Retro-Bit RetroPort “NES-to-SNES” Cartridge Adapter
Pros: Affordability. Compactness. Convenience. This adapter works “satisfactorily” (i.e., at least “tolerably” decently, and often “satisifyingly” decently) with most NES games.
Cons: Via this adapter, the video and/or audio quality of some (a fairly small minority of) games isn’t acceptable. [Moreover, according to several customer reviewers elsewhere, there are certain game titles (not in my collection) that are entirely or virtually nonfunctional via this adapter.] Also note that the AV signals aren’t conducted via your SNES console’s own cabling but via a separate (included) AV cable that must likewise connect with your TV’s ordinary composite (“RCA”) video and audio input jacks [but RadioShack or other vendors stock affordable AV switchboxes to make achieving this easy and convenient].
According to Wikipedia, “in 2009 the Nintendo Entertainment System [a.k.a. NES] was named the single greatest video game console in history by IGN out of a field of 25….” Though more than a few of today’s gamers might warmly dispute that ranking, there’s no denying that the “NES” [whose earliest incarnation had been introduced in mid-1983 in Japan as the “Family Computer” or “Famicom”] almost single-handedly resurrected the popularity of video gaming in America in 1985 and ‘86. Moreover, not only do many of today’s veteran gamers still fondly recall playing NES games in their heyday, but also there are presumably more than a few of today’s youngsters who could relish some of the 800-plus NES-compatible titles that have been released.
However, unearthing an original (well-nigh 30-year-old) NES console – perchance via eBay – could prove problematic. Reportedly, many extant specimens of that venerable “side-loading” system have cartridge slots that are no longer reliably functional.
By contrast, many surviving specimens of the NES’s top-loading successor – the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (a.k.a. SNES), which was introduced in 1991, remain in reliably usable condition. And I presume that this is especially true for the downsized Model SNS-101 (a.k.a. “mini”) SNES version, which was marketed during the final three years of the ‘90s. This brings me to the primary subject of this review:
The Retro-Bit RetroPort “NES-to-SNES” Cartridge Adapter
I sold my original NES console in 2003, and I don’t miss it. But I do still have my original “mini” SNES console; and there’s a select number of NES game titles – some of which remain “exclusives” – that I’d long wished were compatible with my SNES system. Therefore, when I recently discovered that this Retro-Bit adapter was available via Amazon.com for only $19.79, I promptly placed an order.
The thin-cardboard product box contained two pieces: the above-pictured adapter itself (which, per my hands-on inspection, weighs 2.7 ounces and measures about 2 & 7/8 by 5 by 13/16 inches); and an approximately 58-inch-long AV cable (to connect the adapter to your TV’s ordinary “RCA” audio and video inputs).
I was slightly surprised that no “instruction manual” booklet was enclosed (perchance this omission was merely an aberration with my particular specimen); but, heck, such instructions are scarcely needed. For, assuming you’re already aware of the need to keep your SNES console turned OFF whenever inserting/removing a cartridge, all you need to do is plug the single “minijack” end of the AV cable into the pertinent port on the RetroPort adapter’s left edge, and then connect the opposite, “three-pronged” end (yellow, red and white “RCA” plugs) to your TV’s corresponding (composite) video and audio jacks. Of course, you also need to plug the RetroPort adapter’s cartridge-like bottom into the cartridge slot of your SNES console. Finally, you’ll plug an original NES cartridge into the top (slot) of the RetroPort adapter. And then turn on your console.
Fortunately, I’ve found that the fit of this RetroPort adapter’s “bottom” or “top” isn’t worrisomely “tight.“ In other words, I find it easy to plug this adapter into my SNES console’s cartridge slot; and it was likewise easy to plug the typical NES cartridge into this adapter’s own, upper slot. Similarly [especially in contrast with my Hyperkin “Retron 5” console’s sometimes “viselike” NES slot], it was easy enough to remove this RetroPort adapter from the SNES console’s slot; and it was likewise reasonably easy to remove a NES cartridge from this adapter’s own pertinent slot.
This adapter draws its electrical power through your SNES console; moreover, your console’s connected hand controller is what you’ll use to play NES games. Otherwise, though, you can think of this “RetroPort” device as being equivalent to a miniaturized NES console; accordingly, its audio and video signals are conducted via its own (included) AV cable, not your SNES console’s AV cable. Therefore (in lieu of continually unplugging my nearby PlayStation 2 console’s RCA jacks from my old two-way AV switchbox), I recently replaced that former switchbox with a new RadioShack four-way switchbox, such that I can keep the Retro-Bit adapter’s dedicated cable conveniently “permanently” connected and selectable via a designated button on the switchbox.
So, just how satisfactorily does this adapter actually work? Well, the results are mixed with the following 14 NES game cartridges that I tested with this adapter (in conjunction with my 2010 Samsung LCD TV): Kirby’s Adventure; Sky Shark; Jackal; Abadox; Adventures of Lolo; Blaster Master; Commando; Dr. Mario; Kid Icarus; Life Force; Pinball Quest; Star Soldier; The Lone Ranger; and Xexyz.
Let’s first get the bad news out of the way. Three of my 14 NES game cartridges exhibited video and/or audio characteristics that – to my fairly tolerant sensibilities – were unacceptable. Those pertinent titles were: Kirby’s Adventure; Sky Shark; and Jackal. With Kirby’s Adventure and Jackal, the somewhat darker-than-usual video looked at least “borderline tolerable,” but the audio sounded badly “clipped” and muted. With Sky Shark the audio was all right, but the video’s intricate, scrolling backgrounds exhibited an extremely annoying degree of “flickering.” [Note: None of those aberrations occur when I play those same cartridges through my aforementioned Retron 5 console’s own “NES” slot. Indeed, via the latter console all 14 of my NES game cartridges play with remarkably high video and audio quality.]
That said, my 11 other NES game cartridges – via this RetroPort adapter – play at least tolerably well; in several instances the audio is fine but the aforementioned video-background “flickering” effect occurs – but in a more subdued (at least tolerable) degree. And in all other instances, not only the audio but also the video are essentially “normal,” i.e., comparable to (or perhaps even better than) what you’d expect from a still-functional vintage NES console played through a very good CRT television.
Even so, this low-cost RetroPort adapter isn’t in the same proverbial “league” as Hyperkin’s multifaceted “Retron 5” console, which incorporates (among its various cartridge slots) an “NES” slot and provides first-rate, high-definition video and audio quality. [In fact , the enhanced audio and the “HDMI-only, 720p-upscaled” video of the Retron 5 are so superior to what this RetroPort can muster that there’s really “no comparison”!] However, I’d be remiss not to report (based on not only my hands-on experience but also numerous reviews from kindred owners] that that Hyperkin console entails its own set of likewise “more or less tolerable” shortcomings, including: a tendency for its NES slot to feel inordinately “tight” whenever you remove a cartridge; and a tendency for one or more of its NES slot’s many metal “pins” to remain conspicuously bent upward or outward (out of normal alignment) after a modicum of usage. Hence there’s a “long-term-durability” or “build” concern with that Hyperkin console that (at least so far) doesn’t appear to be present with this RetroPort’s analogous cartridge slot’s construction. [Thus, with either product – for different reasons – it’s basically a case of “caveat emptor.”]
Bottom line, I view my specimen of this “RetroPort” as chiefly an auxiliary (i.e. “emergency-backup”) device that could be resorted to in the event that my largely superior Retron 5 console were to cease functioning in “NES” mode.