Is The Z-Pocket Game Bubble The Modern Day Sega Game Gear?

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The Z-Pocket Game Bubble emulation handheld aims to offer the modern version of the Sega Game Gear, with the ability to play much more than that.

The Bubble is being made by the same team behind Game Kiddy (GKD) handhelds, as far as we know. If it is not the exact same people, they certainly run in the same circles and share team members.

And they are also both represented by RetroCN when it comes to their minimal contact with the western audience.

We do not love this indirect relationship, but it is the only way we are hearing about GKD and ZPG consoles right now, so we’ll take what we can get.

First Image Shared of the “ZPG BBG” | Image Source: Rex from RetroCN.com

We saw a vague announcement of the “ZPG BBG” back in September of 2023 but had very little information about the device at that time.

We really only had the codename and a render of the rear of the device, which had an obvious nod to the Game Gear cartridge.

But we later learned that this Game Gear inspired handheld makes use of some very familiar specs for those who have been in the handheld gaming scene for the past few years.

Z-Pocket Game Bubble

Image Source: Rex from RetroCN.com

The ZPG Bubble will feature a 3.5 inch screen at 640×480 pixels. That is a 4×3 aspect ratio, which is not exactly ideal for the handheld game console it recreates, the Sega Game Gear at 10×9.

But this is a familiar screen configuration that we’ve seen in many handheld emulation devices over the past 3 or so years. And we know that it adequately accommodates various aspect ratios all the way through 64-bit gaming consoles.

Handheld consoles like the Game Boy, Neo Geo Pocket, and Game Gear will have some extra space around the game content. So the use of on-screen bezel graphics will help the experience and take away from the feeling of a wasted opportunity to use a 10×9 or 1×1 screen.

And the Bubble’s Rockchip RK3566 CPU is an appropriate SOC to handle all of those consoles up to 64-bit with no problem.

You’ll be able to play NES, SNES, N64, Sega Genesis, Sega Dreamcast, Neo Geo, Arcade, Playstation 1, and the previously mentioned handheld consoles with virtually no hiccups.

Does The Bubble Set Itself Apart?

The repeated use of the RK3566 chipset is a bit frustrating for collectors because we’ve seen it used in nearly 100 devices at this point.

But we really wouldn’t need anything more powerful in a handheld device that is intended to be a modern version of the Game Gear, so we can’t be too upset at the use in this particular case.

So, the question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you absolutely must have a device that looks like the Game Gear. Or if you can just stick with any one of the many devices out there with the exact same capabilities and better features.

A great example being the Powkiddy RGB30, which would have the same CPU, but features an awesome 4 inch 1×1 screen perfect for Game Boy, Neo Geo Pocket, and Game Gear.

This device is priced under $100 and is available to purchase right now in a range of fun colors.

And if you’re really into Sega consoles, the Anbernic RG-Arc has absolutely perfected that unique Sega dpad and has a 4 inch 4×3 screen.

So you’ll get much larger content on screen and, once again, it’s available right now.

Our Impressions and Concerns

Image Source: Rex from RetroCN.com

The RGB30 and RG-Arc just two examples of devices from 2023 that are subjectively and objectively better than the ZPG Bubble in every way except the one and only thing it has going for it – it looks like a Game Gear.

But maybe my opinion of the Z-Pocket Game Bubble is a bit harsh.

ZPG’s take on the Sega D-pad might feel pretty good, and I do think that the entire device looks very clean and like a modern Game Gear, exactly as intended.

And the Bubble might perform on par with handhelds that utilize the same RK3566 chipset, if it is able to utilize existing Linux firmware perfected in 2023.

Is It Available From A Trusted Source?

The only last bit of information we would like to remind you is that ZPG/GKD/RetroCN doesn’t have the best track record of bringing their announced products to market.

In the past year, the only device that has actually found itself outside of China that we know of is the Game Kiddy Pixel, which has only reached a handful of reviewers. It has not reached average consumers who pre-ordered from Keep Retro, myself included.

If ZPG/GKD/RetroCN products do become available to buyers outside of China, they are often difficult to obtain. And you certainly pay a premium if you want to to get your hands on a device from this group.

And last, but not least, we do not actually know when the ZPG Bubble will be available.

At this point, it is a merely a concept with a working prototype that has been teased on Discord and Twitter by RetroCN.

Using ZPG and RetroCN’s previous history as an example, we know we are several months away from the possibility of a commercial release. And it will likely come with with a handful of delays.

So, with that in mind, we suggest you don’t hold your breath.

But, if you happen to be a massive Sega Game Gear fan, enjoy straight forward emulation handhelds with familiar specs, and have a bit of patience… then the Z-Pocket Game Bubble might be an interesting addition to your retro gaming collection.

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