Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Retroblox: A Potential Future?

Over the past decade, companies have been releasing game systems that have been dead for a very long time. A lot of it is focused on the Sega Genesis, Nintendo Entertainment System, and Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Of course, those are the biggest names to anybody looking to get their hands on an old system. Various pros and cons have been seen on these multi-game systems, ranging from sound issues to certain games not being able to work. However, a company is willing to go all out to change the game. If this does well following a Kickstarter campaign and actually producing these systems, the future could be different. Enter the Retroblox.

The Retroblox is a new type of system that has an approach similar to a Pioneer LaserActive. For those that never heard of the LaserActive, (I never owned one but I have seen some videos on it.) it was released in the fall of 1993 and was very expensive. Putting tax into the equation, it was over a thousand dollars. Outside of the utilization of LaserDiscs, it also ran some PACS that could be bought. That was the way to play Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD/Mega CD, an PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 cards and CDs depending on the region of the PAC. That is what the Retroblox is looking to be like.

The systems that the Retroblox is going after are some run of the mill systems, but they are also taking a big risk on some other systems. Looking at their website, obvious ones include the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis. The support does not mean just U.S. only. European and Japanese Mega Drive is also present along with the Super Famicom. There is actual support for the Sega 32x, a failed add-on from 1994.  The Sega Master System can also be supported, but it's through the Power Base Converter, a peripheral for the Genesis back in 1989. The website says there will be other systems after launch, and the odds of other systems showing up is there.

However, there are plenty of new systems to look out for. One of the most surprising is the Atari 2600, and that will be the thing with Retroblox. They are going to take a chance and give Atari a bit of love. There is a mention of the 7800 which as of February 2017 has not been confirmed yet, but could potentially be out there at launch on Kickstarter. Another system is the Turbografx-16, known in Japan as the PC-Engine. They are going all out on NEC's 16-bit wonder, going with every media format from both regions, which includes the SuperGrafx. It does lead to the big thing that could change gaming with multi-systems, which is CD systems.

It's going to do NEC's CD add-on, which includes both regions of the Turbografx and PC-Engine. They will also have the Super CD-ROM and Arcade CD-ROM working on the Retroblox. That's not the only CD system, though. The last few included are the Sega CD/Mega CD and the original PlayStation. Both are going to have all regions of their regions, as well the 32x CD games for Sega's add-ons. What is supported is really important, especially for anyone who may not have played a Turbografx or Sega CD considering how much they sold in the 90s.

How they are doing this is basic. The base system is going to be similar to a LaserActive and Sega CD. Each system has a module. Taking the module, it is placed into the base unit, and there you go. You can play whatever system's games that you've put in. The CD optical drive is part of the base unit, so there is no worrying about buying individual ones for the CD systems. As I mentioned, this is going to be a huge risk. Nobody's ever done this sort of thing, and it seems like the sort of project that would work the kinks out as time goes on if it does well.

As far as other systems that are not mentioned, they do mention that they could support more consoles later on. They addressed the Nintendo 64, which they are not doing because Nintendo putting out patents on it. It would be intriguing to see if they go after other Atari systems, handhelds, and many others. Game Boy can be used, but on the Super Game Boy peripheral for the SNES. They mention that the Game Boy games will not be backed up when using the Super Game Boy. One would hope that they make modules for not just the Game Boy line, but the Game Gear as well. There's also the obscure systems like a 3DO and Atari Jaguar, or something along the lines of a ColocoVision and Intellvision.

So what is Retroblox's goal? They are using something called hybrid emulation and trying to get as accurate as possible to every game that is being used in their modules. It is explained in detail on their website. Not every game is supported. They addressed the light gun issue, which is obvious. The LCD TV's render a game like Duck Hunt useless. What is mentioned is that they are going to tackle the issue. They are also trying to combat piracy by not allowing SD cards with an entire system's library on it. Backing up the games that people own is something that is allowed, but the main goal is towards the people that own the cartridges and CDs of the systems that are put on the modules.

Another thing that hasn't been done is selling games digitally. These guys expect companies that own rights to original content to play by the rules and not go the hacking route. What I mean by hacking is is putting a character from one series into another one, such as Mega Man being in a game like Contra. With the way they are presenting it, Retroblox is looking to be a very cautious company while taking big chances on their multi-system release. They have done demonstrations and are going to continue doing so until they start doing their Kickstarter campaign in April. They will also mention a price for the system before the campaign, which they are making several bundles.

Rambling aside, my thoughts are that this seems like a cool idea. The ability to play CD games is a huge plus, especially for anyone who wants a Sega CD or Turbografx CD. Retroblox is putting an effort to avoid the usual problems associated with multi-systems.  Playing with imports, while not the first, it's still a nice incentive. Not much else bugs me at the moment other than wondering what other systems they might go after following the launch, and figuring out how many of the CD games will work. Personally, I hope they look to some of the pre-NES stuff like ColecoVision and also look at obscure stuff like a 3DO.

In conclusion, I hope they stay on track to make something that pleases a lot of people. If it catches on, this could be the future and a lot of systems, popular or unpopular, will get attention from people that really want to play the libraries if they get modules. Good luck to Retroblox.

Retroblox's website is http://retroblox.com/. They have a news section with only a few articles at the time of this blog, explaining their intentions and what people should know regarding the multi-system. There is a forum via their community section where topics can be created and discussed.

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