logoThe grass is always greener. And the gamers of this generation really do have the best of all worlds and all technology, as they can time travel in their gaming delights from generation to generation, re-living popular games like ‘Sonic’ and ‘Metroid.’ Everyone gets a kick out of looking back and putting themselves in the mindset of what the hottest games were years ago, despite the amazing software and hardware available today with high-resolution graphics and rapid speed.

Nzen Mods is a startup, founded by electronics engineer Nicolas Wicker of Fitchburg, MA, who also has a passion for product design — and retro gaming. The flagship product for his company, now being highlighted in a Kickstarter campaign, is a portable Raspberry Pi gaming tablet, the eNcade, which allows gamers to go back to all the old favorites.

“A year ago, I conceived the idea for the eNcade when I realized there wasn’t any portable solution to playing retro games online with multiple players in a user friendly environment,” Wicker told 3DPrint.com. “Also, I noticed the void for purchasing a fully assembled portable Raspberry Pi gaming console. The eNcade was the perfect solution in bringing these two concepts together.”

gifWicker’s Kickstarter campaign endeavors to raise $6,500 by December 4th, in hopes of bringing the old and new worlds of gaming together with the eNcade, which allows you to take your minions of online retro gaming enthusiast friends with you wherever you go.

Back ‘in the day’ of Sonic, you couldn’t carry your friends around in your pocket at the ready for a multiplayer, online game. Nzen Mods is bringing you a way to mix in what gamers back then would have longed for. They are also taking advantage of much more modern technology to produce the system and its parts — as well as using the new system of crowdfunding for launching their startup.

One standout of the eNcade is that it features a 3D printed case/enclosure.

“At the moment we plan to fulfill our eNcade rewards by using a high resolution 3D printer to produce the enclosures. For the low volume of units that will be available through our campaign we have a dedicated team to assemble the eNcades in a neat, aesthetic, and timely manner,” said Wicker. “This being the case, we are looking into injection molding automated manufacturing processes for the future.”

The eNcade's color choices will be determined by Kickstarter backers.The 3D printed case for the handheld device with be available in a variety of colors, but Nzen Mods is looking toward user input as to what colors would be most popular. As an update to the Kickstarter, a survey will be posted so that those backers whose reward level includes an eNcade will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite color. The survey will determine the available colors, and backers can select their base and button colors separately to customize their unit.

photo-mainControls are composed of:

  • Directional pad
  • Select/start buttons
  • Four action buttons
  • Left/right bumpers
  • Two analog sticks (intended for N64, PS1, and FPS titles)

The current design has a directional pad and action buttons at the top, with the idea that most games will only require those buttons, but Nzen Mods is looking for feedback on that design from users, and it could change, based on what players think.

The eNcade’s software runs on Raspbian, an operating system optimized for the Raspberry Pi hardware. This allows you to switch to your desktop at any time, using it like any other Linux computer. Users do have the option though of trading the SD card for use with any other compatible operating systems.

Other highlighted features for the eNcade are:

  • TFT touchscreen display, eliminating need for a keyboard
  • One USB port for connectivity with a USB hub or a bluetooth receiver, to connect multiple controllers
  • USB WiFi adapter
  • USB charging cable (but most current smartphone chargers will work)
  • HDMI port, for use with your TV and optional separate USB controller

Kickstarter backers, contributing from $1 to $340, will receive rewards from Beta testing the product to receiving SD cards with supporting controllers, and on up to the ‘2 Player Special,’ which includes two complete eNcade systems.

“We understand that there are retro portables on the market today, but what makes us different is that we want the console to focus on online multiplayer classic console games through our self developed software front-end,” said Wicker.

I have watched my kids spends loads of their allowance money on ancient systems still available used in gaming shops. I have raised an amused eyebrow overhearing conversations regarding games as far back as Pong (does it go much further back than that?), amazed that children today want to play such archaic games, when they have countless dollars worth of the latest games and systems in their bedrooms, and even on their phones. The bottom line is, these games brought a smile to our faces years ago and still do, for a reason: good, old-fashioned fun never goes out of style.

Is this a Kickstarter campaign you might want to give a pledge to? What do you think of the 3D printed enclosure for this device? Tell us your thoughts in the eNcade Kickstarter Campaign forum at 3DPB.com. Check out Nzen Mods’ Kickstarter video to see it in action:

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