For quite a while now there have been a few different ways to program a Raspberry Pi as a a console emulator for some retro gaming action. The latest version of the Pi at this point (version 3) is a fantastic basis for emulation, with plenty of USB ports, HDMI out and enough processing power to emulate consoles all the way up to the original Playstation with ease.
The downside has always been that the port layout and overall look of the stock Raspberry Pi case don’t really lend themselves to the task, but thankfully the good folks at Retroflag have taken care of both of these issues with their NesPi Raspberry Pi case.
Opening the packing box for the case I was immediately disturbed to see a rather naff looking cardboard box in the style of a NES. Thankfully my concern was misplaced as this was just the product box, but for a second I thought I’d been massively ripped off.
Inside the box is the actual NesPi case, which on first inspection certainly looks the part. They’ve really nailed the late 80s design of the original NES, albeit with the tasteful inclusion of two USB ports on the right of the front bezel. The original power and reset buttons have been carefully replicated and are fully functional, allowing you to turn off or restart your Pi at will.
To continue the homage to the NES the cartridge door does actually lift up in the same was as the original, revealing two additional USB ports as well as a network port for connecting to a LAN.
To the rear of the case you’re presented with HDMI video output, 3.5mm audio output and the Micro-USB connector for powering the Raspberry Pi. The only other hole in the case is to the right hand side, where a handy cut-out allows you to insert and remove the Micro-SD card without having to open up the case.
Also included in the package are some mounting screws, a tiny screwdriver, some paper instructions and a daughterboard inside the case which facilitates movement of the network and USB connectors from the sider of the Raspberry Pi to the front of the case. There’s also a fly lead which connects the power and reset buttons at the front of the case to the GPIO header on top of the Pi.
Installation proved to be an absolute breeze, the length and orientation of the daughter board cables mean that a Raspberry Pi 3 slides in with minimal effort and is secure in place on stand-offs built into the case.
Once the board is in the only thing left to do is secure the top to the case using the supplied screws, and we’re done.
From there it’s just a case of installing your preferred emulation suite (my vote is for RetroPie), pair it with a couple of retro style USB controllers and you have a cracking emulation machine you can carry anywhere.
But is it worth it? The NesPi case sells on Amazon for around 19 quid at time of writing. That does seem slightly over the top, but if you consider that a bog standard Pi case will set you back around a tenner and won’t look anywhere near as good perched on your desk then it’s a bit of a no brainer. For retro-gaming action it really is the best way to go, with the built in daughter board paying dividends by allowing you to reroute the USB connectors to the front of the machine, as well as providing working power and reset buttons that aren’t a part of most after market cases or the official one supplied in the Raspberry Pi kit.