Hot off the heels of EmuDeck’s latest Android release, EmulationStation-DE has just released a brand-new Android version of their frontend. But is it worth a shot? Let us fill you in on the details!

First off, we need to discuss where you can find this. Unlike every other version of ES-DE, this is a paid app. You’ll have to cough up $5.39 (at the time of writing) for the privilege of getting those sweet themes running on your shiny new RG556 or Retroid Pocket 4 – and it’s only available on the Amazon Appstore. The dev says that the Play Store has been “unwilling” to allow them to publish – knowing Google’s confusing and often contradictory policies, that’s not exactly surprising.

ES-DE for Android is the exact same application as the desktop release. So all your games, themes, collections, and scraped media can be synced across your devices. The Android release also continues ES-DE’s huge range of emulator support; pretty much any emulator you’d want to run on Android is supported by ES-DE, including the Vita emulator Vita3K!

Issues to Keep In Mind

The front end is not without its problems, however. Most notably, there are two big issues that are specific to the AYN Odin 2. Firstly, there’s some problem with the way that the system handles directories with periods in their names. This breaks functionality in M64Plus FZ (N64), Play! (PS2), Saturn.emu (Saturn), FPse, and FPseNG (PS1). However, it seems to work fine in RetroArch, NetherSX2, ePSXe, DuckStation, and Yuzu, so you’re not completely out of luck when it comes to those systems.

The dev notes that this is by no means a complete list, so your mileage may vary – and they do provide a workaround in the documentation.

The second issue has no such workaround, unfortunately – some emulators simply refuse to launch via ES-DE. This includes ColEm (Colecovision), fMSX (MSX), iNES (NES), MasterGear (Master System/Game Gear), Speccy (ZX Spectrum), My Boy! (GBA), My OldBoy! (GBC), and Redream (Dreamcast). All of these emulators have alternatives, either within RetroArch or standalone. However, it still sucks for those of us who own and love any of these emulators. By no means is it a full showstopper, thankfully, you may have to adjust your setup to fit ES-DE’s limitations.

Other Android handhelds aren’t safe from issues either. Some devices experience unusually poor performance on startup. However, this issue seemingly resolves itself after about 30 seconds. Android’s touchscreen keyboard also apparently causes rendering issues when using physical controllers and keyboards. To combat that, the native Android keyboard is disabled in favour of ES-DE’s built-in keyboard.

EmulationStation-DE Android Theme Downloader

EmulationStation-DE Android Theme Downloader

All in all, though, these are relatively minor issues that shouldn’t affect most people’s setups in any major way. It certainly doesn’t change the magic of finally having one of the most polished emulation frontends on our Android devices, either. To quote fellow RH writer Andrew – “This is wild[…] I never thought I’d see EmulationStation running on my phone.”

With EmulationStation and EmuDeck joining the fray, alongside community favourite Daijishou, the rapidly-evolving Beacon and Console Launcher, and of course our long-time partner RESET Collection (which you can get for free with our Discord memberships!), the Android frontend scene is getting very lively indeed.

Update (2/28): EmulationStation Gets Booted from Amazon Appstore

EmulationStation-DE Discord update

EmulationStation-DE Discord update

Hot on the heels of the news surrounding Nintendo suing Yuzu, another blow was struck as EmulationStation has been removed from the Amazon Appstore. According to a message in the ES-DE Discord, the reasoning is that “The app facilitates emulating and pirating of games from third-party sources without explicit authorization from those sources.”

Obviously, we aren’t sure if this has anything to do with Nintendo’s decision to sue Yuzu or not. But, the timing is definitely curious for Amazon to remove an app just days after it was approved.

Since this is a fluid situation, there are a lot of moving parts. If you already have the ES-DE for Android app installed, it won’t just disappear, but you also won’t receive any new updates. In what seems to be a temporary move, you can still grab ES-DE for Android from the new Patreon.

Although Patreon memberships are usually monthly subscriptions that provide access, it’s a little bit different. For $5.50, you can “sign up” for the ES-DE Frontend Patreon membership, and will gain access to the latest Android build. From there, you can either remain signed up to support development or cancel your subscription. No matter which you choose, the developers note that “you will still receive future APK updates.”

Give it a shot and let us know what you think in the comments, or join the discussion on our Discord!

This page may contain affiliate links, by purchasing something through a link, Retro Handhelds may earn a small commission on the sale at no additional cost to you.