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What the heck is on this $10 Retro Game handheld? Let’s find out!

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
I’m having that late-pandemic depression that’s going around and my wife says I need a project. (She’s probably right.) So, despite owning a RG350, a RG351, a 9X-S and a Retroid Pocket, I spent $10 on eBay (plus $6 shipping) for something billed as an “Anbernic Retro Game 500 in 1 8 Bit Classic Video Game Console Handheld Player.” And I’m going to explore the contents of it for your entertainment.


The box calls the device a RETRO FC Plus, and no brand name is anywhere to be seen.



I’m excited about the fact that it’s trendy.




This is the simplest form of retro handheld: It’s shaped like a Game Boy (though smaller and fatter—closer in footprint to the Game Boy Pocket, but not quite) and plays a pre-set list of NES games. And that’s all. It can output to a TV (which I’ll eventually test) and you can attach a controller (sold separately) to play two-player games. And you can see the menu in either English or…I’m going to guess Chinese?

It has four buttons, but for the games I’ve tried so far, X and Y don’t do anything. That center button resets you back to the menu, which is the only way to exit a game.




And the main menu is a picture of a Totally Rad dude and the list of games, which you can scroll through.

On my initial sweep, all 500 of the games seem to be pick-up-and-play action games. There are Chinese romhacks and media tie-ins and ridiculous knockoff games, but as far as I can tell, it’s not just some random collection of whatever roms were lying around. (And it’s similar to the Super Game 500-in-1 NES cart, but not the same. Games are clearly re-ordered, replaced and rearranged.) Somebody actually put time and at least minimal thought into this. I have no idea if this thing could save battery backups (there’s no save state feature or anything that fancy), but it doesn’t seem to actually matter.

Hell, this doesn’t even have Zelda on it, unless that’s buried deep in the list somewhere! (Which, to be fair, generally wants the battery backup, but I can beat it in under two hours and my speedrunner friend poo-poos any run above 30 minutes.)

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the list!




1. CONTRA 24 IN 1

The very first game on the list is Contra 24-in-1, which sure enough, gives us 24 choices for how to play Contra.

What’s an ASUIT GUN? Looks like it automatically gives you the machine gun when you die. The FIAME GUN (flame / spiral gun) and the SHOT GUN (spreader) do the same. The “30” versions start with the Konami code activated and 30 extra lives, plus the appropriate gun when you die. Contra 2A through 8A start you at the appropriate stage with the machine sgun, whereas 2F – 8F start you at that stage with the flame gun automatically. (Or the FIAME GUN, I suppose.) And the three S versions are stage warps plus the spreader gun. So these 24 Contra games are combinations of stage warps, extra lives, and getting various power-ups when you die. That’s actually pretty clever!



2. SUPER CONTRA

As far as I can tell, this is indeed the Japanese version of the game we call Super C.

3. CONTRA FORCE

And this appears to be Contra Force, exactly as we know it.



4. SUPER CONTRA 7

This apparently is a bootleg game. The bootleg games wiki tells me it’s based on the Contra series, developed by E.S.C. Co. Ltd (alias of Waixing) in 1996 for the Famicom. It plays a lot like a NES Contra game, it’s true.



5. FINAL MISSION

This is the Japanese version of S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team, which is a cross between Contra and Gradius, playing a flying man in a bullet-hell shooter. (The US version included a choice of male or female soldiers and generally reduced difficulty.)


I suspect there are going to be US NES games that I just never played, mixed with Chinese bootlegs and Japanese versions of games that it’ll recognize once I boot them up. It’s an adventure!
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
Needs more Contra IMO

This is a super neat idea for a thread! I’m excited to see what’s all on this thing.
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
I’m not expecting to power through all of these in a weekend (I expect my pace to slow significantly), but now I’m all worked up, and my Friday work projects are done.



6. RUSH N ATTACK

Like many NES action games, I never played this before. The fact that you jump by pressing up rather than with an unused A button was weird, but I did all right until I learned the hard way what land mines look like, and then had a whole bunch of guys jump-kick me in the face.


