Super Pocket review | Dedicated handhelds deliver more than just arcade hits

super pocket review
Share this Article:

Blaze’s new handheld, a low-cost alternative to its Evercade, offers an easy re-entry point for would-be retro gamers. Here’s our Super Pocket review:

The Super Pocket is a new handheld console – or rather a range of handheld consoles – from Blaze, the company behind the Evercade home and portable gaming systems (namely the VS and EXP respectively) and their ever-growing library of compilation cartridges. The name’s an apt one – these portables, priced at £49.99/$59.99 each, are properly pint-sized and will slip inside most pockets around your person, unless you’re partial to especially tight jeans.

Available in both Capcom and Taito flavours – the former blue and yellow, the latter grey and teal – these Super Pockets are small but perfectly formed playthings, landscape orientated like the classic Game Boy but featuring enough buttons beneath the screen and behind the unit to cover titles up to those which came out for the PlayStation 1. If you buy the Capcom model, it comes preloaded with 12 Capcom games; if you opt for the Taito version, you get 18 from that famous Japanese developer. But that’s not where the game options end – which we’ll get to later.

Form factor

At about 12cm long by 8cm wide (roughly 5 inches by 3 inches), the Super Pocket is substantially smaller than Nintendo’s original Game Boy, and shorter than the Game Boy Color, with which it shares a similar width and depth (of about 2cm, or just under an inch). The Super Pocket’s portrait IPS screen measures 320 by 240 pixels, and unlike the screens of older handheld consoles (or lower-quality modern equivalents), you can tilt the device this way and that, observing it from all manner of viewing angles, and the picture won’t disappear.

A single speaker is set between the machine’s start and select buttons, and it makes enough noise to be heard above the hullaballoo of a busy household or, we’d imagine, the buzzing and humming of a morning commuter train or bus – but there’s also a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the underside of the unit, to save you from irritating fellow passengers. Also arranged on the bottom of the Super Pocket is its power switch – a simple slider for on/off positions – and a USB-C charge point. A metre-long fast-charging cable is included, but you’ll need your own adapter for it if you’re going to top this thing up from a wall socket. Blaze says the rechargeable battery on these things will run for over four hours and in testing, yep, it’s just a smidge over four hours running the Capcom unit with a selection of built-in and extra Evercade games. But again, more on those later.

The Super Pocket’s volume is controlled via up and down buttons on the back, and there’s definitely a larger jump from absolute silence to notable noise here than on a lot of handheld systems – it’d have been nice to have a few more steps available to find the perfect output level for your environment. Master and menus volume settings can also be found in-menu (accessed via the central button directly below the screen), as well as a level for the bleeps that accompany your d-pad movements and selections outside of games. Should you want to use them, scanlines can be added to the display, at either a subtle or strong level.

Choose your mode

One of the Super Pocket’s most notable features is an option to switch between ‘normal’ and ‘easy’ mode for each unit’s built-in arcade games. This is one of those exactly-as-it-sounds affairs, where ‘easy’ replicates these games with their DIP switches set to the most pain-free experience available.

In testing, it’s not always the case where the game is immediately a piece of cake, but you may find it easier to score goals, beat bosses, or burst balls within a set time limit with your game set to ‘easy’.

If you want these arcade games as tough as they were in a coin-operated cabinet, that’s available as the default. Because the majority of the built-in Taito and Capcom games are arcade titles, they need you to insert your money to start playing them. You do that with the Select button – there’s no slot for 20p pieces around the back.

Capcom games

Onto those built-in titles, then, and several of Capcom’s will resonate with anyone who’s been following videogames since the 1980s. Eleven of the dozen collected here are the arcade versions, with Mega Man coming from the NES.

In no particular order, the rest of the games are: Forgotten Worlds, 1942, 1943, 1944: The Loop Master, Strider, MERCS, Captain Commando, Bionic Commando, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Final Fight, and Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting. It’s a nice mix of run-and-gun, shoot-‘em-up, side-scrolling beat-‘em-ups and, in Street Fighter II, one of the true classics of the one-on-one fighting genre.

All games are supported with save slots, six per title, accessible via the menu button, and each game’s controls can be checked here, too.

Super Pocket Capcom
The Super Pocket in its Capcom guise. Credit: Blaze.

Taito games

Taito’s 18 reads as follows: Space Invaders, Bubble Bobble, Puzzle Bobble, Operation Wolf, Rastan, The NewZealand Story, Cadash, Don Doko Don, Growl (aka Runark), Volfied, The Fairyland Story, Elevator Action, Kiki Kaikai (the precursor to Pocky & Rocky), The Legend Of Kage, Liquid Kids, Chack’n Pop, Football Champ, and Space Invaders ’91.

That last one has only ever been a Mega Drive (or Genesis) game, but all the others are as they were as coin-ops. As per the Capcom collection, it’s a neat spread of experiences, offering rich variety and something to suit most moods, although sports are poorly represented across the pair – perhaps because the Super Pocket can only support a single player, with no TV out with extra pad ports or link-cable connectivity. Which is to say: that ‘Player 2 Start’ notice can flash all it wants, but it’s all for naught.

Super Pocket Taito
The Super Pocket Taito Edition in its tasteful grey and teal finery. Credit: Blaze.


Solo-only play is a compromise that most Super Pocket users will be okay with. But that small screen – 2.8 inches compared to the Evercade EXP’s 4.3 inches – makes some of the (vertical-perspective) TATE-mode games, like the shooters MERCS, 1942 and 1943, very tricky to squint your way through, with the action compressed into a strip in the middle of the display. You do have aspect ratio options, in the same menu as those scanlines – but stretching these games so they fit the width of the screen makes for hideously deformed visuals. The Evercade EXP has a TATE mode, so these games (also built into the EXP) play sublimely on that – but the EXP is also twice the price of the Super Pocket.

