The Egret II Mini occupies a strange position in the nostalgia hardware market. There’s the lower end, which we know well from Nintendo’s NES and SNES Classic systems. (As well as the more recent TurboGrafx-16 Mini and the still-running Evercade line.) These are for quick, casual dips into the old library, and focus on delivery quantity at an affordable price point. There’s also the high end! Looking to replicate the original experience as closely as possible, companies like Arcade1up are releasing full-on arcade cabinets at nearly the size of the originals.
So where does the Egret land? Its closest peer is the Astro City Mini, the little Sega cabinet that shares a lot of hardware similarities. But the Egret? It’s a little larger, a price bracket above (starting at $230 in the West), and built around a screen-rotating gimmick that’s hard to replicate.
Turning the screen is easy enough, and more robust and well-built than you might expect. You simply press in the screen piece, and it pops outward to rotate and push back into place. It’s a nice nod to the original Egret II, which became popular for its ease to convert to different screen orientations.
And it’s good for these old Taito games! Between the company’s early releases and later vertical scrolling shooters, there’s a lot in the library to play that way. Still, though, you’d probably also want Bubble Bobble in this thing. The OS is smart enough to detect the screen position and scale any game to fit either screen position, which is a handy touch. (But, you know, rotate the thing anyway. It’s sort of the point.)
As the biggest little arcade cabinet out there, the Egret II Mini does come close to acceptable controls size. Is it quite there? Nah, not for the larger hands of the typical Western adults who would be interested in a last-millennium nostalgia piece. The buttons are totally usable, though most of the games not using all six buttons does make us wonder if the aesthetics of keeping all of them there fight against the comfort that a more spread-out configuration could have offered.
Mostly, though, the trouble we had came from the joystick. It’s a very good one! And the built-in option to convert from 4-way to 8-way is a nice bonus. But it’s a little small, and it’s built close enough to the monitor portion that we’d hit our knuckles on the plastic from time to time.
Optional add-ons for the device offer a variety of add-on controllers, from traditional gamepads to full-scale arcade controls. (And even a trackball! That one comes with a batch of extra titles to support it.) They’re not cheap, but they’d likely solve these cramping issues. We didn’t have access to those for this review, though, so we can only judge the base unit. We reached out to the Egret’s Western distribution team that provided the unit for this review about compatibility with other controller options, but didn’t get an answer on that. In our testing, though, no common gamepads seemed to work.
The Egret II Mini also supports HDMI out, which could be useful for those multiplayer sessions or with those special controllers! We could really only test to see if it was functional with the base model, which… hey, it is! And it’s honestly a solid implementation. It handles plugging in a cable in the middle of play just fine, though you can also save your state if you need to relocate the thing for TV play. There are options to rotate the screen for full tate mode goodness, and there are even colorful themed bezels for each title.
Is there some weirdness along the way? Certainly. There’s an option in the menu for stretching the screen but maintaining the aspect ratio, and it’s called “wide.” The wallpapers include rounded corners that obscure a bit of gameplay sometimes. And while it holds up well, the interface definitely seems designed for a small screen and feels a bit stretched and fuzzy on higher-definition displays. (Of course, so does the Switch.)
The 40-game Egret II Mini lineup is nearly evenly split between horizontal and vertical releases. It starts with 1978’s Space Invaders, as you’d expect from a Taito device. It ends with a handful of Bubble Bobble and Puzzle Bobble releases from the mid-’90s. Obviously, a console built with vertical play in mind is a big draw for fans of shoot-’em-ups. You’ll find a lot of them here! The other main category? Classic arcade action, with games like Volfied and Rainbow Islands. There are a few outliers, like soccer title Hat Trick Hero and the 1980 licensed Lupin The Third game, but mostly the selection sticks to core Taito experiences. You can check out the full list of games at ININ’s site.
Two decades of releases lead to wildly different play experiences, of course, but the Egret hardware handles them all well. (We would suggest going into the menu and turning the filter setting to “on,” though, which strangely turns the filter off. That’ll mitigate some in-game delay issues, in addition to just looking a lot better.) The system’s software feature list doesn’t stop at filters and save states, though those are certainly nice. You can access each game’s dip switch settings, customizing them to your taste or matching the nostalgia for your local arcade manager’s particular whims.
The Western version of the cabinet, besides swapping button color from purple to blue, seems identical to the Japanese release. Games in our review unit still occasionally showed Japanese text, though most arcade games were at least half-English in that era anyway and playability wasn’t an issue. The selection menu has multiple language options, and works well.
Its cost will price it out of a lot of players’ range, but for those who want it? Taito’s Egret II Mini executes on what it promises to do fairly well. The screen rotation works. The device feels sturdy and secure. It’s a luxury item, for sure, but it could be a display centerpiece for dedicated Taito fans.
The Egret II Mini was developed and released by Taito, and distributed in the West by United Games Entertainment, ININ Games and Strictly Limited Games. It’s available in different configurations through Gamesrocket and Strictly Limited’s store.