasons to even if you buy 90% of your games as legit, original carts. You wouldn't want to keep around two separate systems just to play those last 10% of games that never got a real cart.
@BionicDodo The Ocarina of Time randomiser. That’s the only reason I want an original console and Everdrive. Currently use emulator but would prefer the advantages of original hardware and the Polymega seemed like a good compromise.
@BrandonGiesing I never said you implied that, I was referring to the implication in other people's comments that I was referring to in my original comment.
Homebrew may be a legitimate reason to want to load roms, but how many people really want rom loading on a Polymega for that reason? If someone's that into N64 homebrew I'd have thought they'd want to play them on an actual N64 anyway. As for rare and expensive games, they may make you decide that downloading a rom is excusable, but they don't make it legit in the eyes of most of the companies that may support this machine with its claimed future online store plans, and Polymega won't want to burn bridges.
The last part where you say 'you wouldn't want to keep around two separate systems'... I have 30 odd consoles in my house, so clearly I would want to!
I get that it's not absolutely ridiculous to want to be able to use an Everdrive with this, but I still think it's mostly against the whole concept of the system. To each their own though.
@nessisonett I guess this thing may play clone cartridges if they exist for that. Then again as its database looks for each game you insert I don't know how it would deal with rom hacks. I definitely think devices like this should support loading of patches like translations and hacks to apply to original cartridges on the fly.
@BionicDodo Each run of the randomiser creates a new ROM image so it would be rather expensive to keep burning carts for it!
@Deanster101 great points for sure. I actually like the convenience of downloading your own ROMs and storing them locally on the base, though it's not a whole lot different than using something like an Everdrive.
@nessisonett Haha, I can see why that wouldn't work then!
Folks, no need to ask about Everdrive support when you see that it's using software emulation. Multicarts like Everdrives require multi-loading, which necessitates a live cartridge bus.
So any device that dumps a cartridge and runs the resulting rom image that's created, which all emulation based systems do out of necessity, will not work with your Everdrive. At best you'll get the Everdrive menu and nothing else.
@BionicDodo you can ask analogue pocket owners the same question
I'm sure very soon you will be able to dumb roms on it without everdrive or some other add on
@BrandonGiesing Yes, and my point still stands. And drop your rudeness.
There are Everdrive users and there are collector gamers, and sometimes that group overlaps. It’s my view that Polymega caters to the latter.
@you4rhea None of the other modules do so I’d say no.
@Zuljaras Indeed. I had my eye on it when it was first announced, but I’m not willing to plunk down the cash.
If I want to play these old games, I'll download them onto my PC. I don't really want to play them though. I have the good N64 games, updated versions, on my 3DS.
Meanwhile, using two bad cropped original sprites of link/Mario will makes Nintendo go berserk on those homebrewers… and shut down years old home projects.
Can’t be right…
For something that is an all in one solution for those with large physical collections I wasn't sure as my main physical collection from that period was N64 and there was never a mention of it and considering what this has done in terms of progression for Saturn emulation I was slightly disappointed. I may actually now look into this since it will now support that entire generation and the GUI looks very slick. Yes it is a bit pricey at first for emulation but for those who would rather use their original collection on something that looks nice rather than having several systems taking up space it is ideal. Plus something just seems so amazing about having an N64 cartridge plugged in with a PlayStation or Saturn disc in the drive at the same time.
Idk why you would use this over just emulating on your PC.
@OnlyItsMeReid Maybe but there are ways around it. Like happens with Analogue systems. The real reason they don't want roms is that they want to make it a genuine storefront for buying old games. If people just download ROMs, it would defeat the purpose of the storefront
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