So we’re taking the walk down gaming memory lane again. I, of course, outlined a bit of this in my Mother’s Day article from last year, so some of this early part will be familiar to some. This is apparently going to be my birthday article, since the day this is going up will be March 10, Mario Day, and also the day little 11.5-pound Raven got a doctor fired for ignoring the telltale signs he was ready to pop out almost a month earlier during ultrasounds. But that’s definitely not the story we’re here for today, don’t look up what fourth-degree lacerations are my friends, your day will be ruined.


The Journey Begins

My gaming journey started before I actually started gaming. Falling asleep in the warm glow of a CRT as my mom zipped and spun her way through levels in Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s no wonder I grew up a gamer. I was hardly fit for Sonic at that age, though I was probably given control of Tails in the later entries since he was invincible and clearly designed for that kind of purpose. By the time I was ready to start gaming, my parents had bought me a PS1 at around 5 or 6 years old.

It wouldn’t be for another couple of years that my parents would buy me a Game Boy Color, along with Pokemon Red (funny enough, NOT a GBC game) for Christmas of 1998. Little did they know I’d still be a huge Pokemon fan at 34 years old, but I guess you never know what kind of damage you’re doing to your kids! Hey, at least my wife is a huge Pokemon fan too.

From GBC to Vita

That GBC went with me everywhere. I had a carrying case, a wormlight, the whole kit, and kaboodle. Day or night, rain or shine, I was playin’ Pokemon. Granted, AA batteries were not so easy to come by, and rechargeables were a long way from where they are now. So I still lived a relatively active kid life when my batteries died. I actually, after a lot of work and careful trading, managed to complete my Pokedex in Pokemon Red. And then, in a foolish move to acquire an extra Zapdos, I tried using the Pokemon GSC box glitch to duplicate a Pokemon and corrupted my save. Cue me running to my parents’ room at like 5 in the morning crying about how I’d lost all my Pokemon.

That GBC wasn’t long for this world, unfortunately. It was the special edition yellow Pikachu GBC, and I kept it in a special softcase along with my copies of Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, Silver, and Crystal. In a mistake I greatly regret to this day, my grandma drove me down the freeway to the nearby Wienerschnitzel, and it was upon arrival that I came to a chilling realization that I’d left the Game Boy on the roof. If it had only fallen off while pulling out of grandma’s driveway it may have survived, but sadly the plastic shards of my regret were seen strewn across the freeway and were deemed unsalvageable. This day would live in infamy as the saddest day of my young life for a very long time.

I grew up, I moved on, I had a GBA, an SP, a DS, a 3DS, and a Vita. My sister had a PSP that stopped working one day and I left it in a drawer for like five years until I was old and bold enough to open it and find a single cable that needed to be reseated to fix it. I greatly enjoyed my handhelds, mostly relegated to being Pokemon and occasionally Castlevania or Metroid machines, though they did get me in a lot of trouble at school. Repeatedly…

Getting Started With Emulation

My journey with emulation truly started in 2012. Up until that point, I had staunchly refused to go in for the smartphone craze. “Nobody needs the internet with them at all times,” I said. “They can just wait till they get home to a computer to use that.” So I stubbornly clung to my flip phone, on which I usually only made calls late in the evening when “free minutes” kicked in (my fellow old people will remember what I’m talking about.)

Then I got a job, one that involved huge stretches of downtime. It turns out books are super distracting, and while you can glance up from a movie or show to keep aware of your surroundings, glancing up from a book is a much trickier affair since you then have to track down where you were. So I decided I needed a smartphone, and unlimited data so that I could watch Netflix to while away the long downtime hours. While I was at it, I thought, I could look into this “emulation” business everyone was talking about, which is why I went with a Galaxy S3 instead of an iPhone 4S. I bought a Dualshock 3, rooted my phone, and clipped it to the controller to play games with.

At some point in this journey, I decided this setup was a bit too clunky, so I bought a PSP 3000 from a friend and soft-modded it to stick emulators on it. In this way, the PSP technically became my first emulation handheld. I completed Mario 1 and 3 on NES for the first time on this device. I skipped 2, couldn’t stand it. I also had PS1, GBA, SNES, and Genesis games loaded onto my PSP. This was a much more efficient setup, rather than trying to jerry-rig a phone into an emulation device. I used this for many years for my low-end emulation needs, using a proper PC to play anything more intensive like Gamecube or PS2, and things were good.