Did Mr. Rush’n forget to bring a gun, so he can only do one funky knife stab move?

Side note: I’m pretty sure that the X button is trying to be a turbo button, here. I’ll have to check that on other games.




7. JACKEL

This is kinda fun. Top-down tank action. Kinda weird that you can only shoot your weak bullets upward (no matter which way the tank is facing) but you can throw grenades in whatever direction you face. I also appreciate the fact you respawn right away where you died. Wikipedia tells me the Arcade version of this was released as Top Gunner in the US. This feels like the sort of game that might be a lot of fun to sink a ton of quarters into, especially at a two-player arcade cabinet.



8. HYPER OLYMPIC

This opens with a dude in underwear carrying a torch running across the screen as a digitized version of Chariots of Fire plays. Then you compete in several Olympic events, which I’m not even sure how the controls are supposed to work. This seems to be the Japanese port of Track & Field, which had four of the six events in the arcade version. (Several were added back for the NES version.)



9. EXCITEBIKE

I am insufficiently excited about this bike. (The “B” version, where there are other racers on the track, is definitely better, but this is a very basic racing game no matter how you slice it.)



10. FIRE BASE

I can’t find any mentions of this one online. It’s an extremely simple missile command style of game, where you can slide back and forth to shoot at the planes flying overhead, trying to dodge the bombs they drop on you. I say “extremely simple” because there’s only one type of enemy, it always comes from the right in a predictable staggered pattern, and if you get the rhythm right, you can just not move and shoot and kill everything easily. When you kill enough planes, the level goes up and planes come at a slightly faster rhythm.

11. SUPER MARIO

Classic SMB. Did anybody else think that the fire flower was the game breaker in Mario 35?



12. SUPER MARIO 2

The is US Super Mario Brothers 2, allowing us to enjoy visiting Sub-Con once more.

…And it just occurred to me that, in addition to The Lost Levels not being here, Super Mario Brothers 3 isn’t on this!



13. SUPER MARIO 6

But that doesn't mean we don't have any other Mario to enjoy. The title screen calls this Super Bros 6, and it’s an obvious hack of Tiny Toon Adventures. It mostly just replaces Buster Bunny with Mario.


Your partner remains a Tiny Toons character. Mario's main sprite appears to be the only thing that they changed, besides the title screen.



14. SUPER MARIO 9

The title screen calls this Super Mario World 9, but apparently it appears in other bootleg collections as Super Bros 9. This is a hack of Adventure Island 2 with Mario standing in for Master Higgins and fireballs instead of axes. Everything else seems the same, though. The emulation is particularly choppy for some reason, especially along the top and bottom of the screen when scrolling up or down.

You ain’t seen nothing yet. There are at least three more Marios! (Which is important. If we’re going to have this thing be 5% Contras, we need to at least cross the 1% mark with Marios.)
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
7. JACKEL

This is kinda fun. Top-down tank action. Kinda weird that you can only shoot your weak bullets upward (no matter which way the tank is facing) but you can throw grenades in whatever direction you face. I also appreciate the fact you respawn right away where you died. Wikipedia tells me the Arcade version of this was released as Top Gunner in the US. This feels like the sort of game that might be a lot of fun to sink a ton of quarters into, especially at a two-player arcade cabinet.
JackaL is one of my favorite NES games - just a solid, well-executed fun game to play that doesn't overstay it's welcome. (But that is a jeep not a tank.)

You can get upgrades for the grenade attack.
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
Great thread so far! I have a handheld mega drive that’s a bit like this thing, though I think the games are all originals rather than rom hacks and it’s also got a cart slot. Is yours an emulator box of is it a system on chip hardware knockoff? Mine is the latter, but is lacking a couple of connections so saves and SMS mode don’t work.
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)


6. RUSH N ATTACK

Like many NES action games, I never played this before. The fact that you jump by pressing up rather than with an unused A button was weird, but I did all right until I learned the hard way what land mines look like, and then had a whole bunch of guys jump-kick me in the face.


