Evercade VS is a retro console that turns your living room into an arcade
The original Evercade was an extremely niche device. It envisioned a future where dedicated video game handhelds not only thrived, but even still used cartridges. In a world where there are so many ways to play retro games – subscription services, compilations, emulation – it offered something completely different. It didn’t make sense to everyone, but it did the job very well. Now the family has grown with the Evercade USA. If the original was a modern version of the Game Boy, this is its NES counterpart. It’s still niche and aimed at a very specific audience – and still does its job very well.
In its most basic form, the Evercade VS is a home console version of the original device. It’s a white plastic box that supports up to four controllers, holds two cartridge slots, and has ports on the back for HDMI and USB power (while the USB cable is included, you’ll need to bring your own adapter). It looks a bit like a bigger PSOne with a really satisfying cartridge door on the front. It’s not a high-end machine like you’d find at Analogue, but it’s a step up from most modern retro consoles. The controllers, meanwhile, are similar to the Evercade handheld, with a rectangular layout featuring a D-pad, four face buttons, and start/select/home buttons, along with some additional shoulder triggers, bringing the total to four. Overall, it’s a nicely tidy package that wouldn’t look out of place in an entertainment unit next to an Xbox or PlayStation.
To actually play games, Evercade USA uses the same proprietary cartridges as the handheld. Essentially, Evercade partners with well-known publishers such as Data East, Atari, and Technōs to offer physical collections of classic games. For example, Data East’s arcade collection includes 10 titles from well-known games such as Burger Time to more obscure dishes like the fantasy beat ’em up Wizard Fire. For the most part they are nicely curated collections; Personally, I love discovering great old games that I’ve never played before, like the extreme 90s shooter Alligator hunting about skate punks fighting an alien invasion. The cartridges will work on both the handheld and the new console — with the exception of two Namco collections, which only work on the original Evercade due to licensing issues — and support save states, so you can switch back and forth between devices if you own both. (You can see a full list of the available cartridge collections on the right here.)
The Evercade VS enhances the overall experience in a number of ways. For starters, it’s just fun to see many of these games, with their large expressive sprites, blown up on a bigger screen (the console supports up to 1080p output). The original Evercade had a bright screen, but you lose some details on a small screen. For the most part, these games were meant to be displayed on a television or arcade cabinet, and they look much better with room to breathe. The Evercade VS offers a few display options too, so you can leave it in its original size, stretch the picture to fit your TV, or – my personal favorite – use the “pixel perfect” mode which makes things look, well, pixel perfect look . You can also add scan lines to mimic playing on an older screen. The Evercade VS also adds a handful of nice tweaks, most notably a vastly improved UI that makes it easier to sort not only games, but your saves as well. It has a lot more personality than Evercade’s original barebones interface.
However, the main thing the VS adds is good multiplayer. So many of these games were meant to be played with other people, and to coincide with the console launch, Evercade also released a few new collections focused exclusively on arcade games. I had a lot of fun making my way through the older ones Double dragon games with friends, especially since I don’t have to worry about keeping up with quarters anymore. It’s nice to have these games available on the go, but the multiplayer aspect makes it feel more communal and authentic.
Whether that experience of crowding around a TV to beat up some bad guys is worth the price of admission is Evercade’s main question. It won’t be for everyone. The Evercade US starts at $99.99, which gets you one controller and one game collection; a more premium offer includes two controllers and two cartridges for $30 more. (Standalone cartridges cost $20 and typically contain more than 10 games, depending on the publisher or platform.) There are definitely cheaper ways to play pong or whatever Minky Monkey is. But that money pays for more than just the accurate emulation. The console also replicates an experience – one where the tactile nature of the cartridges is just as important as the games they contain.