Analogue Pocket review: Game Boy games have never looked so good

For the final week or so, I’ve been buried in cartridges from my youth. I’ve spent hours slicing by way of cute blue slimes in Dragon Warrior III and reacquainting myself with a decades-old group of monsters in Pokémon Yellow. Whereas all my buddies have been raving about Halo Infinite, I’ve as a substitute been reminding myself simply how inexplicably good Tony Hawk’s Professional Skater was on the Game Boy Advance.

Usually going again to play traditional games like this could be a actuality examine. There have been loads of instances once I’ve popped in an outdated cartridge solely to understand that these games I grew up with simply don’t look the best way I keep in mind them. However that hasn’t been the case this time — in truth, they’ve looked higher than ever. That is the promise of the Analogue Pocket.

Analogue has made a reputation for itself by releasing a stream of high-end {hardware} designed to play outdated games. It began with the NES and has since expanded to incorporate the SNES, Sega Genesis, and shortly the TurboGrafx-16. The idea is straightforward: whereas many of those older games have aged nicely, the {hardware} hasn’t, and Analogue is making a option to protect them by making them playable on fashionable televisions. And, in contrast to most retro machines, Analogue consoles make the most of field-programmable gate array (FPGA) know-how, which mainly means they perform similar to the unique {hardware}.

The $220 Pocket takes this similar philosophy and applies it to handheld games; it could be the corporate’s most bold product to this point. It’s additionally far and away the most effective.



Good Stuff

  • Unbelievable display screen
  • Enormous library of supported cartridges
  • Very helpful sleep characteristic

Unhealthy Stuff

  • Elective adapters could be unwieldy
  • Shoulder buttons are just a little cramped

At a look, the Pocket appears to be like like manufacturing on the Game Boy never stopped and Nintendo stored revising it over the previous three many years. It has mainly the identical kind issue as the unique Game Boy. The Pocket is a plastic brick you maintain up vertically, accessible in both black or white, with a sq. display screen up high, a D-pad and face buttons under, and a cartridge slot within the again. There are just a few adjustments, after all.

There are 4 principal face buttons as a substitute of two, together with a pair of shoulder buttons on the again of the machine, on both facet of the cartridge slot. There’s additionally a house button that sits between the tiny begin and choose buttons, a USB-C port alongside a headphone jack and the old-style hyperlink cable port on the underside of the machine, and a microSD slot on the facet for firmware updates and such. It’s powered by a chargeable lithium-ion battery as a substitute of AAs, and also you’ll get between six to 10 hours of gameplay relying on the brightness settings.

The most important change, although, is the unbelievable display screen. The Pocket includes a 3.5-inch LCD show fabricated from Gorilla Glass, with 1600 × 1440 decision. That’s 10 instances the decision of the unique grey brick Game Boy. In observe, it appears to be like completely superb. Out of the field, the Pocket helps cartridges from the Game Boy, Game Boy Colour, and Game Boy Advance (for different supported platforms, see the sidebar on equipment) and it’s exhausting to overstate simply how good these games look rendered at such a excessive decision, with such a brilliant and sharp show. The monochrome look of the unique Game Boy is crisp and clear, however it particularly shines while you’re taking part in colour games the place you’ll be able to actually see the sprites pop.

It sounds cliche, however the Pocket breathes new life into outdated games by displaying them at their best. You additionally have loads of methods to customise the visuals. In the primary menu there are numerous choices, together with platform-specific customizations on a system stage. So if, as an illustration, you need to render your entire Game Boy Colour games with the unique grid of pixels seen, you are able to do that. Or you’ll be able to keep on with the default choice the place every part appears to be like good and clear. Likewise, for unique Game Boy games, you’ll be able to follow the traditional inexperienced hue or view issues in a extra modern-looking grayscale. You too can alter the sharpness and desaturation or tweak the scale and place of the picture displayed. I caught principally with the default choices and stored the brightness jacked to 85 %, and I had no points in any respect. It looked superb. (I ought to be aware that GBA games are rendered barely smaller, for the reason that Pocket has a sq. display screen and the Advance had a extra widescreen show.)

The Pocket doesn’t essentially change these games. You’re nonetheless taking part in the identical cartridges; they only look so much higher and are extra handy to play. The closest factor to a quality-of-life tweak is considered one of my favourite options: the sleep choice, the place you’ll be able to put the Pocket in a battery-saving mode with out shedding progress. It’s nice for taking part in old-school RPGs that have just a little an excessive amount of time in between save places. The hand-held additionally helps just about every part the unique {hardware} did, which Analogue says is almost 2,800 cartridges. I examined greater than a dozen games throughout all three Game Boy platforms, together with some oddballs just like the gyro-equipped WarioWare Twisted, Japan-only titles like Densetsu no Stafy, and even the unique Game Boy Digital camera. Every part labored with none points.

For probably the most half, the Pocket was additionally extraordinarily snug to make use of. The matte plastic has a pleasant really feel to it, and there are vertical strains engraved throughout the again to make it grippier. It will get just a little heat throughout extended periods however to not the purpose that I discovered it uncomfortable. I additionally actually love the D-pad on this factor, which is clicky and responsive. The one actual quibble I have is with the location of the shoulder buttons. For games that use them so much — like Tony Hawk on the GBA — I discovered my fingers cramping up after lengthy periods. It’s a bit like taking part in on the outdated GBA SP. It’s not a deal-breaker, however I positively felt the pressure. Remappable buttons are coming in a future firmware replace, however I wasn’t capable of check them for this evaluate.

(Exterior of taking part in old-school cartridges, the Pocket additionally has a built-in music software known as Nanoloop and help for DIY recreation creation software GB Studio. Nonetheless, on condition that I have no musical nor recreation design skills, I have to confess that these options have been principally misplaced on me so far.)

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Actually, for all of its options, the Analogue Pocket is a tool that’s designed to do one factor: honor the classics. Each side of it, whether or not it’s the sensible show or the fine-grain customization choices or the very welcome sleep button, all works in service of creating the cartridges you already personal look and play their finest. And that’s precisely what the Pocket does.

That may make it one thing of a distinct segment product, particularly contemplating its premium price ticket. For across the similar worth you may seize a Nintendo Change Lite, and lots of of those games can be found elsewhere, whether or not on fashionable consoles or smartphones. It’s never been simpler or cheaper to play the classics. However for a lot of gamers, myself included, there’s nonetheless one thing particular about taking part in the unique variations of those games, particularly given the fleeting nature of digital media. I don’t need to hold shopping for new variations of Ultimate Fantasy V, not sure of what unusual tweaks Sq. Enix could have made.

I already personal the right port. It got here out in 2006 for the Game Boy Advance — and 15 years later, I now have the right place to play it.


The Analogue Pocket begins delivery on December thirteenth for many who preordered, whereas gross sales open up once more on December 14th.

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