Did Mr. Rush’n forget to bring a gun, so he can only do one funky knife stab move?

Side note: I’m pretty sure that the X button is trying to be a turbo button, here. I’ll have to check that on other games.

The A button uses your special weapon (grenades, bazooka, pistol). You get them by killing the orange-clad soldiers. Funnily enough, this is also how the arcade game worked. Two action buttons, up to jump. (Trojan from Capcom was the same way, I guess it was just that no one was wiring arcade boards for more than 2 buttons + start yet.)
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
Great thread so far! I have a handheld mega drive that’s a bit like this thing, though I think the games are all originals rather than rom hacks and it’s also got a cart slot. Is yours an emulator box of is it a system on chip hardware knockoff? Mine is the latter, but is lacking a couple of connections so saves and SMS mode don’t work.
I'm reasonably sure, given the price and the general quality, that this is bargain-basement emulation. There's no card slot or, as far as I can tell, any ability to access the internal memory. It may not have any rewriteable memory at all--the 500 games are likely just burned onto the rom.

Really, any game that I'd want to play with real fidelity, I wouldn't play on this device. As noted, I own several other, better retro handhelds and I have a Lakka box set up in my basement. But I never would have found or tried the majority of these games that way.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I love the tiny little 9 shoved into a corner in Super Mario World 9.

It’s like a kid making the letters too big on a birthday card and just having to squish everything into the end
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
This device is absolutely worth 3 cents a game.
I think, in terms of hours of enjoyment/dollar spent, this thing is going to do better than most of my gaming devices.

And as much as I adore "Oops, all Contras!" it's just front-loaded with Contras. It's probably going to end up being more Marios by volume.
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)

I promised there was more Mario, didn’t I?



15. SUPER MARIO 10

This this Super Mario Bros 10: Kung Fu Mari; and apparently it’s a hack of the game Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu. The thing is, the Tiny Toons game made some sense as a hack because at least you still jump on enemies to kill them. Having Mario running around punching and kicking in an 8-bit format just doesn’t sit right with me. Also, as I probably noted, the lack of manuals for any of these games means a lot of stumbling around trying to figure out what power-ups do and how to use my various moves. In this one you apparently can punch harmless frogs for power-ups?



16. SUPER MARIO 14

Super Mario 14 is a hack of the Japan-exclusive Famicom title Kaiketsu Yanchamaru 3: Taiketsu! Zouringen, the second follow-up to Kid Niki: Radical Ninja. Credit to the hackers here that they changed the enemies to be koopas and the drops to be coins (though Mario transforms into another character when he does charge attacks and a couple of other moves.) I’d be curious to find the original of this game; it’s pretty fun. (And again, a manual. There’s a flip-jump that I did once to reach a high platform and then could never figure out again.)



17. SUPER MARIO 16

Mario 16, also apparently known as “Super Bros Jurassic Park,” is a hack of Joe & Mac. Mario throws axes at various dinosaurs for a while, and then at a giant t-rex. The ability to double jump seems appropriate, but again, you can’t goomba stomp enemies. There were so many media tie-in games for the NES where jumping on enemies was a valid approach (because everybody wanted to be like Mario), why not use one of those?

