Famiclones

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Thad
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Famiclones

Postby Thad » Tue Jul 19, 2016 11:50 am

So I assume by now everybody's heard of the NES Classic Edition, Nintendo's upcoming $60 emulation box that comes preloaded with 30 games.

I expressed some disappointment in the comments section that Nintendo opted to go the emulation route, because Sega's plug-n-play Genesis is an actual Genesis that you can plug cartridges into (EDIT: apparently I am mistaken about this; you can plug cartridges into it but it is actually a shitty emulator), and because it's doubtful Nintendo's emulator will be any better than the wealth of NES emulation options I've already got on a computer hooked up to my TV. (In other words, I'm not the audience for this thing. Which is not to say I don't think it's a cool thing! I might get one for my nephew! But not for me.) I'd really like to be able to play NES on my TV with a decent-looking upscaler, but options like the Analogue NT and the Framemeister are too rich for my blood.

So somebody else turned me on to the upcoming RetroUSB AVS, which I hadn't heard of previously.

Rather than being a software emulator (like the RetroN or the NES CE), a SoC (like the Generation NEX or any number of other clones), or salvaged parts from old Nintendo consoles and cabinets (like the Analogue NT), it's FPGA-based. In other words, it's hardware emulation.

RetroUSB has a pretty good reputation, and this looks pretty solid. They're claiming it'll have 100% hardware compatibility with an authentic NES. While that remains to be seen, it definitely runs Castlevania 3. And even if it turns out there are games it doesn't run, that should be fixable with a firmware update.

It's going to run $185 and output at 720p. I'm going to wait for reviews but it sounds pretty good; a reasonable intermediate step between the cheap options and the expensive ones.

As for my actual NES, and the rest of my old consoles, I've got an old CRT TV with component inputs, but it's got a blown capacitor and doesn't display the top of the picture. My father-in-law knows how to fix it but hasn't gotten around to it yet; he lives in California and, while he visits a handful of times a year, I hate to keep bugging him about it. So I'm looking to see if there's anywhere I can take it to get it fixed; so far all the TV repair shops I've found don't work on tubes anymore.

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Re: Famiclones

Postby Thad » Sat Jul 23, 2016 1:02 am

Some videos of the AVS playing games that other clones can't play:





Audio seems close but a little off to me -- not the tones, but the mix. Better than other Famiclones, anyway.



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Re: Famiclones

Postby Thad » Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:16 am

The AVS is available for preorder.

I'm going to wait and see what Parish says about it; he's already confirmed he'll be reviewing it. And I trust him to give a detailed rundown of how accurate the thing really is.

Not like that fucker who tricked me into buying a Generation NEX.

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Re: Famiclones

Postby Thad » Mon Aug 22, 2016 11:52 am

And now there's a new Analogue Nt coming. This one's FPGA-based, too, rather than using original Nintendo parts like the last-gen model did, and its big claim to fame is that it outputs both analog and digital video.

But it's $450, so while it's a solid price drop from the previous model, it's not really a direct competitor to the AVS.

Speaking of which, Jeremy also notes that he'll have a review of the AVS up later this week, and summarizes the choice as "I feel like you can't go wrong either way, honestly."

Hm. Wonder if they're still taking preorders for the AVS.

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Re: Famiclones

Postby Thad » Wed Aug 24, 2016 12:30 am

First review I've seen:



He seems to like it.

I just ordered a new computer to build a fileserver out of, so I should probably check the ol' budget. But I am definitely seriously considering it at this point.

Wonder if the battery still works in my copy of Crysalis.

ETA: I'd also probably want to get an 8bitdo controller adapter. And as I was looking that up, I noticed that oh shit, there's one for the SNES now too.

I bought an 8bitdo SNES-style controller a little while ago; I haven't spent much quality time with it yet but I've been pretty impressed so far. There are lots of controllers that look like the real thing but don't feel like it; this one is damn solid.

I wish they'd make a good Genesis-style controller with 6 face buttons, for fighting games and suchlike. If they put a stick on it, it'd be good for N64 too.

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Re: Famiclones

Postby Rico » Wed Aug 24, 2016 1:41 am

That side-by-side of Castlevania 3 at the end looks really impressive. I'm still leaning heavily towards just putting a Pi together given the price differentials, but now I'm wistfully looking at the big stack of NES cartridges across the room from me.

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Re: Famiclones

Postby Thad » Wed Aug 24, 2016 10:23 am

I've already got a PC hooked up to my TV. And if I wanted to fuck around (read: set up Windows 10 and all my programs all over again) I could upgrade that PC to something stronger than a 2009-era Pentium with a GTX560 I bought used at Bookman's, instead of spending that money on a machine that only plays Nintendo games.

But eh. That PC has made a shockingly good gaming rig over the years considering its specs, and I've always dug dedicated hardware. I certainly wouldn't recommend a $185 NES reproduction for most people, and I wouldn't have considered it for myself six months ago. But I'm not planning on getting an Xbox One or a PS4, either, so as console budgets go this isn't bad.

(Might still get a Wii U. I figure I'll wait until the NX announcement and see if that drops prices any.

In fact I've still got a used Wii I bought back in July and haven't set up yet, because the prospect of setting up all my downloaded games to run from a backup sure doesn't sound like much fun. I'd like to be able to play them; I just wish I could skip to the part where I'm actually doing it instead of worrying about IOS and shit.)

