Review: A500 Mini – A refreshing alternative to the NES and SNES Classic Editions

A500 mini
Image: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

When talking about video game history, memories are often dominated by consoles like the NES, SNES, Mega Drive/Genesis, N64, GameCube, etc. – but those old enough to have lived through the 80s will Keep in mind that home computers like the C64, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, and Commodore Amiga were, for a time, a perfectly legitimate way to play games outside of the arcade.

It’s fitting, then, that alongside the recent explosion in interest in plug-and-play “mics” like the NES Classic and Sega Mega Drive Mini, we’ve seen a few new versions of the humble home mic; The British company Retro Games Ltd. has already produced a miniature version of the C64, and how it’s back, with a pint-sized facsimile of the Amiga – a platform that was insanely popular, at least in Europe, in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Like the NES Classic Edition mentioned above, the A500 Mini (due to the complex legal issues surrounding ownership of the Commodore brand, this name is not present anywhere on the device or packaging) uses modern off-the-shelf components and software emulation to recreate the vintage platform New. The device is several times smaller than the original, with some compromises; This miniature keyboard is just for show and doesn’t really work, for example. Anyway, it does offer some amenities that the original system cannot match in its unaltered form; There’s HDMI output and support for USB devices (so you can use a USB keyboard if you wish, but the pop-in on-screen keyboard works just fine). All in all, the A500 Mini is easily comparable to the SNES Classic and the PC Engine Mini in terms of pure product design; Even the red and green LEDs light up to indicate power-up and drive access, just like the original.

The A500 Mini comes bundled with a joypad and mouse, the two primary forms of input when it comes to Amiga software. The controller is based on the one that shipped with the ill-fated Amiga CD32 – a noble and authentic choice given the system’s lineage, but we wouldn’t say it was particularly smart. The controller while easy better than the CD32 original, it’s still pretty bad, with the D-pad proving particularly problematic, especially if you’re aiming for diagonal inputs. There doesn’t seem to be a way to use third-party USB controllers (the PS Classic pad caused an error in the UI, while the retro-bit Sega 6-button USB controller didn’t register at all), but there might be change with a future firmware update (the stick that comes with the C64 Mini does work, we were told). Right now you’re sluggish with a pad Just roughly does the job, but it could be a lot better.

The mouse is more successful; It is based on the original two-button tank mouse that came with the Amiga, but has been upgraded to include optical technology instead of the trackball used in the original. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the most comfortable mouse in the world, but if you owned an Amiga back in the day, it will feel To the right. You can use any USB mouse if you prefer something else.

The A500 Mini comes with 25 games, many of which are sure to be on the average fan’s must-have list. Speedball II, Zool, The Sentinel, Simon the Sorcerer, Stunt Car Racer, Another World, Super Cars II, Worms, Alien Breed, The Chaos Engine…these are truly classic titles, some of which were so popular in the 90’s that they were subsequently ported to consoles like the SNES and Mega Drive. In fact, we’d argue that what’s included here is as solid a selection of games as you could ask for, considering tracking down the IP holders for many of the best Amiga titles these days is a pretty rigorous one task must be.

The good news is that if your favorite game didn’t come out for some reason, you can just sideload it with a USB stick. The A500 Mini supports the “WHDLoad” system which allows Amiga games to be packed into a single file (many games ship on multiple disks as you can see) and easily loaded. This means you can fill a USB stick with all your favorite Amiga titles (including CD32 and CDTV releases) and run them on the A500 Mini with ease.

The A500 Mini's user interface is clean and functional, although it lacks the vividness of other microconsole menus
The A500 Mini’s user interface is clean and functional, although it lacks the vividness of other microconsole menus (Image: Retro Games Ltd.)

The A500 Mini uses pretty much the same interface as the C64 Mini, supporting items like save status (four per game) and a CRT screen filter – the latter being one of the best apps we’ve seen on one of these devices. Emulation is excellent (A1200 games are also supported, the latter benefitting from the platform’s ‘Advanced Graphics Architecture’), although a quirk of the Amiga, more popular in Europe than in the United States, is that most games for Run at the slower 50Hz TV standard and not at the 60Hz used by US TVs.

Microconsole like the SNES Classic, Neo Geo Mini and even the Egret II Mini offer a very Japanese perspective on gaming, so it’s nice to see a western system getting the same treatment – and it’s also interesting to see some of the Gamings seen in their original form before being ported to the Japanese consoles of the time. The Amiga may not be a ‘traditional’ games console and its focus has never been 100% gaming, but its legacy is significant – franchises such as Worms and Speedball found their commercial footing on the platform and continue to this day.

As such, this is an intriguing device for anyone even remotely interested in following the evolution of the gaming industry – and although at £120 it’s more expensive than many of its microconsole rivals, the ability to sideload games are indeed very welcome.

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Many thanks to Koch Media and Retro Games Ltd. for providing the device used in this test. Review: A500 Mini – A refreshing alternative to the NES and SNES Classic Editions

Fry Electronics Team

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