Playing retro games on clone hardware isn't anything new, but California-based RetroBlox (now known as Polymega) - founded by industry veterans Bryan Bernal and Eric Christensen - is aiming to blow systems like the Retron 5 and Retro Freak out of the water with its new system, also called RetroBlox.
This modular console is unique in that it has an optical disc drive opening up the world of disc-based retro gaming which includes Mega CD, PC Engine CD-ROM and PlayStation. Furthermore, RetroBlox offers plug-in "Element Modules" which contain cartridge slots for various vintage consoles, as well as controller inputs.
The concept is simple - you buy the module you want and slot it into your main RetroBlox unit, granting access to your existing collection of titles. You only need to insert the game once and it is added to your digital collection. Games are upscaled to 1080p, but the unit will also offer "virtual displays" which attempt to replicate the look of old CRT screens. There's even online connectivity, so you can post info to social networks and stream your gameplay to Twitch or YouTube.
Of course, these systems succeed or fail on the quality of their emulation, but it would seem that RetroBlox will set a new standard. It uses special "Hybrid emulation" to achieve unprecedented performance, peerless compatibility and lag-free control.
A crowdfunding campaign for RetroBlox is expected to launch in April, when more details will be revealed.
Here's the official PR:
UNLEASH YOUR NOSTALGIA WITH THE RETROBLOX™ MODULAR RETRO GAME CONSOLE
Elevates Retro Games to a New Level Combining Innovative Cartridge-Compatible Element Modules, Disc Game-Compatible Optical Disc Drive, and Online Connectivity features to Create the Ultimate Living-Room Worthy Retro Game Console.
Los Angeles, California, January 31, 2017–RetroBlox Inc. (RBXI) today introduced RETROBLOX™, the next generation modular retro game console. With Element Modules compatible with real retro game cartridges for systems like NES, optical disc drive compatible with CD games for systems like PSX, and connectivity that rivals current gen consoles – the one console future is just around the corner.
AN INDUSTRY WITH A PROBLEM
If you're like us, you take your games seriously. You strive for perfection in competition against other players, in your collection, and in conquering the challenge of the titles that originally influenced your gaming passion. Needless to say, playing classic games on anything less than original hardware is fraught with limitations and soon enough, most of us find the need to revert back to a decades-old old game console in order to play without compromises.
As such, gaming enthusiasts are faced with a difficult choice when it comes to retro games: experience only a subset of popular re-released games made for current generation platforms such as the Virtual Console or NES Classic, use original game hardware and displays from decades ago to play in a specialized game room, or resort to illegitimate means of experiencing gaming history through use of copied roms and emulators.
RETROBLOX™ solves this problem decisively by providing a modern, unified platform for digital retro gaming that's also committed to unprecedented modular support for original console game media and hardware peripherals.
RETROBLOX™ IS THE WORLD'S FIRST MODULAR AND FULLY-MODERNIZED RETRO GAME CONSOLE
Whether you're a retro games enthusiast, or a more casual gamer wanting to try out the genuine article, RetroBlox is the #1 way to enjoy a deep and satisfying retro gaming experience in your living room without the mess of wires and clutter.
An industry first, RETROBLOX™ ships with an on-board CD/DVD optical drive, custom produced by partner Hitachi LG Data Services (HLDS) to support the needs and features of retro game consoles. It allows you to experience the full lineup of disc games for never-before supported systems such as PSX, Sega CD, TurboGrafx-CD, and more.
Another key innovation introduced by RETROBLOX™ are modular interfaces, called "Element Modules" ¹, which allow for play using original video game cartridges and controllers from older game systems. Once a game cartridge is inserted into an Element Module, players can add the game to their digital collection, share their new addition on Facebook or Twitter, or play and stream via Twitch and YouTube. Changing games and systems is as easy as ejecting the current module and inserting another.
1080P FULL HD RESOLUTION RETRO GAMING
RETROBLOX™ natively upscales retro games from their original resolution to full HD 1080p, perfect for your living room. While crystal clear pixels are a joy to view for some players, those who prefer the older look of older TV's from the 70's, 80's and 90's will appreciate a suite of virtual displays which model the look, feel, geometry and tone of these classic displays from gaming's past.
HYBRID EMULATION TAKES RETRO GAMING FURTHER
RETROBLOX™ features new patent-pending technology called Hybrid Emulation, which allows for the direct hardware reading of specialized chips and mappers contained within historically difficult-to-emulate retro game cartridges. This means gamers get full hardware compatibility with every game in their classic games library, and unparalleled performance to boot.
If controller lag is your enemy, Hybrid Emulation technology also allows for the highest speed possible while using classic retro game controllers connected directly to RETROBLOX™ Element Modules. In this mode you can obtain near lag-free speeds² for controller input, allowing casual and competitive players to push their skills to new heights.
