Retro-Bit has been one of my favorite 3rd party retro accessory makers since my first experience with their Dreamcast VGA box. Over the years I have gotten to use many of their products both for personal use and professional review. Today I am happy to have the opportunity to review Retro-Bit’s latest retro console offering: the Super Retro Trio Plus! Released earlier this year, the Super Retro Trio Plus is a hardware based clone system capable of playing NES, SNES and Genesis games on an HDTV over HDMI. In a lot of ways I was exceptionally impressed with the Super Retro Trio Plus... others, not so much.
Aesthetics and Build Quality
The Super Retro Trio Plus uses the same design as its predecessor, the Super Retro Trio. This definitely isn’t a bad thing, as the design is very pleasing and matches well with the aesthetic Retro-Bit has been cultivating for its products. The Super Retro Trio Plus comes in a white and red color scheme and sits in a footprint about the size of an original Super Nintendo Console. Cartridge ports on the system are aligned by size: Genesis, SNES, NES, so you can clearly see what games you have inserted even with all three slots occupied. One thing I had noticed with the cartridge slots is that the Genesis and NES slots did allow for more wiggle on the games than I would like. Overall the system feels very sturdy despite its lighter weight.
The front of the unit has a cover that reveals two controller ports for each supported system. By default the Super Retro Trio Plus will utilize the SNES controller ports for each system. With a simple flip of a switch you can change to using the original controllers for NES and Genesis. There is also a region switch on the front that will let you change the region of the system to allow compatibility for PAL and NTSC-J games. When not in use the front panel can be closed which makes the system look very slick compared to the mass of controller ports. The back of the unit looks like a typical Retro-Bit system. Power is provided by micro USB, included in the box. RCA ports, which allow the Super Retro Trio Plus to be hooked up to a traditional CRT TV. Finally, new to the Super Retro Trio Plus, comes HDMI, which lets the system be hooked up to modern displays at 720P resolution. Unfortunately HDMI only outputs a stretched 16:9 image instead of a 4:3 image employed by the older systems the unit plays.
As mentioned earlier the Super Retro Trio Plus is a hardware based clone system capable of playing Genesis, SNES and NES games. Being hardware based means the Super Retro Trio Plus doesn’t implement any emulation like the Retron 5 or the Super Retrocade. The problem hardware based clones have had in the past is they don’t always have the best accuracy when it comes to video or audio quality and some games just can’t play on them. How exactly does the Super Retro Trio Plus fare for each of its 3 supported consoles?
I have worked with quite a few NES clones over the last year and my personal favorite in the low cost market was Retro-Bit’s own Res Plus. I was pleased that it provided video quality on par with Nintendo’s own NES Classic and offered sound, while not identical to a real NES, close enough to not be noticable outside of direct comparisons. Compatibility was also fantastic with problematic games like CASTLEVANIA 3 and homebrew game carts working without issue. Peripherals like the NES Zapper also worked when using the system on a CRT TV! The Super Retro Trio Plus is thankfully virtually identical in all aspects of NES gaming! Every game I tested worked without issue and the NES Zapper is now good to go when paired with a CRT! Due to the Super Retro Trio Plus being so identical to the Res Plus, I am going to refer you to my previous review for more in depth info on the NES side of things.
Genesis has always been a tough one for the clone market with regards to its sound chip. Most implementations sound plain wrong or so noisy you need to turn off the sound to keep sanity! Surprisingly the Super Retro Trio Plus presents Genesis audio near identical enough to the real thing that I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between them without diving into a deep wave table analysis! One thing I will note about the Genesis audio, is that depending on your setup you might hear a tiny bit of excess white noise. While I was playing games on my CRT TV and computer screen with surround sound I couldn’t hear any white noise in the audio. On my Samsung TV and soundbar there was noticeable extra noise when nothing was happening in the game.