While this particular collection skips around, the Bootleg Games wiki assures me that the rest of the numbered Mario hacks do exist on other collections or as independent carts:
• Super Bros 4 is an edited version of The Lost Levels.
• Mario IV is a hack of Armadillo.
• Super Bros 5 is a slightly-edited SMB2.
• Super Mario Bros 7 is a hack of The Flintstones: The Rescue of Dino and Hoppy.
• Super Bros 8 is a hack of Don Doko Don 2.
• Super Bros 11 is a hack of Adventure Island 3.
• Super Mario 12 is a title-screen hack of Yoshi’s Cookie.
• Super Brother Mario 13 is a hack of Whomp ‘Em.
• Mario Bros. 14 Adventures is a hack of Tiny Toon Adventures 2: Trouble in Wackyland.
• Mario 15 / Sonic Bros is a hack of SMB1 to put Sonic as the main character.
• Super Bros. 16 is a hack of Kaiketsu Yanchamaru 2: Karakuri Land, the first Japan-exclusive sequel to Kid Niki: Radical Ninja. (When I read about it, I kinda hoped I had this one instead of the Joe & Mac hack.)
• Super Bros. 17: Fighting of the Mali Lugi is a hack of Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers.

(Note that it’s possible that we’ll see a few of these further in. There are other games with “Mario” in the title on the list. And it’s not like it’s alphabetical or anything.)



18. DOUBLE DRAGON 1

Exactly what it says.



19. DOUBLE DRAGON 2

I don’t think I’d ever actually played the later games in this series. (Or even the first since the early 90s, for that matter.) Which means I didn’t realize that in this game, the buttons on this are “attack to the left” and “attack to the right” and that’s BRILLIANT! I’ve never seen that on a side-scroller beat-em-up before and I love it! Given that being stuck between two enemies is the worst thing in this style of game, I want that in every game like this forever. (It’s also just a strictly better game than the first: Prettier graphics, better controls, and there’s REVENGE.)



20. DOUBLE DRAGON 3

The third game, of course, goes back to the old “punch button, kick button” control scheme, and ups the difficulty by (among other things) giving you only one life to start. They try to have more actual plot, so I suppose that’s something?

And next time…TURTLES!
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
The inexplicable number of bootleg Super Mario Caveman games almost kinda makes sense if you're trying to use them as alternatives to Mario World, which had an awful lot of dinosaurs (and a tie-in cartoon which was basically The Flintstones with Mario characters)
 

q 3

Posts: 4,731,901
(they/them)
I'm just impressed that the hackers coordinated to avoid having the numbers overlap. You can say "Mario 17 is the best Mario game" and everyone will know exactly what you mean!
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
19. DOUBLE DRAGON 2

I don’t think I’d ever actually played the later games in this series. (Or even the first since the early 90s, for that matter.) Which means I didn’t realize that in this game, the buttons on this are “attack to the left” and “attack to the right” and that’s BRILLIANT! I’ve never seen that on a side-scroller beat-em-up before and I love it! Given that being stuck between two enemies is the worst thing in this style of game, I want that in every game like this forever. (It’s also just a strictly better game than the first: Prettier graphics, better controls, and there’s REVENGE.)

There's a whole swath of vintage game/beat-'em-up enthusiasts who hate this control scheme, but I sincerely don't get why. Sure, it takes a minute to re-orient if you're used to a button is always punch, the other button is always kick, but ultimately, I think it's a great way to go about things.

Also, I hope it's the Japanese version, which allows continues and lets you see the ending on the standard difficulty. The US version limits continues to 1 (using a really weird code that only works half the time) and forces you to play on Supreme Master to see the final boss and ending.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Yeah, I think the "B attacks left, A attack right" scheme works surprisingly well. I adjust really quickly... but then, I love me some Double Dragon II NES. I only recently learned about the less-punitive nature of the Japanese version, so I may run it that way next time - it's always a tight squeeze on whether or not I actually finish the game in the US version. (Actually, I think it was one of your recent videos or posts where I learned that tidbit.)

Oh, Jackal freaking rocks. Best overhead shooter on NES, no question. I still replay it pretty often - my last run I had a no-death going until the last stage, which is surprising. Stupid choppers, though... suckers will get you something fierce if you aren't on your toes or stuck in an area without much mobility.
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
By the way, the Bootleg Game Wiki does have an entry on an older version of the device I have, noting that it has 165 games, or 400 with repeats. Clearly I should be updating that wiki in my copious free time, because if nothing else, I haven't seen any indication of extensive repeating here when I've looked later in the list. Also, here’s a teardown article of a very similar device, if you were curious what's likely inside of it.




