Hyperkin Retron Sq – Design and Features
The Retron Sq is a small, handheld box that’s just as much a delight to look at as it is to hold. Built from a lightweight, transparent plastic, it instantly evokes 90’s nostalgia, harkening back to an era when almost every Nintendo peripheral had a similar look. Fans of the retrowave aesthetic will further appreciate the Hyper Beach colorway, which features transparent teal plastic and magenta accent buttons on the front.
The plug-and-play nature of the Retron Sq is where it really shines. It features a single slot on the top that’s compatible with GameBoy, GameBoy Color, and GameBoy Advance cartridges, and inserting games has a familiar satisfying click. On the front are two large, circular buttons: one for power and one to reset the unit. Below that is a single USB port for the included controller, or for a wireless receiver paired with one of Hyperkin’s bluetooth controllers (sold separately). Unfortunately, it’s only compatible with Hyperkin’s own controllers, which means plugging in a Xbox Core Controller or DualSense or another third-party controller is a no-go.
Hyperkin Retron Sq Review
On the rear is a USB-C port for power, a microSD card slot that contains the system’s software and will allow you to update the firmware in the future. Thankfully, it connects to your gaming TV or gaming monitor with HDMI, allowing you to use it with modern displays. Games are displayed in their original 4:3 format, however, there’s also a switch on the back that lets you toggle to a widescreen 16:9 format, if you prefer. To round it out, there are four small rubberized “feet” on the bottom that prevent the unit from sliding or scratching whatever surface it’s placed on.
The included controller is made from the same transparent plastic and perfectly compliments the main unit. It’s modeled after an SNES controller, featuring a D-pad, four face buttons, L/R shoulder buttons, as well as start and select buttons in the center. While it’s certainly a familiar and comfortable format, it’s an odd choice given that GameBoy and GameBoy Advance games only ever use two face buttons.
While the design is largely the same as an SNES controller in shape and size, it does feature one key difference. On the back of the controller are two small protruding plastic grips that give your fingers something to latch onto, and are much more comfortable than the flat back of a traditional SNES controller. It also has a long 10-foot cable, allowing you to sit back and relax while you play instead of having to sit just feet from your television.
Hyperkin Retron Sq – Software
The Retron Sq is different from other micro consoles in that it doesn’t come pre-loaded with a selection of games. Instead, it relies on you having an existing library of games to choose from. While this is no different from modern consoles, or gaming in general, finding specific GameBoy or GameBoy Advance games these days can prove difficult – and costly. So while the console itself is relatively inexpensive to get into, the games themselves may prove to be a more expensive barrier to entry.
That being said, there is a bit of software built into the Retron Sq, but only what’s required to run the unit. However, beyond a simple Hyperkin-branded splash screen upon startup, it’s largely something you’ll never interact with.
According to Hyperkin, future firmware updates will be delivered through the included microSD card. This will require inserting it into a computer, but shouldn’t prove to be a difficult process otherwise.
Hyperkin Retron Sq – Gaming
Playing actual games couldn’t be more straightforward. Simply insert your cartridge, press power, and your game will begin running automatically. Officially, the Retron Sq supports GameBoy and GameBoy Color games out of the box, while GameBoy Advance games are currently still in beta. Out of 20 games tested, 18 games worked without any input delay or audio/visual issues. The two in question were both GameBoy Advance games – Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and WarioWare: Twisted! – and it’s possible they aren’t currently supported in beta. The latter technically ran, but due to its unique gyro sensor built into the cartridge, I was unable to control it. (Yes, I even tried holding the Retron Sq unit and spinning it around, but to no avail.)
For what is essentially a modern GameBoy Player, though, it’s concerning that games don’t start instantaneously like they do on their handheld counterparts. Instead, you’re greeted with a Hyperkin-branded splash screen upon each boot that lasts for about 15-25 seconds before the game actually loads. Even worse, if you’re inserting a cartridge for the first time, there’s an additional loading screen with a progress bar that lasts for another 10-15 seconds. Add in the splash screens from the actual game itself and sometimes it’s upwards of a minute before you’re actually playing something. While this isn’t terrible by any means, it is worth noting if you’re planning to quickly hop between games.
Games are displayed in 720p and default to their original 4:3 standard format. Even playing on a 4K TV, pixels were sharp and colors were vivid, and it’s surprising how many games still hold up today. Audio was crisp, and hearing so many chiptune soundtracks from my childhood was a delight. That said, the audio from some games can be a bit jarring when heard on large surround sound systems.
As for the controller itself, the D-pad is responsive and feels good to press, although when compared to a SNES controller it doesn’t feel quite as tight. That said, each directional input ends with a satisfying click, giving you an audible cue that you’ve reached the bottom. The four face buttons feel good, too, each responding to inputs instantly and springing back up quickly after being pressed. The A/B buttons feature a convex design, while X/Y are concave – once again taking cues from the SNES’s controller layout. Even though the GameBoy and GameBoy Advance didn’t have X/Y buttons, they can be used interchangeably with A/B, depending on your preference. The L/R shoulder buttons feel a bit lower profile than usual, but still have a satisfying click when pressed. The diagonal pill-shaped start and select buttons on the face are made from a soft plastic and feel solid overall.
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