RetroBit RetroGen Review
As videogame consoles from the late 80’s and early 90’s continue to age, there seems to be a never-ending cascade of clone hardware that reproduces the original experiences and replaces old, large, clunky and sometimes temperamental hardware.
One of the leading clone manufacturers in recent years has been RetroBit, who have been steadily gaining a foothold and showing up competitors like Yobo and Hyperkin when it comes to quality and reliability – concepts not commonly associated with Asian born clone hardware.
Previously I brought you guys a detailed look at the RetroBit RetroPort, an interesting self contained NOAC designed in a cartridge that can be fitted into an SNES and thus allow hundreds of additional titles to be played on that great console.
It seems RetroBit didn’t want to stop there, and recently also released another cartridge adapter that can be fitted into the SNES, a device they call the RetroGen – which allows Sega MegaDrive or Genesis games to played on a Nintendo SNES, Super Famicom or Super Famiclone.
If you grew up when these systems were fierce rivals, then prepare to have your mind blown by the very concept of this review.
The RetroBit RetroGen 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 Sega Genesis or Sega Megadrive game cartridges regardless of their region of origin 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 Genesis RetroGen has a self contained GOAC (Genesis On A Chip) and interfaces with the SNES for standard button input. Just like the RetroPort, audio and video are provided not by the SNES, but instead an RCA to stereo 3.5mm headphone jack located in the side of the device. It would have been nice if it could have used the multi video out connector the SNES natively uses, but again, as the SNES doesn’t have video feed pins through its cartridge slot, this would be impossible. The included cable can then be plugged into any composite video input of your choice and provide stereo audio as well as much stronger composite video than any model of the original hardware as well as many other clones.
As with every GOAC, there are certain games that are not compatible with the RetroGen. Luckily, the GOAC used in the RetroGen seems to be a recent one that is superior to the GOAC in other clones, such as Hyperkin’s RetroN3. While I don’t have nearly as many Genesis/MegaDrive games as I do NES, I was able to confirm the device working with several dozen popular games. Of everything I was able to try, here is a partial list of games I found to be incompatible with the RetroGen. Please keep in mind that this list is currently incomplete as I do not have access to every title ever made.
And YES, the RetroGen is compatible with GameGenie for Genesis.
Sonic 2 & Sonic & Knuckles [does not boot]
Virtua Racing [does not boot]
I can’t confirm, but I’ve been told that the RetroGen is also compatible with the Master System Base Converter. Play Master System games using an SNES controller!
The RetroGen does a decent job at running Genesis games on non-native hardware, but there are a few hiccups here and there. First, there are differences in the controls simply due to the different button layout between the SNES and Genesis controllers. The Genesis A, B and C buttons are mapped to the SNES Y, B and A buttons, with X, Y and Z being mapped to the SNES’s X, L and R triggers. The set up might take some getting used to, but it works very well and is actually a benefit to many Genesis games as I’ve always preferred the SNES pad to any version of the Genesis controller.
As far as sound, the RetroGen has both mono and stereo RCA hookups to provide full stereo sound for Genesis games. Apparently, the cable that the RetroGen comes with has the audio channels reversed; the white cable is stereo and the red cable is mono, but this can easily be corrected by simply swapping the two. I wouldn’t know because I use a high quality gold thick RCA to 3.5mm stereo jack to provide the best signal possible.
Video output is as good as composite gets. Colors are bright , vibrant, and the composite video output in general is vastly superior to most clones and even to all variants of the original Genesis hardware! That being said, video output varies depending on the TV the RetroGen is hooked up to. Although retro game consoles look best when played on CRT televisions, It has been my experience that RetroGen video performance varies greatly depending on the age and model of the CRT.
For many of the CRTs I was able to test the RetroGen on, the screen was unable to sync correctly when the screen is filled with large white areas, such as the Sega logo in the Sonic games. Other games might have their status bars or effect screens distorted when played on certain tvs. This seems to have something to do with the higher voltage the RetroGen’s video output is being provided. It may be possible to tone this down, but it would probably come at the cost of the vivid clarity. If you buy a RetroGen, test it out on as many different TVs as possible before deciding on the TV you want to use it with. Performance DOES vary.
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 MD Adapter it seems is completely identical to the RetroGen in all but color.
- Easy to hook up
- Easy to use
- Compatible with most games
- Doesn’t require ownership of any standalone Genesis, MegaDrive or clone; just a SNES or Super Famiclone
- Somewhat inconstant video output varies depending on the TV you use
- AV to 3.5mm Stereo Jack included has the audio channels reversed
- Incompatible with a small number of games
- You won’t be able to use any Genesis controllers or accessories such as the Sega CD, obviously
Although it does have a few problems, the RetroGen is nonetheless a very cool accessory to the SNES and owning it almost feels like cheating history. Since its so easy to hook up and use, I find myself preferring to use the RetroGen over the real Genesis hardware time and again. Just like the RetroPort, whether you want to build a Genesis collection without worrying about the problems of the aging Genesis consoles out there or just want a novel device for your SNES library, you can’t go wrong with the RetroGen from RetroBit.