Evercade EXP Review – Retro Bliss Reborn

For retro gamers who love physical media but are amazed at the prices of vintage gigs, the Evercade brand has made a nostalgic dream come true over the past couple of years. With a pick-up-and-play mentality, a growing library of gigs full of officially licensed console and arcade games, and multiple device iterations, Evercade has found its niche in an increasingly popular market. Evercade EXP, an updated version of the original mobile version, is the best Evercade game yet. If you’re interested in console and 8- and 16-bit games, Evercade EXP offers a great way to play physical cartridge collections in portable form.

For those unfamiliar with Evercade, it debuted in 2020 as a handy handheld with cartridge play. Each cartridge, valued at $20, contains a collection of the original classic games. There are collections based on older platforms like the Atari Lynx and Commodore 64 as well as publisher-themed gigs from studios like Data East, Interplay, Codemasters, and more. Just like the good old days, buggies come in chunky plastic cases filled with adorable inserts. You insert the cartridge, pick a game, and dive in almost immediately. Quality of life improvements such as save states and various display settings make these older games more understandable, making them able to play quickly.

The handheld original has been followed up in 2021 by Evercade VS, a 1080p-capable, multiplayer home console for two players. With EXP, manufacturer Blaze Entertainment has returned to its mobile origins, improving on the original design in almost every way.

The Evercade EXP comes in an all-white design or an all-black limited edition. The original had a game-like appearance, with a rather cheap plastic feel and a bit of weight. On the other hand, EXP has a more modern vibe. Its heavier feel, premium back panel, and sleeker form factor come together to create a device that doesn’t cut any corners. It really is day and night when you switch between the two mobile devices. The slightly wider case makes for a more comfortable gaming experience while still being small enough to fit in your pocket.

Evercade EXP Handheld and Boxed
Evercade EXP Handheld and Boxed

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More than just an improvement in the overall aesthetics and feel department, the EXP also has notable upgrades in the D-pad and triggers. The eight-way D-pad has a smoother range of motion. It’s easily one of the better D-pads I’ve used in a handheld. The original handheld only had a pair of shoulder buttons, while the EXP adds proper triggers and improved shoulder buttons.

You will notice additional buttons A and B on the left side of the mobile device. These buttons are for TATE mode, which allows you to play select Evercade games with a vertically oriented display. Simply press the dedicated TATE button at the bottom of the EXP and shift the hand to the side. Only 21 games across Evercade’s entire library support TATE mode at launch, but it’s great for playing classics like Burger Time, Super Breakout, and Centipede with full screen real estate. Sure, there’s the Flip Grip for the Nintendo Switch, but it’s nice to have a mobile device that has this feature, especially since supported games are at their best with a vertical orientation.

The Evercade experience is enhanced by the improved display on EXP. The increased brightness is immediately noticeable. It’s still the same size at 4.3 inches, but the resolution has improved significantly. It has an 800 x 480 IPS screen vs. the original’s 480 x 272 resolution display. Overall, it has sharper picture quality which makes the 8 and 16-bit games of yesteryear really great. The EXP still plays all the same games as the original, so you can aptly compare it to the jump from Switch to Switch OLED in terms of viewing experience. Speaking of the viewing experience, the EXP display has superior viewing angles. You can tilt it without blurring the image.

Evercade EXP Capcom Collection
Evercade EXP Capcom Collection

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And just like the Switch OLED, you can only see these improvements in manual mode. You can connect the EXP to an external display using the Mini-HDMI port to play games in 720p. This is the same “dock” resolution as the original resolution. For those who prefer to play on a larger screen, you’ll still want to go for Evercade VS, as it offers 1080p as well as multiplayer for two players. EXP remains a device for playing the classics yourself.

I also appreciate the changes to some of the core features, like the switch from the power switch to the power button and the more compact and subtle Start/Select/Menu buttons. The biggest change for general use is the transition from microUSB charging to USB-C. The Evercade was the only device I used regularly that charged via microUSB. On a full charge, the EXP runs for four to five hours, the same as the original. My only complaint with the design is that you still need to use the 3.5mm headphone jack for private listening. The EXP doesn’t support Bluetooth, which is definitely a big bummer.

The custom Linux you EXP is running borrows from the VS home console. If you’ve tried any of Nintendo’s or Sega’s mini consoles, they look a bit like those, with game box tiles to scroll through. Once you click on a game, you will get a high level description as well as the controls. You can load your game from your last save to quickly pick up where you left off. Various rendering themes, audio mixing sliders, and rendering settings are available in the Settings menu. The display settings allow you to switch the aspect ratio, add raster, and choose edges. Genuine Evercade owners can update their mobile firmware to the new OS layout as well. However, the EXP makes for a slightly smoother and faster overall experience, possibly due to the jump from a 1.2GHz processor to 1.5GHz.

Evercade EXP alongside the original Evercade
Evercade EXP alongside the original Evercade

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So, the mobile device itself is great, but what about the games? One of EXP’s main selling points is its built-in library of 18 Capcom games. These are EXP exclusive, so you won’t be able to play them on the original mobile device or VS. While it feels a little strange for a manufacturer focused on physical media and fancy packaging to go the digital route, there’s no denying the appeal of this collection of classics. This is what you get, no downloads required:

  • Mega Man (8-bit)
  • Mega Man 2 (8-bit)
  • Mega Man X (16-bit)
  • Breath of Fire (16-bit)
  • 1942
  • 1943
  • 1944: The Master of the Ring
  • Electronic commandos
  • Captain commando
  • commandos
  • The final fight
  • Forgotten worlds
  • ghoul ghosts
  • Legendary wings
  • Merce
  • Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting
  • strider
  • People

Mega Man and Breath of Fire are console games, while the other 14 games are based on the arcade versions. Classics like 1942 and 1943 benefit from TATE mode, and playing greats like Street Fighter II and Strider on this tiny handheld is a real treat. They all run and look great. Plus, new Evercade owners will have loads of notable games to play live, which is a huge bonus.

Evercade EXP TATE mode
Evercade EXP TATE mode

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EXP also comes with a new set of cartridges that focus on IREM games. There are six games included: R-Type, Moon Patrol, In the Hunt, Battle Chopper, Lightning Swords, and 10-Yard Fight. The R-Type is the big standout here. The classic shooter continues to play well all these later years.

The IREM trolley is just one of dozens of Evercade kits available now. For a full list, check out the Evercade website. How much value you get from Evercade depends largely on your interest in its growing library of games. You’ll find just about every genre you can imagine in Evercade, so it really is a case of there being something for everyone. It’s just a matter of if there is Adequate The games you want to play.

Although I won’t spoil it, Blaze brought back the “hidden” games. There are five games to unlock via secret passwords and button combinations.

Finally, you’ll get hands-on Evercade EXP and over two dozen games for $150. For those who already have the original Evercade, deciding whether or not to upgrade depends on how much of your Evercade games you’ve already played. Those who are thinking of getting Evercade for the first time should go for EXP. Although it costs $50 more than the original Evercade Premium Pack (which came with three carts), the design improvements alone justify the jump. Throw in 18 Capcom games and the value gets even better.

Where to buy Evercade EXP

Specify Evercade EXP
Show 4.3 inch IPS
Precision 800 x 480
Healer 1.5 GHz
RAM 4GB
size 7.56 x 3.07 x .78 in
Weight 270 gr
ports USB-C, Mini-HDMI, 3.5mm audio

Embedded games

18 Capcom (Preloaded), IREM Collection (6 cartridge based), 5 Secret Games

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#Evercade #EXP #Review #Retro #Bliss #Reborn

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