2012 Retro Handheld Roundup

By March 20, 2012

This year will see at least two new gaming portables hitting the market with the GameGadget and SNK’s slick NEOGEO handheld. With mobile gaming running rampant on smartphones everywhere, and so many officially licensed portable systems already available, will smaller name handhelds like these have a chance?

The GameGadget is due out at the end of this month and is, according to the device’s website, “the first game console to be developed in the UK for almost 20 years.” Its creators have extremely high expectations for the launch of their new product, saying that they want the handheld to be the “iPod of video games.” The device will allow users to buy retro titles from the company’s own game store that will be introduced alongside the handheld when it launches in the UK on March 30th. British publication MCV declared the device one of the top three essential gaming accessories of 2012, alongside the Nintendo 3DS and Sony’s freshly-launched PlayStation Vita.

Side by side picture of NEOGEO X and the GameGadget

Another handheld will come out sometime in the second quarter of this year from Japanese developer SNK, called the NEOGEO X. The device has been long rumored and often dismissed due to speculations that the case design was too similar-looking to an iPhone 4. SNK recently confirmed they plan to release a portable NEOGEO console in a press release that revealed they’ve partnered with BLAZE, the same company behind the GameGadget. The handheld will have 20 built-in retro titles including classics like The King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, and Metal Slug. In addition to the selection of SNK titles, the system will support SD card expansion, though its unclear whether or not it will allow access to other titles through the storage.

Both devices face a great deal of opposition not only from other handhelds already on the market, but from a wide range of customizable emulation-based devices like the Dingoo, which comes with a NEOGEO emulator built-in from the start. Devices like these are more likely to attract retro gamers on the go because of the freedom their software allows, not to mention how freely available classic titles are on the internet, the same titles BLAZE and SNK are hoping gamers will pay for on top of purchasing their devices.

Between smartphones and fancier handhelds from bigger companies, in the end it’s hard to say how well either of these new devices will fare when they hit the market this year. I’m guessing it’s not likely either will be as successful as their creators have hoped, but we’ll see as the year goes on if there are enough passionate and legally-conscious retro gamers around to support the development of devices like these.

Corey Cummings

Corey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he received degrees in English and Creative Writing. He currently lives in Chicago and enjoys alternately obsessing over video games that aren't out yet and crazy gadgets he can't afford.