Evercade celebrates second anniversary with new Evercade EXP handheld and two much-requested arcade carts

We’re big fans of the Evercade retro gaming platform here at Rice, and today is its second anniversary. In celebration, the folks at Blaze Entertainment have put together a thoroughly lovely presentation looking back at the last couple of years gone by — and, more excitingly, taking a look at what the future holds for Evercade.

The anniversary show premiered live on YouTube at 5PM UK time on May 31, 2022. If you missed out on catching it live, you can watch it right here or over on the official Evercade YouTube channel.

The major announcement from the presentation was the upcoming launch of the Evercade EXP, a brand new Evercade handheld that will be replacing the existing handheld (and complementing the TV-connected VS console) as of Winter 2022.

The new Evercade EXP features an 800×480 4.3″ IPS screen with a tempered glass bezel — a much-requested upgrade over the original handheld’s LCD screen — plus USB-C charging and built-in WiFi support allowing for over-the-air firmware updates in the same way as the VS. It will also allow access to special online features such as the presently running Game of the Month programme, though online multiplayer is still not part of the platform’s roadmap.

The Evercade EXP will be compatible with the entire Evercade cartridge library. This includes the two Namco Museum Collection cartridges, which do not presently work on the Evercade VS due to Namco’s peculiar licensing restrictions only allowing them to be played on handheld devices.

The Evercade EXP features improved internal specifications compared to its predecessor, too, placing it on full parity with the Evercade VS’ innards. A 1.5GHz processor and 4GB of built-in memory means that the system will comfortably handle any game from the current library — which presently extends from the earliest days of the Atari 2600 and Intellivision right up to more recent PlayStation 1 games. The Evercade EXP’s controls also feature the L2 and R2 buttons of the Evercade VS’ controller, which the original handheld lacked.

Evercade EXP Tate mode

One of the most exciting new additions to the Evercade EXP is a Tate mode option, seen above. This allows for vertically oriented games — typically vertically scrolling arcade shoot ’em ups — to be played with the handheld held vertically, allowing for a clearer display that makes full use of the screen.

As well as simply being able to rotate the screen, the Evercade EXP features two buttons next to the D-pad specifically for use in Tate mode, allowing for classic games to be experienced as intended. Evercade EXP is the first handheld gaming device to be specifically designed with Tate mode play in mind since Bandai’s Wonderswan range from the late 1990s.

To take full advantage of that brand new Tate function, two new arcade cartridges are releasing alongside the Evercade EXP, and they’re both heavy hitters, often requested by the community: Irem Arcade 1 and Toaplan Arcade 1. Both will, as per usual for Evercade releases, feature a plastic clamshell case with custom artwork, plus a full colour manual.

The Irem cartridge features shoot ’em up classics R-Type and In the Hunt, plus early titles Moon Patrol and 10 Yard Fight, plus the slightly lesser known but equally enjoyable Battle Chopper (aka Mr. Heli) and Lightning Swords, the latter of which has never previously seen a home release.

Evercade EXP playing R-Type

Toaplan, meanwhile, features shoot ’em up classics Tiger-Heli, Alcon (aka Slap Fight), Flying Shark, Truxton and Zero Wing plus beat ’em up Guardian, platformer Snow Bros. and puzzler Teki Paki. The manual for the Toaplan cartridge features exclusive interviews with original developers Masahiro Yuge and Tatsuya Uemura, the former of whom has managed to hold on to the rights for all the Toaplan classics over the years.

In total, at the launch of the Evercade EXP, 15 games will support the Tate mode, including Battle Lane Vol. 5, Mania Challenge, Minky Monkey and Mysterious Stones from the Technos Arcade 1 collection; Burger Time, Darwin 4078 and Lock ‘n’ Chase from the Data East Arcade 1 cart; Centipede, Millipede and Super Breakout from the Atari Arcade 1 collection; Cybattler from the upcoming Jaleco Arcade 1 cartridge; and Alcon, Flying Shark, Tiger-Heli and Truxton from the Toaplan collection.

The Evercade EXP is also set to launch with some additional bonus content that hasn’t yet been revealed by Blaze. There’ll be another announcement later in the year that explains the full extent of what will be included with the console — expect this around September of 2022, which is around the same time that pre-orders for the standard edition of the Evercade EXP will open up. The standard edition will be £129.99 and come with the Irem cartridge plus the as-yet unannounced extras.

Evercade EXP Limited Edition

In the meantime, 5PM UK time on June 1, 2022 (that’s tomorrow at the time of writing) will see pre-orders open for the £179.99 Limited Edition of the Evercade EXP, which includes a black version of the console, art cards, a poster, a certificate of authenticity, a keyring and “other fun extras”, plus both the Irem and Toaplan arcade cartridges. This bundle, like previous Limited Edition Evercade consoles, will be limited in number — only 5,000 units will be available, so be sure to get in quick if you want to secure one for yourself.

One thing worth noting is that the introduction of the Evercade EXP means that the original Evercade handheld will be discontinued. Blaze has confirmed that it will continue to honour warranties and support requests according to the purchase date of the product, and there will be one further update to the firmware of the original handheld before it is officially “end of life”. There is also no guarantee that future cartridge releases will support the earlier firmware versions 1.3.x and below, but they will be guaranteed to work on the current 2.x firmware and the upcoming update.

But then, with how much better the EXP is in every way over the original Evercade handheld, I suspect that’s not going to be much of an issue for Evercade fans, old and new!

Stay tuned to the official Evercade site for the latest news on the new console and cartridges, and be ready at 5PM on June 1, 2022 to jump on Funstock and get your pre-orders in for that lovely Limited Edition!

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Pete Davison
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