Home System concept Analogue Pocket Review: The Greatest Game Boy Ever

Analogue Pocket Review: The Greatest Game Boy Ever

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Enlarge / Analog pocket, running The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening in his Game Boy Color mode.

Sam Mashkovech

The Analog Pocket is a gaming device’s dream, and it’s starting to ship to pre-order customers this week. It’s the most powerful, beautiful, and feature-rich system to revolve around the original Game Boy, and it earned its mountain of hype before release. The Pocket supports any game cartridge with the words “Game Boy” on the label (including GB Color and GB Advance games), while cartridge adapters allow it to play portable games from. other companies. This combination of features makes Analogue’s latest product a very unique portable retro-gaming option – and for the most part, the manufacturer has been successful in its execution.

But the Pocket is also a first generation gadget. Its makers have never released a portable system before, which means fans of the company’s previous retro TV-centric systems (like the Super Nt and Mega Sg) might wonder what they’re for. Is the Pocket another slam-dunk or does it have enough problems that it is worth waiting for a possible system refresh?

Having now tested the analog pocket for three weeks, I can say the answer depends. If you bought during the system’s painfully brief pre-order period at the end of last year, don’t worry – your $ 199 purchase is insane value. (For all future orders, the price is now $ 20 to $ 219 higher.) If you haven’t purchased yet, you can smooth out your FOMO knowing that there are some rough edges and that a possible Pocket 2.0 could make a great system even better.

An introduction for the uninitiated: FPGA + original hardware support

The retro-obsessed engineers at Analogue have spent years rebuilding classic game consoles from the ground up. Each project gave new life to old cartridges, cables and controllers, offering precise recreations of the original experience. Analogue uses FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) motherboards, flexible boards that can be reprogrammed to simulate like other systems. The result is something you might call “hardware emulation” because these systems run older software with the same clock speeds and other hardware attributes as their original designers. If a game was coded for Sega Genesis’ terribly slow SNES processor or inherently limited FM synthesizer, an accurate FPGA system can beat typical “software emulation” to recreate gameplay, visuals, and sounds.

Analog’s FPGA systems take it a step further by adding facsimiles of original cartridge slots and controller ports, as well as modern tweaks like HDMI ports or higher render resolutions. Assuming your loved ones haven’t tossed your 80s / 90s game collection in a donation bin, you can usually plug your original games, controllers, and accessories into an analog system, and they should all work. Best of all, you can plug the new analog gear into an HDTV and expect resolutions up to 1080p. (The results look sharper than plugging RCA or coaxial cables from older systems into a modern TV.)

So far, the release of Analog has thrilled obsessive gaming fans, but left price-conscious novices stumped. Why spend over $ 200 on an “FPGA” console, they might ask, when all-in-one boxes like the SNES Classic or the Sega Genesis Mini work with HDTVs, cost less, and include bonuses like built-in games?