Thankfully after the successful audio implementation, video quality doesn’t disappoint! Well outside the aforementioned forced 16:9 implementation… Seriously, why is that still a thing? The video output here resembles a Genesis running on RGB with nice colors and clean signal. While I doubt the Super Retro Trio Plus is utilizing RGB for its output, this looks far superior to any upscaled Genesis component output I have ever seen!
Now that I know that my Genesis games will both look and sound great, what is compatibility like? In a word, fantastic! The Super Retro Trio Plus was capable of playing every single one of my 30+ Genesis titles including Super STREET FIGHTER II. As an added bonus the Genesis port also works with the Mega Everdrive opening up the possibility of numerous homebrew games, which worked great, and compatibility with Sega Master System games! For those who don’t know, the Genesis came with the hardware of the Master System built into it. Sure they had graphical glitches, but the fact that Master System games can run on this thing at all is impressive to me! I will give credit to Retro-Bit for providing chips accurate enough to accomplish this and, hopefully in future iterations of their hardware, we might see official Master System support!
After the awesome performance of the NES and Genesis side of the Super Retro Trio Plus I had high hopes for the system's ability to play SNES games. In terms of compatibility I was very happy with what the Super Retro Trio Plus could do. Each of the SNES’s numerous expansion chips I tried worked without issue! Notable Games and chips I tested include DSP-1 (SUPER MARIO KART), SA-1 (SUPER MARIO RPG), Super FX (STAR FOX), Super FX 2 (YOSHI’S ISLAND) and CX4 (MEGA MAN X2). I also decided to try out my SNES mouse on the system and can happily say it worked without issue, for all you MARIO PAINT fans out there! The SNES mouse also shows how minimal input lag is on the Super Retro Trio Plus, with each move of the mouse being immediately displayed on my monitor. The Super Gameboy also runs allowing the Super Retro Trio Plus to play the substantial Gameboy library.
Unfortunately, the Super Retro Trio Plus leaves much to be desired from playing SNES games. The first immediate issue: video quality. While colors do look nice, the whole image is noisy and looks awful in contrast with the presentation of NES and Genesis games on the same system! The second issue is sound quality. Every piece of audio coming from SNES games sounds like it has been passed through a high gain filter and it ranges from “that doesn’t sound good” to “please turn it off”. The audio issues only get worse when you play Gameboy games through the Super Gameboy, leaving me to recommend just muting the sound if you want to play them. My last issue is that the system is running slightly faster than a real SNES. While this is a good thing for eliminating lag in some games, it shows a lack of accuracy in direct contrast to the accuracy put into Genesis gameplay.
The included controllers that come bundled with the Super Retro Trio Plus are the same ones that came bundled with the Super Retrocade, only with an SNES connector instead of USB. I once again find this controller to be perfectly usable, even with the squishy shoulder buttons, for playing Genesis, SNES and NES games. Genesis games are mapped a little weird to make up for the 4 face button and 2 shoulder button style of the included controller versus the original 3 or 6 face buttons of an original controller. The option is there to use original controllers if you want to keep the experience authentic, but after a couple of minutes I was having no issues playing. The included controller ports have also offered great compatibility with numerous accessories including the NES Zapper, NES Advantage, SNES Mouse and 8bitdo Bluetooth Receiver for NES and SNES.
As far as clone consoles go, the Super Retro Trio Plus is a surprisingly good console with a few letdowns. The product as a whole is brought down in quality with the sound and video issues plaguing SNES gameplay. 16:9 video output is also just not how these games are meant to be played, so no option for a 4:3 output is a surprising oversight, especially when such options exist on competing clone systems. The included controllers are great for playing games on each system with the option to use real controllers for those who choose to. Hopefully as Retro-Bit continues to refine their hardware they can bring SNES up to par with the rest of the system, include a 4:3 aspect ratio and expand on the system's ability to properly play Master System games. While there are high-end clone options, like the Analogue Nt Mini, they come at quite a premium. At the asking price of $79.99, the Super Retro Trio Plus makes a solid case for those wanting an easy way to enjoy their classic NES and Genesis games on an HDTV by providing good compatibility as well as video and audio that comes close to the real console.