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Until the start of 2021, I wasn't much for ROMs, and emulators. But as I've made my peace with probably not getting a next-gen (this-gen?) console this year, and have increasingly enjoyed revisiting the video games of my childhood and teenage years, my head's been turned. In February I bought an Anbernic 351P, a Linux-based handheld capable of running everything from 8-bit consoles to the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast, and I've been having a ball with it. It is so good, I've barely touched my Switch since. And just the other week, I took a chance on something more suited to on-the-TV play.
Before we go any further here, I should stress that I've not downloaded any ROMs myself, for either the Anbernic system or what I'm about to detail, below. The distribution of ROMs is illegal - you can't sell them, and you shouldn't download them. However, a number of emulation devices available right now are shipping to customers pre-loaded with games - and not just the homebrew kind found on the FunKey S (we covered said palm-sized Game Boy-alike device in detail, here.) We're talking games from Nintendo, PlayStation, SEGA, Capcom, Activision, SNK, Atari, Namco, Square (Enix), and so on, and so forth. In no way, shape or legal form, should these games be sold with these (otherwise totally above board) emulation devices. It's very naughty.
And yet, here we are. And here I am, with something called a Super Console X Pro, containing over 41,000 pre-installed games from a vast array of home computers, consoles and handhelds, as well as a few ports and hacks. Check out the video below to see what systems this cheap, tacky plastic box can support, as well as some gameplay (note, there is only sound during the gameplay, which begins at 3.30)...
The cost of bringing this thing (made by Chinese company KinHank, so far as I can tell) into my house? About £70 from eBay, give or take some postage and packaging. And that's for the console with 128GB of ROMs pre-installed; two very cheap Bluetooth controllers modelled after the PlayStation DualShock 3 (I've pretty immediately ditched them in favour of better options - any USB or Bluetooth pad should work, and the PlayStation Classic Mini controllers sure do); a remote control, since this is also an Android box; HDMI and power leads, with a UK adaptor as there's a US plug; and some fairly useless instructions that only really cover how to turn it on and map a new controller.
There's a lot of tinkering that you could do with the Super Console X Pro - I know, because I've watched the YouTube videos extensively (research, people - it should underpin any tech purchase). But what I picked this up for, exclusively, was its capabilities as a plug-in-and-play mini-console, in the vein of the Mega Drive Mini, PC Engine CoreGrafx Mini, and Nintendo's NES and SNES Classics. Only, obviously, this is the super version of such devices. The clue is really in the name.
First and foremost, I wanted this for its 32X emulation, as my own 32X gave up the ghost a few years ago, and this is a cheaper option than getting the mushroom-shaped Mega Drive add-on repaired. Virtua Racing Deluxe, Knuckles Chaotix, and the worst version of DOOM, back again? I love it - and since I own those games, I don't feel so bad about playing them on something else. I was also super curious about how three-dimensional Virtual Boy games would play on a normal TV. Turns out, not great, but I appreciate that I can now try them - so too games for Nintendo's Pokémon Mini handheld, the uniquely vector-styled Vectrex from 1983, and the Magnavox Odyssey 2, a console that's even older than I am. Just about.
So, what you're really getting here - putting aside the fact that it's entirely shady to sell such a console with ROMs already installed - is an extensive history of gaming, covering the late 1970s and early 1980s, arcade games from the 1980s and '90s, 8- and 16-bit classics, gaming's move into 3D, the evolution of handhelds from the Game & Watch (really!) to the Sony PSP, and much more besides. As a time capsule, this is a wondrous portal to past gaming glories, and a virtual playground rich in exploration potential. Of course, I'd rather play the games here on legally-sound platforms - like Antstream, the Evercade, countless compilations and remasters for modern consoles, and the original hardware. And I do use those means, too. But I cannot deny the incredible convenience of being able to switch from Cannon Fodder for the Amiga CD32 to Crazy Taxi for the Dreamcast, via some properly antiquated MSX and Spectrum titles, without leaving the sofa.
You will find a number of favourites you've never played before, on a device like this, simply through a little research (again, it's important!) and taking a punt or two on anything that looks intriguing. That said, it's worth mentioning that not all the emulation runs as it should - as you'll see in the video above, the Nintendo 64 games aren't working right now, though I suspect that's something that could be fixed in the settings. There are also duplicates amongst the 41,490 games - the Mega Drive/Genesis is included twice amongst the emulated systems, plus you have Amiga and Amiga 1200 lists, and the same game will appear across several comparable platforms courtesy of its multiple ports. N64 aside, most of what I've played with so far has been fine, although the PSP footage above is definitely compromised (again, that might be the settings, or due to the capture card).
It's not big, and it's certainly not clever, but for the price of one PlayStation 5 game, being able to choose from this many titles is absolutely mind-blowing. Get a decent controller, and perhaps learn your way through the settings to improve each emulator's graphics and performance (there are guides, on YouTube), and I reckon you could easily fill a year or two with a Super Console X Pro or comparable device, and not feel any FOMO about not owning a PS5 once. Well, I say "you", when I mean me; and with the ongoing stock and component issues, it's probably a good thing that I've something to distract me from not being able to crack on with the new Ratchet & Clank 'til 2023.
Featured Image Credit: Rockstar Games, eBay, Nintendo, SEGA, Activision
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