You may have been wondering yesterday why the site didn't have the latest articles, that's because we have something pretty special to show you from our friends 'Retro Towers'. Welcome to the 'FC Mobile II' a unique way of playing NES games on the go, in the form of a handheld device that can be taken anywhere or even used as a TV hardware plugin. Today's feature is going to be a hardware review so you the reader can see for yourself if it is worth the money!
Taking the items out you can clearly notice that this device is meant not just for on the go gaming, but also to be able to plug into a TV and used as a handy console. However in a negative view point I really wish companies would cater for the UK market as well. Time and time again we keep getting US adapters and having to spend even more money on step down voltage supplies for the UK. This isn't Retro Towers fault as they do say this is needed. But enough about that, lets take a look at the FC Mobile II.
On the front of the FC Mobile II you have the NES control scheme, with buttons on the right, control pad on the left and select,start and reset button on the front. The main part of the handheld is the 2.5" Active Matrix LCD Screen, which even by our standards is pretty small, why not have the screen full width and not the big grey borders!
As we turn over the FC Mobile II to the top, you have the AV/OUT socket which gives you the option of plugging the FC Mobile II into a TV and a DC/OFF ON relating to power. The main feature however is the scart slot, which takes any original NES cart you have to hand. So if you want to play Mario just plug the cart straight in the top and start her up!
On the bottom of the handheld, you have an audio headphone output, IR device for wireless controllers and a volume control. This is especially useful for people who want to have the volume as high as it will go while listening through headphones as not to annoy people. But with all that out the way it's time to power it up!
In taking off the back slot ready to put the batteries in we were shocked to see this thing takes four AA batteries, which in our opinion is a lot especially as they are not rechargeables. Thankfully though we do have a lot to spare and the handheld was ready. We decided for our first game to be the incredible Defender of the Crown by Cinemaware. Slotting the cart in the back was pretty easy and it certainly did make the entire FC Mobile II look like a beast!
Powering up the FC using the on off switch at the top and the system booted up perfectly. The screen was clear with a visually appealing display. Sound was also decent too and would sound good both with or without headphones. One negative thing we did notice however was although the cart was held in very well, it did have a slight wobble to it back and forth.
Another game to test was Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt, and as you can clearly notice a clear display with power light at the bottom showing that it was working. Also to mention that controls were very responsive, I did not have any problems playing the game such as moving my character.
As you can see it looks just fine, but there was something at the back of my mind saying to me, could this FC Mobile II play our special Dizzy Cart which failed on the Super Retro Trio 3, could it also play the Everdrive N8 which worked perfectly on an original NES but failed on the Super Retro Trio 3?
Oh joy of joys! Dizzy worked great and if you didn't notice, that's not just one cart plugged in the back of the FC Mobile II but two! Because of the way Fantastic Dizzy works, you actually need to plug a cart through the passthrough cart to get it to work. To my amazement it worked perfectly, not a single issue.
This time it was down to testing the Everdrive N8, which if worked would be an incredible achievement as you could play not just one game, but every NES title through an SD device (Review Here). Bingo!! It worked perfectly, I was able to select any game I wanted and it worked great. As can be seen by Duckwing Duck loaded from the SD Card.
So that was the handheld part done, but we really needed to test the next part. How would it fair plugged into a TV and how well do the wireless controllers work. So time to plug it in!
On our first plugged in test, we picked the Everdrive N8 and Mario Bros for both the visual quality and if the wireless controllers were actually any good.
In our opinion it's a yes and no on that front... The quality of the visual display was actually worse than the NES, not a great deal but certainly noticeable. The screen actually looks far better through the tiny LCD screen. But that comes as no surprise as it was mainly meant for on the go gaming not to be left plugged into a TV. At least the sound was good, if anything better than the NES. Next up the wireless controllers and the Gun (We didn't use the gun on DOTFC)
This was another no from us, even if the controllers felt good in our hands with responsive buttons, the IR distance was poor. If at any point you moved left of the FC Mobile II they would stop working, you pretty much had to be standing in a direct line with it. Also as another negative, each controller needed another two batteries! Overall this entire system needs 8 batteries, which is just crazy. What would've been so much better is a battery built into all the devices with a rechargable dock. In a positive note, the gun worked just fine.
So that's both the handheld part tested and plugged into TV, but we had to test the batteries out, how long would it stay powered up. So I decided to give it to my other staff member for a full week to play it as much as he could and then give it back to me with a full report. Within a few days things were looking pretty grim, our staff member David came back to me that it was really playing up. If at any point he moved too much it would freeze up or it would glitch out so bad it was unplayable. Furthermore even the Everdrive N8 stopped working.
This was a problem as it had gone from a device which I really liked (Handheld) to this, I wondered if something had gone wrong in transport, had something come apart, only when I got it back would I know the full extent of the problem.
Within a week I got the device back and decided to test it myself with some new batteries and sure enough it was playing up for me as well. It would work for an hour, then it would glitch out and freeze. For some reason even powering it up, would cause it to shut itself off instantly, yet this was nothing of what was to come.
Putting some brand new high quality batteries in, I was at the start screen and left it on for a very short period of time. Within 1 hour I smelt burning, and the back part was getting really hot, then it shut off and never worked again. So something had failed in the device to cause it to overheat and this is most likely the cause of the freeze ups. Remember, that we didn't give it a long period of testing when we first got it!
So I contacted Retro Towers, who assured us that this was most likely a design fault and rather than cause us expense at sending it back, sent us out a brand new FC Mobile II complete in box.
And here it is! Working great I might add, if anything it's working much better than the previous one it lasted nigh on four and a bit hours before it turned itself off due to running out of battery power. Oh and that's a little niggle for us, as it really needs a low battery indicator, as it doesn't have one! There is no way of knowing how long the batteries have left. So if you expect to be deep into a game, then to run to a power socket knowing the batteries are going to run out forget it! ( Thankfully the Everdrive N8 gives you the save option )
Phew, the review is done and probably the longest most in-depth review we've done, but unlike our previous reviews I won't say to you to rush out and buy it or to completely avoid it, but give you our negatives and positives and let you decide!
Great sound quality even with headphones
Clear and visually appealing LCD screen
Works perfectly with all carts, including the Everdrive N8
Smooth and precise handheld controls, including wireless controllers
Great for on the go NES gaming, play your NES on the train!
Handheld itself feels very sturdy
Needs too many batteries, can be very expensive ( Use rechargables )
Could do with an inbuilt battery and charge dock
Watch out for faulty FC Mobile II's
Very poor IR distance
Average TV screen quality
No UK power adapater
Carts have too much movement in the back.
The FC Mobile II is available to buy on Retro Towers priced at £49.99, what's more for that little extra you can buy a step down converter for UK power. Use the coupon code IndieRetro for even more off
Twitter : @RetroTowers