A new portable game system made a minor splash in the online gaming community a few months ago. ThinkGeek's catalog of wonderful toys, tools, and gizmos includes a small Game Boy Micro-like device they call the Pocket Retro Game Emulator that claims to play games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, Sega Genesis, Game Boy Advance, Neo-Geo, and Capcom's CPS1 & CPS2 arcade boards. Most everyone who covered the announcement came to the same conclusion: this is a great little product if it works as promised. Not content to always wonder if the PRGE was all it claimed to be, I arranged to acquire a unit from ThinkGeek and spent a few weeks testing its limitations. My review of the Pocket Retro Game Emulator is now available at Kombo.
What of the PRGE's emulation abilities? I found that the PRGE does not perform as well as one would hope. Most every NES game I threw at it worked well enough, although any game that relied on an uncommon special MMC chip did not work well. Super NES emulation is the weakest of the lot, as even the most basic games suffered issues. Some games run very slowly at times, while others cruise at unplayable turbo speeds. As with the NES emulation, any game that features a special add-on processor such as the Super FX chip, DSP-1, or Capcom's own CX4 will not work at all. Also be aware of a bug in the Super NES emulator that causes the Y button to "release" if the B button is pressed with it simultaneously.
Sega Genesis games play at just slightly under standard speed on average, although I noticed that backgrounds were fuzzy and frazzled on just about every game I tested, plus the audio is slightly off-pitch. Game Boy Advance emulation tended to be the most accurate of all and I can report that there were no significant issues with any game I tried, although I'll caution that any game that relies on add-on hardware such as a tilt sensor will not work on the PRGE. When it comes to the CPS1 and CPS2 emulation, I found that CPS1 performance is a mixed bag, as some games work flawlessly and others not at all. I was unable to test the CPS2 abilities as running a CPS2 game on the PRGE requires converting the game data into a specialized format, and I was not able to get the converter (not included) to work properly. Likewise, something seems to be required for the Neo-Geo games to run, and I was not able to figure that out. Be prepared to tinker and research online to get the most of out the PRGE.
As it turns out, the Pocket Retro Game Emulator is just ThinkGeek's name for what is actually the A320 as manufactured by a Chinese outfit called Dingoo Digital. It's a pirate-type device that doesn't live up to its own hype, but as long as you go into the PRGE experience prepared to tinker, it's worth carrying (even if it is a bit overpriced at $99). However, it's open nature means that there's an active homebrew community working on emulators for other systems. In addition to the systems that it officially claims to support, there are independently created emulators for playing games from the Sega Master System, Game Gear, Game Boy / Game Boy Color (but not Super Game Boy), WonderSwan, and Neo Geo Pocket. None of those emulators are ready for prime time yet, but there's a bright future there for those with the proper patience and dedication.
Now it's time for the public service announcement as quoted in my Kombo review.
I'd like to take a moment to remind you to emulate responsibly. While the majority of systems that the PRGE emulates are dead in the marketplace when it comes to new original cartridges, classic games for those systems are reappearing for modern systems as improved remakes or Virtual Console selections. If you're eager to carry Chrono Trigger and Yoshi's Island in your pocket, then I'd like to point you toward a great little gadget called the Nintendo DS Lite. Pirating games hurts us all in the long run.