Evercade VS Retro Cartridge game console: Kotaku review

Photo of the Evercade VS retro game console, its cartridge slot open with two cartridges installed.

Two cartridges are better than one.
Photo: Mike Fahey / Kotaku

Last year, the British company Blaze Entertainment released the Evercade, a nice portable gaming system that uses cartridges to play retro game builds. Now, the company is doubling down with the Evercade VS, a TV console with two cartridge slots and support for local four-player multiplayer. Hitting wagons on this bridge makes me relive the good old days.

When I reviewed the original Evercade last year, I sprang from the magic of the cartridges. There’s something about the tactile joy of slipping a little bit of shaped plastic into a slot that’s just right for it. I love the certainty and reliability of the cartridge in our increasingly digital world. It’s nice to hold one in your hand and know that the games loaded in it are the games you can play. I don’t need an internet connection. I don’t need to download game updates. I just plugged it in and I’m good to go.

As was the case for the Evercade handheld, so is the Evercade VS. This lovely little box, with its old-fashioned red, black and gray design and the hinged lid hiding its two cartridge slots, resembles the technology of the NES era.

A photo of the Evercade VS retro game console with its front-loading cartridge slot open.

Open up and say ahhhhhh.
Photo: Blaze Entertainment

Why two slots for cartridges? The original Evercade was a portable gaming device, which meant the cartridge slot was always on hand. Blaze doubled the slots for the new TV-centric VS console to give gamers access to more games without having to get up from the couch.

The console itself is just a little bigger than a docked Nintendo Switch and super light, making it easy to slip into a backpack to take to a friend’s house or to a game night. to a monitor or TV via an HDMI cable. It can be connected wirelessly to the internet for firmware updates, but internet is not required to play. All you need is the system, the power cable, HDMI and a USB controller.

When the Evercade VS arrives in the United States in January (December in Europe), it will be available in two configurations. There are the $ 100 starter pack, which comes with a single controller and a collection of Technos arcade games, or the premium pack at $ 130, which comes with two controllers, the Technos cartridge and a cartridge containing 10 retro arcade games from Data East. Load both cartridges into the system, connect it to the TV and you get a screen that looks like this:

A screenshot of the Evercade VS user interface, showing a selection of retro game ads.

I love the use of old print ads for box art.
Screenshot: Blaze Entertainment / Kotaku

Or similar to that. The system offers three different themes including Dark, VS Classic and Light, as well as a high contrast mode for accessibility reasons. Dramatic electronic music is played in the background as you navigate the menu until you go to sound settings and turn them off.

The most important section of the settings menu is the display. This is where you can play around with aspect ratios, fill your screen with stretched pixels, or keep the original ratio, depending on your preference. You can simulate scanning lines or add a frame to the screen so that the sides of your TV are not bare. You can even enable scanlines for the navigation menu, in case you’re really a scanline freak.

A screenshot showing the display options of the Evercade VS console.

This is, moreover, the most contrasting theme.
Screenshot: Blaze Entertainment / Kotaku

The games load in seconds and play quite efficiently. The sound is crisp. There is no noticeable lag. Are you a dude bad enough to watch me play with menus and play them Bad guys?

The only downside I encountered with the Evercade VS came from the wired controllers that came with the console. They are made of lightweight plastic, like children’s toys. The buttons are crisp and responsive, but the overall hollow feel continues to put me off. Fortunately, the Evercade VS supports a wide range of third-party USB controllers, so it’s possible to play with a more solid gamepad.

A photo of the retro Evercade VS gamepad, complete with X, Y, B and A buttons, a d-pad, start, select, and home buttons.

It’s an Xbox part, a Nintendo part.
Photo: Blaze Entertainment

What I like most about the Evercade VS is what I liked most about the original portable Evercade: the cartridges. As of this writing, Blaze Entertainment has a collection of a few dozen cartridges covering different editors, developers and old-fashioned systems. There are Atari and Intellivision collections. Interplay and Namco. In addition to retro games, there are cartridges filled with more modern homebrew indie games.

I love the cartridge’s nostalgia. I like the convenience. But above all, I like the limitations of these cartridges. On a day when I have a device like the MiSTer, an almost magical piece of retro gaming tech capable of playing almost any pre-2000 game via hardware emulation, it’s nice to have a system that says “these are the games you can play”. Sure, that can go up to 40 games depending on what cartridges I plug into the Evercade VS, but it’s still a number more manageable than pretty much any game. The paralysis of choice is real.

Plus, these themed cartridges are a great way to introduce my kids to retro gaming classics without giving them access to my almost $ 400 MiSTer machine. Will they waste cartridges in the sofa? Yes, they already have. But that’s only part of the cartridge gaming experience, which is the whole point of the Evercade VS. It might not be an ideal fit for everyone, but I think this comeback cartridge concept definitely has its niche.