MyArcade Retro Champ review: Holding the title

MyArcade's Retro Champ portable console lets players take their NES and Famicom games just about anywhere, but might have missed the mark with a few design features.

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MyArcade is probably best known for their line of miniature desktop arcade cabinets and pocket-sized portable handhelds that feature a healthy line-up of classic titles. Now the company is branching out and expanding their line of products to include portable retro consoles. The Retro Champ is the first such product to come to market and lets gamers enjoy their favorite NES and Famicom classics anywhere they want. I had a chance to step into the ring with the Retro Champ ahead of its launch to see if it lived up to its name. It’s not the first portable retro game player to hit store shelves, but it is definitely a creature all of its own for better or for worse.

Retro on the go

The Retro Champ allows gamers to take their NES and Famicom games on the road.
The Retro Champ allows gamers to take their NES and Famicom games on the road.

While most portable game players, including MyArcade’s own Pocket Players, tend to be short and wide rectangles in design the retro champ is more square shaped. It features a seven-inch screen that can play games in a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio at the flick of a switch. The back of the Champ features concave curves above the grip area so your index fingers have room to rest.

Beyond that, there’s your standard power and volume buttons, a headphone jack, and an HDMI out for connecting the Retro Champ to a TV. It also features built-in support for up to two of MyArcade’s Super GamePad wireless controllers without need for dongles and a kickstand on the back to prop up the console on a table while using them. The battery life when playing is about 5 hours, but the console holds its charge when not in use for a remarkably long time.

The Retro Champ is set up to load NES games at the top and Famicom titles in the bottom and comes with a NES cart-shaped tool to help get Famicom games out if the get stuck by pushing down on them from the NES slot.

One of the more unique features of the Retro Champ is a built-in cleaning kit with everything you need to get a game working without the need to blow on a cartridge. I would however note that you’ll probably want to take the vial of cleaning solution out before trying to board an airplane just to avoid any hold-ups at security.

Bouts and doubts

The Retro Champ has a few unique features, such as the built-in cleaning kit.
The Retro Champ has a few unique features, such as the built-in cleaning kit.

I tried several games out when putting the Retro Champ through the ropes including Adventure Island, Rollerball, Cobra Command, and Castlevania and I experienced no problems whatsoever when it came to functionality. Everything looked crisp in both aspect ratios both on the handheld console itself and my 55-inch HDTV, and the controls worked perfectly. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get my hand on any Famicom carts to test them out, but I did try out an after-market bootleg NES game that ran with no problems. The wireless Super GamePad controllers also worked without an issue during my runthrough.

While the technical aspects and features are excellent, I feel like a lot of the design choices of the Retro Champ feel a bit mediocre. For example, it is really, really tough to get my NES carts out of the slot when I’m done playing and I don’t know why they didn’t just add an a spring-loaded eject button, especially since they have one to open up the cleaning kit already. I am just really worried that I’m gonna break a game one of these days if I’m not gentle enough when removing it.

While there are contours on the back to make the Retro Champ easier to hold it’s still made of hard plastic and some grips would’ve gone a long way to help avoid fatigue. I like that they have built-in functionality for their Super GamePad controllers, but I wish there were inputs for actual NES controllers or USB ports for third-party controllers.

TKO

While I did find some of the design choices a bit odd, I honestly really like what the Retro Champ has to offer. Some folks might think that its bulkier size would be off-putting but I often find myself squinting and holding things close to my face when using similar products like Hyperkin’s SupaBoy, but the larger screen on the Retro Champ was perfect for me and it fit in my chonky hands wonderfully. And if you’re hauling around a bunch of NES games on the go I doubt you’re too worried about space.

I do a lot of retro game shopping and the Retro Champ is a great way for me to test out random carts I find at flea markets, used game stores, and garage sales and make sure they work before I spend my hard-earned money on it.

While overall it does feel like there were some missteps, you can tell there was a lot of thought put into the design and features of the Retro Champ. And the price point of $79.99 is more than reasonable for what you’re getting. I would love to see a 2.0 version with spring-loaded cartridge ejection and a more ergonomic grip, but I’m more than happy to have this version of the Retro Champ in my corner in the meantime.


This review is based off a review unit and Super GamePads provided by the distributor. MyArcade's Retro Champ is now available online and at various retailers at an MSRP of $79.99. Be sure to visit the product's website for more information. 

Reviews Editor

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

Review for
Retro Champ
7
Pros
  • A nice, big screen
  • Hidden cleaning kit
  • Feels good in my hands
  • HDMI output
  • Worked with knock-off games
Cons
  • Hard to take carts out
  • Could use some ergonomic grips
  • Only works with MyArcade wireless controllers
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