Marseille’s mClassic reviewed

That mClassic feeling

If you’re not into original retro hardware, there are plenty of off-the-shelf options for getting your 8-bit and 16-bit game on. We’ll look at two such representatives: Nintendo’s NES Classic Mini, which scales the original 240p image to 720p and puts it in a frame, and Analogue’s Super Nt, which can scale to multiple resolutions.

Super Mario Bros 3 NES Classic no scalingSuper Mario Bros. 3 on the NES Classic, unprocessed

Super Mario Bros 3 in retro modeSuper Mario Bros 3 on the NES Classic, upscaled and sharpened by the mClassic

Something interesting happened to the NES Classic on the way to 1080p. The image isn’t anti-aliased like it was on the Genesis, which is a plus in my book. On the other hand, you can see halos around sharpened objects. If you open the full-sized Super Mario 3 image above, you’ll see a white halo around the clouds’ outlines. The mClassic is over-sharpening the image just a tad, but it looks good in motion to me. Since the NES Classic doesn’t have any horizontal interpolation to get its 256×224 image up to 960 pixels wide, and upscaling seemed to tame the shimmering effect somewhat.

FPGA Power

Next let’s take a look at Analogue’s Super Nt. Like the OSSC, this FPGA system outputs at 480p, 720p, and 1080p. Since we’ve already seen what the mClassic can do with 480p and 720p images, let’s take a look at the Super Nt’s 5x scaling mode at 1080p.

Super Nt Street Fighter II Turbo unprocessedStreet Fighter II Turbo on the Super Nt, unprocessed

Super Nt Street Fighter II Turbo processed by mClassicStreet Fighter II Turbo on the Super Nt, processed by mClassic

By using the Super Nt’s 1080p output, we get processed and unprocessed images that have identical dimensions. That makes it easier to compare images. Again, antialiasing is completely absent, but the image is super-sharp. If you flip between the images, you can again see faint artifacts caused by the sharpening filter. Again, it looks good in motion—to me the image just “pops” a little more as a result of the mClassic’s work.

As I mentioned before, the higher resolutions apply to the OSSC, too, since it just multiplies lines out of a retro console. 720p from the device is line tripling, and 1080p is either a smaller 4x image or a larger (and somewhat cropped) 5x image. Just like with the native HDMI options, those line multiplying options totally the antialiasing filter of the mClassic. That’s not a complaint; super-sharp pixels are my favorite flavor of retro.

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Ben Funk

Sega nerd and guitar lover

24 Comments
    • Durante
    • 2 weeks ago

    As far as I know I was the first person to implement (and come up with?) this idea, a bit over 8 years ago:
    https://www.neogaf.com/threads/fxaa-for-all-ps3-and-xbox360-games.438638/

    Interestingly, back then some people already asked for a “plug and play” product version of it, which this seems to be. I’d argue it was actually more relevant back then, with many high-end (at the time) console games on 360 and PS3 releasing with no or inadequate AA.

    Reply
    • Dangit Bobby
    • 3 weeks ago

    Why do you call it an “Earth Dollar” when it’s only available in America?

    Reply
    • AnonymousCoward
    • 3 weeks ago

    In regards to the Nintendo Switch use case: setting the Switch to 720p in docked mode does *not* improve its performance since the device downscales the 1080p output.

    Reply
    • jihadjoe
    • 3 weeks ago

    Did you test how much input lag it adds when doing processing? TVs with built-in sharpening or smoothing effects usually add a ton of lag so when gaming it’s almost always been better to turn that crap off.

    Reply
      • Ben Funk
      • 3 weeks ago

      That’s one thing I would have love to have tested, and if someone wanted to provide the gear, I’d happily still test it. The Time Sleuth is probably the least expensive version of what I’d need:

      https://shop.dansprojects.com/time-sleuth-lag-tester.html

      Reply
      • sirdrak
      • 6 days ago

      Less than 1 ms. I have the mCable Gaming Edition and there is no appreciable lag

      Reply
    • DPete27
    • 4 weeks ago

    It looks like a great product that works. Especially for consoles. Seems $100 is a bit high and that ~$75 would attract a larger market via gifting but…

    Reply
    • Waco
    • 4 weeks ago

    I mean, it’s cool and all, but I just can’t see myself ever paying for something like this given the cost and not ultra-significant improvements in IQ.

    Reply
      • Aaron Vienot
      • 4 weeks ago

      I could see myself spending $100, if I still had time to play console games more often. Getting the visual cleanup with the option to un-stretch the HD image would be pretty useful with the N64 and HDMI converter combo I have kicking around.

      Reply
        • ludi
        • 4 weeks ago

        Hah…just doxed myself. Was still logged into my WP account. But everyone will know soon enough anyway.

        Reply
          • Ben Funk
          • 4 weeks ago

          dundunduhnnnnnnnn

          Reply
          • superjawes
          • 4 weeks ago

          Had you not replied, no one would have known, Aaron…IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME.

          Reply
        • LMAO

          Reply
          • deputy dawg
          • 4 weeks ago

          YOU DONE MESSED UP A-A-RON!

          Reply
        • Ben Funk
        • 4 weeks ago

        N64 seems to be getting a lot of love with this thing. Several YouTubers seem to like the effect with Rogue Squadron and Mario 64. I don’t have an N64 because it’s a terrible system. 😆

        Reply
          • superjawes
          • 4 weeks ago

          You’re just a Sony shill!

          Reply
            • Ben Funk
            • 4 weeks ago

            I was a Sega shill back when I shilled for consoles. 😀 The early release of the Saturn caught me by surprise so I didn’t get a Saturn at launch, but by November of 1995 I had saved my pennies and bought one for Four Hundred Dollars expecting the next awesome Sonic and Streets of Rage titles. And my Saturn experience didn’t stop me from buying a Dreamcast, either.

            I even married a Sega shill. My wife had a Master System when we were dating. Not sure where it wound up, though.

            • superjawes
            • 3 weeks ago

            (Nested reply limit reached!)

            @FunkyPants I just had to take a shot as a resident Nintendo Fanboy. Had every console that wasn’t the original or a Virtual Boy. I acknowledge that the PS1 was a great console to widen the market, and it highlighted some of Nintendo’s issues (especially with the GC and PS2 era).

            Sega…I just kinda feel bad. Even if the Dreamcast could have survived the PS2, it wasn’t going to survived the PS2 + XBFirst.

          • ludi
          • 4 weeks ago

          Super Smash Brothers. Argument refuted.

          Although I do wish I had a classic Sega. Neighborhood friend had one when I was young and we wasted many hours on that thing. I ran quite a few Sega games on emulator for a while in college a while after, but haven’t done anything with that in a while. Can’t quite convince myself to pick up one of the retro-console kits, due to many competing uses for money.

          Reply
            • Ben Funk
            • 3 weeks ago

            Smash is alright. Melee was so much better, though. The GameCube is underappreciated, for sure.

          • usacomp2k3 (AJ)
          • 3 weeks ago

          N64 Mario Kart is the best version ever.

          Reply
    • chuckula
    • 4 weeks ago

    Thanks for the review Funky!

    Since my main display is now 2K but I do find older games to be quite fun, it’s interesting to see different solutions that allow these games to be more playable at resolutions that were not dreamed of when the games were written.

    Reply
      • deputy dawg
      • 4 weeks ago

      I hooked up the old Xbox 360 to my 2K display and it didn’t look great… it would be interesting to see how much this would improve things

      Reply

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