There’s no shortage of third-party retro gaming consoles promising all sorts of advantages over their proprietary predecessors, but the RetroBlox wants to be the biggest and most comprehensive of them to date.
Unlike the RetroN or Game Freak, the RetroBlox will have an optical drive to support discs from both the PS1 and Sega CD in addition to cartridges and Turbo Chips. The console is also supposed to support online, connectivity, a modern user interface, and a “hybrid emulation” mode that will allow it to play games whose cartridges have special graphics chips embedded in them, like the original Star Fox. RetroBlox, Inc., the company behind the console, has even gone so far as to claim that it will have “full hardware compatibility with every game” in a player’s library of old games.
At launch, the RetroBlox will support games from consoles like the NES, SNES, Genesis, Atari 2600, and TurboGrafx-16, while the optical drive module to follow will add support for the PlayStation, Sega CD, and PC-Engine CDs. Because of the modular design, the company intends to keep updating the console with support for more formats down the line.
More importantly, the creators claim the RetroBlox will be able to save local copies of game ROMs directly to the console, putting less wear and tear on people’s game collections and also making it easier to swap between them on the fly. The company states,
“You will not be able to simply load up an SD card full of roms, plug it in and suddenly have a huge library available as we do not support or advocate for piracy, no matter how ubiquitous it has become. However, in the interest of minimizing the use of and further preserving classic games, RetroBlox does allow you to back up the games you personally own on physical cartridges or discs to the system in an iPod / iTunes type relationship.”
The ability to store all of the games digitally and access them through what appears to be a sleek, no frills UI is probably the consoles most appealing feature. That and the capability of streaming games in 1080p to Twitch. Developers will also be able to sell their own games on the platform, but it’s not really clear how that would work at this point. In effect then, the RetroBlox will be a third-party virtual console that will help people store their video game collections digitally.
Of course, there are other ways of doing that, and no shortage of devices to emulate roms you can find all across the Internet on, but there’s always room at the table for one than do all of those things legally and more easily, with a UI that doesn’t feel like it’s from the late 90s. The PlayStation’s library of RPGs was rivaled only by the SNES, and it would be great to finally have a box that could fuse both of those worlds together. It’s something that’s not lost on RetroBlox, Inc. whose website includes shots of the discs for Parasite Eve and Xenogears alongside the cartridges for Final Fantasy II (i.e. IV) and Secret of Mana.
RetroBlox, Inc. hasn’t put a price tag on its console yet, and while the folks there promise it won’t cost as much as a Nintendo Switch ($300), the different modules and Bluetooth controllers could start adding up fast. There’s no release date for it yet either, although the company says it’s targeting April for a Kickstarter campaign and hopes to bring the RetroBlox to market no more than ten months it concludes (so probably some time early next year).
Meanwhile, you can watch a demo of the console from when it was shown off at last weekend’s Retro Gaming Expo in Southern California.