THERE'S MORE TO COME
RETROBLOX™ will announce new details and specs of the console and its strong line up of support for classic systems as well as further enhancements and details of the entire RETROBLOX™ platform between now and its anticipated crowdfunding campaign launch in April 2017.
ABOUT RETROBLOX, INC.
RetroBlox, Inc. is a California-based specialty developer, producer, and manufacturer of next-generation video game related products for new and retro game consoles. The company was founded by video game development veterans and passionate retro gamers, Bryan Bernal and Eric Christensen. The RetroBlox team at large has a diverse background and has shipped games like Ratchet & Clank and Titanfall, digital storefronts like the Google Chrome Store, and consumer electronics like the Vizio M-Series TVs and Roku 2, 3, and 4k.
What do you make of this venture? Do you think these guys are on the right track? Let us know with a comment.
This article was originally published by nintendolife.com on Thu 2nd February, 2017.
I'll wait for a review
Have Saturn on the list and you have a deal😊
So tempted to support something like this. Region free PS1, PS2, Saturn and Dreamcast would absolutely rock!
A console that supports both PS1 and SNES has loads of potential.
The optical drive definitely gets my attention - The part of me that wants a Mega CD collection conflicts with the part of me looking at my Mega Drive/Mega CD 2 combo going "yeah, but it's a bit much, isn't it?"
After the problems I've had with the Retro Freak, really skeptical of these emulation consoles now. They've nailed the hardware design though, looks slick as hell
Wow, this looks amazing
They sure used a lot of hyperbole in that press statement. I'd be extremely skeptical of their claims until the actual hardware can be evaluated. The Retron 5 sounded similarly appealing until hardware manufacturing issues and software problems undermined their first batch of consoles. I rather wish they'd gone the Fpga route rather than this "hybrid emulator" nonsense.
"Of course, these systems succeed or fail on the quality of their emulation, but it would seem that RetroBlox will set a new standard. It uses special "Hybrid emulation" to achieve unprecedented performance, peerless compatibility and lag-free control."
Hmmm... writing that in the article text without the use of inverted commas makes this whole thing feel much more like a press release than an actual article.
PS1 & PS2 games on Non Sony label ?!
ich weiß es noch nicht...
interesting! of course Price and emulation quality will be very important. They certainly are going from a new angle and the console itself looks lovely. will look forward to more details
Support on PS1 and Snes, along with 1080p and CRT filter really tempts me... But, on the other hand, crowdfunding campains frightens me.
If the price is right, the quality can hold up and it supports fan translations like the Retron 5... I might get that instead of, well, a Retron 5
Now this is more like it.. I still play my sega saturn and dreamland and DOOM on the go on GBA. great news
Sorry that should be dreamcast
One of the things I hate about such "modern retro consoles" is the shabby compatibility. I own a lot of retro systems (including a Famicom, Saturn, Dreamcast, PlayStation, Mega Drive...) and retro games, and it's really frustrating to hear that "your favourite/obscure title is having issues/isn't supported/works only when you do this and that".
So, if RetroBlox really does have "peerless compatibility", then colour me interested.
I like the idea. Wish it would have said it was ready for release this year.
I wonder how far it can emulate? Does it do Dreamcast? What about the VMU? Could it do Xbox Original?
I have old games on multiple systems, and I have those as dumped images. Why do I need a retro console emulator? Unless it has the original hardware or it is a hardware approximation, it feels pointless.
As long as this is not an April Fool's Day joke then I am interested. I would like to know what disc games are supported and if the console will be region locked.
If they can competently emulated Dreamcast on this and allow for retail discs to be used, I'm in.
No 3DO, Sega Saturn, and Sega Dreamcast then no buy.
I will keep my eyes peeled on this. Hopefully it turns out good.
I bet it will be pricey, especially when each module has to be purchased separately. I will stick with the Wii VC for my retro games for now. I just need an NES classic controller (first party) and I am set.
Nice, love to have that.
@Chrausis What problems have you had with your Retro Freak? I'm curious because I'm thinking of purchasing one myself and I've mostly heard good things about it.
I'd be 100% interested if emulation is spot on. If they could ever (doubtful) add Dreamcast support I'd buy one instantly - my Dreamcasts drive died..
If they add Dreamcast and/or N64, I'll definitely get one.
Hmm looks interesting. Curious to see how well that "Hybrid Emulation" thing works.
@Thegentleman Same here, cool concept though especially if N64 and Dreamcast support are added. But with module adapters this looks to be pricey. Still plugging in retro game carts once and having them in your library is appealing, but I'll wait to hear how the emulation actually runs.
Oh wow, this sounds exactly what I'm looking for. Let's hope it can live up to the pitch!
@JoakimZ The Super Nintendo card edge connector had horrific "death grip" on the cartridges but also had a significant amount of wobble (not sure how it's possible to have both but it did) meaning that the system was rarely able to recognise that there was a cartridge in the system and persistent removal of the cartridges bent the pins inside the thing. That said, I had no other problems with the other cartridge slots and the emulation is mostly alright so perhaps worth a punt, maybe I just got a duff one
Retro-console wars heating up...??