The portrait form factor of the Super Pocket will appeal to those raised on Nintendo’s monochromatic wonder, and unless you’ve very large paws playing most games is a doddle using the d-pad (stiff, but not uncomfortable) and face buttons (a little snappy, and they spring back swiftly).

Forefingers naturally rest on a small ridge around the back of the unit, but what’s puzzling is the decision to place the shoulder buttons – L1 and L2, R1 and R2 – beneath this ridge, making access, for this reviewer and their digits at least, more than a mite fiddly. With no button remapping available, this means heavy attacks in Street Fighter II are locked to buttons that can be a real faff to press in the heat of some fisticuffs. Your mileage will vary, or course, but these buttons are one of the weaker elements of the Super Pocket package.

Super Pocket rear angle
The placement of these shoulder buttons is the one curious decision in an otherwise well-designed package. Credit: Blaze.

With regular 4:3 ratio games, the Super Pocket’s screen does just fine – there’s no option for fancy borders, but those always feel largely superfluous anyway, if not an actual distraction from what you should be focusing on. The pixel detail is crisp, and the colours vividly pop – but, obviously, already-small text in certain games becomes barely readable at times, and diminutive in-game assets like power-ups and other pick-ups can be harder to discern against backgrounds, with everything reduced in scale. This is the price you pay for a handheld as small as this one – but ultimately that price isn’t at a level where you feel ripped off for what ends up in your hands.

Fifty quid for a Super Pocket makes it a terrific fiddle toy for desk breaks, a commute escape for a few stops, or just a convenient way to (re)connect with some genuine arcade powerhouses, without installing a full-size cab in your hallway. Choose your iconic Japanese developer, and enjoy – no complicated set-up or emulator adjustments required.

Carts and compatibility

Okay, let’s address Evercade compatibility. The Super Pocket has a cartridge slot, which is filled with a fake cart colour-matched to the unit on purchase, and which rounds it out nicely. Into that slot you can put any Evercade cartridge – 51 of which are listed on the official website, offering over 500 games – and play the games on it, with the same display and save options as the built-in games. You just select the Evercade option from the menu, once a cart’s inserted, and there those games will be. For the curious, the catalogue’s Namco Museum carts – containing the likes of Dig Dug, Pac-Man, Mappy, Galaga and Xevious – do work on the Super Pocket, as they were licensed by Blaze for handheld use (which means they don’t work on the VS).

Should you want to explore the Evercade catalogue via the Super Pocket, it’s worth noting that this console doesn’t have the feature set or premium feel of the EXP handheld, which is well worth its higher asking price. As well as no TATE mode on the Super Pocket, there’s also no HDMI out for TV play, no Wifi (so no updates and no downloadable games), no secret games to unlock, and it’s just not as nice to use for prolonged periods as Evercade’s primary portable device. So, if that’s your intent, it’s better to skip the Super Pocket and go straight for the EXP – which comes with a suite of Capcom classics built-in, too, including some not on the Capcom-edition Super Pocket, such as Vulgus and Mega Man X.

Super Pocket
A size comparison of the Super Pocket (in Capcom and Taito flavours) next to the original Game Boy. Credit: Mike Diver.

The Evercade library is so vast now that recommending carts to kick off a collection isn’t as simple as it used to be, but personal highlights include: Bitmap Brothers Collection 1 (featured games include Speedball 2, Xenon 2, The Chaos Engine), Renovation Collection 1 (El Viento, Sol-Deace, Vallis III), Codemasters Collection 1 (Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder, Psycho Pinball), the two Atari Lynx collections (California Games, Scrapyard Dog, Blue Lightning), the double-packs of Xeno Crisis/Tanglewood and Alwa’s Awakening/Cathedral (as it’s not all retro stuff, here), Team17 Collection 1 (Alien Breed, ATR, Project X), and frankly any of the arcade collections, which encompass such studios as Atari, Data East, Toaplan and Irem.

The catalogue goes deep, and is a genuine joy to explore – so if you use the Super Pocket as a cheaper way to sample some of the goodness available, you won’t be disappointed.

Worth a purchase…?

If you’re already familiar with the Evercade range and own an EXP, the Super Pocket is really only worth your time and money as a fun little collectible, albeit quite an expensive one if it’s mostly going to sit pretty on a shelf and not get used. The numbering of these units – #1 for Taito, #2 for Capcom – strongly suggests more are on the way, and there are definitely people out there in the Evercade audience who’ll happily buy the lot to scratch the collector itch.

If you’ve only got a VS, these offer you an affordable way to take your games on the go, as saves are stored on the cartridge so can be moved from console to console. And if you’ve nothing in the way of Evercade products before now, but love Taito and/or Capcom arcade games, the Super Pocket’s a terrific option for anytime play, be that while you’re out and about, on a coffee break, or just getting in a few rounds of Puzzle Bobble before your favourite show comes on the tellybox.

It’s not the perfect way to play any of its built-in games, or many other games besides via its Evercade compatibility, but for the price, the Super Pocket represents one of the best gaming deals around. It’s an affordable and rewarding gadget which could easily reawaken a love for coin-op play, or complement an already respectable retro-gaming collection.

The Super Pocket Taito and Capcom editions will be available from 14 November from Amazon and other selected retailers.

Share this Article:

More like this