EVALUATION

Retro Gaming Without the Fuss? You Need an Evercade VS

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Evercade VS

9.00 / 10

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If retro gaming is your passion and you enjoy physical media over almost anonymous ROM files, the Evercade VS brings your favorite old games to your living room. Curated games may not be to everyone’s taste, but with up to four players you won’t forget the Evercade VS experience.

Key Features

  • Dual cartridge ports
  • Dual controllers
  • Smart user interface
  • OTA updates
  • Massive library of curated retro games
  • Some hidden features
Specifications

  • Storage: 4GB
  • Portable: No
  • Multiplayer Support: 1-4 players
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, four USB ports
  • Brand: Evercade
  • Cartridge Bay: Dual
  • Display: HDMI @1080p
Pros

  • Brings the Evercade retro gaming experience to the liing room TV
  • Responsive UI
  • Unlock secret games with the right cartridge pairing
  • Dual controllers are reliable and suitable for all types of game
  • Supports third party controllers
  • Offers display modes for CRT-style gaming
Cons

  • No CRT output option for that true classic gaming feel
  • Controllers flexible, but become uncomfortable
Buy This Product

Evercade VS
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Blaze Entertainment’s Evercade VS is the multiplayer follow-on to its hugely popular handheld Evercade system. Designed to play physical cartridges of curated game collections, the Evercade VS allows up to four retro gamers to enjoy old games on a modern TV.

But does the Evercade VS deliver the promised improvements over the handheld system? And more importantly, why on earth would anyone want to play old video games?

Note that the Evercade VS (as in “versus”) model featured in this review is black, but the one available to buy is white and red. We’re reviewing the Founder Edition, which comes with a matte black finish, along with a few extra features and games. However, everything about this review is applicable to the Evercade VS Standard and Premium packs. Where anything is specific to the Founder Edition, we’ll make that clear.

The Retro Gaming Nostalgia Boom

Okay, so old games on brand new hardware – what is that all about?

Well, it’s simple. There is a growing community of people who love old video games. Some of us (hiya!) have been dabbling since the early 2000s. A few didn’t actually stop playing with their original consoles and home computers (think Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Commodore Amiga, Atari 2600, etc.).

Evercade VS cartridge door open

Emulation has long been an option for anyone wanting to play old games without digging out the old kit. Computers and phones, in particular, can run emulators, letting you play anything from 1970s arcade machines to PS2 titles. But emulators are flaky, the ROMs are hard to find legally, and generally speaking it can be hard to find the satisfaction you’re looking for.

In the past few years, various retro gaming devices have been released. These are single-unit devices running and operating system, preconfigured emulators, and are often pre-loaded with games. Think along the lines of the NES Mini, THEC64 Mini, and even things like Nintendo’s revived Game & Watch devices.

Evercade sits astride all of these approaches, providing pre-configured emulation on a Linux back-end, with a pre-selected collection of games loaded from a cartridge, the old-school way.

What Is the Evercade VS?

If you’re keen on retro gaming – that is, playing old video games – you’ve probably been put off by emulation. After all, installing an emulator, setting it up correctly, and then finding ROMs to play the games is time-consuming. Downloading ROMs you don’t already own in physical form is illegal.

You have a few options, but few offer as much as the Evercade VS from Blaze Entertainment. The multiplayer living room retro gaming console follow up to 2020’s Evercade handheld, the VS (as in “versus”) has dual cartridge slots, four USB ports for controllers, and HDMI support.

All you do is insert one or two cartridges, power on, and start playing – it’s that simple. There is no messing around with ROMs, emulators, controller configuration (unless you want to) – it’s literally plug and play!

Evercade VS Buying Options

Two Evercade VS packs are available for general retail.

  • Evercade VS Retro Starter Pack: this ships with a single controller and a single cartridge, Technos Arcade 1.
  • Evercade VS Retro Premium Pack: ships with dual controllers and two cartridge collections, Technos Arcade 1 and Data East Arcade 1.

You may also find exclusive Evercade VS collections available from some stores (e.g. Funstock’s Evercade VS Mega Bundle with four controllers and 10 game collections).

For reference, the Evercade VS Founder Edition ships with two controllers (extra black controllers could be ordered), a steelbook cartridge case, a certificate of authenticity, and six game packs.

The Evercade VS Founder Edition is unlikely to be found available to buy. However, scalpers have already started listing it for silly money on eBay. While the Founder Edition comes with some nice extras, it certainly isn’t worth the inflated price. If you missed out on the Founder Edition, the standard Evercade VS alternatives are more than adequate.

Evercade VS System Specification

Inside the Evercade VS is a 1.5Ghz quad-core processor, with 512MB DRAM. The device also has 4GB internal storage.

Evercade VS USB ports

The Evercade VS is equipped with Wi-Fi for easy firmware updates (the old Evercade handhelds require updates over USB), future network play, and improves on its predecessor with 1080p HDMI output. Power comes from a 5V micro USB port, while the four USB ports on the front of the console enable various multiplayer options, games permitting.

