The A500 Mini is a throwback to a very special period of gaming. A time before consoles began to dominate the market, a time before there was a ‘standard’ in computing and competition was vibrant throughout the industry. The A500 Mini is a tribute to the legendary Amiga 500 computer and its golden age. At the time of the 16 bit Amiga’s release in 1987, 8-bit computers such as the Commodore 64, Spectrum 128k, and Amstrad CPC were nearing their end of days. Meanwhile in the console world, the competitors were the NES and SEGA Master System.
In computing, the Amiga went into battle against the Atari ST and also the IBM PC Compatible, which at the time was prohibitively expensive and underpowered in comparison. It did not take long for the Amiga to establish itself as a gaming powerhouse thanks to its impressive sounds and graphics. In fact, it wouldn’t be until the early 90s where the Mega Drive and SNES started to give it a run for its money.
The Amiga’s five years in its prime was a short period that is all but forgotten. Thankfully though, Retro Games, who are also makers of the C64 Mini and Maxi, have seen fit to remind us just how great those days were, and how ahead of its time this machine was. In fact, out of all the Minis on the market right now, this is the one to own.
In the box you get the console (obviously), anHDMI cable, USB Power Cord (but no AC adapter), as well as recreations of the classic Amiga mouse and a gamepad styled on Commodore’s ill fated CD32 console. I have to say, these peripherals are a real treat. As an owner of a real Amiga 500, I can vouch for the fact that the Amiga Mouse is spot on. A tiny bit smaller than the genuine artefact but it feels just the same down to the feeling of the clicks. Even though obviously not ergonomically designed, it feels great to use. It truly makes the A500 Mini experience feel authentic. I’ll say the same for the controller as well, even though it’s a recreation, it does not feel like a cheap knock off, it feels well made and weighty and they have the feel of the d-pad and buttons down perfectly.
Being a mini there is no working keyboard, though you do have the option of plugging one in should it be required. Or you can try the impressively usable on-screen keyboard should the need arise. I would have liked a full sized remake with a working keyboard, but at the end of the day, it’s not a big deal.
The A500 Mini isn’t about recreating all of the functionality of the actual computer, no Workbench or word processing here! It’s about highlighting the fact that the Amiga has games in spades and was more than a match for the consoles of the day.
The Amiga 500 was a dominant machine in Europe as well as in our neck of woods here in Australia. This means it was heavily supported by European developers including legendary studios such as Gremlin Interactive, Team 17, Factor 5, Psygnosis, Bitmap Brothers, and more. As a result, the mere 25 games the A500 Mini comes packed with should be considered a mere taste of an impressive library of varied titles available for the system.
The pack-in games include titles from across all the genres such as Worms: The Directors Cut, Another World, Simon The Sorcerer, California Games, Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, Alien Breed, Super Cars II, and obviously many more. They are pretty much all great games, but for any Amiga fan, choosing a top 25 is impossible.
When it comes to the Amiga library, it’s worth noting that many of the studios creating ground breaking games of the day are no longer around. This means that loads of Amiga games could be considered Abandonware, hence I can understand the selection on offer here. But there are just so many more brilliant games out there for the Amiga that are really worth a play.
Retro Games have included the ability to load and play your own games via USB stick and this is where the A500 Mini really shines, supporting WHDload files!
WHDload files are a format created to install Amiga games onto a hard drive (for a genuine Amiga) back in the 90’s. If you own an original copy of a game, finding its file online isn’t hard or immoral. Given that there is still a lot of love for the Amiga, there are also legal ways to purchase these games or their licenses as well. The goods news is that this functionality works like a dream.
“I have played literally hundreds of games over the past few weeks and the emulation is spot on.”
Retro Games provide the software needed to run these types of files on their website so all you need to do is format your USB stick and drag and drop their file onto the stick. From there, it’s as simple as dropping your game files. I have played literally hundreds of games over the past few weeks and the emulation is perfect. I did not have a single issue loading a single title, they all looked and played perfectly.
For each of your own games, you can map the controls how you like and the A500 Mini will remember them. It also allows you to tweak the visuals and different settings game by game if you need to. The cherry on top is save states are available for your own library as well. Sure, the interface is not as pretty as the carousel for the pre-loaded games, but it works. This means that a whole world of gaming opens up and presents a library of literally thousands of games, far more varied than on any other mini.
It’s impossible to truly get across the breadth of the Amiga library, but it contains everything from legendary point and click adventures from Lucas Arts and Sierra Online, to classic racing games such as Codemasters’ Micro Machines and EA’s Road Rash, to adventures such as Delphine Software’s Flashback. It also has loads of scrolling shooters, sports games, and strategy titles. You could even have a go at the Amiga versions of Super Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat II just to see how they measure up to their more famous console brethren.
The A500 Mini is a wonderful tribute to the legendary Amiga 500 computer. The package features faithful recreations of the classic Amiga Mouse and CD32 Gamepad making this the most authentic way to play Amiga games short of shelling out for original hardware. Couple that with the ability to play any Amiga game you want, with its perfect emulation and astounding library of games on offer, and you have a truly special system. For fans of the 16-bit era of gaming or even just fans of computer history in general, this is a must buy experience.