We are entering the golden age of retro games. Of course, modern video games are also very good now, but if you like old things, this is an unprecedented era. Technology, fan interest and smart brains behind the scenes are lining up in the right way, making playing old games easy and nostalgic, accurate and exciting. The new manifestation of this era? Analogue Pocket, the greatest Game Boy ever.
Ordinary VG247 readers will certainly recognize Analogue, thanks to it being a frequent visitor to the world of retro games. In many ways, Analogue Pocket feels like the machine the company has been building in the past few products. This is not to diminish the achievements of the company’s previous high-end versions of Super Nintendo, Mega Drive and NES, because these are still incredible products. But so far, something in Analogue Pocket feels like the true peak of all research and development expenses.
So what is it? Well, if you haven’t paid attention to the long preparatory process for the upcoming release, Analogue Pocket is the Game Boy of the modern era. It has a beautiful modern screen and a sturdy, high-quality modern design. It requires you to use original ink cartridges, ready to use out of the box, compatible with more than 2700 Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance ink cartridges. But in many ways, this description does not truly reflect the natural justice of Pocket luxury.
Like other analog products, the best metaphor may be the revival of vinyl records and high-quality record player music. Yes, now you can easily simulate games on a variety of devices-but the dedicated hardware has something special. In addition, the accuracy and quality of running games on original hardware cannot be achieved through simulation. Just like vinyl records, when nerds realize this and the price of original hardware starts to climb, enterprising people try to find a way to create modern retro hardware. Among these companies, Analogue has now consolidated its position as the best of its kind.
Don’t get me wrong; this is a high-quality device and expensive. It is not for everyone. It costs $220, which is more expensive than Nintendo Switch Lite-but it’s not a product for those who are not dedicated to retro craftsmanship. This is clearly described in terms of quality, options, and engineering level, which are clearly in the pocket-it must be expensive.
The shape of the Pocket is mainly attributed to the Game Boy Pocket, although it draws inspiration from each generation of Game Boy. Available in stylish black or white, its industrial design has an apple-like atmosphere. Hand-held gaming devices often look like toys, especially toys from the Pocket Channel era-but they are adult devices. It has an adult feel, and people suspect that it will be fine if you drop it-but it is also beautiful and you will be heartbroken.
The design conveys the overall feeling of the device, a symphony of old and new. For example, gorgeous modern displays are placed in traditional designs, rather than more modern things like clamshells. The USB-C and SD card ports are located next to the original Game Boy link cable port and are used to play multiplayer games with other analog pockets and even original hardware. It’s so cute. Perhaps the only way the device is not as good as the original hardware is battery life. Modern devices will pay the price and provide users with more than six hours before needing to recharge.
The highlight of the show is the screen, which is a 3.5-inch, 615 PPI LTPS LCD panel with a resolution of 1600×1440-ten times that of the original Game Boy. This is an unusual resolution on paper, but it makes perfect sense in context-it allows pixel-perfect, 100% accurate depictions of those early Game Boy games.
Let’s not take it lightly: the screen is absolutely gorgeous. Analogue makes it clear that displays can make or break such products-so they absolutely go all out, package it in a clear, beautiful display, and then pair it with some truly incredible display modes implemented through software. These display modes allow you to simulate a variety of hardware-so with the push of a button, you can play with filters similar to the original Game Boy green tint, the slightly different look of the Game Boy Pocket, the indigo Game Boy Lite, and more. Each platform also has a pixel-perfect “simulation” mode, which basically provides a clear experience recommended by system developers.
I did some side-by-side comparisons of the original hardware and Analogue Pocket-the accuracy and impressive degree of these filters cannot be overstated. In many cases, the Pocket is indistinguishable from the original hardware-expertly using expensive modern displays to reproduce the specific experience of old, less comfortable hardware. It is real, but there is nothing wrong. It quietly eliminates the defects of the original display while maintaining its unique appearance.Our friend John from Digital Foundry experienced this machine at the same time with us, and I sincerely recommend his video In-depth comparisons are very exciting to be honest-although they are more impressive.
Speaking of how the game works… well, Analogue hasn’t solved this problem for a while. Like the company’s other devices, the Pocket is powered by FPGAs, which represent field programmable gate arrays. Although there are other equally effective methods, FPGAs are a way to exclude traditional simulation from the water with extremely high accuracy. We have explained this technique in the previous simulation hardware reviews, but the point is that because FPGAs are processed at the hardware level, the result is high accuracy, usually 100% compatibility, and absolutely no unnatural extra delays. . Analogue Pocket actually contains two FPGAs, which further helps the machine. The reason we don’t see more use of FPGAs is because they are expensive and difficult to design-but if done right, the result is self-evident. Analogue Pocket is the first fully integrated FPGA handheld game console-it feels like it started from the ground up.
One of the coolest personal features that Pocket implements in the game is the seamless integration of sleep mode-which means, yes, with original Game Boy cartridges, you can click the power button to put the machine to sleep and save your progress, This means that when you start it again, you will continue where you left off. This is not just a solution for state preservation, but a more complex solution-it works seamlessly with almost every cart I have tested, which is very impressive.
It’s not all Game Boy. Although the Pocket’s cartridge slot uses Nintendo’s early handheld cartridges, the cart adapter can also be used to play Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color, and Atari Lynx games. You can see how this is the ultimate tribute to the golden age of handheld gaming. Only Game Gear adapters are provided at the time of release. These do require additional costs, but the point is that this is an expandable machine.
The same goes for other features that you can use or ignore. There is a dock that works like a Switch-plug in your Pocket, sync the Bluetooth controller, and play Pocket-compatible games on the big screen. Not all the visual features of Pocket are compatible in this mode, but hope to solve this problem in a future update. 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 be introduced in detail here, such as Nanoloop (an audio workstation and sequencing application that allows you to use GBA sound chips to create music through Pocket) and support National Standard Studio (An easy-to-use drag-and-drop Game Boy game creator, 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 errors, and improve compatibility.
It’s still too early, but in a broad sense, Analogue Pocket is one of my favorite game versions this year. In fact, it may be my favorite. I think Game Boy, GBC and GBA in particular constitute one of the best video game libraries ever-now this is the best way to play them. With additional optional system compatibility and other features added, this will become an irresistible device-at least for nerds like me. The key question remains how much you are willing to pay for the ability to play old games. But as an advanced retro device, Analogue Pocket has magical powers.
Disclaimer: The console provided by the simulation.