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Getting Back Into RetroGaming with Modern Hardware


Unadan
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I am a huge Sega Genesis fan - I recently purchased a 36" Sony Wega Trinitron TV for $20 and have my Genesis and Saturn systems currently hooked up to it. I'm also considering the following devices:

 

1. Mega Everdrive Cartridge - so I could essentially play the entire Genesis/MD library on the original hardware connected to the CRT.

2. Retro Freak Console - emulation of Genesis and other cart-based systems. Unfortunately no MAME support.

3. Rasberry Pi - dedicated mini computer with RetroPie software - run all older cart based systems/games (and MAME!!) via emulation hooked up to my flat screen HDMI TV.

 

Of the 1-3 above - which "works" best and makes the most sense? I'm a little overwhelmed by my choices but welcome the challenge.

Edited by Unadan
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If you like playing on original hardware more than emulation, get the Everdrive. I have an original (not the Mega) and it's a great option. The Everdrive is much easier to setup than the RPi.

 

I also like emulation and these days use it more than original hardware because of convenience. I'm not a purist and enjoy the gaming whether it is on original hardware or not. I have a RPi with RetroPie and love it, but even a midrange PC blows it away with both emulation software options and hardware power. If you go the RPi route, keep the expectations reasonable. It offers a lot but not everything.

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I haven't done precise comparisons but I like the Retro Freak better than my RPi2.

 

Performance is good enough and it runs both carts and files from SD card. The Pi gives you access to more emulated systems, though.

 

I believe (but might be wrong) that the CPU on the Freak is more powerful than the one on the RPi3.

 

The Everdrive is only Megadrive/Genesis but allows you to run CD games from other regions.

Edited by Newsdee
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To playx on the trinitron I'd say go with the original hardware and get a flash cart. The pi does have analog video output from what I remember, but the freak is HDMI only. But with a flash cart and the original console you'll get the best experience.

 

If you want to go for HDMI and a moder setup then maybe the freak or a mini PC. Overall I think a fill fledged mini PC is going to give you better performance than a pi. Might be a bit harder to set up, but in the end it does so much more.

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You will find #3 to be the most difficult and most rewarding. It is the most versatile and future-proof of all the choices. It is also not the best for a real CRT. And you'll want something more powerful than an R-Pi anyways.

 

In your case, why not do both #1 and #3? Keeping #3 as a long-term project..

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Wii + soft-modding is pretty easy and cheap option also

Possible to get a Wii gen 1 for around 25-50, and GameCube controllers are very cheap

I was going to suggest this as well. A soft modded Wii with the Homebrew Channel might not be a perfect emulation solution since you can't play 90's MAME games on it, but it is a totally idiot proof way to emulate Atari 2600, 7800, ColecoVision, NES, Master System, Genesis, SNES, Game Boy/Color, and a whole slew of other earlier systems and arcade titles really well. It requires pretty much zero technical knowledge to setup and with the addition of a Classic Controller or Classic Controller compatible arcade stick you'll have a really cheap and effective emulation station with an attractive and easy to navigate user interface. I could never get emulation for any system running quite perfectly on a PC, but it was a total breeze on the Wii. :) Edited by Jin
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If you're 'huge fan' enough to still have a system and crt, it'd be a crying shame to go for sub-perfect software emulation.

Personally, I would go for the flash cart and find a way to get scart rgb from the genesis into the crt.

 

Of course then there's going down the hole of what version genesis you have--because that's the realm of perfectionism too. Sega really phoned it in on consistency that generation.

 

But it is a little telling that this question needed to be asked, and and even more telling that it was asked in this specific forum.

 

What you could do, is compare your current genesis+crt setup to PC emulation (which would surely be stronger than either option you mention, and you probably already have hardware for it) to see if you can even stand software-based emulation. Start with an hour of your favorite action game on the real setup and move over to emulation. Contra would be a good choice. Maybe lightening force, or m.u.s.h.a. Basically, you've got pretty much the 'best case scenario' for real hardware already, and you'd be comparing it to the best case scenario for software emulation. Don't worry about image quality if you're on one of the low-end connection options--an RGB cable would clear the genesis right up. Concentrate on the feel of the game.

Edited by Reaperman
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Sounds like your main values are low cost, and high "retro" fidelity.

 

You can run emulators on just about any low end computer made in this century. I don't think you should limit yourself to the RaspPi or locked-down consoles, personally -- not when you could just repurpose a cheapo Windoz or Linux machine.

 

Of your choices, I would go with the Pi for maximum flexibility. It's not difficult at all.

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Plenty of instructions online for soft modding a Wii

 

Pretty much you just need a old SD Card and I believe the original Wii console works best (The one with gamecube ports), plus a computer to download the files to a SD card.

 

1. Mostly just loading a SD with the Letterbomb exploit, then the Homebrew channel, then the emulators you want on it.

 

http://www.howtogeek.com/210185/how-to-install-the-homebrew-channel-on-a-nintendo-wii-the-easy-way/

 

Also Wii has the plus of being able to run Gamecube and Wii games or their backups for a external hard-drive

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I'm personally in the original hardware with a flash cart, Everdrive or otherwise, camp. Though I can certainly appreciate those who go other routes w/emulation, but to me if I'm playing a Genesis game, I want to use the old school 3-button pad I used growing up. Same with most of the other classic consoles. But that's just 2 pennies. The good news is there are plenty of options these days and you can then pick whichever is best for your scenario.

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Any slight changes in the feel of a game due to emulation are just that, slight. If at all noticeable. You may trade some "CRT authenticity", too, when you move to emulation. But what you gain in versatility, reliability, consistency, and convenience really shines in comparison to fighting against balky original hardware. Let alone maintaining or even acquiring it in the first place. And with all the extras emulation has to offer, you may find it a better way to game now and in the future.

 

It is telling that a debate like this comes up more and more frequently. That's how good emulation has become.

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Well instead of option 2 or 3 above I rescued an old Dell Inspiron laptop that was sitting collecting dust and got Lakka up and running on it with my entire Genesis library, among other consoles, connected via HDMI to my 43" Vizio LCD. Earlier today I compared the emulated version of "MUSHA" vs. my original cartridge - if anything the game plays better off the PC - just smoother.

Edited by Unadan
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