RG351P Starter Guide

Last updated: 15NOV202 (see Changelog for details)

I hate to admit it, but my first week with the Anbernic RG351P was rough. Not only did I order my device as soon as it was available, I also paid for expedited shipping — so I had no idea how to use it when it finally arrived, because there were no guides out yet. So this guide is designed to walk you through all of the things I wish I knew when first starting out.

I’ve written plenty of guides for this device, but this Starter Guide will consolidate and summarize each of those other tutorials. Think of this as your “one-stop-shop” for the RG351P before you branch out to more advanced techniques.

Table of contents:
Before the RG351P arrives
Unboxing
Reflash the firmware onto a new card
Load games onto your device
Understanding the interface
Set RetroArch hotkeys
Unlock core/content directory/game overrides
Configure the screen
Take your device online
Download new EmuELEC themes and media
Set up cheats
Turn on RetroAchievements
Set the time zone
More to come

Changelog
Sandisk (left) and Samsung (right) microSD cards

Before the RG351P arrives

The RG351P will come bundled with a single microSD card, but it is from a generic brand and is prone to failure. Since all of your games AND the software is stored on that single card, your safest bet is to replace it with a microSD card from a well-known brand (don’t worry, I’ll show you how to do that below). I recommend you store that original card somewhere safe in case you run into any issues in the future, and buy a new SD card from a reputable brand like SanDisk or Samsung to use in your device.

In general, I recommend the cards listed below, in order or preference. The prices fluctuate all the time, so keep an eye out for deals. In general, I would expect to pay $20 for a 128GB card and $30 for a 256GB card. A 128GB card will allow you to load EVERY 8-bit and 16-bit game out there, all of the arcade games that work, and quite a few PS1, Dreamcast, PSP, and Sega CD games (those systems have the largest file sizes). A 256GB card will allow you to store even more of those larger games.

128GB cards:
SanDisk Extreme
Samsung EVO Select
SanDisk Ultra

256GB cards:
Samsung EVO Select
SanDisk Ultra
OTG adapter (left), USB WiFi module (right) for connecting to WiFi

As you may have heard, the RG351P was supposed to come with built-in WiFi, but then Anbernic pulled the WiFi antennas from the devices after their first week of production due to static noise issues. So what this means is that there are several really awesome networking features in the device, and you won’t be able to access them. Luckily, many sellers will bundle their RG351P with an OTG adapter (basically a USB-C to USB-A adapter) and a USB WiFi module. Together, these two adapters will allow you to connect your device to your home network and take advantage of its NetPlay, media scraping (image/boxart downloading), cheats, and Retro Achievements functions. So I recommend you check with the seller to see if your device is going to come with an OTG and WiFi adapters; if they aren’t I suggest you buy them so they’re available as soon as you open up your device. I have personally tested the WiFi adapter linked above and can verify that it works well on the RG351P; it also has a nice (subtle) blinking light to let you know when it is accessing data. NOTE: you cannot charge this device and use a WiFi dongle at the same time (hopefully this can be changed via software in the future).

One more accessory to consider: if you don’t have a nice microSD to USB adapter, you might want to think about getting one. A nice adapter like this one from Anker will give you the fastest transfer speeds possible, and won’t cause any corruption issues with your card.

Finally, I would recommend that you build your ROM library now, if you haven’t already. Make a folder called “Retro Games” or something like it, and make distinct folders for each of the systems you would like to play on your device. I recommend naming your game folders after the “Rom Path” names found in this guide, because that’s how they’ll be organized on your device. Also be sure to load the folders with ROMs of the correct file extension, which is also found in that guide. For example, NES games can be in .7z, .fds, .nes, or .zip format. As a reminder, here are some of the many systems that play on the RG351P:

Home Consoles:

Panasonic 3DO
Atari 2600
Atari 5200 (and 800)
Atari 7800
Colecovision
PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16)
PC Engine CD (TurboGrafx-CD)
Nintendo Entertainment System
Famicom Disk System
Super Nintendo
Nintendo N64
Sega SG-1000
Sega Master System
Sega Genesis
Sega CD
Sega 32X
Sega Saturn (poorly)
Sega Dreamcast
Neo-Geo / CD
NEC PC-FX
Sony PSX
Vectrex

