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TAKING THE FIGHT BEYOND THE STREETS

by James Berich 16 Jan 2024 0 Comments
TAKING THE FIGHT BEYOND THE STREETS

A slew of portable emulation devices are popping up online now, many of which are arguably attempting to offer a cheaper solution to the very popular Analogue Pocket. Where the Miyoo Mini Plus was obviously trying its best to mimic the design language of the Analogue, the Anbernic RG ARC-S looks to take things in its own direction.

While it ostensibly feels cheaper than its more expensive contemporary, the RG ARC-S still fares pretty well on its own, given how much cheaper it is.

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The RG ARC-S runs Linux and has a four-inch IPS 640 x 480 display with a form factor shaped like a Sega Genesis or Sega Saturn controller. It’s bigger than other handhelds of this type, such as the Miyoo Mini Plus, but it’s also a lot more comfortable to hold.

It’s still portable and can easily fit in your pocket, but the device’s extended width might be better suited to a bag. The portability is most apparent with its weight, too, at just under 250 grams; it’s super light. The unit pictured here is of the transparent blue variant but is also available in transparent black.

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While these emulation devices are almost always targeted towards satisfying that nostalgic itch, the Anbernic RG ARC-S is geared more towards providing an optimal control scheme for fighting games. While the device borrows liberally from the layout of later Sega controllers, the six-button layout will suit most of the fighting games. Depending on which console you’re playing, you’ll also need shoulder buttons, and they’re included here, too, in the typical four-button arrangement on top of the device.

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Several emulators are included from the get-go, and a fully configured installation of Retroarch is included. Between the Emulator and Retroarch options in the system software, there’s a well-rounded selection of systems to play on, which gives an excellent opportunity to play many games, too. A lot of the Retroarch settings are pre-mapped, but many of them are mapped improperly, and you’ll have to do some tinkering yourself to get them right.

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Being primarily a device catered towards fighting games, the Anbernic RG ARC-S comes with all the major emulators from the golden era of arcade fighting. Sega’s NAOMI system board and all 3 of Capcom’s CP System boards are included here, as well as the classics like MAME. There’s even a selection of more niche open-source arcade emulators like FinalBurn Neo and Vertical Arcade, too. NAOMI, CP System, and MAME are often a little bit more convoluted to set up, so having them all included here and working with minimal tinkering is a relief.

Other consoles are also included, with the device capable of running any games from the Dreamcast and earlier with little to no issue, nut the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 64 games struggle to perform on the device for the most part regardless.

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Each emulator included naturally has save state options, so you can pick up where you left off if needed. The natural inbuilt Netplay functionality of Retroarch works here, too, so if you can tee it up with another of your Anbernic RG ARC-S-owning friends, you can play online with them, too.

Theoretically, you should be able to use Netplay in Retroarch to play any game online with anyone else who has Retroarch, but I couldn’t do any such testing for this review. Unfortunately, the game switching seen in the OnionOS on the Miyoo isn’t featured here.

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The battery that the Anbernic RG ARC-S ships with gets you about five to six hours of gameplay, though that number will vary depending on which games you choose to play on it. Thankfully, the device charges quickly with the included USB-C cable, but the battery life makes it unsuitable for longer-haul trips. Still, it’s perfect for lunch breaks or even commutes, and the save states make it easy to stop and start whenever needed.

Overall, the Anbernic RG ARC-S is a solid little device that can run almost any game you throw at it, provided it was released before 2001. It’s light and sleek, its battery life is modest, and it especially feels comfortable playing the games it’s arguably designed for – fighters.

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It’s most certainly worth bringing your collection to the RG ARC-S, as while it does feel ever so cheap, it’s a comfortable and convenient way to play a wide variety of games (especially fighters) on the go.
Content by James Berich
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