Analogue Pocket is the best gaming hardware I’ve used in years

We are entering the golden age of retro gaming. Of course, modern video games are pretty cool these days as well, but if you love the old fashioned, this is an unprecedented time. Technology, fan interest and behind the scenes of the right smarts are lining up just the right way to make playing old games as hassle-free as nostalgic and accurate of the times as well. sensational. The new incarnation of this era? Analogue Pocket, the greatest Game Boy ever made.

Regular readers of VG247 will of course recognize the Analogue company by virtue of its status as a frequent staple of my travels around the retro gaming world. In many ways, the Analogue Pocket feels like a machine the company has built for some of its most recent products. This does not reduce the achievements of the premium versions of Super Nintendo, Mega Driveand NES that the company has released before, as these are still amazing products. But there’s something about the Analogue Pocket that feels like a veritable culmination of all research and development spending to date.

So what’s the measure? Well, if you don’t follow the long process until it’s about to release, the Analogue Pocket is a Game Boy for the modern age. It has a nice modern display and a solid modern design that feels premium. It comes with your original cartridge and when out of the box is compatible with over 2700 Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance cartridges. But in many ways, that description doesn’t really match the lavish nature of the Pocket.

Like other Analogue products, the best analogy that can be drawn is the renaissance of music on vinyl and high-quality phonographs. Yes, you can emulate games fairly easily on a wide variety of devices these days – but there’s something special about dedicated hardware. Furthermore, there is a precision and quality to be found when running the game on native hardware that cannot be achieved through emulation. Just like with vinyl, when connoisseurs realized this and the prices of original hardware started to soar, enterprising people tried to figure out how to create retro-modern hardware. . Of these companies, Analogue has now established itself as the best of the bunch.

Do not misunderstand me; this is a premium device and comes at a premium price. It’s not for everyone. At $220, it’s more expensive than the Nintendo Switch Lite – but it’s also not a product for those not dedicated to the classic craft. That is certainly described in the quality, in the options, the level of engineering that has clearly been put into the Pocket – which must certainly be expensive.

The Pocket’s form factor gives the Game Boy Pocket the most, even though it takes cues from every generation of Game Boy. Available in sleek black or white, it has an Apple-like air to its industrial design. Handheld game consoles often look like toys, especially those contemporaneous with the Pocket channels – but this is adult gear. Adults have the feeling that it’s doubtful that it’s okay if you drop it – but it’s also so beautiful that it’s heartbreaking to do so.

The design conveys the overall feel of the device, a symphony of old-meets-new. For example, a beautiful modern display is set to a traditional design instead of something more modern like a clamshell. The USB-C and SD card ports are right next to the original Game Boy link cable port, used for multiplayer with other similar Pockets or even the original hardware. It is cute. Perhaps the only way the device is inferior to the original hardware is by battery life, where modern things come at a cost and give the user a little more than six hours before needing a recharge.

The star of the show is the display, the 3.5-inch, 615 PPI LTPS LCD panel runs at 1600×1440 resolution – ten times that of the original Game Boy. This is an unusual resolution on paper, but makes perfect sense in context – it allows for a pixel-perfect, 100% accurate depiction of early Game Boy Games.

Don’t limit yourself to words: the display is absolutely stunning. Analogue is clearly focused on the fact that a display can make or break a product like this – so they absolutely loved it, packed it in a nice, sharp display, then paired it with some really amazing display modes achieved through software. These display modes allow you to approximate different types of hardware – so with the press of a button you can cycle through the same filters as the original Game Boy’s green, a slightly different look and feel. of the Game Boy Pocket, the indigo of the Game Boy Lite, etc. There are also pixel-perfect ‘Analog’ modes for each platform, essentially delivering the crisp experience that the system’s developers have offered. offer.

I’ve done some side-by-side comparisons between the original hardware and the Analogue Pocket – and can’t say enough about how accurate and impressive these filters are. In many cases, the Pocket simply becomes indistinguishable from the original hardware – expertly using expensive modern displays to recreate the specific experience of older, less comfortable hardware a lot of. It authentically, yet error-free, quietly eliminates the flaws of the original display while maintaining their unique appearance. Our friend John from Digital Foundry experienced this machine at the same time as us and I heartily recommend his video for in-depth comparisons are actually quite impressive – although they are even more impressive when viewed in person.

When it comes to how the game runs… well, Analogue has had this problem for a while. Like the company’s other devices, the Pocket is powered by FPGA, which stands for field-programmable gate array. While there are other, equally valid methods, FPGA is a way to blow away traditional simulation with extreme precision. We’ve explained this technology in previous Analogue hardware reviews, but the gist of it is that since FPGAs are all processed at the hardware level, the results are highly accurate, usually 100%. compatibility and absolutely no unusual additional lag. Analogue Pocket actually packs two FPGAs, making the machine more static. The reason we don’t see FPGAs used more often is because they’re expensive and difficult to design – but when done right, the results speak for themselves. The Analogue Pocket is the first fully integrated FPGA handheld console – and it feels like it nailed it from the start.

One of the coolest personalizations Pocket has achieved in the game is the seamless integration of sleep mode – which means, yes, with the original Game Boy cartridge, you can press the power button to bring it up. the machine goes to sleep and saves your progress, meaning that when you restart it, you pick up where you left off. This isn’t just a state-of-the-art solution, but something a bit more complicated – and it worked seamlessly with practically every cart I tested, which is impressive.

It’s not all Game Boy either. While Pocket’s cartridge slot takes in Nintendo’s first portable cartridges, the cartridge adapters can also be used to play Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color, and Atari Lynx games. You can see how this lines itself up to be the ultimate tribute to a golden age of handheld gaming. Only Game Gear adapters will be available at launch, and these will add to the cost, but the bottom line is that this is an expandable machine.

The same is true for other features that you can use or ignore. There’s a dock that acts like a Switch – plug your Pocket in, sync your Bluetooth controller, and play your Pocket-compatible games on the big screen. Not all of Pocket’s intuitive features are compatible in this mode, but this will hopefully be addressed in future updates. There is also an in-depth settings menu that allows you to adjust the color palette, saturation, sharpness, etc.

Other features are too in-depth to really go into detail here, such as Nanoloop (an audio workstation and sequencing app that lets you use the GBA sound chip to create music via Pocket) and support GB Studio (an easy to use drag and drop Game Boy game generator where you can create games and then load them into Pocket via SD card). Firmware updates can and will be used to add features, resolve bugs, and improve compatibility.

Those are early days, but by and large, Analogue Pocket is one of my favorite game releases of the year. In fact, it may be my favorite. I think the Game Boy, GBC, and GBA in particular make up one of the greatest video game libraries of all time – and here’s a surefire way to play them. Put extra options system compatibility and other features on top and this becomes an irresistible device – at least for a nerd like me. The big question remains how much you are willing to pay to be able to play the old games. But as a premium classic, the Analogue Pocket is a marvel.

Disclaimer: Control panel provided by Analogue. Analogue Pocket is the best gaming hardware I’ve used in years


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