The Super Retro Trio by Retro-Bit is just one console in a recent spate of consoles that has seen modern hardware being married up to vintage carts in order to provide an alternative to using original consoles. There are many reasons why you would want to play original carts on modern hardware; preserving the integrity of original consoles in a collection perhaps, a lack of space or the increasing rarity and price of original hardware being just a few.
Whatever your reasons, there are many to choose from and Retro-Bit, the manufacturers of the Super Retro Trio (SRT) entered the ‘new hardware for vintage consoles’ market early on, producing all sorts of adapters, controllers and multi-system consoles. That being so, you would expect them to have a good idea of how to implement such a product with some authority.
Unlike other multi-slot console manufacturers machines (the Hyperkin RetroN range for instance), the SRT does not use emulation of any sorts, instead it is playing the games just as the original machines did. So whilst you will not find all the HD bells and whistles that you would on a RetroN 5 for instance, the Super Retro Trio is probably supplying a gaming experience truer to its vintage roots. Add to this that you will have to purchase an extra pad for 2 player gaming with a RetroN when the SRT comes with 2 player gaming as standard and it begins to look like a real contender for your money.
And don’t be fooled by that ‘Trio’ name. It plays games from 5 consoles right out of the box (Genesis, Mega Drive, SNES, SFC and NES). Want to play your Game Boy or GB color games? Just plug in a Super Game Boy adapter. You can even buy an adapter specially made for the SRT that allows you to play GB Advance carts on your shiny new machine. So with a little help from adapters, your ‘Trio’ is now capable of playing games from 8 different retro machines.
Unboxing and using the Super Retro Trio
We received our review unit courtesy of those great guys over at funstock.co.uk who stock all manner of modern hardware capable of playing yesterdays video games, their website is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already!
Pre-unboxing impressions are good, the box shows what looks like a great looking console in black and red and upon opening the box nothing disappoints. In the plastic tray alongside this great looking console are two SNES style controllers in the same black and red, a power supply (a two pin euro power supply, so needs an easily obtainable 3 pin adapter for UK use) and a composite AV lead which also incorporates S-video (more on this later).
The instructions are in very clear English, something which is often sadly not the case nowadays and go through the whole set up and use of the SRT in a comprehensive manner. Not that getting the SRT up and running is a chore.
It’s as simple as plugging in the power supply and composite AV lead (which also has an S-video lead attached), plugging in your choice of cartridges, plugging in the supplied SRT controllers and switching on. One of the strengths of the SRT is the ability to use your own original or third party controllers and to that end it is endowed with NES/SNES ports and a pair of 9-pin D connectors that are used by both the supplied controllers or original Mega Drive/Genesis pads.
The console itself is about the size of a SNES, and has a good solid feel to it, which is often lacking with this type of machine. A neat red flap on the front of the machine opens to reveal the cartridge ports, a cartridge port switch and a Genesis region switch. One large switch on top of the unit powers the unit on and also switches between NES, SNES and Genesis/MD modes. Different coloured LED lights illuminate to show you which slot has been chosen with a green light for NES, red for SNES/SFC and blue for Genesis/Mega Drive. Next to this there is a handy button which effectively resets whatever system you are currently switched to.
This latest PAL version SRT has a semi-region free SNES slot meaning that unlike it’s previous incarnation you can now safely use all of your Euro PAL carts without issue, AND you can still plug in your Super Famicom collection, something I was not expecting, but very pleased to see. The Mega Drive/Genesis is also catered for in this respect with the previously mentioned region switch under the front panel, enabling you to use Japanese or US NTSC, EU PAL or Asian PAL cartridges.
In use, the console gave a clear, bright and steady picture on a modern LCD TV as we expected and swapping between inserted cartridges was as easy as sliding the switch back and forth. The supplied controllers did their job well and whilst not quite up to the quality of original SNES controllers were just as responsive and feel strong enough to last the course. The fact you can use your favourite MD/SNES controller, with any of the systems is always going to be one of the SRT’s great strengths though, and certainly makes playing NES games a whole lot more comfortable. Playing games using the original pads they were designed to be played on will also appeal to purists and those seeking a nostalgia hit.
In short, we thoroughly enjoyed using the Super Retro Trio. Its good build quality, 2 bundled controllers and the fact it covers (with adapters) 8 different retro machines all make for a bargain package. It is an ideal substitute if you want to save space under your TV or give your aging console collection a break and still play your beloved original cartridges. All without the need for fiddly emulation. Only gripe (and it is a tiny one) is the lack of a UK plug.