Handheld Consoles:

Atari Lynx
Game and Watch
Nintendo Game Boy
Nintendo Game Boy Color
Nintendo Game Boy Advance
Nintendo DS
Nintendo Virtual Boy
Sega Game Gear
Neo-Geo Pocket / Color
Sony PSP
Wonderswan / Color

Home Computers:

Amiga
Amstrad CPC
Atari ST
Commodore 64 (and C16/Plus4, C128)
Intellivision
MSX
PC (DOSBOX)
ScummVM
ZX Spectrum

Arcade Systems:

MAME
Final Burn Neo
Neo-Geo / CD
Atomiswave
Naomi

Unboxing

Now that your device has arrived, let’s make sure everything is working. Unbox the device, and do a quick hardware check. Confirm that all of the buttons work/click as expected, look for any noticeable damage or cracks in the screen. Power on the device, and try booting some games. Verify that you have no dead pixels (they’ll look like little dots). To power off the device, I recommend you do a system shut down instead of just holding down the power button. Think of it like powering down a PC. To do a system shutdown, press START then select Quit > Shutdown System.

This device comes pre-loaded with thousands of games. I’m not a fan of this, mostly because it’s illegal for anyone to distribute copyrighted media. While it may be convenient for the customer, Anbernic shouldn’t be loading their devices with dubious games. You’ll also notice that the games which are pre-loaded on the device have several issues: they are not in alphabetical order (rather, a numerical order assigned by the manufacturer), and the games are often poorly translated. For these reasons, I recommend you re-flash the firmware onto a new card and load your own personal games, which we will do below.

Reflash the firmware onto a new card

Remove the microSD card from the device. It’s on the bottom, underneath a sticker. That sticker is a pain to remove, but use your fingernail and maybe a bit of nail polish remover to clean it all up. The microSD card is a generic 64GB card; these cards are prone to failure. As I mentioned above, I recommend you store that original card somewhere safe in case you run into any issues in the future, and buy a new SD card from a reputable brand like SanDisk or Samsung to use in your device.

Once you have a new card, let’s flash new firmware onto your card. To do so, check out my RG351P Firmware Guide, under the “Flash new software onto an SD card” section. I recommend you either flash the EmuELEC 3.7 firmware (plus its latest update), or try out 351ELEC, which allows you to install a version of EmuELEC 3.9 firmware with all of the perks (and no need to extend any partitions). Or you could install my personal favorite, ArkOS.

Load games onto your device

You’ll notice that when you plug your microSD card into your computer, two partitions will appear: “EmuELEC” and “Games” (these may be named differently if you’re using 351ELEC or ArkOS). If you look at the Games partition, you’ll see all of your ROM folders. It is here that you want to add your game files. Note that for multi-file games (like .bin and .cue files for PS1 games), you don’t want to put them in subfolders — just throw everything into the PS1 folder itself.

There’s no special trick to adding games — just make sure you’re putting them in the right folder, and that they are the correct file extension (you can check the accepted file extensions here). If there isn’t a folder for a system you want to add, like for Sega CD, simply make the folder yourself and add the games (again using this guide to determine the correct folder name).

Note that if you transfer files using a Mac, you may find mysterious files on your device that start with a “._” prefix in addition to your regular game. So for example you’ll see both Sonic.bin as well as “._Sonic.bin”. These are files created by MacOS to aid in their QuickLook function. You can delete these files from your device by pressing SELECT > Edit game metadata > Delete. Or, you can also clear them from your SD card while on your Mac, using this method:

  • Open the Terminal app and type “sudo dot_clean -mn /Volumes/SD/” where “/Volumes/SD” is the path to your SD card.

Now that you have your games loaded, let’s put the card into your device and have a look.

Understanding the interface

When you first power on the device, you will be greeted with a sleek user interface that will allow you to scroll through systems, and select games. You’ll also notice that the systems that appear on your device are only the ones that have games loaded — how convenient is that?