This sounds very promising. I need to see pricing before I get too excited though.
I still prefer the RetroTrio, simply because it's true clone hardware that doesn't rely on emulation at all, and I don't care about fancy features like upscaled graphics or game patches. It already provides me with perfect performance, perfect compatibility, and lag-free control.
Support N64 and we'll talk. There's plenty of HD support for old systems... Except N64.
Sniff sniff... This reeks of Coleco Chameleon!
I mean, I really like this concept and want to be proven wrong here, but this is an awful lot to expect out of a company essentially starting out of nothing. We're talking multiple pieces of hardware, with particularly robust software to go along with it, not to mention an online component.
Sounds right up my street, it would be amazing if it was possible, but sounds a bit too good to be true
Sounds cool, but I am extremely skeptical.
If it gets funded and goes into full production, I'll totally buy one. Years from now.
If it plays Super Famicom, can it apply a translation patch? That's, I think, the closest I can get to actually owning the cart, but still getting to play those Japan exclusives in English.
For example, I have Seiken Densetsu 3 but even the google translate app pointed at the screen is so garbled I can't make heads or tale of it. And no I don't want internet roms, but thanks
@speedracer216: Google Translate relies on current best guess/match, so a translation may not be 100% accurate, or even any % enough to get even an idea of context. I assume that fan translations are done by actual people, (not a machine programmed to make current best educated guesses,) so a translation patch should be efficient.
@Everyone_Else: Basically, these guys have taken the computer concept of hot-swappable/hot-pluggable, & applied it to a video game console: A base unit/console, w/ its own os(operating system), that, apparently, can be modified on the fly, or at least w/ supposedly little effort. Edit: Kinda like the N64 having games that used multiple controller peripherals, & some games allowing you to change the peripheral mid-game(ex. remove rumble pak, insert controller pak, save data, remove controller pak, then re-insert rumble pak)
According to the pr, "once a game has been inserted..., players can add...", so it seems it will not be an automatic dump, once the cart is inserted. That's good, since dirty pins may give a bad rom dump. At first, I thought it meant it automatically dumps, once inserted, but that was more from me speed-reading.
The "social network sharing" seems to be a part of gaming, now. & as a way co.s get you to advertise their products.
The emulation quality is something I'll be looking into, as I'll be following this product.
Also something that comes to mind is (this): If these guys are professionals, from co.s that have proven products; that is to say, successful, or _proven successful, then did they exhaust their options, or at least try more than one financial option for starting up this endeavor? I mean, why use crowdfunding, if their financial/occupational track-record is solid/stable/successful enough to warrant financial backing from a financial co.? Unless of course, their track-record is not, at least from a financial co.'s perspective. The only other logical alternative I can come to at the moment, is that they were just lazy, & lunged straight for crowdfunding. Maybe they did go to a financial backer, or more than one, & the financial backers just didn't see this project as a success. Surely, what I'm talking about is worth noting.
ps1, ps2 , saturn and dreamcast with no region lock.
make that happen.
ive got the games.
id like just one system for that...
I've been wanting Nintendo to make something like this forever, usb mini-consoles that can plug in to whatever home console they hve out. Seems like a no brainer.
Need to know what the base system features, what it costs, and how much each module is after that, but I like the look and idea.
So what, it rips the ROM from the cartridge/disc and stores it on the box...? Aren't there certain legalities to consider with this? Can't see Nintendo being at all happy with that.
I can't believe no one thought of a modular design before! This is pure genius. If it works as advertised, it'll revolutionize the business.
Eh, I'll wait and see how it turns out. If done right, a system that can play Mega CD and/or Saturn games without the issues of gamesaves the original hardware has (Watch batteries, memory carts that stop working or damage the cart slot, etc.) could be tempting.
Needs demo units evaluated by people whose words I trust, because I would kickstart this. Demo units should be a responsibility with kickstarter only used to mass produce. Will see how it looks when they launch the kickstarter.
@Agent721: Actually, I have in both the recent, & distant past, & I'm probably safe in saying I'm not the only one. I believe, it will be revolutionary, at least somewhat, to the game industry.
I always wondered why systems like the Retron didn't come with a USB port so you could just plug in an extenal disc drive for disc based game support. I was told this was actually because the one thing these clone consoles can't ship with are system BIOS for optical drives. Which are very very still under copyright/patent protections. This suggests to me, that this box will require you to provide your own BIOS from... somewhere. Granted since the description says it permanently dumps the game rom to the system (something the Retron5 explicitly does not do), its really just an emulation box. Just load it up with illegal ROMs.
Oh dip, this is kind of what I was hoping the Switch would turn out to be. I would love to be able to play the older games that I loved for the systems I loved without having to include a bunch of systems I don't especially care about.
I'd like to see a full list of supported consoles. I'm guessing it won't be able to handle those tiny GameCube discs.
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