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Re: Famiclones

Postby Thad » Fri Aug 26, 2016 12:46 am

Parish's review is up. tl;dr it's not perfect but it's pretty damn good.

This bit jumped out at me:

That said, the AVS's forced 720p output can cause scanlines to appear to be spaced unevenly when upscaled to 1080p on certain televisions. I have two different sizes of the same Sony LED television model in my office (for work) and our living room (for entertainment); while the AVS's scanlines look fine on the larger (48") living room set, they look bunched up and uneven on the smaller (40") office television. It seems to be an all or nothing proposition.


It was accompanied by this video:



So I decided to watch that video on fullscreen on my 1080p TV. (As opposed to my 1440p monitor, which presumably would not have any uneven scaling issues.) The uneven scanlines are noticeable at times, but not very; it looks pretty fantastic.

Payday tomorrow. I'll look over my bills but I'm definitely leaning "buy" right now.

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Re: Famiclones

Postby Thad » Fri Aug 26, 2016 10:49 am

If you really want to dive into the weeds, there's the FDSStick, which you can load FDS images from. (You still need an FDS RAM cart.)

There's a thread over at Atari Age which notes that the EverDrive supports FDS ROMs too, but some posters say that its FDS audio is slightly off.

I might look into PowerPak/EverDrive -- in for a penny, in for a pound...

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Re: Famiclones

Postby Thad » Sat Aug 27, 2016 7:37 pm

Went ahead and ordered the AVS and one of 8bitdo's Bluetooth adapters.

Considering an EverDrive but want to make sure all the features work on the AVS first. Thinking specifically of the FDS audio. Which should work even if the cart's an NES form factor since it's all going to the same place eventually, but I should probably make sure before I spend the money.

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Re: Famiclones

Postby Thad » Sun Aug 28, 2016 2:26 pm

Off-topic but topic-adjacent: the Open-Source Scan Converter looks pretty boss. It's a lower-cost, more game-focused alternative to the Framemeister, and converts RGB, component, or VGA signals to digital (DVI or HDMI). You can buy a DIY kit for 35GBP (and international shipping, at least to my address, is a very reasonable 9GBP, putting the total under $60 at current exchange rates, or about 16% of what a Framemeister is currently going for on Amazon), but you have to buy additional components and do some soldering, which sounds pretty daunting, all things considered. But that's the only way to get it as of right now; pre-built units aren't currently available, presumably because they're being built by one guy.

I think I'll wait for a pre-built unit; there's a mailing list you can sign up for to be notified when they're available.

Of course, if I DO get one of the things, it then raises the relevant question of where I'm going to put all my shit. I've already got a PS2, a PSTV, a Wii (actually two of them since I'm in the process of trying to move my stuff off one and onto the other), and an Xbox 360 all hooked up to my TV and have an AVS preordered; I can't very well fit an SNES and Genesis with Sega CD in there too. (First World Problems)

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Re: Famiclones

Postby Thad » Sun Sep 18, 2016 12:17 pm

The AVS arrived yesterday. Sounds fantastic, and looks great on most games with the scanlines turned on. (There are some slight but noticeable upscaling issues in Mario 3 that I'm looking into.)

We had my nephew over last night, which put a bit of a crimp in my efforts to calibrate the video, because he is smarter than I am and thinks it's better to spend your time actually playing video games instead of just spending a bunch of time setting them up and then not getting around to playing them.

He was really excited to play Mario 2 and 3, which warmed my cockles. He's got NSMB2 on his 2DS, so he knows basic play mechanics and is getting better but he couldn't grok Mario 2's "pick up guys and throw them at each other" play style at all, and while he got through the first level of Mario 3 okay, he hasn't worked out the fine jump controls enough to get past the part on 1-2 where you jump on top of a single block and then from there onto a goomba pipe. Still, he's better than I was at that age, and I appreciate his enthusiasm. I think I probably will get him that Mini NES for Christmas.

(I also showed him the original TMNT, but mostly as a cautionary tale. I asked if it was okay for me to stop before I got to the bomb defusion section.)

I bought an 8bitdo Retro Receiver and SNES30 pad, which worked great for me but was confusing for him; he kept using the A button to jump (which is mapped to turbo, or, in Mario 3, useless little hops that don't do anything). Next time I think I should try pairing a Wii remote to it.

No Everdrive yet, and the tracking number they gave me for it seems to have only been for Ukraine; it was put into the international post on the 13th and there haven't been any updates since. I hope it's not one of those things where they won't deliver it if nobody's home.

(ETA: I looked over the forums and discovered that you can put the same tracking number into the USPS site as the Ukraine site. My Everdrive is currently in Flushing, NY. And the "delivery instructions" section doesn't appear, so I guess that means there's no "make sure somebody's home" requirement.)

Once that comes, I'll get to play mods! And translations! And games I can't afford!

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Re: Famiclones

Postby Thad » Sat Sep 24, 2016 7:34 pm

Adding: I think the graphical issue I'm seeing on Mario 3 that looks like banding caused by scaling the scanlines is actually ghosting caused by my plasma TV.

There's also some shimmer, but so far it's entirely isolated to one spot near the end of 1-1 and I'm not sure why it's happening. I suspect it's probably the same thing.

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