RetroBit RetroPort Review
We’ve been seeing a lot of NES clones on the market these days. Given the age of the NES hardware, many people have been turning to new clone hardware solutions to play their old favorites. There is certainly no shortage of choice – there are literally hundreds, if not thousands – of these devices that all play 8-bit Nintendo cartridges.
But what if you have an SNES or SNES clone and don’t have desire to buy a standalone clone unit to play NES games? It might seem strange but now, RetroBit has you covered with their standalone RetroPort for Super Famicom, Super NES or Super Famiclone systems that will allow you to do something never thought possible – play your NES games right on your SNES!
The RetroBit RetroPort is a slimline cartridge adapter with a universal shape that plugs into the top of any Super NES, Super Famicom or clone hardware without any modifications needed to your console. It allows you to place North American or even European NES game cartridges into the top of the device and play them right on your SNES with your choice of SNES controllers!
Using only the power provided from the SNES cartridge slot, the RetroBit NES RetroPort has a self contained NOAC (Nintendo On A Chip) and interfaces with the SNES for standard button input. As the SNES doesn’t have video feed pins through its cartridge slot, audio and video are provided to the RetroPort not by the SNES, but instead, an RCA to stereo 3.5mm headphone jack located in the side of the device. The included cable can then be plugged into any composite video input of your choice and provide duel mono, simulated stereo audio.
As with every NOAC, there are certain games that are not compatible with the RetroPort. Sadly, the NOAC used in the RetroPort seems to be a generic one that has been in use for years already and has been surpassed by RetroBit’s other clones, such as the RetroDuo. Nevertheless, most games do work with the RetroPort. After testing hundreds of titles, here is a partial list of games I found to be incompatible with the RetroPort. Please keep in mind that this list is currently incomplete as I do not have access to every title ever made.
Confirmed Incompatible Games:
Afterburner [background is invisible]
Bandit Kings of Ancient China [does not boot]
BattleToads [Freezes during second level]
BurgerTime [does not boot]
Castlevania 3 [freezes upon gameplay]
Dragon Warrior 1 [does not boot]
Gemfire [does not boot]
L’Emperuer [does not boot]
Laser Invasion [does not boot]
Nobunaga’s Ambition 2 [does not boot]
Powerpak [does not boot]
Rad Racer 2 [distorted graphics]
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2 [does not boot]
Uncharted Waters [does not boot]
As with all clones, the RetroPort does a decent job at running NES games on non-native hardware, but there are a few hiccups here and there. First, there are differences in the controls. When the new hardware was planned out, Nintendo designed the SNES controller to be electrically backwards compatible with the NES, and mapped the NES B and A buttons to the SNES Y and B.
For whatever reason, RetroBit decided to circumvent Nintendo’s button mappings and replace it with their own custom mapping. The new mapping of the device restores the NES B and A buttons to the SNES B and A buttons. This means that the Y and X buttons are unused, and you will need to adjust how you hold the controller if you are used to normally using the Nintendo default of Y and B.
As far as sound, the RetroPort has both mono and stereo RCA hookups dispute that NES games were only programmed in mono. The extra channel duplicates the single mono channel to create duel-mono like DVDs of vintage films from the mid 20th century. Surprisingly, the RetroPort doesn’t have the typical reversed duty cycles that cause incorrect pitch in sound effects and some background tunes in many common NOAC clones. That being said, the audio provided isn’t perfect – audio seems to be overamplifed and distorted on certain games, particularly Sunsoft titles. This can potentially be fixed so look forward to a tutorial in the near future.
Video output is rather good. Colors are bright and vibrant, and the brightness in general is similar to the real hardware. The only flaw seems to be in the RetroPort’s white balance. Oddly, on every different TV I was able to try it on, the RetroPort produces colors that should be vivid white instead a charcoal ash gray. This isn’t a huge deal or anything, but it’s worth mentioning before you assume there might be something wrong with your set.
Availability & Price
In late 2011, a curious Super Famiclone appeared in Japan called the PokeFami DX, apparently being developed concurrent to Hyperkin’s Supaboy, but completely unrelated. A few months after its Japanese release, a western adaptation was released by RetroBit, the RetroDuo Portable. When the PokeFami DX was released in Japan, two adapters were also made available for it – the FC Adapter and the MD Adapter. The FC Adapter is the Japanese basis for the western NES RetroPort. The only real difference between the two is the number of pins – the Famicom version has 60 pins, the NES version has 72.
- Easy to hook up
- Easy to use
- Compatible with most games
- Doesn’t require ownership of any standalone NES or Famiclone; just a SNES or Super Famiclone.
- Somewhat offputting button mapping
- Whites appear gray
- Some audio distortion on certain titles
- Incompatible with a number of NES games, including some common mapper titles.
Although it does has its fair share of problems, the RetroPort is nonetheless a very cool accessory to the SNES and owning it almost feels like restoring the Super NES to its original purposed design what would have allowed for backwards compatibility. Whether you want to build an NES collection without worrying about the problems of the aging NES consoles out there or just want a novel device for your SNES library, you can’t go wrong with the RetroPort from RetroBit.