Diving Deeper

So now let’s fast forward one more time to 2021, almost ten years after the Galaxy S3 started my emulation journey in 2012. Metroid Dread was due to release on Switch that year, the first continuation forward in the Metroid timeline since Metroid Fusion had come out almost 20 years prior. I was excited, I already had a Switch and I knew I was going to get Dread. In anticipation of release, I wanted to play back through the mainline series, but I had gotten rid of my modded PSP years prior during a big downsizing event.

At the time, I regularly enjoyed watching ETA Prime videos about mini PCs, and one day a related video catches my eye. RetroGameCorps review of the RG351V. I looked at it and went “Wow, that really looks a lot like a Game Boy.” I watched the review, I loved the specs, the systems it could play comfortably, and the at-the-time “best in class” screen it was sporting. Plus, it was just damned nostalgic to look at, very closely mimicking the dimensions and appearance of the original Game Boy. I did complete those Metroid games on that 351V, and more, it was a really great system to get me properly into handheld emulation. So then that just naturally led me into Retro Handhelds from there, right? Almost.

One of the last remaining images of my original 351V as I completed Super Metroid.

Discovering Retro Handhelds

Now to be accurate about this next part, I’m not sure which came first here. Either A: I wanted to play Ape Escape on my shiny new retro handheld, or B: I learned about 351Droid and wanted to play Knights of the Old Republic on my shiny new handheld. I honestly can’t remember which one it was, but whichever it was I needed two analog sticks to do it properly. So I got the shiny new 351MP, said “I don’t need you anymore” to my poor 351V, and moved on. Now at this point I definitely discovered 351Droid, and I wanted to play Knights of the Old Republic on my shiny new 351MP.

Only problem?

When I installed 351Droid, the left analog stick on the 351MP was mapped upside down. Perhaps the axes had changed between the earlier models and the MP? I’m not sure. Either way, I had to track down the people responsible for 351Droid and inform them. After all, I had learned with my 351V and ArkOS that usually these devs were lurking in a Discord channel somewhere after I had managed to speak to Christian Haitian directly at one point. So I tracked down where the “home base” of the 351Droid team might be, so to speak, and was directed to Retro Handhelds.

Becoming Part of the RH Family

Once there I never did get the inverted stick issue fixed. I went on the podcast to ask Thor about the continuing development of the firmware and was given a somewhat enigmatic answer. However, the upside to this is that I discovered GOTM. This seemed like a good way to get me playing some retro games I’d never played or heard of, and seemed like a great way to make use of my 351MP.

I participated in a single GOTM, completing Sonic 3 for the Genesis, and actually won a Retroid Pocket 2 during the New Year’s Giveaway that year. With one point, I won! The rest is history, I got really involved in GOTM, which then evolved to be highly involved in the channel overall, which then led to me agreeing to maybe write a bit for the website, and boom like two years have gone by and I’m still doing this so I guess I did alright.

So now you guys know, whenever you make fun of me for nominating KotOR for the umpteenth time, that the only reason I even ever came to this Discord was in search of playing KotOR on a retro handheld. So uh, cut me a little slack, eh? I at least waited until, like, the Retroid Pocket 2+ was really popular to start nominating it, since 351Droid never fixed that stick issue.

There’s No Such Thing as “The One”

So that’s my story, how many first handhelds is that? GBC? PSP? RG351V? I’ve had tons of retro handhelds since then, admittedly too many. Always searching for “The One” that will convince me to stop, I’ve gone through several dozen retro handhelds. I’ve also collected a fairly sizeable corpo collection of blue handhelds as sort of a side project from this whole search for the perfect handheld.

Side project in question. It’s a bit of an illness.

Right now, besides my Steam Deck, my daily driver of choice is the RG35XX+. So… I guess I could have skipped all that headache, and all the hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars spent and just stuck with the 351V for the last two and a half years since it has fairly similar performance/system compatibility to the 35XX+. Lessons learned the hard way, hardly my first time with that and surely not my last.

Slightly more powerful and in a much smaller form factor. The benefit of almost three years of technological advances.

So that’s my long tale, I hope you were entertained. You know a little bit more about Raven now, unless you’ve secretly been stalking me for years in which case uh… hi? Please stop. Or at least introduce yourself. I’m ok with a stalker as long as the endgame isn’t to like murder me. Or lock me in a basement. There was already that nonsense with Stubbs locking me in a closet for a week, and I barely escaped that time. Anyway, take care of your handhelds, take care of yourselves, and stay hydrated. Party on, Wayne!

Purchase the RG35XX Plus from Amazon, or directly from the official Anbernic store.

What did you think of this article? Let us know in the comments below, and chat with us in 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.