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The five-star Mega Drive Mini and the superb SNES Classic may have more mainstream appeal, but if you love retro gaming and fondly remember feeding arcade machines your hard-earned pocket money, then the Egret II Mini could be this year’s must-have gaming device. The Egret II Mini is a pretty faithful recreation of Taito’s iconic arcade cabinets that were extremely popular in Japan. It contains 40 built-in games, a rotating screen, stereo speakers and an adjustable joystick, making it one of the more feature-heavy devices in the ever expanding miniature market.
Other than the games list (but more on that later), it’s the adjustable screen that really makes the Egret II Mini feel like something special.
An absolute godsend if you’re a fan of vertically-scrolling shoot-em-ups, the Egret II Mini features a satisfyingly clicky rotating screen. Just click it in, pop it out and twist the screen around for when you want to play vertically scrolling games the proper way – such as Space Invaders, RayForce and Gun Frontier.
When you want to play the more commonly available side-scrolling games, simply rotate the screen back to its original position and it will adjust the aspect ratio automatically.
Being able to play games with a suitable aspect ratio is boosted further by the fact that the LCD display measures in at a solid 5-inches, meaning you’re never squinting to make out the action onscreen.
It’s a far cry from the original Sega Astro Mini, where certain games were borderline unplayable due to the dinky 3.9-inch screen and pointless 16:9 display mode.
You can see a comparison of the two devices and their respective game-to-screen ratios below.
Another really nice touch is the ability to switch the joystick between four directions and eight directions, while the glowing marquee and instructional panel with swappable cards adds an extra layer of legitimacy.
Factor in the solid build quality and sizeable form factor that’s actually comfortable to play out of the box, and the Egret II Mini strikes the perfect balance between practicality and authenticity.
The games list is another big tick in the win column for the Taito Egret II Mini, both in terms of variety and overall quality.
The base unit ships with 40 games, which is far greater than the paltry 16 games on the Capcom Home Arcade, and the 22 titles bundled with the Astro City Mini V. It even tops the original Astro City Mini, which comes with 37 games.
The Egret II Mini doesn’t feature as many household names as some of its rivals – Space Invaders is the earliest and most historically significant of the bunch – but there are very few games that don’t have at least some redeeming qualities.
Personal favourites include Elevator Action Returns, Rastan Saga, Runark (Growl), Darius Gaiden, Dan-Ku-Ga (and Kaiser Knuckle), Metal Black, Rayforce, Tatsujin, Gun Frontier, Kyukyoku Tiger (Twin Cobra) and Puzzle Bobble.
I also got a big kick out of Pocky & Rocky predecessor Kiki KaiKai, especially after spending hours playing Pocky & Rocky Reshrined on Nintendo Switch.
There are quite a few Bubble Bobble style games on the device, which is great if you like that kind of thing, but I’ve never personally been able to get into them. They’re not bad games, just not my cup of tea (maybe I’m out of practice). I also remember liking Rainbow Islands a lot more in my younger days than I do now.
Though slightly limited in the gameplay department, Hat Trick Hero’s chunky visuals and overall presentation represent everything I love about arcade gaming, while Pirate Pete, Lunar Rescue and Space Invaders’ primitive graphics shouldn’t put you off playing these addictive classics.
Perhaps unsurprisingly it’s the Egret II Mini’s weedy speakers that let it down – especially on higher volumes – although you can at least plug in a set of headphones.
Another issue is that the Egret II Mini doesn’t come with an actual power supply, just a cable. While this wouldn’t typically be a problem, the Egret II Mini needs a lot of juice to keep things running smoothly. Use a standard plug and the device doesn’t get enough power, leading to all kinds of performance issues.
The price could also be a sticking point for some, especially if purchasing the cabinet and extras – which will set you back more than £400. It’s not that the Egret II Mini isn’t worth it, it’s just a high price to pay in comparison to some of its rivals.
Still, with a strong games line-up, excellent build quality and some neat features like the rotating screen, there isn’t too much to complain about when it comes to the Egret II Mini.
If you’re looking for a pint-sized machine with more gems than a vault at Tiffany’s, the Egret II Mini might just be the best miniature gaming device yet.
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