The nigh-impossible-to-find NES Classic Edition has all but crowned Nintendo the thriving retro-gaming market’s undisputed king despite a ludicrous distribution strategy. Meanwhile, in the depths of Indiegogo, Doyodo’s RetroEngine Sigma rides some far more quietly made astounding promises of its own paired with a release model that’s downright baffling in its own right. We can’t quite tell if they mean to compete more urgently for superior throwback hardware or the least explicable planning.
To start off splitting hairs, we would refer to the RetroEngine Sigma as a miniature “console” with some reluctance. It could more accurately be explained as a mini-computer powered by four silicon cores and an Armbian OS with XFCE desktop optimized to power ROMs emulating 27 classic handheld and console platforms dating from Vectrex, Commodore, and MSX systems all the way up to the original PlayStation. Units will ship pre-loaded with 15 as-yet unannounced games, but the concept is focused on providing a palm-sized library for downloading whatever vintage emulators a nostalgic gamer’s heart could desire.
In a nutshell, it’s over two-dozen Halcyon video game experiences re-tailored with all the most appreciable modern conveniences seamlessly integrated. The device, which tells us what the offspring would resemble if a Cyberman were to mate with a Sega Genesis, connects via HDMI directly to any modern TV. Its front interface sports two user-programmable function buttons adaptable to whatever features might most frequently beckon for instant access. The two primary player ports will accept any USB controller, retro or modern. The rear Micro USB plug-in readily accommodates an added third controller, HUB, or Bluetooth dongle for added compatibility with a broader range of even more recent wireless controllers (the Dual Shock 3, for example) or even a smartphone.
Of course, like any modern gaming hardware, the RetroEngine Sigma doesn’t settle for just blistering thumbs. On the contrary, it also delivers the kind of “fake” 4K media experience offered by Amazon’s Fire TV 4K, per a Doyodo Team campaigner’s answer to a question on the Indiegogo page, and library management by Kodi. Setup requires WiFi access and a connected smartphone, tablet, or computer with a functional internet browser to commence its one-click installation. Once the hardware is ready to go, the system is also compatible via dongle with a wireless mouse and keyboard to convert it into an all-purpose computer that swaps in a TV of any size for a monitor. You can write a resume or kick back with a movie just as easily and conveniently as you can spend 12 straight hours playing the original “Wolfenstein” or “Doom” from the comfort of your couch or bed.
All of that would encompass the “good” news.
This is where everyone must take the drawbacks into consideration. First off, there’s the reason we hesitate to call this a “console”: setting aside everything else it is obviously powerful enough to handle, it is really just a pint-sized ROM nexus. We know people who achieve almost exactly the same functionality a reasonably recent laptop or mini-PC and an HDMI cable. That’s because, unlike the NES Classic or the shrunken plug-and-play Sega miniature consoles, it relies on unofficial, illegitimate emulators – which, for the record, are technically illegal. That isn’t to say that it fails to forego the tedious soft- and hardware configuration and setup that accompanies repurposing old consoles and bare-bones electronics. Far from it. Mission, accomplished.
All of that being said, it doesn’t exactly fly in the face of Nintendo’s scarcity-flogging approach to rolling out new products. Keep in mind, the RetroEngine Sigma’s Indiegogo campaign has a month remaining as of this writing and has already obliterated its original $20,000 goal by 1,844% to the tune of $368k raised by 4602 backers. Knowing that, it is stunning that Doyodo has no plans for a proper retail release. This is an Indiegogo-exclusive product.
Unfortunately, even backers of the highest tiers will have a wait on their hands. The first wave of hardware won’t ship until the second quarter of 2017. There is holiday hope, though: backers who buy in before Dec. 19 will receive an electronic “Christmas voucher” on Dec. 20 good for one of four packages.