Five reasons to be excited about the Evercade handheld

The news and excitement surrounding the upcoming SEGA Mega Drive Mini and PC Engine Coregrafx Mini have seemingly pushed the Evercade to the wayside. Despite the creators issuing regular news updates, the retro-influenced handheld hasn’t received anywhere as near as much attention.

The core concept of the Evercade is simple. It’s a handheld able to play 8-bit and 16-bit retro games, which are being released as multi-game compilations on low cost (£14.99) cartridges. It can also be hooked to a TV via HDMI, and a few other modern luxuries – such as save states and something resembling a trophy/achievement system – are promised.

The system supports physical media only – no internet is required. Cartridges chock full of games from Atari, Interplay, Namco, Data East, Piko, and Mega Cat Studios have already been shown, with key titles including Earthworm Jim 1 & 2, Pac-Man, Splatterhouse 2 & 3, Burger Time, Joe & Mac, Switchblade, Asteroids, Centipede, and Tempest.  

The obvious difference between the Evercade and one of the many dubious retro handhelds available on such sites as Wish and Alibaba is that all content is officially licensed, ergo carefully curated. The build quality will no doubt be far more studier too – this isn’t something being thrown together in a Chinese factory and shoved out the door. Evercade are taking their time and putting the effort in to make sure the handheld is both durable and comfortable to use.  

If you aren’t sold on the idea yet, we’ve put together five reasons why you should be excited.

Evercade appears to have their s**t together

Over the years we’ve seen some shambolic attempts at bringing new retro-influenced consoles to the masses, with both the Retro Chameleon (Coleco Chameleon) and the ZX Spectrum Vega+ springing instantly to mind.

Perhaps learning where others failed, the creators of the Evercade have been transparent about what to expect, posting regular updates on social media such as images of working prototypes.

Pricing, cartridge game lists, and the system’s release date have all been announced well in advance – you won’t find the dreaded phrase ‘TBC’ anywhere at all on the Evercade homepage. Unlike the PC Engine Mini, it isn’t exclusive to a single retailer either, with pre-orders going live soon.

The release date of March 2020 also proves that they’re willing to spend time ensuring everything is up to scratch, rather than rushing it to hit shelves in time for Christmas. This is a passion project through and through; one the creators have been pleasingly upfront about since conception.

The line-up contains more than just the everyday classics

Evercade has reached out to licensees of retro classics to secure a vast array of titles, encouraging them to dig deep and bring pretty much everything in their back catalogue to the system.

The Piko collection contains more than a few forgotten titles, including the cancelled SNES platformer Dorke and Ymp, investigative adventure Nightshade, unlicensed Mega Drive brawler Water Margin: A Tale of Clouds and Wind, and the underrated platformer Tinhead.

Titus’ late (1996) SNES platformer Power Piggs of the Dark Age also features – a game few will have heard of, and fewer have played. You might want to dampen your enthusiasm for this one, mind.

Meanwhile, the Interplay collection features Claymates, The Adventures of Rad Gravity, The Brainies, and Prehistorik Man – four games rarely mentioned whenever conversations about retro games arise. No, not all of these are classics, but that’s exactly our point – the system looks set to house a lot of games that are long forgotten and seldom seen.

It isn’t strictly a retro console – indie games have already been announced

The Evercade isn’t a dedicated retro handheld – it’s able to play modern-day indie games too, with the first being Mega Cat Studios’ arcade brawler Coffee Crisis. It’s set to release on the same cartridge as Log Jammers and Little Medusa, two titles also due on PC before the year is out.

Sadly, Mega Cat Studios are the only indie developer on board at present. We imagine creating titles for a system likely to only amass a small userbase poses a financial risk. We can at least safely say the Evercade has the horsepower to handle more modern endeavours.

While we doubt we’ll ever see something like Bloodstained or Dead Cells on the system, it shouldn’t struggle with simpler games favouring pixel art. And there’s plenty of those to go around.

It’s arriving at a relatively low price

At £59.99 the system itself is attractively priced, while the premium package – £79.99 with three cartridges – represents decent value for money.

It appears a flat rate of £14.99 has been set for cartridges, making them cheaper than even the cheapest of PS Vita and 3DS games, and just a fraction of the cost of a new Switch release.

Expect more publishers, developers, and license holders to sign up

The Evercade is still 7 months away, giving plenty of time to woo and encourage more studios to bring their back catalogues to the system. As much as we’d like to see SEGA sign up, who are usually open to licensing retro games, we imagine the Evercade is seen as a competitor to the SEGA Mega Drive Mini, which rules out any of their 16-bit classics.

There are plenty of other publishers to pursue, though. Acclaim license holders Nightdrive no doubt has dozens of 16-bit games under their wing – we’d like to think Evercade has already dropped them a line. Piko has plenty of other games they could bring to the handheld too – they’re almost constantly re-releasing games on Steam, owning the rights to many once belonging to Ocean and Gremlin.

In short: if we don’t hear of more cartridge announcements between now and launch, we would be very surprised.

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