Reviews

Is the RetroN Sq better than a Game Boy?

A software update ironed out some of the initial issues. So is Hyperkin's RetroN Sq Game Boy console now worth it?

Alejandro Medellin/Input

The RetroN Sq is a tiny cube-shaped console made by Hyperkin, a company known for making retro consoles. The console can play Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance Games scaled up to 720p on your TV. For anyone with old GB cartridges, this sounds like a dream come true.

Alejandro Medellin / Input

$75

The RetroN Sq was announced in February and released on March 25.

Alejandro Medellin / Input

However, weeks before the launch, YouTuber MetalJesusRocks reviewed a unit. He found many issues such as incorrect aspect ratios, slow framerates, and overall bad performance with GBA games, which was a feature in beta. It was clear the RetroN Sq was half-baked. Like many, I immediately canceled my pre-order.

MetalJesusRocks

Hyperkin responds

After the review, Hyperkin promised a day zero patch that would fix many of the issues brought up. Unfortunately, the first patch didn’t fix them. That would come months later. In the meantime, users figured out how to get into the system menu with a keyboard to fix the framerate and even load ROMs, but it wasn’t exactly the perfect solution.

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Finally, on May 13, patch V.1.2 was released with fixes for two things: the framerate and aspect ratio for GBA games.

Hyperkin

I’ve tested the unit and, after downloading the latest update, have played Advance Wars 2, Pokémon Ruby, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2, and Game Boy games such as Tetris, Link’s Awakening DX and Pokémon Red. The bundled controller is a nice addition with a great D-pad.

Alejandro Medellin / Input
GBA games on your TV in their correct 3:2 aspect ratio.

Now that GBA games are displayed in their native 3:2 aspect ratio, they look crisp and clear on my 4K TV. The 720p upscaling does wonders with 16-bit graphics, bringing my favorite handheld games to life. The pixelated text can sometimes be hard to read, though.

Alejandro Medellin / Input

Longer RPGs such as Golden Sun, Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Advance Wars are much better when played on the TV, where you can kick back on the couch for hours. For those who grew up with the original GBA, not having to worry about battery life or moving around to see the screen better is a game-changer.

Alejandro Medellin / Input

Some pain points

Even with the update, the RetroN Sq isn’t perfect. Loading times are long. It sometimes feels like nothing is happening, but then it eventually loads. The console also is quick to reject cartridges with dirty pins, so you’ll need some alcohol and cotton swabs to get them working.

Alejandro Medellin / Input

Hot swapping cartridges is possible, but stay away from it. After popping my Pokémon Red copy in and out a couple of times to get it working, I noticed my save file was completely wiped. It was a brand new save, so I didn’t lose any progress, but still, it’s better to shut off the console first before swapping carts.

Alejandro Medellin / Input

Unlike the Analogue Pocket, which uses FPGA hardware emulation that interacts directly with the cartridge, the RetroN Sq uses software emulation, which downloads the game ROM to emulate it from the onboard storage. It’s why the console takes so long to boot games.

Alejandro Medellin / Input

Flash carts such as the EZ Flash Omega or the EverDrive X5 Mini, which can store many games, are not supported. However, the RetroN Sq does run bootleg games. I was able to play a fake copy of Pokémon Emerald.

Alejandro Medellin / Input

If you have a collection of Game Boy cartridges, the RetroN Sq is worth considering. But with Game Boy and Game Boy Advance game prices so high these days, if you just want emulation, you should look elsewhere. A Raspberry Pi running Retro Pi, for example, uses software emulation and offers more control and access to different gaming platforms at roughly the same price point.

Alejandro Medellin/Input

Though I’ve enjoyed the console, I can’t help but feel like it could have been much more, especially after finding out about Epilogue’s GB operator, which we reviewed and really liked.

For $50, the GB Operator loads games much quicker and backs up your saves or entire game ROMs. In comparison, the RetroN Sq feels like a cheap way to make a quick buck by leaning on Nintendo nostalgia, delivering an experience far from anything Nintendo would ever put out.

Epilogue

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