Hope everyone had a good Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Yule, Festivus, Saturnalia, Sega Saturnalia, or whatever you celebrate at the end of the year. And regardless of what you celebrate, I hope you got some gaming goodies! My super rad wife got me a Raspberry Pi kit, and I’m gonna share my experience with it thus far.
I’m all about playing on original hardware. But let’s face it, the price on Crisis Force is rising, and I no longer have my JAMMA cabinet, so yeah, I use emulators. And the Raspberry Pi and RetroPie thing looked way too good not to check out, so here we are at this blog post.
I got the full kit which included everything needed to start making Pi. Prices fluctuated around Christmas, ranging from 75 to 90 bucks (the Pi all by itself sells for only about $35). I won’t give the full rundown here, but I think it’s worth getting a kit to make sure you don’t miss anything. Now, I’m not much of a computer geek. I can use them and solve a problem occasionally, but I’m not what you’d call an advanced user, so when I heard that RetroPie was “easy” to set up, I wasn’t sure if that meant easy for me or easy for Steve Wozniak.
But all I did was follow the video tutorial at RetroPie.co.uk (it’s for an earlier version than the current one, but it still works the same), and I was up and running in probably less than 30 minutes.
Now, I will say that not everything works on the first try. RetroPie includes multiple emulators for each platform, and sometimes the roms you have may work better with some than others. Fortunately, the video addresses that and tells you about the necessary tinkering you may have to try. Again, coming from me, it’s not too difficult and it is kind of fun figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
On the hardware side, you can use any USB controller, and output is via HDMI or 3.5mm composite (like a camcorder), so you can use your HDTV or any old TV with the yellow/red/white A/V inputs. I’m currently using an Xbox 360 wired pad and HDMI, but I’d like to play around with some USB adapters on it to see if I can use SNES pads, the NES Advantage, or one of my arcade sticks for PlayStation or Dreamcast, and I’ll try hooking it up to my old tate-mode TV for some of those shmups and golden-age classics (and I will probably write again about my further adventures).
I think you can customize the interface graphics and frontend too, which is something I’ll probably look into. Real mad scientists can use this thing to make arcade cabinets, bartops, and handhelds. I think that’s one of the coolest uses of the Pi, but I’m not to that level yet.
Games-wise, I’ll be honest here and tell you that I use emulation mostly to play things I normally can’t access, as I mentioned above — Japanese games, rare titles, fan translations, arcade games. I’m not using this to play Super Mario 3. (Aside: Ya know, it was the same with Napster back when it started. I wasn’t downloading Metallica songs, I was using it to find out-of-print Japanese videogame soundtracks. I guarantee you nobody lost any sales due to my Napster use.)
I do worry a little that retro gaming has come to this. I don’t think this will kill the scene or anything, not any more than emulation already has for the past 20 years. I’d still rather play Crisis Force on my Famicom. But until I can afford that, RetroPie is a very fun and versatile supplement to my collection and I’m excited that it’s a thing!