Hello again friends, and welcome to the inaugural entry into a new written series presented by Retro Handhelds and written by me, RocketMan. I will be your host, leading you on a journey; a quest if you will, to find the device best suited to play a particular game in the best way possible! I will try to determine which one has the right aspect ratio, the right controls, the right form factor, the right power and more in order to play your chosen game at the optimal level. For the sake of this series, we will be ignoring original hardware as the obvious choice for many games. Also, I will only be judging the devices with which I have personal experience, so that may be the reason a particular something has been left off the list. Whether it is a vertical device from Anbernic, an Android machine from Retroid, or even a powerhouse device from AyaNeo, I will help answer this question for you: “What plays it best?”
So, you are looking to fire up a game on one of your retro handhelds. Where exactly do you turn? Which little machine do you reach for? There is a plethora of options of course, however for the sake of brevity, I certainly will not be listing ALL of them. So during this series, we will focus on a top 3, and then choose one of those as the Top Choice for the chosen game. Ready to find out which handheld to use? Alright, let’s dig in.
Today we focus on my favorite game – yep, favorite – Pokémon Crystal, and it comes to us from the GBC, which is also my favorite handheld of all time. While there are numerous devices that can easily play a game with such a low power demand, I stuck to ones that are all vertical to match the nostalgia of playing Crystal when I was young. The three I have chosen are:
1. The Miyoo Mini is an obvious choice for a GBC game like Crystal. The screen is gorgeous, the buttons work well, and the form factor is spot on. While the sound will be coming from only a mono speaker, that actually fits well with the original hardware, and makes the game sound as it would have when you were a kid. A 4:3 aspect ratio is not perfect for the 10:9 content of GB games, but Crystal still fills the screen well and looks crisp and bright. The CFW options (OnionOS, MiniUI) for the OG Mini are excellent as well, making loading/playing/saving the game a snap. With extra shoulder/face buttons, setting hotkeys for quick saving and loading adds to the ease of access (and allows you to save before using your last pokeball on that Suicune). Shaders and filters are also available, making the visual experience customizable and even more of a treat than it already is. The device is also VERY pocketable, making it perfect for on-the-go gaming, but the small size can indeed cause a bit of cramping, especially in those with larger hands. Overall, the Miyoo Mini is an excellent choice for Crystal.
2. The Anbernic 35xx is one of those devices that can really nail the 16-bit and under gaming scene. Being a bit bigger than the Mini, it is comfortable to hold and yet still quite portable. The screen is huge for something of its size, and it makes reading text much more manageable other similar devices, something very easy to appreciate when playing a text heavy game like this one. The aspect ratio is 4:3 once again, so no perfect match, but the screen is bright and crisp just like the one on our first contender. The buttons work well enough, and feel great, in typical Anbernic fashion. CFW is also out for the 35xx in the form of GarlicOS, and it is a game changer to the overall experience. The save state/shaders/fast-forward options really make the game play exactly how you want it to. The battery lasts long enough for a few good sessions of play, and the sound mirrors that of the Mini. The 35xx is a solid choice for GBC play.
3. The RetroPixel Pocket. This one is a bit of a curveball, I know, but what really sealed the deal for choosing it was the aspect ratio: it IS a nearly perfect 1:1! And on top of that, it is an absolutely gorgeous 3” panel that is just a joy to look at. Add that to the fact that the form factor is literally modeled after the GBP, and bang, you have yourself a formidable Crystal-playing device. Yeah, the buttons are a bit iffy until you “break them in,” and the battery does not last as long as the usual Android device, but the nostalgia vs. modern conveniences ratio is spot on. Navigating Android without a touchscreen is a bit of a chore, sure, but if you already have the device set up, playing a GBC game on it is a no-brainer. No CFW exists for it yet, but the stock experience is acceptable. The overall feel of the device is just…amazing for the game. The screen is the star without a doubt, but the form factor is also delectable.
So, which one of the 3 do I think is the best for playing Crystal? I have found myself always gravitating toward one of them whether on purpose or subconsciously, and every time I use it, I enjoy it. It’s small, it’s light, and it is my Top Choice for Pokémon Crystal: the Miyoo Mini! If you have one, now is your chance to get the best experience with my favorite game. And if you don’t have one…well that may be an issue, as the company did stop producing them. But you may be able to find one secondhand, or you can always choose its bigger twin, the Miyoo Mini+. Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoyed this week’s What Plays It Best, and we will see you soon!