App: SuperRetro16 (SNES) v1.8.1
Developer: Neutron Emulation
Category: Game Emulator
SuperRetro16 is a thorough and well-designed gaming system that emulates the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES for short, and attempts to revive the massive catalog of those popular games of yesteryear on your Android device. Before we delve into this cool application, some historic background is required to explain the relevance of this particular aged console gaming system, as well as the founding Nintendo company itself. After the devastating North American video game crash of 1983 that lasted about two years, a Japanese company called Nintendo resurrected consumer interest with their widely popular Ninendo Entertainment System, or NES, in 1985. This 8-bit gaming console took the world by storm with its massive catalog of game cartridges that became the single greatest video game console in history. By 1988, industry observers stated that the popularity of the NES had grown so quickly that the market for Nintendo cartridges was larger than that for all home computer software. Compute! magazine reported in 1989 that Nintendo had sold seven million NES systems in 1988, almost as many as the number of Commodore 64s sold in its first five years. Though, as the novelty of the rudimentary graphics and primitive sounds of the NES eventually faded, and Sega's release of the first 16-bit console called the Mega Drive appeared in Japan in 1988, Nintendo scrambled to retain their crown and pedigree of electronic entertainment.
In 1990 in Japan and South Korea, Nintendo finally answered back with the Famicom system, and in 1991 in North America with the aptly named SNES, that remained popular well into the 32-bit era. With expanded ROM and this new 16-bit architecture, along with storage memory to hold savegames and data, Nintendo struck lightning twice with the SNES that is still played to this very day. Today's wildly immense demand for games with pixelated graphics can be accredited to the advent of the SNES, and massive cultures have spawned from fans of their games such as The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Metroid, Pokémon and other mega-hit games that made Nintendo a staple household name in video gaming worldwide. With a market value of over $85 billion, and sales of over 670.43 million hardware units and 4.23 billion software units, Nintendo became one of the most influential in the industry and Japan's third most valuable company. Offering such an impressive catalog of games to choose from with the SNES alone, there is a lifetime of gaming to be had here that inspires reflections of childhood for millions, while influencing and entertaining new generations to come. Given this lucrative treasure trove of gaming goodness, Neutron Emulation has arrived at SuperRetro16 to attempt to deliver the golden years of video gaming to our beloved Android devices in a tidy little six megabyte package.
Putting It All Together
SuperRetro16 uses the actual ROMs from the original cartridges that contain the code, graphics and audio of these antique gems to run the games as they were originally intended upon release. As SuperRetro16 is simply an emulator that reads this data and ports the controls to your device to control the games, there are no ROMs included within the application. There is one free 'homebrew' ROM, in addition to another ROM to purchase in the Store of the app, but I believe these are created by third parties and not actual official licensed games. Once SuperRetro16 is installed, one needs to scour the Internet in search of ROMs to hit the ground running. There is a 'Search The Internet' button located in the Games tab where games are normally stored, though I find it much easier and more efficient to track these game ROMs down on the PC with a simple Google search of "SNES ROMS". Please keep in mind that like everything else with copyrights, you are only legally entitled to make a copy of software that you purchased. Right? Yes, we knew that! Once you obtain any ROM files, keeping these files in a folder named ROMS, or anything similar, is a good idea to keep things tidy as it's easy to get carried away by the vast amount of titles for the SNES. One thing to note; a lot of these ROMs are in Japanese language, but are usually designated as such. Some fans have actually translated some of these Japanese ROM versions to English, so it's worth looking around to locate something more suitable if it exists. Although, playing these games in Japanese can lead to a certain enrichment; thus, Nintendo games can be an educational experience!
These ROM files are generally small, being well under two megs in most cases, and you will most likely accrue quite a few in your travels. It's an effective way to stuff your device chock full of thousands of hours of gaming without killing your device's memory, unless you download the entire Internet to your local storage. I've done this before and can't recommend it, so start with a handful at first and see how it goes. Once finished hoarding ROMs, SuperRetro16 will then either scan your device's memory for titles, or list them from an exact chosen location where your ROM files are stored. The app will then attempt to gather attractive thumbnails for each title that are actual scans of the retail boxes of these games, or you can add your own images if needed or desired. The automatic gathering of these image files works rather well, though I found myself unhappy with a few thumbnails that needed manual replacement, but I'm just picky with a chronic sense of conformity and order. What can I say? Once this relatively quick process is finished, you will then have the Games page filled with a universe of fun and discovery from days long passed. Locked and loaded, ready to rock, let's take a look at SuperRetro16 before being swept away with decades worth of gaming madness.
There's A Button For That
SuperRetro16's interface is divided into four basic and self-explanatory tabs; Games, Saves, Favorites and Store. Games lists your catalog of titles, Saves holds your savegame slots, Favorites will show tagged favorite games, and the Store offers one free and one purchasable third party ROM. The Games tab can list titles from local storage, but Dropbox and Google Drive are also options to hold your games and sync your savegames through the cloud and across all devices. As you will eventually accumulate a mountain of ROMs, this is a reasonable option to consider later on for certain. The Saves section holds a finite amount of savegames, at least I do believe, with detailed timestamps and dates listed for each. Clicking on one will launch the appropriate game and saved state where you left off, which is quite similar to the actual console. The Favorites tab holds titles that have been flagged as...you guessed it; favorites! ROMs can be selected by simply long-pressing on a title and clicking on the Favorite option. This might seem elementary, but now is a great reminder to tag your favorites now while you have under six hundred ROMs to choose from. Otherwise, scrolling for Wizardry V might be another game in itself later on.
