The problem with most handheld gaming systems is that they sacrifice ergonomic controls for portability, but the RetroBlock2 could change that. It’s designed from the ground up around the much-loved Nintendo GameCube controller, and will soon be hitting Kickstarter.
Nintendo has long dabbled in unique controller designs; everything from the N64 to the Wii to the Switch brought something new to gaming, even if it wasn’t always a runaway hit. But while the GameCube itself was far from Nintendo’s most successful platform, the GameCube’s controllers are still so fondly remembered that Nintendo actually resurrected and re-released them for the Switch version of Super Smash Bros.
Pierre-Louis Boyer was presumably also a big fan of the GameCube’s controllers, which inspired him to create the RetroBlock2. If you’re outside the retro gaming scene, Boyer’s name might not immediately be recognizable, but over the years he’s created a series of excellent retro gaming handhelds, including the RetroStone 2 which was released last year after a successful crowdfunding Kickstarter campaign.
The RetroBlock2 is Boyer’s follow-up to the RetroStone 2, and it trades that console’s Game Boy inspired design for something that looks more like a mashup of the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo Switch with its horizontal layout. It looks almost like the GameCube’s controller was sawed in half and then reassembled with a 3.5-inch LCD display plopped into the middle, but the build was infinitely more complex than that. As outlined in a video that runs over an hour long, Boyer details all of the custom made and 3D-printed components that went into its assembly, including a new housing based on the GameCube.
Because the RetroBlock2 is designed to run RetroPie, a platform with emulators for many different classic consoles, Boyer didn’t include the GameCube controller’s unorthodox button layout, instead opting for the simpler button layout used on the Super Nintendo’s gamepad. That’s a shame, given that the GameCube controller’s button layout was one of many things gamers loved about it, but understandable, for maximum compatibility. What’s more unfortunate, however, is that the most powerful console RetroPie can emulate is the N64, meaning that while it looks like a portable version of the Nintendo GameCube, you won’t be able to run any of its actual games.
As with the RetroStone 2, Boyer plans to make the RetroBlock2 available to retro gaming enthusiasts through another Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. It hasn’t launched, so details on when you could potentially back it and get your hands on the RetroBlock2 are still up in the air, but if pricing is similar, you can expect this handheld to set you back upwards of $400. That puts it in competition with the Nintendo Switch, which is a tough sell, but at least you won’t be at the mercy of Nintendo’s drawn out release schedule for classic games, you can install whatever you want, whenever you want.