This main interface is actually a modified version of EmuELEC, an operating system that works on several devices. EmuELEC serves as a frontend interface for the user, while the games themselves are mostly loaded from an emulation system known as RetroArch. EmuELEC will allow you to navigate your menus, and make some initial settings configurations, but to really unlock the RG351P’s potential, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with how RetroArch operates, too.

In general, the easiest way to think of this is that when you launch a game from the EmuELEC interface, it’s actually booting up into RetroArch, and everything you do within the game is within RetroArch until you quit it and go back to EmuELEC. This is important to know because there are certain settings you can only configure while in RetroArch, like our next section about hotkeys.

Note that some emulators don’t use RetroArch at all: Nintendo DS, PSP, and Amiga all use standalone emulators that won’t follow the same configuration requirements as RetroArch. The easiest thing to remember about these particular emulators is that you need to press START + A to exit them, and L3 + R3 to enter their settings menu.

Set RetroArch hotkeys

Hotkeys are simple button combinations that will allow you to make certain adjustments while in RetroArch.

To access the RetroArch menu, open a game and then press L3 + R3. From this menu, press B one to back out to the main menu. Move the cursor to the right to find the Settings menu, then scroll down to the Inputs section. Press A to enter the Inputs settings, then scroll down until you find the Hotkeys section, then press A again to enter these settings. For “Hotkey Enable”, set it to the SELECT button, and for “Restart RetroArch”, set it to the START button. Now, any time you’re in a game, you can press SELECT + START twice to exit the game and boot back to EmuELEC.

There are several other hotkeys I recommend you set while you’re in these settings. Here are some of my preferred hotkeys:

Fast-Forward (Toggle): R2 button
Load State: L1 button
Save state: R1 button
Show FPS: Y button
Menu (Toggle): X button

So with those hotkeys above, I can press SELECT + any of those other buttons to enable those features. SELECT + X is one of my favorites, because it does the same thing as L3 + R3 but is much easier and more convenient to press.

After you’ve made all of your hotkey configurations, go to the main RetroArch menu, then scroll down to Configuration File > Save Current Configuration. This will ensure that your hotkeys will work no matter which game you open.

Unlock core/content directory/game overrides

One of the most important tools in RetroArch is the ability to save “overrides”, which are specific settings for the core (emulator), content directory (system) or game you are playing. Unfortunately, these tools are hidden by default, so we need to unlock them real quick.

To override core settings means you can set up settings for an entire core (say, FCEUMM for the NES) and those settings will be persistent for every game that launches with that core, no matter how the EmuELEC settings are configured. You can also override content directories, which is handy if you have a core (like Picodrive) that emulates multiple systems, but you only want one system to have specific settings — this option will save a whole directory (like “Sega Genesis”) and not touch the other directories that use the same core (Sega 32X, Game Gear, etc). Finally, you can also override game settings, so that specific games have their own settings. For example, Star Fox plays best on the SNES 9x 2010 core, but you probably don’t want to use that core for every SNES game. For more information on override hierarchy, check out this guide from RetroArch themselves. Long story short: RetroArch’s “override” settings are more robust than what you’ll find in EmuELEC, and will override your EmuELEC settings anyway.

To unlock the overrides function, go into RetroArch without a core loaded. You can do this by pressing START while in EmuELEC to get to the EmuELEC main menu , then select Quit > Start RetroArch. Or you can select “Close Content” in the Quick Menu when you have a game loaded in RetroArch. Once you’re in RetroArch, go to Settings > User Interface > Menu Item Visibility > Quick Menu. Scroll down until you find “Show Save Core Overrides”, then turn that ON, as well as “Save Game Overrides”. Back out to the Main Menu (on the far left) and select Configuration File > Save Current Configuration. Now, you will have the option to save overrides that are specific to that core or game (and the content directory option also works). These settings are fundamental to the next section, where we will configure and optimize the screen for each system.

Configure the screen

The RG351P uses a 480×320 screen resolution (technically it’s 320×480 with pixels flipped 90 degrees, but let’s not go there). This means that its 3:2 aspect ratio will look stunning for the Game Boy Advance, and a little squished and weird for everything else.

