There’s a sort of retrogame fatigue that can sink in with both dedicated handhelds and digital re-releases. After all, it’s usually the same games again. As good as the games may be, why do you need to buy them again?
But then there’s the Evercade.
After a launch lineup that threw a few bones to traditionalists (like Namco Museum), the platform’s release schedule has been a lot less normal. It makes sense! Huge companies will do their own thing, or likely ask for higher licensing fees than the niche platform from Blaze Entertainment can justify. So leaning into the weird? It’s both a smart business plan and a more compelling sell.
Take the two latest cartridges: Jaleco Collection 1 and Piko Collection 2. You may have played a few games on these? Maybe? But probably not in a while. They’re “classics” in the chronological sense, but no one’s naming these to all-time lists. That’s… what’s cool about them, though.
The Jaleco Collection 1 Evercade cart is definitely, the safer, more traditionally “fun” of the two. Maybe you’ve played Earth Defense Force (unrelated to the new franchise) or Bases Loaded! Or Astyanax or City Connection! Even the less common games, like Rival Turf! and Super Goal! 2, follow the game conventions of the time.
If you missed them in that era, there’s almost a Retro Game Challenge quality: they’re not the games you played, but they’re like the games you played. And they serve the same role now that they did then. You’ve played Streets of Rage, but have you played these two games designed for people who like Streets of Rage? Do you like Contra and Castlevania? Here’s another thing you might dig!
The gem in Jaleco Collection 1 is a game that’s gotten a bit more attention in recent years: The Ignition Factor. The top-down firefighting adventure is contemplative but tense in a way that is more associated with modern indies than retrogames. It’s also available on Nintendo Switch Online these days, but Evercade’s a totally solid way to play. (And soon, it’ll also offer both home console and handheld play.)
Taking the meter from “just a bit off-center” to “off the scale entirely” is Piko Collection 2. Piko’s known for rescuing games from obscurity, and the sports-focused pack here is a real reclamation project. After all, old sports games? If they’re not NBA Jam or Tecmo Bowl, no one expects a re-release. Yet here they are.
This cartridge bundles together some small-team European releases, some once-endorsed mid-major games and a couple of real oddballs. If you’ve heard of one of these, it’s likely Shut Up and Jam, a basketball game that originally starred Charles Barkley. Both the original and its sequel are here, stripped of Sir Charles’ likeness. Instead, you have “Joe Hoops,” and the same face, likely a stock photo, covers up every spot a licensed face once appeared. It makes a weird game weirder, honestly! And if that sort of spectacle sounds interesting to you, you’re the target market for this bundle.
The Piko cart also stretches the hardware capabilities to new platforms. There’s a polygonal PS1 game in here! And a GBA racer! We saw some cool Lynx emulation last year that really fits the handheld well, but seeing more is nice. These particular entries, Football Madness and Racing Fever, maybe aren’t the most efficiently-coded games, so it’s hard to judge how well the Evercade truly runs them.
Our favorite in this cart? Soccer Kid. Because it’s weird! It’s a platformer that has you kicking a soccer ball to perform actions. It can be a bit finicky at times, and I bet players at the time might have found it a bit disappointing and frustrating. But these days, in a compilation like this? You can focus on the good parts and move on, and it welcomes that context.
This weirdness is a good look for Evercade. And it’s not just these two cartridges! Last year saw the release of The Oliver Twins Collection, a bundle of games, mostly starring anthropomorphic egg Dizzy, that have an intense following in the UK and basically nowhere else. And these are the NES ports! The UK was kind of an esoteric computer game haven, and those originals had a reach that these later adaptations didn’t. But that makes them weird and interesting.
There are also new-retro Evercade releases, like Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood, that put modern games in their intended context. Not just next to all-stars like Mario! These games are fun regardless, but you can appreciate them more when they’re next to the sorts of stuff they’d actually find neighboring them in a game store of the time.
Evercade cartridges, including Jaleco Collection 1 and Piko Collection 2, are available now at various online retailers. More releases, and the Evercade VS TV-based machine, are on the way later this year.