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Gamertell Review: Hyperkin’s RetroN 3 three-in-one game system

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Hyperkin RetroN 3 game console top view photo

Product: RetroN 3 (aka Retron3, RetroN3, Retro N3)
Price: $69.99
Rating: One thumb up, one thumb down; 77/100; C+; * * 1/2 out of five.
Pros: Puts a NES, SNES and Sega Genesis, sup in one box, it supports a pair of original corded controllers from all three system, easy to set up and works well.
Cons: Wireless controllers have a short range, are extremely light-sensitive and have terrible reaction time.
Overall: A great system if you are trying to cut down on your retro system shelf space. The wireless controllers could have been the pièce de résistance but were instead a major letdown.

I’m an old gamer. I fully admit it. Some may think I am way “over the hill” when they think of your typical gamer. Rummage through my storage boxes and you’ll find a few of what you might call “classic” games and game systems that I’ve lovingly packaged to play another day.

So when a company like Hyperkin comes out with a new console that will play my original carts and use my old controllers – and toss in a pair of wireless controllers t’ boot – I’ll gladly dust off old boxes to give those games a reminder of what a console feels like under its olde circuit board.

Plug and Play

I’ve already gone through the unboxing of the RetroN 3 so I’ll continue on from there.

The original NES, SNES and Sega Genesis carts fit into each appropriate slot – you can even plug a cart in all three slots at the same time if you’d like – although the area around the carts is not quite as snug as I’d like or as some older systems. The space is a bit wider around the input area so there is a little extra play when you insert or remove a cart (so be extra careful not to bend the boards when removing a cart). Likewise, the entire system feels rather light, lighter than any one of the old three systems it emulates. Of course, all that old tech can probably be bundled into a wrist watch (I’d like to see the cart slot on that watch) but the system should still feel sturdy enough to take a little beating.

Hyperkin RetroN 3 game console snes side front side photo

Ultimately, the system is plug-and-play simple. Plop in the appropriate cart, pick your controller – there’s a pair of ports for wired controllers for each system – turn the knob to the appropriate system and turn on the power. It works, it’s easy to use, games look great (for their age) and everything plays rather well. Assuming you have a wired controller for each system, of course.

It works with S-video and composite (red-white-yellow) AV inputs (cables are included), considering the age of the games and that you’ll not get any sort of HD out of these games (without frying your screen).

(Side Note: I was unable to get my original NES gun controller to work properly with the RetroN 3 but I’m not certain if it was the controller or the system).

Control Issues

I was initially excited that the system shipped with two wireless controllers. Playing NES games without wires or, even more crazy, without that little, blocky wired thing (OK, it’s really not that bad) was a dream come true. But then the dream turned a bit nightmarish.

The controllers have a very limited range both in terms of side-to-side and linear distance from the RetroN 3′s sensor on the front of the system. Each controller has two small sensors that pretty much fall right where your finger will curl over the front edge to stabilize it. Luckily you can cover one and still get response. Unfortunately, when you do get in-game responses, the reaction time is extremely delayed.

Hyperkin RetroN 3 game controller remote side view photo

You need to stand close and directly in front of the RetroN 3 system to get the wireless controllers to even connect. Even then, you end up so close and so limited in movement that you realize you’ll have more freedom and supreme response with old wired controllers.

I had a very hard time using the included wireless controllers with any game (NES, SNES and Genesis). Hyperkin wisely includes a lot of buttons and put a chart for each system on the back of both controllers but the many of the buttons are reversed (A is B and B is A on all three configurations and X and Y are swapped for Genesis and SNES configurations). At that point, simply swap the buttons or the wires inside. If gets really frustrating when you play a game you mastered years ago – and pinball games – on standard controllers.

Your Shelf or Store Shelf?

If you have a bunch of carts from even two of these of systems or have a retro game setup and want to consolidate the space (and converter box) of three systems into one, the RetroN 3 is a very decent buy for you. Again, it works well and is essentially as plug-and-play simple as the consoles it emulates.

If you are hoping to get this to have a single set of wireless controllers that works for games on all three old systems, forget it. They work so poorly in every respect you’ll revert to the cabled controllers before you get through a single game. At the full retail price you’d expect the wireless controllers to work with as least as much reliably and with much less hassle than wired controllers instead of being a limited range, mis-marked hassle.

Photo Gallery [RetroN 3 Photos @ Gamertell] Product Page [Hyperkin's RetroN 3]

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