retroUSB is a company known largely for its collection of homebrew NES carts and USB adapters for various gaming controllers. The company is now adding to their portfolio with the upcoming release of the AVS, a new console that will support NES and Famicom cartridges.
The console is made of brand new hardware, and does not use original NES parts, the intention that the AVS will remain more future-proofed than keeping the original console alive. It will output at 720p through HDMI and includes four controller inputs. It has both front and top loading cartridge slots, and supports not only the aforementioned cartridges but accessories for both original consoles as well, including the Famicom Disk System. It is fully upgradable via USB ports and uses USB to power the console.
Preorders for the console are open now at the company’s website, which can be placed at $185. retroUSB is estimating that the consoles will begin shipping in middle to late September. Inside the box, you’ll find the console, a full color manual, a six-foot HDMI cable, a six-foot USB mini cable, and a USB mini power supply.
Nintendo has just announced the NES Classic Edition, which comes in at one-third of the cost of the AVS and includes thirty games, at $59.99. This answer will work for those who want a low-cost entry into retro gaming, as the console also features HDMI output and replicates the original console in its design. We’ve learned that it will feature save states and a pixel-perfect mode with its emulation as well.
About a year ago, Analogue Interactive released a console on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Analogue NT. Coming in at $499.99, the NT supports everything that a console recreation can. Using original NES hardware, the NT outputs natively to RGB, Component, S-Video, and Composite; and can output to HDMI with a separate upgrade. This console allows for pixel perfect output and too supports both NES and Famicom through two top-loading slots, as well as other peripherals and expansions via an expansion port.
The AVS, outputting only through HDMI cannot support the likes of the light-gun, as the NT can with the proper television support. Yet the AVS provides a perfect in-between to the high-end (and currently sold out) Analogue NT and the plug and play NES Classic Edition.
When the Analogue NT was released, it was something I was considering purchasing as a way to rebuild my NES collection and have it playable in a contemporary world. However, the price tag was way too steep. The NES Classic Edition provides an inexpensive solution to this problem, but does not allow for the use of cartridges and there is no sign of being able to upgrade the catalogue after purchase.
We live in a world where emulation is alive and well, and only a few clicks away. In an official format, Nintendo has answered the question of “What about my old games?” with the Virtual Console. The issue we run into with emulation is two-fold. Either we’re pirating the games and playing them in a way that never feels quite right, or we’re locked into a library of games that can never compare to the original console and again feels off when compared to our memories.
As someone who has danced with the idea of going all in for some years now, buying a CRT television and the rest of my childhood in cartridge form, the new AVS provides a moderately priced solution to the modern era. With support for original controllers, you get the feel that you remember, and with HDMI output you aren’t relegated to antiquated forms of display that are ready to fail at any moment. Additionally, I can buy the Famicom versions of my favorite NES games to see how they differ, or games that were never released in America.
The AVS intrigues me as an avid fan of the NES, but further as someone who cares about preservation and the history of video games. Low cost hardware such as this that can provide the experience of the original consoles while opening up the possibilities of them for today should be the way that we start to look at preservation. Although many of us still own our original consoles, and there are plenty floating around that we can still purchase, they weren’t intended to last this long and as previously mentioned, require a lot of upkeep to use them today.
I would love to live in a world where hardware like this continues to release for every generation of hardware. Something like this that would allow us to play both SNES and Super Famicom games, or a PlayStation that allowed us to play games from multiple regions. Even better, imagine a Game Boy Advance styled handheld that carried support for all Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games from every region.
Emulation is not going away, but it would be great if companies began to treat those platforms as more of a way to preserve the history of the game, rather than the game itself. I’d love to see more of a Criterion approach to platforms like Virtual Console, that included scans of the boxes, manuals, and images of the original cartridges. Until those dreams come true, we have to rely on ourselves to take care of it, as Jeremy Parish has been doing with Game Boy World. Or we have to continue to purchase the original games and materials for our own collections and use them in something like the AVS.
Learning about this console has me excited for the future of the past, and the potential of where we can go with hardware like this.