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Return To the NES With The RetroMini-X
One of my earliest experiences in playing games at home took place on Nintendo’s NES. While the Famicon (Japanese) version had been out for a while I, like so many others were gashing our teeth waiting for the US version of the console to be released. Much of the delay came from Nintendo’s exorbitantly slow approval process for video games “produced” in the US. I say “produced” because all of the cartridge assembly, including the box it went in, took place in Japan. This, and approval from Nintendo reaching into micro managing took months at end to finally come to fruition. Bu the results were worth it because the NES was bright, colorful and - more importantly - reinvigorated the video game market which had been decimated by Atari and others. “Let the fun begin,” I remember my self saying once I had the NES all set up in front of my Sony Trinitron. And for sure I didn’t do a thing with that darned Robot and the cubes that came along for the ride.
Sure I’d like to play some of those old titles again - even if I don’t go back to storage for them, they’re awfully cheap on eBay. But my mobile lifestyle no longer has me sitting for hours on end in front of a TV, regardless of it being high-definition or 5X the size of the old Trinitron. So that’s where the RetroMini-X comes in.
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The Shape Of Things To Come - Handling the RetroMini-X
The first thing that grabs you is the RetroMini’s shape. The handheld is designed to look like a NES controller, matt-black color and all (why anyone would choose the alternate white is beyond me). The Director pad at the left and the control buttons at the right will fall naturally under your fingers, cramped quarters and all, with the ubiquitous “Start” and “Menu” buttons doing their duty. You might as well grab a Phillips jeweler’s screwdriver and open the battery compartment in the back and get some batteries in there first.
Okay, now we’re ready. Turning on the console isn’t the next step - there’s no games included in memory as sometimes happens with these portables - putting a game into the NES-sized slot is. That’s right - the actual NES game goes into the back of the RetroMini-X. And holds there nice and solid, unlike the problems the NES console had with its “VCR-style” front loading door. With the cartridge in place, now you can turn it on. So do it.
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Light Up The Screen - Graphics and Sound On The RetroMini-X
The screen lights up in all its 2.4” LCD color glory and there’s the game splash screen - in this case The Terminator. Selecting to play “Easy” lets me get up and going and it’s just like there’s a NES in front of me again. Which means that the music is sort of lame since the audio chip was pretty limited, so don’t expect all that much. And you best be wearing a pair of headphones because the built-in speaker just doesn’t cut it.
Graphic-wise, you’ll see some blinking start to occur on the screen when groups of characters are all mingling about: the NES can’t really display them all and is using some trickery to manage its way. Of course I’m fond of the fact that nobody is actually “killed” here - characters just “disappear” into the either because Nintendo is against violence. Which makes having a game like this a bit odd but there you go.
The quality of the graphics is good for what it is - outlines are sharp and well delineated and there’s enough contrast to keep the characters from being blended into the backgrounds. Sort of small though....
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Taking The RetroMini-X Out Of Itself - Viewing On The TV
Which brings us to the video out that RetroMini-X provides. The included cord plugs into an AV slot (don’t confuse it with the headphones), with the composite video and audio RCA going into your television. That's kills the whole “portable” effect but does give you a much bigger screen to play on - just don’t make it too big because the graphics don’t hold up that well as the screen size increases.
Overall what the RetroMini-X does is provide nostalgia and a retro gaming experience that you can carry with you or play wherever you want. And which isn’t limited to a few titles burned onto a chip. Grab a few NES game carts and be amazed at just how fast the gameplay can transform you back to the time when it wasn’t all about the graphics or sound, but about being able to win the day or at least the level and kill that Boss.