|Retro FC Plus 168-in-1
Find it on: AliExpress, Amazon
There’s an adjective that I keep using to describe the Retro FC Plus 168-in-1: Adequate. As in, the 3-inch LCD screen is not well lit, but is adequate. The form factor is not compact, but is adequately portable. The game play is not revolutionary, but performs with adequasivity (not a word!).
For starters, with dimensions of 3 inches wide by 4.5 long and .7 inches deep, and at around a quarter pound, this isn’t something you can just throw into your pocket casually on the way out the door with your keys and your wallet. This is something you take for a special occasion (a long train ride or flight) or put in a backpack, but isn’t likely to be part of your daily repertoire. The form factor, which of course resembles a Nintendo Gameboy, isn’t the cheapest grade of plastic available, but is barely the next rung up. It’s not something you’d proudly display to a fellow retro gamer. Similarly, the buttons have a standard clickiness to them and get the job done, but you’d never mistake this for anything premium.
When you turn on the Retro FC Plus, the 3-inch LCD screen lights up enough where you can navigate through the menus without straining your eyes, but it’s really missing that next-level brightness to it that would improve the experience. The unit does come with a 850mAh battery, which advertises at 6-hours of gameplay, though I didn’t push the limits on that. This isn’t really the type of unit you’d play for six consecutive hours, anyway.
The SoC attached to this is similar to most retro handhelds in this price range. You have an option of English or Chinese with the theme to Mighty Final Fight playing in the background. Technically, the unit does have 168 games to play, which all work, but many of these games are strange knockoffs and mods of other games. In all, you probably have around 25 actual retro games, which includes the usual suspects of Contra, Double Dragon, Super Mario Bros, Adventure Island, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and 1942. As for the weird mods, there’s a Pikachu-Mario hybrid, Angry Birds and Plants and Zombies, all of which you’ll spend about two minutes playing before exiting back to more familiar territory.
On the games that are recognizable, the colors are washed, likely to skirt copyright rules. The screen is also stretched to the incorrect ratio, flattening and distorting the image, which is an obvious drawback, but to be expected on a handheld of this price range. You’ll also want to keep the sound low as the mono speaker scratches at higher volumes and several of the games have distorted music. There’s no save states or SD card slots on this, but again you can’t expect that feature if you’re paying $15-20.
The Retro FC Plus isn’t meant to be your primary retro handheld. There aren’t enough true ports on in the 168 games in the library, and even the ones that are recognizable are really only playable for 30 minutes at a time, tops. This is a fun gift to give to a friend, or maybe something you keep in your carry-on to pass time on a long flight. But that’s the most you’ll get for your $20 here. It’s probably better to wait for a more portable form factor, or a version with an SoC loaded with more games to increase the amount you’ll use it. Or better yet, pony up the extra $20 or so to get a handheld that has save states and can load ROMs on an SD card. If this unit was around $10, I’d be raving about it, but instead, it is only notable for its adaquataquaticism (still not a word!).