After launching the successful console Retron 3 in 2010, Hyperkin developed a more travel friendly companion: The SupaBoy. They launched this portable Super Nintendo console exactly twenty years after the release of the Super Nintendo back in 1991. We grasped our hands around it and gave it a thorough look.
As a developer of video game peripherals, Hyperkin has certainly made a name for itself in the retro game community and continues to do so.
As you all may know, the SupaBoy is hardly a new handheld, but nonetheless we would like to pay a tribute to its upcoming second birthday. And what better way to say ‘Congratulations’ than to write a review about it.
For you few retro gamers out there who have no clue about what this portable console can do, let me sum it up for you. The SupaBoy plays most American NTSC Super Nintendo games, Japanese Super Famicom cartridges and some European PAL versions as well. Shaped as a SNES controller, it lets you play SNES games on its 3.5 inch screen. Although larger than the next-gen handhelds, like the PlayStation Vita or the Nintendo DS, it’s light and lies comfortably in your hands. This makes it easy to play games with.
A built-in rechargeable Li-Ion battery will let you play your old games for about two and a half hours. An AV out makes it possible to play on your TV, allowing you to connect original SNES controllers and take a friend for a stroll down memory lane.Only recently did I get my own copy of this handheld, and when opening the box for the first time the slogan “Play like it’s 1991” immediately put a smile on my face. It was clear to me that this product was made by people who enjoyed developing it.
The box comes with a mini USB AC adapter (meant for use with a US or Japanese power outlet), AV connection cables and a pocket pouch. Only thing needed is an electric power converter and a SNES game and we’re ready for lift off!
Once I dusted off my SNES game collection I made a selection of a few popular titles: Chrono Cross (NTSC), Super Metroid (NTSC), Street Fighter II Turbo (NTSC), Aladdin (PAL), Super Mario Bros. (PAL) and Super Mario Kart (PAL).
Starting off with Chrono Cross, the clock slowly ticking in the intro made my heart skip a beat. This game that I had played over and over again was about to be revived, looking more excellent than I remember with hardly any difference from playing it on the SNES, great graphics and I could easily have played this game for hours. This was a bit different when playing Street Fighter II Turbo.
The stereo sound on the internal speakers did not do this game enough justice, and even though the voices were never that clear coming from an average TV, with the SupaBoy it was hard to make out what was actually being said. I switched to headphones, only to find out that there was a constant high sound throughout the game which became more apparent during quiet scenes. Still it was a joy to play this game, the graphics looked great and with a little bit of practice on this big handheld I was able to have Ryu perform a ‘Hadouken’ like it was 1994. It was equally exciting to have Samus do her tricks in the Super Metroid classic. The sound was better with this game, but the two different headphones I tried gave me the same noise issue as before .
Playing with the SupaBoy does come with some instructions. Some games had to be re-launched multiple times, whenever using the reset button wasn’t sufficient. Furthermore there is no indication about how much battery power is left. When the battery is depleted it will display a blue screen when switching it on, and when the battery is near depletion the game will start to glitch a bit. You just have to know these signs to recognize them I suppose, and fortunately it also works on AC power. .
Though the SupaBoy is compatible with most SNES games, it won’t play every game you throw its way. This goes especially for PAL games, as Hyperkin also states on their website. Super Mario Bros. and Aladdin played perfectly once I got them to start, but Super Mario Kart had a bit more difficulty and glitched every few seconds. Unfortunately none of my three Super Mario All Stars cartridges seemed to work.
The SupaBoy was designed for US SNES and Japanese Super Famicom cartriges after all. These are not region locked, and both run at the same speed. The PAL processor is a bit slower causing problems with the AV output.
During my interview with David Yu, Marketing Director of Hyperkin, he explained that this year they will look into being more active on the European market. Perhaps in the near future they will develop consoles for PAL games as well, or do another revision of the SupaBoy that is more PAL friendly.
Overall the SupaBoy scores fairly good. It gives retro gamers a possibility to play their old SNES games, both on the road and on TV. Just like with the original Super Nintendo sometimes, games need to be reinserted a few times to get them to work. But once they do, it is stable and you can play for hours.
The sound isn’t as great as on a regular Super Nintendo, but I am certain that this won’t ruin your enjoyment of playing these games. The noise issue when using a headphone might bother you a bit more though.
Not all the games in your collection will work on the SupaBoy. As all other emulators, it’s nearly impossible to reach a full compatibility with all games. But concerning US and Japanese cartridges the SupaBoy exceeds most other clones out there, as it can play nearly all games of those regions.
It’s clear that it remains difficult to develop a perfect SNES portable console at an affordable price. We can’t expect a company like Hyperkin to match the production standards of a big corporation like Nintendo. They’ve done a good job and if you are a retro gamer that wants to revive his SNES collection, at a price of 79.99 US Dollars this handheld is definitely worth owning. Not as a replacement of your beloved Super Nintendo, but surely as an addition to it. If, however, PAL games are the only games you own, it might be wise to wait until the SupaBoy is adapted for the European market.