All in all, it’s a simple, modest system, albeit one optimized for retro gaming.

The Games Come on Cartridges

Most other retro gaming platforms rely on the ability to connect a USB or microSD card full of game ROMs. With Evercade, gaming is physical.

All Evercade games come on a physical cartridge. This ships in a smart plastic case, much like cartridges from the old days (for example, the SEGA Master System), alongside a user guide for each game.

Evercade VS games

Whichever bundle you get, the Evercade VS comes with at least one collection of arcade games. Four collections of classic arcade games from Atari, Gaelco, Data East, and Technos are available in total at this stage. But any other Evercade cartridge will run on the VS, with the exception of the two Namco Museum Collection releases. These will only work on handheld Evercades, due to licensing restrictions.

The curated game collections usually deliver a number of hits along with some lesser-known titles. A few have newer games, but most are revivals of classic titles from forgotten systems or arcade publishers. This can result in you paying money for a cartridge featuring only a few games that you want to play.

On the other hand, the cartridges are under $20 for multiple games, far less than you would pay for the same number of games on a current gen console or even on Android or iPhone.

Setting Up the Evercade VS

Evercade VS ports

The Evercade VS is pretty straightforward to set up. Like any game console, all you need to do is plug it into the power supply, connect the HDMI cable to your TV, and connect the controllers. Then, insert one or two cartridges, close the door, and hold the power button.

Seconds later, you’ll see the Evercade VS game selection screen. It’s that simple. Better still, there is no waiting for games to be downloaded, installed, or system updates pending. You just play games, the old way.

Curated, Collectible, Cartridges

Evercade cartridges are in some ways collectible. For a start off, while they are physical products, they’re often hard to find in shops. They’re also curated collections, often of titles from the same publisher, or for a specific classic system.

But the key “collectible” aspect of this media is the time-limited licenses. For example, four existing cartridges are set to end production in 2022:

  • Technos Collection 1 (ends March 2022)
  • Oliver Twins Collection (ends March 2022)
  • Namco Museum Collection 1 (ends June 2022)
  • Namco Museum Collection 2 (ends June 2022)

Exclusivity and contractual limits have been cited for retiring these collections. With this in mind, you can see why the cartridges are considered must-buys for many Evercade owners.

Evercade’s New User Interface

With the Evercade VS comes a new user interface. This gives you a better look at the games on the cartridges, along with new menu options. In the main library view, you get to see the games on any inserted cartridges. Here’s a fun fact: some cartridges hide “secret games” that can only be played by pairing specific cartridges together, a feature limited to the Evercade VS console.

For example, the two Atari Lynx Collection cartridges, when both plugged into the Evercade VS, unlock a new Lynx game, Raid on Tricity: Second Wave.

Evercade VS power switch

Incidentally, the same new user interface is available on the Evercade handheld models. These can be updated with firmware over USB, which also offers some new features (see below).

Playing Games With the Evercade VS Controllers

The Evercade VS ships with one or two controllers, depending on which package you buy. These controllers are not wireless, but ship with 3m cables, making them suitable for most living room set-ups.

Like smaller, screenless versions of the Evercade handheld, these controllers feature a D-pad, start and select buttons, XYBA buttons, L1, L2, R1, R2 shoulder buttons, and a menu button. As with the VS console itself, there is a retro aesthetic that carries on from the Evercade handheld.

Evercade VS controller options

Not enough controllers? Incredibly, can use an Evercade handheld system as an additional device. This is possible using a special red cable, included in the Evercade VS Founder Edition and available to buy separately from the usual stockists.

Alternatively, you could just buy an extra Evercade controller.

Best of all, you can connect the majority of USB controllers into an Evercade VS. Don’t like the default controllers? No problem, just connect a USB device and configure the mappings in the settings menu. Compatibility here is huge, from Xbox controllers to traditional-style joysticks with as many buttons as you want.

The possibilities for retro gaming on Evercade VS are considerable.

Love Retro Gaming? You’ll Love the Evercade VS

With so many retro gaming options around these days, you might be wondering if the Evercade VS is worth it. All-in-one retro systems based around single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi sporting thousands of games might look attractive, but those Facebook ads are misleading.

The games they include are almost all unlicensed.

USB ports and cartridge ports on Evercade VS

Then there are devices like the Analogue Pocket, high-end retro gaming hardware that will run original media (such as Game Boy cartridges) but for a high price.

Blaze Entertainment has, in my view, got it exactly right with the various Evercade VS bundles. The hardware works, it is easy to update, the controllers are versatile to handle various game types, and there is support for non-Evercade controllers.

Meanwhile, licensed games on new, physical cartridges in attractive, old-style cases enhance the classic gaming experience, and if you want in-person four-player action, the Evercade VS is ready for you.

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