Love them or loathe them, clones of retro systems are here to stay. Over the past few years we've seen numerous unofficial attempts to replicate the performance of vintage systems, some more successful than others. In recent years the arrival of authentic takes on this concept – such as the NES and SNES Classic Editions – has triggered a renewed gold rush with a flood of clones appearing to capitalise on the refreshed interest in all things retro.
The SNES Classic remains in high demand and companies like Hyperkin are getting in on the act with their own offerings, but if you're willing to head off the beaten track a little then you'll find some truly intriguing machines being sold. The Hamy NES and SNES HD Classic is one such device; as the name suggests, it runs 8 and 16-bit software via HDMI, giving you the chance to play software from the libraries of two of Nintendo's most beloved systems.
The unit is a rather unassuming plastic device with two slots on the top, one for NES games (sorry, no Famicom support here) and another for SNES and Super Famicom – the machine is capable of playing American, European and Japanese 16-bit titles. A three-stage power switch toggles between off, SNES and NES, while on the front you'll find two SNES controller ports. On the left-hand side there are two NES ports, and the system comes with one third-party pad for each system. Sadly, you can't use the SNES pad to play NES games or vice versa, so if you want to play two-player games, you're going to have to potentially invest in two more pads.
The controllers that come bundled with the console are your typical knock-offs; the SNES controller imitation looks different enough to avoid being confused with the real thing, and while it looks and feels a bit cheap, the buttons are responsive and the D-pad is accurate and precise. The NES controller is a little closer to the original design and has a "softer" feeling D-pad, but it's perfectly acceptable. Naturally, if you have your original controllers then they're work just fine.
Around the back of the console there's composite out and a HDMI port, the latter of which allows you to output a 720p image to a modern-day television set. The quality of the image isn't quite on par with the NES and SNES Classic, but it's a definite step up from the fuzziness of composite. While pixels have a slightly soft feel to them, colours are excellent and – perhaps most importantly of all – emulation is solid enough. We tested several different games and none suffered from any kind of faults or performance woes; the only real complaint is that the music in some NES titles (Ninja Gaiden and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles especially) sounds off; the drumbeats drown out much of the audio, which is something that doesn't happen on original hardware.
As well as offering a decent level of performance – NES audio issues aside – it's worth noting that the console deals with Super FX perfectly and is even capable of playing flash carts, if that's your bag. While we haven't torn the unit apart to check, we'd guess it's running a system-on-a-chip rather than using FPGA – the latter being hardware emulation rather than software – but we'd gladly go out on a limb and state that most people who play this console wouldn't be able to tell the difference between it and the real thing. Sure, look (and listen) close enough and you'll no doubt uncover some discrepancies, but for a machine that costs £80, runs carts intended for two different consoles, comes with two controllers and offers HDMI capability, it's not a bad deal. If you're an absolute stickler for accuracy then you're perhaps better off investing in one of Analogue's amazing FPGA-based systems, but if you simply want a way to play your NES and SNES carts in HD, then Hamy's plain-looking challenger is worth considering.
Thanks to Tom's Retro Shack for supplying the unit used in this review.