Video gaming

10 retro game players you can buy in Hong Kong, from Pandora’s Box and knock-offs to FC Pocket

Amid the fad for retro game consoles such as the NES Classic and SNES Classic from Nintendo, we scoured the city’s Golden Computer Arcade for some alternatives

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 November, 2017, 8:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 November, 2017, 8:03pm

The current retro gaming trend is a reaction to a modern gaming world that has got out of hand. As big corporations attempt to offset massive development budgets through pre-orders, in-game purchases and other ethically questionable attempts, many gamers long for simpler times.

These gamers have been snatching up retro consoles such as the NES Classic and SNES Classic from Nintendo in such numbers that these mainstream systems are often hard to come by.

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To help out gamers who’ve been unable to get their hands on these in-demand consoles, we spent an afternoon at the (in) famous Golden Computer Arcade in Sham Shui Po, tracking all the weird retro devices on offer.

Some are authentic, some are a bit dubious, but all are guaranteed to satisfy your retro gaming urges.

Mini Game/Cool Baby

Last year’s NES Classic, a mini version of the 1980s console, was a sensation. Containing just 30 games, it quickly sold out and soon started commanding exorbitant prices. You can still get one at Golden Arcade for around HK$2,000.

But why would you do that when there are cheaper alternatives? Two were leading the charge when we dropped in: Mini Game works on AV systems and Cool Baby connects via HDMI. Both are almost indistinguishable from each other – or, from a distance, the NES Classic.

They’re a lot flimsier than Nintendo’s release, but these things come loaded with from 500-700 games, so they’re a good compromise.

Rating: 2/5. No creativity here, just a decent replica.

Price: varies depending on the store, but expect to pay from HK$250 to HK$380.

Choice games: nearly every NES game ever released, including bad knock-offs as Hello Kidy, Bomb King and Pac Land.

Family Computer/FC Compact

The “mini” trend is a little confusing, as it’s not like the original NES was that large anyway. The Family Computer and FC Compact are pretty much the same as the mini-knock-offs above, but in 1:1 scale of the original Japanese console, down to those little side slots where you can store controllers.

The inner gaming system, packed with around 600 titles, is the same as the mini editions, but the devices are a bit cheaper, averaging HK$200. And why one of them is called “FC Compact”, we have no idea.

Rating: 3/5. At least they made the effort to properly replicate the NES.

Price: HK$200.

Choice games: same as above, but it somehow feels right to play the entire Contra series on a proper looking system.

8-Bit HD

The problem with getting one of the cheaper devices? They may not pair with your high-definition TV. They’ll work, sure, and for most people, that’ll be good enough. But if you’re an obsessive, if you want to see all those eight-bits in 1080p glory, pick up the 8-Bit HD.

It’s almost double the price of most systems on this list, but it has it all: a full-scale replica, hundreds of games built in and a box that’s an absolutely indistinguishable replica of the original (I should know, I’ve still got mine).

Rating: 3/5. The HDMI is cool, sure, but it’s just a wire really.

Price: HK$460.

Choice games: again, the same as above, but the HD really helps classic games such as Battletoads and Kirby’s Adventure.

FC Pocket

Long before the NES Classic was announced, I picked up an FC Pocket on an impulse buy. Mostly for nostalgia, but also because I was amazed at how far technology had got – a whole ’80s console in a hand-held device with a built-in screen?

I’m an idiot of course, since smartphones do that and so much more. Anyway, in retrospect, the FC Pocket is not great; it keeps freezing and crashing, the battery life is weak and the screen is as basic as you can get. But it makes a great gift – as I’ll soon find out, when I re-gift it this Christmas.

Rating: 3/5. Not the best device at all, but the hand-held concept is still cool.

Price: HK$170.

Choice games: once again, it mostly has the same line-up as the other devices, but considering its small screen, puzzle games like Tetris work best.

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Pandora’s Box

Over summer, gamers were going wild over Pandora’s Box. It looks like nothing more than a two-player, arcade-style joystick – but hook it up to your TV and it reveals itself as a device that lets you play hundreds of classic arcade games with a buddy.

We found the official version for sale HK$1,380 – cheaper than the HK$2,000 online price – and it’s a sturdy little machine, with a metal case, weighted plastic joysticks, firm buttons and a menu system that easily scrolls through 700 games. A good purchase if you’re an arcade fan.

Rating: 4/5. A brilliant concept, but the price is a little steep.

Price: HK$1,380.

Choice games: it’s got them all, from classic fighters and beat ‘em ups, to shooters and puzzle games. Street Fighter, Double Dragon, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, they’re all here.

Game Box/Games Workshop

Of course, as soon as something becomes hot, you can guarantee a local company will rip it apart and put out a knock-off. Two copies of Pandora’s Box stood out at Golden Arcade: Game Box and Games Workshop. They’re not as well-made as the original, with plastic cases, stiff joysticks and dodgy menu systems.

But they are cheaper, and some have decals of Street Fighter and other popular games, if you really want to show off your arcade love.

Rating: 3/5, at least the decals were kind of cool.

Price: from HK$780 to HK$980.

Choice games: 800 games, apparently. The list seems to be the same as the original, but includes knock-offs such as Street Beater.

Arcade Game

This thing blew my mind. Its name may sound basic, but it’s a Pandora’s Box knock-off with an LCD screen attached, recreating in about half scale the classic game arcade cabinet. Maybe I’m just a sucker for things with screens attached, but I desperately wanted one.

Thankfully, remembrance of past stupidity kicked in (hello, FC Pocket) and I held fast. But they’re available in two types: solo, with a small screen and one joy pad; or dual, with two joysticks and a massive screen.

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Rating: 5/5. Seriously, whoever thought of this is a genius.

Price: HK$1,200 for a single-player, HK$2,000 for two-players.

Choice games: same selection as the Pandora’s Box and the knock-offs, but all those rose-tinted memories came flooding back as I beat up dirty punks in Final Fight.