Though, the interface is dark, sleek and fast like a panther in the night, the true star of SuperRetro16 is the abundant Options section that is loaded with settings. Here you can tailor your experience quite a bit to suit your needs and get your emulation experience just right. As the screenshot below demonstrates, Profiles are used to store all settings for different players that use the device, or perhaps setups for different games, as well. Here you can choose between portrait or landscape, toggle audio and vibration, gameplay speed, controller setup and configuration, button configuration, screen size, autosave and many other things to make life easier. This would be a great time to mention that if you really get into SuperRetro16, especially using a 7 or 10 inch tablet, an external controller would be a terrific idea. As I do not own a Bluetooth game controller, I'm seriously considering getting one to take the wear off my devices, but I am unsure if one will work with this application. Over time and extensive playing with intense button-mashing, device digitizers can become worn out and unresponsive to touch after so long. I'm very conscious of this fact and try not to go crazy jamming my fingers onto the virtual buttons like you would with a hardware controller. You know what I mean when you finish playing console games, your hands and fingers are stiff and sore like you were clinging onto a rope for an hour? Imagine your poor device screen after all that abuse without you even realizing it. Some of these games can be intense with the twitch reflexes, and we get caught up in the drama without realizing that arthritis is right around the corner, and that you still have 18 more months to go on that phone contract. Play smart, folks!
Gamers Are Sensitive Control Freaks
Launching a game on SuperRetro16 presents an interface very similar to a squashed version of the classic SNES controller with a little display screen on the top, if you are in portrait mode. It beckons to be played, mashed and abused like the hardware version, but we know better after reading this review, right? If you have ever played a Nintendo Game Boy, then you know exactly how SuperRetro16 will work in your hands. However, with Nintendo's patented Iron Death Grip™ hardware, the buttons are always responsive until they finally refuse to work, which is rare. Sensitivity and control of SuperRetro16's action is where there is the most debate from users, but mostly due to the thousands of different Android devices on the market that respond differently. I'm not exactly sure if this phenomenon stems down to the coding in the app, drivers on the devices or the actual digitizers on particular models, but sensitivity can vary greatly between devices. For example, on my Nexus 7 2012 and 2013 tablets, control is smooth with a minimum required touch for response, yet my Galaxy Nexus practically needs me to step on the screen for the same action. I don't recommend this, but I'm just saying. With my Nexus 10 tablet, I can barely tap on a button and the response time is fast and smooth with no problems at all, so it's luck of the draw I suppose. On all devices, there seems to be a little bit of 'wonkiness' with multi-touch control, like using the D-Pad to move and hitting the A button to fire simultaneously. It does appear to work, but not like the famous SNES controller that offered durability and sensitivity in the same package. Some reports have surfaced regarding the recent version of SuperRetro16 with missing buttons and no control of others. I appear to be lucky with five devices that don't have these issues for the most part, but your experiences may vary greatly. I would definitely recommend trying the free version first to test out the controls to be sure things work before committing to a purchase.
It's The Little Things That Count
There are lots of pleasantries in this small package that deserve a quick mention to demonstrate the thorough programming of SuperRetro16. Players can engage in multiplayer with games that support it through WiFi or Bluetooth, which goes way beyond the capabilities of the original SNES or Game Boy. There are visual effect shaders offered in the settings screen like CRT Simulator, High Quality and others, plus the ability to add your own shaders, too! On top of great hardware controller support, Mouse support for selected games can be utilized for greater fine control in some instances. The advanced layout editor in Options can rearrange buttons and place them where you are most comfortable, which can accommodate different device sizes and finger lengths. You can create combo buttons through the remapping utility to allow for multiple buttons to fire at once, which does wonders for the fighting games in general. Not only does the app read the ROM files, but it also supports reading many compressed formats to also store your thumbnails within so they don't appear in the Gallery on your device, and also keep things tidy. SuperRetro16 supports ten languages total to provide as much international support as possible, and that's always a major plus.
Given the tricky nature of this application and the legalities involved in obtaining content, I had to edit this review a few times to avoid some issues. This emulator in itself is legal and does nothing to infringe any copyright on its own; however, you take it upon yourself to obtain games to run on SuperRetro16, so be safe in your quest. There is an ocean of games that will run on this little beauty, and more than you could play in a lifetime, which makes for an outstanding deal. It's a strange feeling to play 27 year old games on your device that haven't seen the light of day since, and that can provide some serious nostalgia for some. As the developer stated on the web page that Bluetooth controllers aren't supported, I'm reading on Amazon that they can be configured to work with game emulators on Android. I'd love to hear some input from those who have this working as I don't have the hardware at this time. As a standalone emulator, SuperRetro16 does exactly what it sets out to do and does it quite well. Whether you are an avid game historian, huge Nintendo fan, one who loves variety in games or a lost soul trying to reclaim your youth, SuperRetro16 has something for nearly every gamer out there.
- Delivers the Nintendo SNES to your devices.
- A huge catalog of great games available online.
- Offers easy cloud storage of ROMs and savegames.
- Lots of options available to customize to your taste.
- Very low storage requirement, even with tons of games.
- Multiplayer games may be played over WiFi or Bluetooth.
- Nintendo ROMs are legally protected by copyright.
- Some devices have issues with control sensitivity.
- An external Bluetooth controller is highly preferable.
Device/OS used: Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note 3, Nexus 7 2012 & 2013, Nexus 10 / KitKat v4.4.2, KitKat v4.4.4, Lollipop v5.1.1
Purchase at Google Play
Mobilism: SuperRetro16 (SNES) v1.8.1