I have a large collection of vintage video games, and I’ve always relied on my imported Retro Freak emulation-based gaming console to enjoy them. It’s a remarkable little package that can play cartridges from a variety of systems and can also rip games to a micro SD card, allowing you to hold the whole collection on a console the size of a Super NES cartridge. It does not, however, allow disc-based games. In reality, no consumer retro gaming device has ever backed disc-based games from the fourth and fifth console generations up to now. All of that improves with the arrival of Playmaji Polymega.
This retro gaming machine reads Sony PlayStation, Sega CD, Sega Saturn, Neo Geo CD, and TurboGrafx 16 disks from all regions and rips them to its onboard memory or built storage to help you organize your set. Through the inclusion of optional Element modules that connect cartridge slots to the console, it can also play cartridge games. The Polymega is a little pricey at $400, and adding cartridge support for each Element module adds another $60, but it’s one of the more durable consumer-available (rather than custom-built) retro systems we’ve seen. It’s a fantastic toolkit for playing games on fourth- and fifth-generation consoles, and it wins our Editors’ Choice award.
This is a large package, measuring 2.2 by 10.2 by 7.8 inches (HWD), and is about the same scale as an Xbox One S. The slot-loading CD-ROM drive is housed in the system’s foundation, while the rest of the electronics are housed in the console’s back half. The front half is a hollow plastic shell that comes off with the push of a button. Optional Element modules, which add cartridge slots and old-school controller ports for various devices, may be used to cover this component.
Element modules are blocky attachments with cartridge slots and controller ports for various game systems that are the same size and form as the Polymega’s front case. Specific Element modules are available for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Super NES/Super Famicom, and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, with a fourth module available for TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine game cards. Each module includes a wired game controller that is programmed to connect into the native controller port on each module rather than the USB port, which is modeled after the general form and configuration of the device it supports. To try with the Polymega, Playmaji sent us the EM02 Super Element kit, which was optimized for SNES and Super Famicom sports.
A traditional wireless gamepad in the modern dual-analog setup is included with the Polymega. With a light build and long button pushes, it appears like an Xbox controller but sounds more like a Dualshock 4. It comes with a 2.4GHz USB receiver that plugs into one of the system’s two USB ports on the front. The controller has a decent build quality and feels relaxed and sensitive, though the shiny surface on the direction pad makes it a little slippery. The lateral inputs on the pad are a little slower than they should be.
With two old-fashioned pinned connectors on the front, each Polymega module fits with the initial (or reproduction) gamepads of the device it supports. The EM02 Super Element package includes a wired SNES-style controller with a 10-foot fabric-wrapped cable that terminates in a SNES controller socket. It has soft, circular bumps on each side of the back of the traditional dogbone shape, giving a much more ergonomic grip than the initial controller. It also has a Polymega button that allows you to enter the system’s menu. This controller’s direction pad is glossy, much like the wireless gamepad’s, except it’s bigger and has indentations to give the thumb a little more grip.
Backup and compatibility
When you switch on the Polymega, you’ll see the main menu, which is a colorful tile-based gui. Games are organized by console and divided into various areas (Super Nintendo and Super Famicom games are in different lists). The navigation is easy.
The Polymega will read games from all regions on Sony PlayStation, Sega CD, Sega Saturn, TurboGrafx CD, and Neo Geo CD. Simply insert your disc into the slot and begin playing. More specifically, even more easily, you can store your disks on the Polymega’s 32GB of internal memory, a microSD card inserted into the system’s back slot, or an M.2 2280 SSD inserted into the system’s rim. For the preinstalled games and the folder that the machine uses to look up the games you insert, just 9GB of room is available when you switch on the console.
Sound and graphics
The Polymega is an emulation-based gaming computer that uses interface emulation and brute processing capacity to replicate the electronics of the game consoles. The majority of retro game systems are focused on emulation, but others, such as the RetroN 5 and Retro Freak, have sparked controversy by using emulation cores without approval from the projects that developed them.
The Polymega, according to Playmaji, uses legally approved versions of the Mednafen, Mesen, Kega Fusion, and MAME multi-system emulators, as well as in-house production.
Performance in Emulation
The Polymega ate up every game I threw at it, flawlessly emulating the PlayStation, Saturn, Sega CD, PC Engine CD (TurboGrafx CD), and SNES. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 3 is fully functional. Nights Into Dreams was flawlessly executed. Yoshi’s Island was well-played. Popful Mail worked well. Star Fox, one of the only 3D games on the SNES that used a different chip for polygon production, ran flawlessly.
The only emulation flaw I discovered was a backdrop picture that didn’t make correctly in Final Fantasy Tactics, which I couldn’t replicate when I played the game more. Across the board, the Polymega’s emulation cores seem to be reliable and precise.