Gaming continues to be a fast-evolving marvel in both technology and design, and yet it's hard not to ignore just how ridiculously overwhelming it can all be. From the busy release schedules to expensive home consoles, it's easy for even the most casual of gamers to feel inundated by all the noise.
The term "fear of missing out" (also known as "FOMO") is well-known to gamers. It's not necessarily the most healthy mindset to have in any context, but it's perhaps most problematic in the context of gaming, where it can foster an addictive compulsion to constantly jump to the latest game release. It's driven by the desire to participate in the zeitgeist - to be part of the hot (and current) conversation. This can lead to something of a rat race, and it's arguably compounded by the massive volume of gaming discourse taking place across multiple platforms (especially social media).
This isn't going to become one of those "back in my day" rants, so bear with me. To exemplify my earlier point about the rat race, let's look at Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which launched earlier in 2022. Towards the end of this same year, we're going to see a new pair of Pokémon games. It's a lot. And it feels like there's hardly any breathing room between major releases these days. Gaming has become a fast-moving medium and industry, and while many will thrive in this fast-moving rhythm, most of us will struggle with backlog anxiety to the point where we need a gaming schedule just to manage it.
I don't think this has much to do with age or having the time/money for the hobby, so much as it relates to the overall growth of the industry and its very high collective output. I do remember a time when game releases were more spread out through the year. And, in fact, many of us were quite content playing the same 5-6 cartridges across several years (usually renting the rest of our library through outlets like Blockbuster Video). Times have obviously changed, and the sheer convenience of digital storefronts means that it's easier than ever to spend hundreds of dollars on games routinely.
There's nothing wrong with having more choice of games to play, but I don't think gaming is something that should overwhelm us. It should be a relaxing hobby, not an all-consuming lifestyle.
Enter the Evercade
So, having felt overwhelmed (and disappointed) by next-gen gaming (combined with the PS5 simply being too expensive), I've decided to dig back into the past with the Evercade VS. Before I elaborate, let me just say that this little console has been a pleasant surprise, and has really helped me to reclaim my own personal enjoyment of the medium.
The Evercade was already a popular handheld for a few years now. The latest version, though, is a more traditional console that plugs into your TV. It supports up to four controllers and, uniquely, can load two cartridges at once. The cartridges themselves come in a neat clamshell case with physical instruction manuals. They feel a bit like the old Mega Drive game cases. The releases tend to be labelled based on publisher branding, with each cartridge containing multiple curated games from a particular publisher. There are a range of iconic publishers here, too, including Namco, Atari, and even classics like The Bitmap Brothers. All releases are officially licensed, which gives the Evercade a sense of credibility and seriousness lacking in most retro consoles.
What's even cooler is that Evercade supports a number of games that were once rare and ridiculously expensive in their original forms. These games now have an official physical release, and are far more affordable to collect and experience as a result. In particular, an indie publisher called Piko Interactive picked up several out-of-print and unofficial games and packaged them up in one cartridge. This collection includes the oft-forgotten 3D open-world SNES RPG Drakkhen and its sequel Dragon View. Even better, this cartridge features several Taiwanese-developed Mega Drive games released in the late '90s (like Water Margin, Canon, and Brave Battle Saga). Evercade isn't just a way to re-experience well-known classics, it's also a great way to discover lost relics from yesteryear. This is a big plus for gaming preservation.
The console itself has a simple and sleek design, and the controllers echo gaming pad designs that were prominent throughout the early '90s. It all feels familiar and ergonomic. The build and feature quality is certainly nowhere near, say, a modern Xbox controller, but it is perfectly-suited to the retro gaming experiences on offer here. The controller feels good in terms of grip, and the layout and responsiveness of the buttons is solid. The craftsmanship of the console is top notch and unlike other premium consoles out there (I'm looking at you, Atari VCS), the Evercade VS is sensibly priced.
There are some concessions to the modern gaming landscape here, too. The latest system update includes a "Game of the Month" feature, which allows players to download a specific game for free. What's more, secret codes can be entered into the console's main menu to unlock extra games. There's a lot of added value here, in other words.
For those of you who got into gaming in the '90s, the Evercade VS is the ultimate love letter to the era while also feeling like a new console with its own identity. Die hard nostalgic gamers will certainly enjoy what the Evercade VS is offering, but there's potential here for an entirely new generation of gamers to discover some truly great experiences. The Evercade VS offers a unique value proposition: players can savour and cherish a select, carefully-curated library of games and enjoy them on their own terms, without being caught up by the whirlwind of modern releases and the (often exhausting) discourse that surrounds them.
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