Evercade EXP review: Vertical scrolling, sub-par build
While this latest cohort focuses primarily on mega man series, down to the “realistic” American cover famous for the games used to highlight them in library view, arguably the best inclusion is the first breath of fire game, Capcom’s brilliant but long-neglected fantasy RPG series. That’s dozens of hours of classic turn-based combat and story-driven gameplay.
The EXP also comes with a cartridge containing six games from Japanese developer Irem. Somewhat ironically, given that TATE mode is the big new thing in hardware, none of the games here—Moon Patrol, 10-Yard Fight, Battle Chopper, In the Hunt, the legendary sci-fi horizontal shooter R-type, and lightning swords, a samurai game releasing its first official non-arcade release, use it. Still, it’s a great little collection, with Battle Chopper, Huntingand R-type especially more than standing the test of time.
Unlike the previous model, the EXP also has built-in Wi-Fi, but don’t expect two-player online arcade experiences. It mainly seems to be in place to allow future firmware updates to be released easily. That said, there is a tantalizing library of “hidden” games to unlock. somehowand a huge “coming soon” window on the EXP home screen, so more online features might be added later.
Oddly, however, when setting up the console, the EXP only seemed to recognize 2G Wi-Fi networks, but nothing on the console so far has demanded fast downloads, so 5G compatibility is up. now a negligible omission.
Dated or retro?
However, while the innards of the Evercade EXP benefit from notable improvements, its outer shell and ports leave a bit to be desired. Blaze ditched the not-so-subtly NES-inspired white and red aesthetic for a sleek all-white (or all-black, in the case of the limited-edition model) chassis. This is suspected to be an attempt to make the EXP more premium than its predecessor, but unfortunately it falls flat. The plastic feels cheap to the touch, with the underside of the console having a rough texture that’s very slightly uncomfortable to hold. Pedagogues, myself included, may also complain about less-than-perfect hole-mapping, with the bright LED status indicator and mini-HDMI or headphone ports not fully flush with the case.
Let’s talk about these two ports in particular. Mini-HDMI means the Evercade EXP can still be connected to a TV or monitor, but it doesn’t come with the necessary cable. Chances are you have half a dozen or more HDMI cables from other devices, but less likely to have a mini-HDMI to HDMI laying around. It is an inconvenience to have to buy a specific and dedicated cable. If you hook the EXP up to a larger screen, the console maxes out at 720p, which isn’t terrible, especially considering the age of the games being played, but it would have been nice to have at least 1080p.
Likewise, while we can’t fault having a 3.5mm headphone jack, the lack of Bluetooth compatibility for wireless audio doesn’t feel retro, it feels dated. Still, the sound is punchy overall, with the EXP able to push the chiptune soundtracks of yesteryear out of the decent if not downright impressive built-in speakers. Some repairable headphones, however, will provide a significantly better hearing experience.