(Note: In this post, I will discuss the Dingoo A320's stock hardware and emulators. In an upcoming post, I will discuss the optional custom firmware, Dingux, that really makes the Dingoo shine.)
I'll just go ahead and disclaim this post: If you're offended by emulation of games that are fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years old, stop reading. I will be discussing how gamers can relive the games of their childhoods and perhaps enjoy old classics for the first time. I understand that some of these games are available for a few dollars on various platforms, so technically emulation undercuts the profits of so-and-so shovelware porter. Whatever. I'll emulate games I purchased for full price twenty years ago, celebrating the history of video games and promoting modern games in the process.
Now that that's out of the way.
More than a year ago, I purchased the Dingoo A320 from Thinkgeek
as the "Pocket Retro Game Emulator."
I've always loved retro games, and I do mean always: I was born after the NES was released, and I loved it as a toddler. Once I was smart enough to figure it out, I started emulating NES games on my computer, letting me finally play the original incarnations of franchises I had come to love. I distinctly remember playing through the original Legend of Zelda
when my friends were playing Majora's Mask
on my N64. I really came to love the 8- and 16-bit games of yesteryear, in part because of the artistry, in part because I was a kid who got $5 a week and who couldn't afford most games in the first place.
So imagine the surprise and pleasant warmness in my nether-regions when I saw the "Pocket Retro Game Emulator" on my dear, beloved Thinkgeek, displaying a screen cap from Super Mario World, no less!
I was in love. Literally hundreds, nay, thousands
of retro games can fit on the two gigabytes of local storage, and the device comes with emulators already installed! I could play NES, SNES, Game Boy Advance, Genesis, Neo Geo, and CPS1 and CPS2 games until the day I die.
So the unit arrived in the mail. The hardware, while plastic, feels solid and has a pleasant lightness to it. The device doesn't feel too cheap, but it doesn't seem incredibly sturdy. The four buttons on the right are about of the same quality as any game boy, but the d-pad is just a bit shallow. The two shoulder buttons are fine, if a bit stiff. The speakers, I would learn, are also just fine: they don't produce beautifully-recreated landscapes of 8-bit chiptunes, but then, I never notice them being especially terrible, either. There's a headphone jack on the right of the unit and an A/V Out on the bottom.
I immediately began throwing all the ROMs I could find at the device. It immediately became clear that, while I was more than capable of figuring out the folder structure, and I understood that I would have to rename all my Genesis ROMs to the file extension that the Dingoo recognizes, someone less technically-inclined would have a bit of trouble getting the Dingoo to work properly.
I don't mean to say that the average Destructoid reader would be unable to figure out the Dingoo. I mean that I would hesitate to give this device to, say, my mother. You know, if she were randomly into retro games.
Anyway, once I had plenty of games on the device, organized into user-friendly folders, I tried out the stock emulators.
: Perfect. The emulation is smooth, controls are logically mapped, the save-state feature works, sound is fine, everything just works.
[b/]SNES[/b]: Pretty poor. Some games work well enough to play, though the frameskip sometimes makes the sound speed up and slow down unpredictably, so I'd advise playing with the sound off. And, unfortunately, some games are just unplayable, with impossibly awkward tempo issues and nightmarish numbers of skipped frames. Overall, SNES emulation on the Dingoo is terrible. (Note: This is a problem that is addressed in full by Dingux, a custom Dingoo firmware I will discuss in an upcoming post.)
: Almost perfect. While a few games here and there have minor issues with the frameskip, almost everything works at about 95% of what I would consider to be perfect. Unfortunately, a couple random games do not work at all, most notably Golden Sun
. Still, I consider the GBA emulation to be quite good.
: Decent. Sprites are rendered in a weird way, so that when they're moving they often have wide scan lines across them. Most games are playable, but it really cuts the enjoyment to have to watch the gorgeous characters fade in and out.
: Hell if I know. Apparently there is a utility somewhere on the internet that can convert the common Neo Geo ROMs into the kind that are playable on the Dingoo, but I haven't bothered with it.
: Perfect. Many well-known MAME games were for the Capcom arcade console, and they all seem to work without a hitch.
: Similar situation as the Neo Geo. They're supposed to work after conversion, but I've never bothered to try.
Those are all the stock emulators on the device. In another post, I will describe the various ways you can get more out of your Dingoo, from simple things like adding one small file that allows you to play original Game Boy/Game Boy Color games, to more complex ones like installing Dingux, which allows you to do basically whatever you want without any problems whatsoever, if you're technically-inclined enough to manage the process in the first place.
[embed]195269:36870[/embed] (A fairly decent review of the unit, showing off the A/V capacity of the device quite nicely.)
So, for the conclusion:
If you look at the stock Dingoo A320 as an NES and GBA (or even original GB; it's really just one copy-paste until you can play those, too) machine, you will love it. If you wanted to play the 16-bit consoles that emerged in the 90s, you're better off not buying, unless you're willing to put in the time and effort of installing Dingux.
For me, it is worth the price alone to play every NES game ever made on my television via the A/V Out, which works perfectly, by the way.
But follow up in a few days when I write the post on Dingux. Where the stock firmware on the Dingoo A320 is less than appealing in certain respects, Dingux really shines.
The Dingoo is available on Thinkgeek
for $120 dollars. But, if you don't mind the sometimes-less-than-optimal shipping times and customer service of DealExtreme, you can get it there
for $80.61. read