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Polymega – First Hands-on Impressions

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When I first found out about the Polymega, I could not help to feel a high level of excitement over the system. Having a collection of a couple thousand older games and a messy setup with a bunch of A/V switches, I have often wished for a simple solution to play my original copies of games over the use of emulators. Even with having a old CRT tv in my main gaming area, often times I wish I could sit in my living room playing on my much bigger 70 inch LCD.

During the first round of pre-orders as well as the Kickstarter, I increasingly became more skeptical of the system. WIth the removal of FPGA support, and its long time silence on its social media, I grew increasingly worried of the system.

However with its much recent showing of its features and coming away impressed, It left enough in my mind to go all in on its second pre-order campaign. With the Playmaji announcement of a public open showing in Los Angeles, I made the trip in order and hope that all my previous worries would be laid to rest. With the limited amount of time I had in a publicly cramped space, I became confident in the system.

The first thing I wanted to dive into was, and probably the biggest question many people have been eyeballing the system for, was its Sega Saturn capabilities. From the start, I was treated with the Japanese fighting game Suiko Enbu 2: Fuunsaiki, playing from its original import DC. This was probably the best case I could think of for my initial test of the system.

With the game being new on the system, the load times seemed to be comparable to the original Saturn. While I did question them as they showed much faster speeds for loading as the Neo Geo CD, they did tell me all the factors that caused load times to be increased in speed.

From dumping games on a internal drive to built from the ground up BIOS data, everything is being tweaked and worked on in order to have things as fast and as functional as possible. Even with the standard speed, I was just happy to see the system would work with Saturn games.

Right from the get go with the original Saturn controller I had using a USB adapter connected to the front ports, I was happy to say that I felt no input latency that would hurt my game experience.

In all my command inputs, nothing felt delayed or missed compared to most emulators or mini consoles I have used in the past. When I inquired about it, one of the major goals the Polymega team has sworn to is keeping this to keep this minimal as possible. Everything I did felt natural and smooth and was ultimately one of my biggest surprises.

The graphical quality of the games it played were on point with the original system. Everything was bright and vibrant and I experienced zero ghosting or frame lag during my time of play.

What’s more impressive was that the frame rate seemed to say at 60 frames per second with no dips from the system. Many of freeware emulators have some issues depending on the game keeping up with this speed, but the Polymega seemed to do it without breaking a sweat.

The audio quality was up to par with the classic systems as well. At no moment I experienced and out of place audio, skipping, static or a popping noise. The entire experience remained consistent with what I play on my classic systems and remained crystal clear during my time with the system

Transitioning from the UI by hitting the button combination Start and Up together instantly allowed me to control the system, save states and reset or exit the game. One of the aspects I touched was the different video emulation modes.

Switching between the composite and and rgb filters added the effect of scanlines or a crt grid over the game. While it was cool to give more of a retro look, I really don’t think I’ll find myself using them that much.

A couple of the games, however, appeared more washed out in color when applied. I was told that these filters are in the final stages of tweaking and will all appear in full color once the system is released.

The main system UI felt instantly familiar as well. By listing out games available as well as having them categorized by system, players and even personal rating, I was able to find games of interest very quickly.

The internal database for the system gave bits of information about the games available and also pointed out other games of interest and by the same developer. Also, I was able to quickly continue a game from a save state, load a pre-installed game quickly, or launch a disk near instantly.

Questioning the different modules of the system, I was handed a production module of the Sega Genesis cartridge reader and was given a demonstration on it. By quickly pressing a button, the currently used module comes off easily and the new one is added on with no hassle.

Instantly, I had to inquire about a major fault that systems (such as the Retro 5) have where it grips cartridges to tightly leading to possible damage. I was told that the slots are custom made and was reassured that as retro enthusiasts themselves that they made sure the design of the slots would avoid this.

I also inquired if system expanders such as the Sega Genesis power base converter will work and I was told they are looking into using it and should not be difficult to implement.

Between switching my time between the previously mentioned game, Dungeons and Dragons: Shadows Over Mystara and a range of other games and systems, Its safe to say that my choice to pre-order the Polymega is going to be well worth it.

While my skepticism is gone, there still is some time before its released. Things can change and software updates through the internet can expand the functionality. The additional modules could move to other systems in the future, such as the N64 or even handheld games.

For myself, the Polymega felt right up my alley. However, for other people it depends on what they will use it for. I would not consider it a must have system unless you’re a diehard retro games fan.

The only thing I wish for now is light gun support, a difficult hurdle console modders and retro enthusists have been battling for a long time. However if the latest tweet on the Polymega leads into what I hope, it may quickly become a must buy.

Rory Hutchings

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Niche Gamer managing partner, server admin, writer, lifelong gamer and tech enthusiast. Also an all-around programmer.