I am not that old. Kind of odd to hear in a Retro Handhelds community where everyone is gushing about Atari 2600, or their Sega Genesis, but it’s true. I only know the 2000’s, my first system was a PS2, and my first handheld was a GBA SP. Despite all that, I love retro games as much as the next person here, and I love collecting physical media for them. 

While getting Burning Force for the Genesis, or Fantavision for the PS2 is great, I collect for handhelds the most, which is kind of hard in the modern age where my choice is mostly “Nintendo Switch”. But in comes Evercade, a company to produce physical cartridges of Retro and Indie games for a brand new platform. And I’m taking a look at the latest variation of hardware from HYPER MEGA TECH!; The Super Pocket (Taito edition specifically). 

And yes, this means I’m looking at another niche use case handheld. Which, as always, was purchased by me, from Best Buy. So all the (likely bad) opinions are my own.

What is It

As always, I’ve gotta tell you what it is, and in this case it’s pretty easy. The Super Pocket is the fourth piece of hardware in the Evercade line following the original, VS, and EXP. HYPER MEGA TECH! Yes I’m going to say it like that, is really just a spin-off brand of Blaze Evercade, with the goal of making different tech. It runs the same cartridges, it has the same button layout as the EXP, and is currently the only vertical Evercade compatible device.

Alongside that, you get a handheld powered by a 1.2ghz Cortex-A7 chip, a USB-C port for charging, and a battery that’s unknown in size, but in my experience was able to give me upwards of 5 hours of battery life. Oh, and the most disappointing thing in specs at least? The Screen. 2.8 inches, and a resolution 320×280 may make it seem like it’s going to be blurrier than the vision in Stubbs’ left eye, but it’s not too bad. At the size, with its current brightness I found the screen perfectly usable, and honestly pretty nice for some of these older games.

Ergonomics and Size

Specs gone, lets talk about how it feels. As far as verticals go I find this one to be pretty comfortable. It’s chunkier to accommodate the depth needed for the cartridge slot, which makes it slip into my hands relatively nicely. The face buttons have a nice mushy, but solid actuation, and the satellite dish d-pad has a nice pivot, but at times can be a bit stiff.

Where it falls apart are the shoulder buttons. They’re small, they’re pretty flat against the back, and their click is solid, but a bit awkward when held in hand. My fingers like to drift away from the shoulders, and overall is my only complaint about the controls on the Super Pocket. 

Compared to other devices, the Super Pocket dwarfs an Arduboy FX in every dimension, especially in thickness, but that just makes it way more comfortable. I also like the buttons more on the Pocket.

Next to a Playdate, they’re the same width if you include the crank, but the Playdate is only about two thirds as tall, one third as thick, and has buttons that are only half as nice. 

Next to an original Evercade, the Super pocket is as wide as the Evercade is tall, and two thirds as tall as the OG is wide. While the face buttons feel the same, the D-pad on the original feels better, and the shoulder buttons are infinitely more comfortable.

Finally for a more traditional comparison, here’s the Super Pocket next to a green RG35XX for scale.

And of course the weights below:

Arduboy FX: 38 grams

Playdate: 85 grams

Super Pocket (With Cartridge): 165 grams 

RG35XX: 175 grams

Evercade OG (With Cartridge): 228 grams

Gaming Experience

Alright it’s gameplay time once I remind you of the cartridges. 37 Red Carts, 10 Arcade Carts, and 6 Computer Carts. 53 Evercade cartridges in total, all for around $20’ish dollars, and each one has a selection of games ranging from 2 to upwards of a dozen. Sliding your new cartridge into the admittedly tight cartridge slot with no click, you’re met with a main menu. The menu lets you access settings, or select your game of choice. 

I’ve only got 20% of the Evercade cards, but across those there are a bunch of good games worth checking out. The Taito cart comes with good selections including Legend of Kage, Liquid Kids and Bubble Bobble. While not all my favorite choices, the rest of the carts have some way better games. Cart 11 includes Xeno Crisis, and Tanglewood, a platformer that has quickly become one of my favorite Genesis games, and in turn my favorite platformer on Evercade. At least until Cart 35, Witch N’ Wiz and Goodboy Galaxy, a brand new GBA Platformer reformatted and adjusted to be published on Evercade. A real goodboy with a gun.

Namco Museum 2 and Splatterhouse 2. Indie Heroes 1 and Deadeus (Game of the Week of the Year 2023 by the way). Renovation 1 and the Valis series. You pick a cart, you’ll get at least one gem on the collection. The only downside comes into the actual screen- again. Even with that 2.8 inch display, games can natively display in a widescreen aspect ratio, which in turn leaves black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. Exactly what I want, take my tiny baby screen and make it even tinier and babier. While not ideal, I did eventually get used to it and overall I just kind of ignore it. 

The gameplay experience overall is incredibly fun, and even with some of the aspect ratio woes, I keep coming back to play more on here.

Alternatives and Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for “Insert only one library of games handheld” in the modern era, you have a couple options. The Arduboy FX, currently $74 on the Arduboy website, or $99 if you get the all black special edition. It’s smaller, it’s lighter, its games are all built in, and don’t cost extra. But it’s also way less ergonomic, smaller with a smaller screen, and depending on what you call the total cost, more expensive.

The same can be said about the Playdate, more expensive, non-backlit screen, clicky buttons. But this thing has charm. It’s a cheese wedge with a crank, it comes with a season of games for free and more you can download, or purchase and sideload from all across the internet. It’s another case of where you want to start price wise.

There are even other options in the Evercade lineup. The OG if you can find used is more comfortable to hold, but charges over micro USB. In my opinion somehow the screen is even worse too. The EXP on the other hand is comfortable, has a better screen, and USB-C support. But is also upwards of $130. 

Outside of that you get the usual selection of emulation handhelds that can do more for less and yada yada yada. But if you’re looking at this, that’s not what you want. You want bespoke hardware for a specific software lineup. In terms of price to what you get, reminder new cartridges are around $20. I think you get a lot. In terms of my “Niche Handheld Collection” I think the Super Pocket is currently my favorite of the bunch. It really reminds me of the Gameboy Advance SP and its awful screen. For $59 starting, it’s well worth it in my eyes, and I recommend it to anyone interested in getting into the Evercade scene… as long as you don’t want to use the shoulder buttons a lot because holy cow those things are bad.

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