Unfortunately, the screen settings that come with your device are not optimized at all, so you have to adjust them yourself. Configuring your screen for optimal display takes quite a bit of work, but I’ve written an entire guide on the process (to include a video walkthrough). It’s not an urgent task, but you’ll be amazed by how much better everything will look once you make these adjustments.

Take your device online

There are many nice features of this device that can only be accessed via WiFi. For example, you can “scrape” (download) box art and other media for all of your games, or add new themes to your EmuELEC frontend, or even get achievements for classic games.

To get started, you’ll need an OTG adapter and a USB WiFi module, which I recommended at the beginning of this guide. Plug the WiFi module unto the OTG adapter, and then plug the OTG adapter into the device. For the full tutorial on how to connect to WiFi, check out my Transfer Guide.

Download new EmuELEC themes and media

One of the easiest ways to improve your user experience is to find a theme that works best for you. Check out my Themes Guide for information on how to scrape game media, download themes directly onto your device, find themes on the internet and load them onto your device, and how to tweak these themes so that they work perfectly with your system.

Set up cheats

One of my favorite aspects of RetroArch is the universal ability to set game cheats. To set up cheats on your device, you’ll need to get into the RetroArch settings by booting up any game and opening up the RetroArch menu, or by pressing START while in EmuELEC and then choosing Quit > Start RetroArch.

You will need to have your device connected to the internet for this step. Once you’re in the main RetroArch menu, go to Online Updater > Update Cheats. This will download a cheats file and install it onto your system. To actually turn on a cheat, you’ll need to start up a game, and then enter the RetroArch Quick Menu (press L3 + R3). Near the bottom of the Quick Menu is the Cheats menu. Select “Load Cheat File (Replace)”, then navigate to the system you’re using (like Sega Genesis), then navigate to the game you are playing (use R1 to tab down to the next letter of the alphabet, which will speed things up). Find the CHEAT file you want to load for your game, then press the A button. This will take you back to the main Cheats menu; scroll down and you will see all of the available cheats for your game. Press A once you find one you like, then scroll down and set “Enabled” to ON. Press B to get back to the Cheats menu, and then either enable more cheats, or go back to near the top and choose “Apply Changes”. Now your cheats are enabled.

The nice thing about cheats is that one you use your network connection that first time to download the cheats, you don’t need to be connected to a network again to use them.

Turn on RetroAchievements

RetroAchievements work a lot like Xbox achievements or PlayStation trophies, and are integrated into RetroArch. This is one of my favorite features of the RG351P, because it breathes new life into older games. The only downside of this awesome feature is that it requires you to be online to use them. This means you’ll have to get used to playing with a dongle attached to your device, or you’ll have to miss out on this feature.

To set up RetroAchievements, you will want first go to their website and sign up for an account. Next, while in EmuELEC, press START to get to the main menu, then go to Games Settings > RetroAchievements settings, and turn on RetroAchievement, and input your login information. This should save your settings for every system, but I’ve found that sometimes this setting won’t carry over to RetroArch. So to double check, open up RetroArch, then go to Settings > Achievements, and verify that they are turned on and your login information is there. If it isn’t, re-enter you login information, then go to Main Menu > Configuration File > Save Current Configuration.

Set the time zone

Setting the system clock is not super simple on the RG351P, but it is important for games like Pokémon or Animal Crossing, which use the system clock to determine the time in the game.

Connect to the internet to set the date and general time. You’ll notice that the time zone won’t match your current time zone — it will be set to the Shanghai time zone. Using WiFi FTP, connect to your device. Go to /storage/.config/emuelec/configs/emuelec.conf, and open that file with a text editor. Find this text string:

------------ F - Language and keyboard ------------
 Set the language of the system (fr_FR,en_US,en_GB,de_DE,pt_BR,es_ES,it_IT,eu_ES,tr_TR,zh_CN)
 system.language=en_US
 Set you local time
 Select your timezone from : ls /usr/share/zoneinfo/ (string)
 system.timezone=Asia/Shanghai

You want to change that last line of code to whatever time zone you live in. To find the correct time zone wording, you can either open up the “tz” file found in /storage/.config/emuelec/configs/ and look it up, or you can use the listing found on this Wikipedia page. For example, I looked at the Wikipedia page and found US/Hawaii, and it worked perfectly.

