Our First Take: Retro-Bit Super Retro Boy

The Retro-Bit Super Retro Boy can play old Game Boy games, but it isn't the same

Following the crazy demand for Nintendo’s first-party retro gaming emulator, the NES Classic Edition, one might expect the market for retro consoles to explode. There’s already a wide range of unofficial emulator boxes — they pre-dated the NES Classic.

The Super Retro Boy, the next third-party retro-facing console from Retro-bit, takes a more interesting approach. Unlike the Classic, the Retro Boy can play Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Advance cartridges. Those consoles aren’t necessarily hard to find, but given that nearly all of them have some wear and tear, some players — especially those who weren’t playing games when these platforms were new — may prefer to buy something completely new.

Just like the old days?

The Super Retro Boy’s size and shape mimics the Game Boy Color. It’s small enough to put in your pocket, but large enough that the screen, buttons, and D-Pad are all full sized and feel properly spaced out. For many players who had these consoles, you can pick it up, and it will feel comfortable.

Unlike any Game Boy we’ve ever seen, the Super Retro Boy has four face buttons. The classic “A” and “B,” plus “L” and “R” buttons to mimic the shoulder buttons on the GBA. Given the tall rectangular format, putting the shoulder buttons where they are seems odd. Retro-Bit said the version we tested at CES 2017 is a prototype, and the company may move the shoulder buttons to the sides in the final version, which is expected to hit stores in August.

The Super Retro Boy also has a couple of modern tricks up its sleeve. Well, just one trick — a rechargeable battery that gets a reported 10 hours of battery life and supports micro-USB. The console will also come with a 10-in-1 multi-game cartridge, in case you’re starting a collection from scratch. We don’t know what games will be on it, but you can expect they’ll be relatively obscure.

We played a minute or two of F-Zero: Maximum Velocity on the Game Boy Advance, and scrolled through menus in a Yu Gi Oh trading card game. The screen looks sharp — Retro-Bit calls it an “HD” display, but has not released detailed information on the console’s specs.

It looks better than it plays, though. While responsive, the buttons and D-Pad felt a bit squishy. The D-Pad in particular felt like it may get stuck after a few months of heavy use. Otherwise, the build quality is solid.. I wouldn’t be worried about the case cracking or any of the other problems you may have to look out for in an old-school system.

There’s nothing as good as the original

Despite the modern conveniences, the Super Retro Boy cannot replace any of the original consoles, so long as you find one in good condition. Those consoles, particularly the Game Boy Advance SP, are all very well constructed and, more importantly, allow you to play their games as they were meant to be played.

That said, getting access to three new (old) consoles for $80 is a pretty good deal, and no one wants to carry around three devices when they could just hold onto just one. All things considered, it seems like a decent way to get the most out of games that would otherwise be sitting in a drawer somewhere.

Highs

  • Plays Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games
  • “HD” screen looks sharp
  • Great battery life

Lows

  • Squishy D-pad
  • Shoulder button placement may not work well in some games
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