Review: The Evercade Vs is a solid retro system but we’re not sure who it’s for

With each year that passes, the number of ways to play retro games continues to grow.

From the countless mini consoles now available, to more accurate FPGA hardware recreations, to retro compilations released on modern systems, anyone looking for a nostalgia kick these days is spoilt for choice.

The Evercade Vs is one of the latest challengers, and attempts to appeal more to those who don’t just like playing retro games, but can appreciate the joy in collecting them too.

The console was released late last year in Europe, but the US only just got it on February 25, so we decided to take a closer look at it now to see what state it’s in as it arrives in America.

The Evercade Vs is the console version of the original Evercade, a handheld device released back in May 2020. Like its portable predecessor, its main gimmick is the fact that it plays cartridges, much like the 8-bit and 16-bit systems of old.

Rather than supporting legacy NES, SNES or Mega Drive cartridges like some other retro devices do, the Evercade instead supports new, bespoke compilation cartridges made specifically for the system.

There are currently 28 of these cartridges, each of which is officially licensed and contains anything from 2 to 20 games.

If you’re committed (and rich) enough to buy every cartridge, you’ll end up with a library of 297 games mainly spanning the 20th century, covering numerous systems including Atari 2600, NES, SNES, Mega Drive and even PlayStation.

Although most of these cartridges were designed with the original handheld Evercade in mind, almost all of them work in the Evercade Vs too. The only carts that don’t are Namco Collection 1 and 2, which contain 22 games between them – the Vs won’t play these because Namco’s licence with Evercade only covers handheld systems.

Review: The Evercade Vs is a solid retro system but we’re not sure who it’s for
The Evercade Vs has two cartridge slots

What the Evercade Vs does boast, however, is its own range of cartridges that are Vs-only and don’t work on the handheld Evercade. There are four of these, each covering arcade games from specific publishers – Technos, Data East, Gaelco and Atari.

Emulation across all the cartridges is solid, with no real issues to report for the most part. There is one exception to this, and that’s the small handful of PAL exclusive games that are included on some cartridges.

List of Evercade cartridges

• Atari Collection 1 (20 games)
• Namco Museum Collection 1 (11 games)
• Data East Collection 1 (10 games)
• Interplay Collection 1 (6 games)
• Atari Collection 2 (20 games)
• Namco Museum Collection 2 (11 games)
• Interplay Collection 2 (6 games)
• Mega Cat Studios Collection 1 (10 games)
• Piko Interactive Collection 1 (20 games)
• Technos Collection 1 (8 games)
• Xeno Crisis & Tanglewood (2 games)
• The Oliver Twins Collection (11 games)
• Atari Lynx Collection 1 (17 games)
• Atari Lynx Collection 2 (8 games)
• Jaleco Collection 1 (10 games)
• Piko Interactive Collection 2 (13 games)
• Indie Heroes Collection 1 (14 games)
• Worms Collection 1 (3 games)
• Codemasters Collection 1 (17 games)
• Mega Cat Studios Collection 2 (8 games)
• Intellivision Collection 1 (12 games)
• The Bitmap Brothers Collection 1 (5 games)
• Renovation Collection 1 (12 games)
• Gremlin Collection 1 (6 games)
• Morphcat Games Collection 1 (3 games)
• Intellivision Collection 2 (12 games)
• Technos Arcade 1 (8 games)
• Data East Arcade 1 (10 games)
• Gaelco Arcade 1 (6 games)
• Atari Arcade 1 (13 games)

Because the Evercade Vs appears to run at 60Hz, the PAL-only games exhibit some serious juddering. The main example of this is Sensible Soccer in the Codemasters Collection cartridge.

This is based on Sensible Soccer: International Edition, which was only released on the Mega Drive in Europe. As such, every time the screen scrolls – which is all the time, and quickly, in a game like this – the scrolling is horrendously juddery.

This is very much the exception rather than the rule, however, and every game that was natively a 60Hz title (almost all of them) runs as well as you could expect from an emulator-powered system.

The hardware itself has a retro feel to it: its cartridge slots are covered by a flap clearly inspired by the NES, while the controllers look like a hybrid of those on the NES and SNES (and are perfectly comfortable to use).

The console has a pair of cartridge slots, meaning players can insert two at the same time and their libraries will both appear on the system’s front-end – a nice enough touch, if a tad superfluous.

There are also four controller ports, even though very few of the games currently available for it support four players. Still, this makes it future-proof should some of the arcade cartridges in the future start including more four-player titles (beat ‘em ups, mainly).

Review: The Evercade Vs is a solid retro system but we’re not sure who it’s for
Super Skidmarks is one of the few games that currently supports four players

Screen filter options are fairly basic but they get the job done. Players can choose between Pixel Perfect (integer scaling which is most accurate but leaves a border), Original Ratio (which stretches to the top but keeps the aspect ratio correct) and Full Screen (which stretches the entire image out to widescreen).

As well as this, there are two scanline options and some optional borders, and that’s about it.

The other main benefit of the Evercade Vs – albeit one that’s common in many other emulators – is the ability to create save and load states, meaning you can quicksave before a tricky moment and load it up again if you mess up.

Save states are saved onto the cartridge, not the hardware, meaning if you have both an Evercade Vs and the handheld Evercade you can save your state on one and continue your game on the other.

The console isn’t without its issues. Try as we might, we simply couldn’t connect the thing to our Wi-Fi router, meaning we couldn’t download any firmware updates.

The build quality is also quite underwhelming. The console is exceptionally light, to the extent that it feels cheaply made, and that feeling of cheapness extends to the fact that the box only includes a single micro USB power cable.

You don’t get a power adaptor with it – though this isn’t uncommon for devices that are USB-powered – but you also don’t get an HDMI cable, meaning you need to buy one if you don’t have one lying around. Considering it’s essential to actually play it, this isn’t really acceptable.

The main issue with the Evercade Vs is that it only really appeals to a very particular niche and is unlikely to ever see mass appeal as a result.

“The main issue with the Evercade Vs is that it only really appeals to a very particular niche and is unlikely to ever see mass appeal as a result.”

The Vs comes in two versions – £89 / $99 for the console with one controller and one cartridge, or £109 / $129 for the console, two controllers and two cartridges – and extra cartridges are $20 each.

At that price it’s not really an impulse purchase, and anyone looking to build a reasonable library of games will quickly see the total cost rising.

Certainly, anyone with only a passing interest in retro gaming will likely be more satisfied with one of the many officially licensed mini systems out there – the NES, SNES, Mega Drive / Genesis, TurboGrafx, PlayStation and C64 all have their own tiny tributes and most of them have expertly curated libraries.

Meanwhile, those who sit on the other end of the spectrum and consider themselves serious about retro games will likely already have their own opinions about the authenticity of playing on emulators rather than authentic (or FPGA) hardware, and many will already be too busy collecting actual retro games to take on something else to collect.

Ultimately, the Evercade Vs sits in its own middle ground where it’s seemingly aimed at players who care enough about retro games that they’ll happily spend money on them instead of just downloading ROMs off the internet, but aren’t so die-hard that they insist on playing and collecting on original hardware.

What it does is perfectly acceptable, but it exists in a world where old-school video game fans have countless options available to them. Of all the retro products out there, this is neither the best or worst of them – it’s simply one of them.

The Evercade Vs is available now from £89.99 / $99.99 / €99.99.