More to come

There are plenty of other things to do with your RG351P, like setting up arcade games, or trying out new RetroArch settings. I’ll be sure to keep this guide (and website) updated, so be sure to check back often.


Changelog

15NOV2020
– added MacOS ._ file fix
– added ArkOS link

11NOV2020
– added 351ELEC link

01NOV2020
– published guide

12 thoughts on “RG351P Starter Guide

  1. Many thanks for your guides for the RG351P. I bought it for my son’s upcoming birthday based on your review.
    I’m trying to understand how this device works so that I can teach my son. I have one main issue and 2 other questions

    I figured out that to save game progress it doesn’t work like it used to on my good-old gameboy. I have to go into retroarch and save progress there.
    However as you point out the Nintendo DS games don’t use retroarch, but use ‘Drastic’.
    This emulator has a terrible close to unreadable interface on the RG351P, also it doesn’t register keypresses in a normal way. This makles Drastic very difficult (coming close to impossible) to use. However my main issue is that the functionality to save and load game progress in Drastic does not seem to be working at all for me. Have you gotten this to work? This makes Drastic useless (nobody finishes a game from start to finish in one go).

    What I found very curious on my RG351P: My model indeed does not have wifi built-in as I can only get it to work with the complementary dongle. However whenever this dongle is being used (sending/receiving data), the speakers make a strange noise. This is precisely the issue they were trying to circumvent by using the external wifi right???

    My son does not really understand english yet, are you planning on making a guide on this AI translation feature?

    Like

  2. I setup my 351p with a 200gb sd card and so far only scraped games and activated Retro achievements all was great.
    Now every time I turn it or load a Rom I get the message below.
    Any ideas how to fix this?
    I did it all again and still get the same issue.

    “Failed to start Setup Timezone data. See ‘Systemctl status tz-data.service’ for details.”

    Like

    1. Hey dusmachine, i ran into the same annyoign issue.
      Here’s how i managed to solve this problem:

      Hit start to enter the MAIN MENU -> EMUELC SETTINGS -> DANGER ZONE! -> RESET SYSTEM TO DEFAULT CONFIG.
      That solved the problem for me.
      This step should do no harm to your system, since you never touch system related files, so setting them back to default should be no risk.

      Like

  3. I checked the file detailed in the time zone fix part of your guide and the file on my device was empty.
    I copied the one from my factory sd card onto my 200gb and its fine again for a couple of days.
    As it happened twice something must be triggering it.. So this time I have kept minimal downloads of just Nes box theme, connect to Retroachievements whereas in past two corruptions I downloaded all the themes and bezels.
    Working for now so let’s see.

    Like

  4. – Jan – I experienced the same with drastic. I found it much easier when I realised that Drastic DOES register keypresses, it just doesn’t update the screen. I don’t know why this should be, but if you keep track of your keypresses you should be able to use load/save states. I lost a few hours of progress before I realised that…

    Like

  5. Is it particularly fussy about the WIFI dongle? I already own a decent D-Link N dongle, will it work? I haven’t bought the 351 yet.

    Like

      1. Just wanted to update. Much to my surprise, my 351 arrived from Amazon with a USB C adapter and a Wi-Fi dongle (as well as a screen protector)! I was under the impression these were only included if you ordered directly, but I guess not. Just for the heck of it, I did try my Dlink Wi-Fi adapter and it did work no problem. Thanks for your input though!

        Like

  6. Hi there, i have some troubles with my 351P Many boot loops or kernels panics, it appear randomy first, i can paly after reset 3-5 times, at least no boot at all.

    console never shutdown cleanly by the menu when o try, always need to reset.

    I have tryed 3.7, and arkOS on 3 differents SD card, same result with and without formatign cards..

    3.8, 3.9, 351elec won’t boot or get stuck at first run

    Any idea?

    Like

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