While this latter cohort is mainly focused on the Mega Man series, right down to the famously awful “realistic” US cover art for the games being used to highlight them in the library view, arguably the best inclusion is the first Breath of Fire game, Capcom’s brilliant but long-overlooked fantasy RPG series. That’s dozens of hours of classic turn-based combat and story-driven gameplay alone.
The EXP also comes with a cartridge containing six games from Japanese developer Irem. Somewhat ironically, given the TATE mode is the hardware’s big new feature, none of the games here—Moon Patrol, 10-Yard Fight, Battle Chopper, In the Hunt, the legendary horizontal sci-fi shooter R-Type, and Lightning Swords, a samurai game getting its first official non-arcade release—make use of it. Still, it’s a great little collection, with Battle Chopper, In the Hunt, and R-Type in particular more than standing the test of time.
Unlike the previous model, the EXP also features built-in Wi-Fi, but don’t expect online two-player arcade experiences. It mainly seems to be in place to allow future firmware updates to be pushed out with ease. That said, there’s a tantalizing library of “hidden” games to be unlocked somehow, and a massive “coming soon” window on the EXP’s home screen, so more online functionality could be added later.
Oddly, though, when setting the console up, the EXP only seemed to recognise 2G Wi-Fi networks, but nothing about the console so far has demanded speedy downloads, so 5G compatibility is so far a negligible omission.
Dated or Retro?
However, while the Evercade EXP’s innards get some noteworthy improvements, its outer shell and ports leave quite a bit to be desired. Blaze has abandoned the not-so-subtly NES inspired white-and-red aesthetic for a sleek all-white (or all-black, in the case of the limited edition model) chassis. One suspects it’s an attempt to make the EXP seem more upmarket than its predecessor, but sadly it falls flat. The plastic feels cheap to the touch, with the underside of the console having a rough texture that’s very slightly unpleasant to hold. Pedants—including me—may also grumble over less-than-perfect hole mapping, with the bright LED status indicator and the mini-HDMI or headphone ports not sitting entirely flush to the casing.
Let’s talk about those two ports in particular. The mini-HDMI means the Evercade EXP can still be connected to a TV or monitor, but it doesn’t come with the necessary cable. Chances are, you have a half-dozen or more HDMI cables from other devices, but less likely to have a mini-HDMI to HDMI one laying around. It’s an inconvenience to have to buy a specific, dedicated cable. If you do hook the EXP up to a bigger screen, the console outputs at a max resolution of 720p—not terrible, especially given the age of the games being played, but it would have been nice to have 1080p at least.
Similarly, while we can’t fault having a 3.5-mm jack for headphones, the lack of Bluetooth compatibility for wireless audio doesn’t feel retro, it feels dated. Still, sound is punchy on the whole, with the EXP able to push the chiptune soundtracks of yesteryear out of decent if not wholly impressive in-built speakers. Some serviceable earbuds will offer a substantially better auditory experience, though.