21. TURTLES 1

Japanese version of the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. Damn, but this game was hard. You had four lives, but two of them hardly counted because Mike and Raph had such terrible reach. And (in this version—I think they changed it in the US version) you have to start back at the beginning each time you die anyway. I believe I beat this with a Game Genie back in the day.



22. TURTLES 2

TMNT II: The Arcade Game. (US version, from the looks if it.) Back in the day, having a home version of an arcade game you liked (even a kinda-crappy port) was a big win. Nowadays, when you can emulate the arcade version of the game just as easily as the NES version, is there a reason to prefer the NES version? (Even the 9X-S handheld, which is fairly crappy as the ones I’ve tried go, can do decent arcade emulation. I spent a plane ride in the summer of 2019 mostly playing Final Fight and Three Wonders on that.)



23. TURTLES 3

Two things I always liked about the TMNT beat-em-ups: They kept adding new maneuvers for the turtles (in this case, the overhead flip that knocked enemies off your back), and they kept coming up with creative ways for the foot soldiers to appear. Sliding down poles, breaking down doors, popping out of sand pits—they really kept it interesting. Honestly, there were a lot of media tie-in games that went much harder than they needed to and made genuinely good games. The TMNT games were a mixed lot, but the beat-em-ups were solid.



24. TURTLES 4

I was briefly confused before opening this because TMNT 4 was Turtles in Time for the SNES. But what we have here is Tournament Fighters. I feel like this was released for both the NES and the SNES, and I only ever played the SNES version. Which might have been easier? I’m not the best at 1-on-1 fighting games to begin with, but Raph totally smoked me when I tried this.



25. NINJA GAIDEN 1

The title screen calls this Shadow Warriors, so it’s apparently the European version. Wikipedia tells me that the Japanese version of this was called Ninja Ryūkenden (忍者龍剣伝, lit. Ninja Dragon Sword Legend). Does anyone know why we got the title we did? Gaiden means “side story”, right? Was this a spinoff to some other series that then faded into obscurity?

(For that matter, I remember a time in my youth when everybody called it "Ninja GUY-den", but then the more sophisticated among us started saying "Ninja guy-DAN". Keeping in mind that there were maybe two dozen Asians in the town I grew up in, and they were all Chinese, so none of us had any actual clue.)



26. NINJA GAIDEN 2

We’ve clearly got the Japanese version of the second game here. The ability to climb up and down walls you were clinging to made SUCH a difference from the first game.



27. NINJA GAIDEN 3

And the Japanese version of the third game, as well. Really, the controls improved with each game in this series; I find the third one the most playable by far. I never loved this series, but I respected it.
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
Nowadays, when you can emulate the arcade version of the game just as easily as the NES version, is there a reason to prefer the NES version?
IIRC, the NES version has two extra stages over the arcade version. I think I remember a snowy park level? I forget what the other new one is.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
IIRC, the NES version has two extra stages over the arcade version. I think I remember a snowy park level? I forget what the other new one is.
Correct. The 2nd extra stage is in a Japanese-inspired building. You fight a robot samurai (shogun?) at the end of that stage.
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)


27. NINJA GAIDEN 3

And the Japanese version of the third game, as well. Really, the controls improved with each game in this series; I find the third one the most playable by far. I never loved this series, but I respected it.

Lucked out on getting the Japanese version of 3. As I have said, the US version really screwed things up on this one. Limiting continues to five (without a code that was unknown at the time, from what I can parse) and removing passwords? Ugh. Screw you, Tecmo US.

IIRC, the NES version has two extra stages over the arcade version. I think I remember a snowy park level? I forget what the other new one is.

With boss designs from either Eastman or Laird, I can't recall which!
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Yeah, they made the easiest Ninja Gaiden the hardest with their changes. Mechanically, NGIII is easily my favorite of the series. I love that super sword.
 
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