As someone who lives retro games I’ve heard all about the Raspberry Pi and how that bad boy can emulate all your favorite games with some amazing emulators. Cheap to buy and put together – just plug it into your TV, download ROMS, and you are all set.

I’m not a ROM or emulator guy. Never have been. As a kid who grew up throwing quarters into arcades the thought of running MAME on a computer is interesting because most of the arcades are just GONE. You can’t play them anymore unless you find a random arcade that has them. My local arcades (Richie Knucklez, Barcade) have some amazing games but I can’t tell you the last time I saw a Mr Do’s Wild Ride.

As far as I know downloading ROMS are illegal – there’s something if you own the game you are legally able to have a ROM. But how does that work? Is a company going to come to my house to make sure I own some ancient NES game? Do they check up? Do they sue? Does anyone ever get sued over owning the ROM to Mr. Do’s Wild Ride? I have no clue. Usually I just avoid.

That brings me to the RetroEngine Sigma – touted as a “mini console and media player.” Launching on IndieGoGo with a $20,000 goal the page there states:

RetroEngine Sigma is as simple as plug-and-play and requires no expertise or experience to set up. The system comes with several pre-installed games that work out of the box. Additionally, via an easy smartphone guided setup procedure, gamers gain the ability to run a majority of retro video games released on such classic systems as Atari VCS 2600, Sega Genesis, NES and many more. It is also a living room computer and powerful media-center. Retrogaming simplified!

So it is a Raspberry Pi (or some online are saying it’s an Orange Pi but I’m too lazy to look up the difference)- or at least the concept is. But hey it is much cuter than the ugly board you have to buy for the Pi. It uses a MicroSD card for memory, hooks up to a TV using HDMI, uses USB controllers, and a dongle that will communicate with Bluetooth controllers (like your PS3 controller).

The system doesn’t come loaded with ROMS. It can’t. I imagine if they did Nintendo would sue the shit out of them in about 8 seconds flat. What the creators say is:

In addition, our Plug’n Play installer gives you the choice to download, configure and install additional emulators from public sources and repositories, controlled by your smartphone or tablet. This is as easy as selecting the option during the initial setup of the system and will allow you to play thousands of additional ROM’s that can be easily installed onto the system with a web-browser or by using the provided Micro SD adapter. Your smartphone will also be usable as a keyboard and even as an additional game controller.

It’s very interesting – and of course they get out of doing something illegal by leaving it up to you – the owner. This bad boy also acts as a mini computer which I guess is a very cool thing (and a great way to market it beyond being a retro game console).

This thing has emulators for NES, SNES, GB, GB Color, GBA, Nintendo 64, PC Engine (the TurboGrafx 16), PS1, Atari 2600 and 7800, Atari Lynx, PS1, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis (to include Sega CD and the 32X), Sega’s Japan only SG-1000, Neo-Geo, MAME, and more.  It is a downloader’s fantasy system in a great looking console.

Wanting to know just a little bit more I tracked down Thomas Brockhage from Doyodo Entertainment who is putting together the RetroEngine Sigma to ask him just a few more questions.

RM: There are similar devices to the RetroEngine Sigma out on the market – what makes RetroEngine Sigma special and better than those devices?

THOMAS BROCKHAGE: I am not so sure about there being many similar devices. There are plug’n play devices, which are non-expandable (in terms of being able to install additional software). There is the option to build your own device based on an old console, or a Raspberry Pi. There are Android devices that can be rooted and modified to run open source emulator packs. But in essence there are PnP and DIY devices. The disadvantage of PnP devices is obvious, the DIY devices are a great option for a tech-savvy audience – I would always recommend to do that before buying something ready made for educational purposes alone, but in essence that is a small nerdy niche. If we want to maintain access to games in the same way that old music and films are still available, we need to take the retro wave out of the nerd-cave. That was the main motivation behind our project.

So what will make it better will mainly be usability, but there are a few hardware advantages as well, mostly in comparison with Raspberry Pi based systems – such as faster media access – and that also means for example network access, making things like wifi controls via smartphone possible without massive lag. The Raspberries have all their I/O except the SD card on the same single USB bus – some of the negative effects of that can be countered by using more RAM as buffers, something our devices don’t need. One of the reasons we can offer a reasonable price.

RM: The amount of emulators packed in with the RetroEngine Sigma is astonishing. There are a few exceptions that I noticed like the Atari 5200, PC-FX, Sega Saturn, and, one of my favorite consoles, the Colecovision. Could there be a way to add emulators in the future or are the emulators featured already the final line-up?

THOMAS BROCKHAGE: The Atari 5200 is not listed individually, but it is compatible with Atari 8 Bit home computers and therefore already supported. The Sega Saturn is technically too complex to emulate on our system. Other systems, like the Colecovsion, will most likely be possible in the future.

RM: Once the IndieGoGo finishes how quickly do you anticipate building the consoles and getting them to backers?

THOMAS BROCKHAGE: Our timeline is unchanged and we estimate the first systems being shipped out by end of April.

RM: If there is anyone looking at the campaign and are still on the fence about jumping in – what would you like to say to them about making the plunge to purchase the RetroEngine Sigma?

THOMAS BROCKHAGE: Act while you can! After the campaign, there is less (far less) than a 1% chance that the same system is continued to be made. Who knows, they might become collectors items.

SO THERE YOU HAVE IT FOLKS. You can buy a Raspberry Pi but why would you when you can have this awesome, quite complete console? The only downside? It doesn’t sound like they are going to do a retail version (at least not at this point). So if you want one – you should plunk your money down now to snag yourself one.

You can find out more and give to the RetroEngine Sigma’s campaign by clicking here and checking out the IndieGoGo campaign.