Game

Review: A500 Mini – A New Alternative to the NES and SNES Classic Editions

A500 Mini
Image: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

When you’re discussing the history of video games, it’s usually the memories that will be dominated by consoles like the NES, SNES, Mega Drive/Genesis, N64, GameCube, etc – but those old enough to live through the 80s will remember that for a while, home computers like the C64, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, and Commodore Amiga were a perfectly legal way to play games outside of the arcade.

It fits, therefore, with the recent explosion of interest in plug-and-play ‘micro-panels’ like Classic NES and Sega Mega Drive Mini we saw some new things on the humble micro home; British company Retro Games Ltd. has been produced a miniaturized version of C64and how it goes back to a pint-sized facsimile of the Amiga – a platform that, at least in Europe, was hugely popular in the late 80s and early 90s.

Like the aforementioned NES Classic Edition, the A500 Mini (due to complex legal issues surrounding ownership of the Commodore trademark, that name does not appear anywhere on the device or packaging) uses Available modern parts and software simulation to recreate the classic platform. The device is several times smaller than the real deal, with some compromises; such as that miniature keyboard is purely for display and does not actually work. However, it do provide a number of creature comforts that the original system could not match in its unmodified form; has HDMI out and supports USB devices (so you can use a USB keyboard if you want, but the on-screen pop-up keyboard works fine). All in all, the A500 Mini is easily on par with the SNES Classic and PC Engine Mini when it comes to pure product design; even the red and green LEDs light up to indicate drive access and power on, just like the real thing.

The A500 Mini comes with a keyboard and mouse, the two main forms of input when it comes to Amiga software. The controller is based on the controller that shipped with the ill-fated Amiga CD32 – a noble and authentic choice, given the system’s provenance, but not the controller we mean special. wise. Controller, while trivial better than the original CD32, which is still quite poor, with the D-Pad proving particularly problematic, especially when you’re aiming for diagonal input. There doesn’t seem to be any way to use a third-party USB controller (the PS Classic keyboard causes the UI to glitch, while the Retro-Bit Sega 6-button USB controller doesn’t register at all). ), but that may change with a future firmware update (the stick comes with the C64 Mini do work, we said). For now, you’re stuck with a spacer just about work, but it could be much better.

The mouse is more successful; it is based on the two-button ‘tank’ mouse that originally came with the Amiga but has been upgraded to have optical technology instead of the trackball used in the original. It should be noted that this is not the most comfortable mouse in the world, but if you owned an Amiga at the time, you will feel it’s correct. You can use any USB mouse if you prefer something different.

The A500 Mini has 25 games, many of which are sure to be on your average fan’s ‘must have’ list. Speedball II, Zool, The Sentinel, Simon the Sorcerer, Stunt Car Racer, Another World, Super Cars II, Worms, Alien Breed, The Chaos Engine… these are really classic titles, some of which were so popular in the 90s that they were later ported to consoles like the SNES and Mega Drive. In fact, we reckon what’s included here is as solid a selection of games as you could hope for, as keeping track of IP owners for many of Amiga’s best titles should be a task. pretty strict nowadays.

The good news is that if your favorite game doesn’t cut for any reason, you can simply load it with a USB stick. The A500 Mini supports the ‘WHDLoad’ system which allows Amiga games to be packaged in a single file (you see many games transferred on multiple floppy disks) and loaded with ease. This means you can fill a USB stick with all of your favorite Amiga titles (including CD32 and CDTV releases) and run them on the A500 Mini without issue.

The A500 Mini's user interface is clear and functional, even if it lacks the vibrancy of other micro-panel menus.
The A500 Mini’s user interface is clear and functional, even if it lacks the vibrancy of other micro-panel menus. (Image: Retro Games Ltd.)

The A500 Mini uses pretty much the same user interface as the C64 Mini and supports elements like save states (four states per game) and CRT screen filters – the latter being one of the best. which we have seen on one of these devices. Emulation is excellent (A1200 games are also supported, the latter benefiting from the platform’s ‘Advanced Graphics Architecture’), although an anomaly the Amiga is more popular in Europe than it is. US is that most games are designed to run at the slower 50hz TV standard, rather than 60hz, which is what US TVs use.

Micro console like Classic SNES, Neo Geo Mini and even Egret II Mini offers a very Japanese perspective on the game, so it’s great to see a Western system get the same treatment – and it’s also interesting to see some of the game’s most famous attributes in their original form. , before being ported to the Japanese game console era. The Amiga may not be a “traditional” game console and its focus was never 100% on the game, but its legacy is remarkable – brands like Worms and Speedball have found saw their commercial foothold on the platform and exist to this day.

It’s therefore an attractive device for anyone even remotely interested in tracking the evolution of the gaming industry – and although its £120 price tag makes it more expensive than many competitors micro-console, but the ability to sideload games is very welcome.

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Thanks to Koch Media and Retro Games Ltd. provided the equipment used in this review.

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