If you've read my previous work or listened to my podcast, then you know that I am a big-time supporter of emulation-based consoles. I'm not saying piracy is OK, but to enjoy and discover new games from your childhood is a wonderful experience.
Now, like most of you when I was a kid, I had a Game Boy Color, then a GBA, and eventually a DS, before entering adulthood. The problem with the first two consoles is that they did not have a backlit screen, and you had to carry around a bunch of cartridges with you.
When I was in my early 20s, I discovered flash cards, and my outlook on handheld gaming was changed. Suddenly I had the whole Game Boy library in the palm of my hands, and it was great. Then I got out of gaming and focused on a career until 2018.
When my wife got me the SNES Classic Mini for Christmas, it was something I was not expecting. Suddenly, Sony was suddenly releasing these retro-inspired mini-consoles, Sega put one out, and there was even a mini Commodore 64. I had to have them all, and just like that, I was hooked on gaming again.
Then I got the chance of a lifetime when I applied to write for a Medium publication known as SUPERJUMP Magazine. All of a sudden, I was able to write about the games I loved, and I started getting more and more into the scene when I discovered these emulation-based handhelds.
It started with the Bittboy, a tiny Game Boy clone that could play everything up to PS1! This device caught my attention for sure, and then there were new handhelds coming out almost every month, it seemed. Another new device, the PocketGo S30, hit the market and it could not be ignored.
The PocketGo S30 was designed to look like a SNES controller, and it could play everything up to some Dreamcast games. I have had this device for two years, and I still play it daily. Then last month, I saw the Anbernic RG353P, a much larger SNES-controller-themed handheld device.
Now at first, you might think this is a welcomed upgrade, but I will tell you why the PocketGo S30 is still superior, even if it is harder to come by nowadays. In my opinion, Anbernic has gone downhill since the release of the original RG350 handheld.
The revisions of the original Anbernic handheld have been questionable, and the RG353P seems like a rehash of the already existing technology. By comparison, the PocketGo S30 was completely unique at the time.
What I Like About The PocketGo S30
First off, the PocketGo S30 is a superb handheld console. I can put this in the pocket of my tightest jeans and take it comfortably anywhere. The battery life is also great, as you'll get at least six hours on a charge even if you are non-stop playing a graphically intense game like Crash Bandicoot.
If you are emulating simple consoles like the NES or the Game Boy, you will get even longer battery life. The PocketGo S30 can play everything up to the Dreamcast, and there have been many custom firmware editions designed by the community that take the console even further.
I have switched my PocketGo over to the Simple30 firmware released by Retro Game Corps, and it completely changed how my console operated. It can now even run N64 titles, thanks to those guys. The PocketGo S30 is also durable, and the joystick is the same model you'll find on your Nintendo Switch.
When I think of a handheld game system, I want something that is truly able to be held in your hands. That has been my main gripe with the Steam Deck. Sure, it's portable enough to chill on your couch and play, but you won't throw it in your pocket and hit the road with it. But the S30 absolutely nails the critical issue of sizing, not too big and not too small.
The Anbernic RG353P
First off, the Anbernic RG353P is a clone of the PocketGo S30's design in every aspect down to the packaging. The box that the S30 comes in is black and purple, and the box in which the RG353P comes is black and purple. There is no surprise here, as both devices were copied from a simple 8-Bit-Do design anyway.
There are a few advantages to the RG353P, which I will illustrate. The device has wireless connectivity, and there is a native Android operating system, so you can download and play mobile titles on the device. This is a major advantage over the PocketGo S30, which does not have wireless connectivity.
Aside from that, the device is much larger, and there are dual analog sticks instead of just one like on the PocketGo. All-in-all, the buttons are roughly the same size, and the screen has a widescreen presentation, which I enjoyed more than than the 3:1 aspect ratio of the PocketGo.
Even though the Anbernic RG353P is being marketed as an entirely new device, the internals still use yesteryear's technology. You won't be able to run anything above the Dreamcast on this device, which doesn't make much difference when you consider the PocketGo S30 is far more portable.
The RG353P is a large device, and you won't carry it comfortably in your pocket. Honestly, I have been a fan of the Anbernic products that came before, but I think the RG353P is just a cash grab. They are releasing a new handheld every few months with few or no real updates.
The Emulation Handheld Market Is Flooded
Between Anbernic, Bittboy, and Pow Kiddy, there are so many options coming onto the handheld emulation-console market. It's amazing to me that even a few years ago, we weren't able to enjoy portable gaming anywhere near how we can today. Depending on your tastes, there is a device for almost every appetite.
If you just want to relive your Game Boy, there is probably a device that will handle that and do it well. But with all these new devices flooding the market, it's easy to get swept up in the hype. The Anbernic RG353P is a barely updated version of the handhelds that Anbernic is already selling. Sure, you get SNES styling in a handheld, but for a few more hundred you could get the Steam Deck.
The PocketGo S30 is the perfect combination of size, performance, and functionality. I have mine packed to the gills with over 100,000 games that I can take anywhere. I've enjoyed almost the entire GBA library at this point, and I don't see the point of spending more on the RG353P. I think Anbernic needs to go back to the drawing board and come back with something original.
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