Despite being around for years, roms and emulators have seen quite a revival recently. Many retro games reek of quality and have such a fun vibe to them that they attract gamers back to them like insects to streetlights. With the first games being created decades ago, gaming now has a history that can be tracked and nostalgic feelings are common and to be expected. Just as music and film have done for decades, gamers now yearn for past experiences – perhaps another signal that gaming is becoming an art form. Museums now even exist to celebrate gaming’s impact on culture.
Paid virtual console access to retro games or a quick torrent search are able to reveal a horde of choices, depending on which side of the law you prefer to fall on, and have added fuel to the retro gaming scene even causing the rebirth of some series such as Sonic. It feels odd referring to Sonic as a retro title as it gives the impression that it would be on the oldies radio station as the franchise is not even 20 years old but in terms of console generations the Sega Genesis is somewhat of an old-timer. Modern computers are able to emulate nearly every console system and two of the most popular, the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis, have recently become even easier to work with.
The Retrode is a rectangular object about the size of your hand with a USB connection. It has two slots, for both SNES and Sega cartridges, and it allows you to either play your games instantly or to copy them to your computer in rom form. The process is extremely simple. The unit can be purchased for as much as $100 and while this may be more expensive than buying a used console, the ability to rip roms to a hard drive makes it attractive.
Clearly the Retrode will be used for both legal and illegal purposes no matter what it is advertised for. On the legal side, the owner of original cartridges will either use it as a replacement for their lost or damaged system or to backup their games in case they are damaged in the future. On the not so legal side, they will copy games that do not belong to them and potentially distribute them online. Games such as the relatively newly released Pier Solar or Beggar Prince on the Sega Genesis would be made easily available to the small developers’ chagrin.
As a Sega Genesis enthusiast, I would hate to lose my collection but this is inevitable as they will deteriorate eventually. This makes the Retrode a useful tool for enthusiasts but it would make the more rare titles a lot more likely to be downloaded. I always wondered if ripping cartridge based games was a difficult task and indeed it is not. Above all though, this little piece of hardware is very interesting and perhaps it is just the beginning of what we will see in the way of hardware for backing up your own games. For most people though, retro gaming is a short-lived activity and just downloading roms as desired from torrents will suffice.