The Analogue Pocket is not only the most ambitious product ever developed by Analogue, but it is also the highest quality aftermarket console ever built. Traditionally, the aftermarket or “clone consoles” are often cheaper, cheaper versions of the real thing. These are inexpensive alternatives and are usually stuffed with illegal roms to satisfy retro gaming on the go.
Analogue is a company that has deep knowledge of the retro gamer market and knows that enthusiasts want something more than cheap Chinese junk. Like their previous offerings, the Analog Pocket strives for precision and authenticity. There is no installation of cheap roms or emulation here – gamers will need real cartridges.
In smooth black or pure white, Analogue Pocket covers three generations of Nintendo handheld games and can be expanded with additional peripherals to support Game Gear. We were lucky enough to buy a unit and put it to the test. How accurate and faithful is this device? Find out in our Analog Pocket review!
Emulation is software-based, an application designed to mimic the components of a console and its systems. He has limits; especially when it comes to cartridge games that sometimes can’t accommodate specialized chips or really creative programming. This usually results in audio / visual bugs, delayed input, or in the worst case, incompatibility.
Emulation has its place and is a necessary pillar in the preservation of video games. However, this is not the most accurate representation of how 80s and 90s games looked or played. For some gamers, emulation is good enough to get by. For die-hard enthusiasts who care about accuracy, their only option for portable Nintendo games was to use original hardware.
Analogue Pocket does not rely on emulation. It is built with FPGA; a chipset as close as possible to the original material. That’s down to the transistor level, where legacy gaming carts work with real circuitry. There is no internal computer to interpret a rom; it is a purely mechanical and instantaneous system. This benefits the user, especially if they still own their original games and strive for an authentic experience.
By testing several generations of Nintendo portable games for the Analogue Pocket magazine; we have found that the unit will also play unofficial english reproduction carts. If the software can run on real hardware, Analogue Pocket will start it without problem. It’s a great way to read fan-translated titles like Ocean star: blue sphere; a Japan-exclusive JRPG that pushed Gameboy Color to its limits.
Mother fans will be delighted to learn that the English breeders of Mother 3 also looks and plays perfectly on the Pocket screen. The only glitches that can arise are with Everdrives, which some users have reported starting. Unfortunately, Niche Gamer does not have any Everdrive carts to test compatibility for this Analogue Pocket review. Anyone who uses flashcards should be careful.
After having acquired or unearthed and tested a selection of Gameboy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance carts; Analogue Pocket prefers the Game Boy Color. This device shows these games at their best and offers plenty of options in the settings to get the most out of them.
Before slamming the Game Boy Color version of Solid metal gear in the slot to start a stealth mission; it’s worth exploring the visual options available by pressing the home button. The default “analog mode” is a very raw picture setting that is more like what a Gameboy Advance screen would display when playing a Game Boy Color game.
The Game Boy Color settings include a pixel grid pattern that faithfully recreates the nuances of the original 1.7 x 1.6-inch liquid display. The analog pocket perfectly resizes the screen to 1600 x 1400 pixels, against 160 x 144; ten times the full scaling of the original Nintendo Game Boy and Color consoles.
These old games end up looking better than they’ve ever been thanks to the range of options available to users. In no time at all, the brightness, contrast, and sharpness can be adjusted to create an image for Game Boy Color games that closely matches the original material. Picture quality is greatly improved thanks to the sharpness and crystal-clear brilliance of the Pocket’s screen.
The optional grid pattern perfectly preserves the aesthetics of classic Game Boy Color games. The effect is extremely thin and adds texture to the visuals these games intended to have. Each pixel looks juicy and delicious; like glittering jewels shining through the gorilla glass panel of the analog pocket.
The original Game Boy games also come with a suite of display options. The original DMG green aesthetic, with blur options, delivers a very faithful and authentic Game Boy experience for those who are so inclined. Impressively, there are several color options; some of which emulate the Game Boy Light display only in Japan and some options are a tribute to the Super Game Boy peripheral.
The controls are as tight as the real thing. Typical emulation latency is non-existent when testing this Analogue Pocket review. Whether it is a Game Boy Advance game, like any of the Castlevania Games, Metroid: Fusion or even the old original Game Boy titles; the Pocket is very responsive.
The Game Boy Advance and the Game Boy Color were very different beasts. The Color could be narrowly described as a “portable NES,” and the Game Boy Advance was often referred to as the Super Nintendo with worse sound; but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Both handheld consoles had their aspect ratios tailored for their screen size.
Game Boy Advance games have been designed to display a 3: 2 aspect ratio at 240 x 160 resolution. This is where Analogue Pocket’s favoritism towards the Game Boy and Game Boy Color becomes evident. The reality is that there was going to be a trade-off since these handheld console families had two different screen sizes and displayed different pixel scaling integers.
The concession being that Game Boy Advance games will inevitably have a “letterbox” applied to the top and bottom of the screen. This is the only way to display Advance games without completely destroying the image with horrible stretching. Anyone who can get past this compromise will see that the analog pocket also shows Game Boy Advance titles at their best.
If there was one thing Gameboy Advance games were known for, it would be their garish and often washed-out colors. This was a byproduct of the original GBA model having no backlight and many games compensate for this by blowing out the colors to create a more readable image.
Thanks to the video options in the Analogue Pocket settings, gamers can change the settings that will recall the raw image quality of the Gameboy Advance, while ensuring a bright picture. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is a title that was particularly scary and being able to reduce the brightness while still having such extreme clarity is an eye-opener.
Analogue Pocket makes Game Boy Advance games look better than ever on original hardware. It was still a strange console that was stuck between generations. Being a 32-bit console made it a lot more powerful than a Super Nintendo, but being cartridge-based meant it had huge limitations compared to a PlayStation, and consistently saw unique ports of cross-platform games for years. 2000.
With Analogue Pocket, we finally have the impression that there is an option to discover these games in their final state. Unfortunately, the dock device offered by Analogue does not support the video options available when playing in portable mode. The settings for Game Boy and Game Boy Color visuals can be displayed in TV mode, but playing GBA only gives a raw picture.
According to Analogue, an update will arrive on the dock in the near future that will supposedly allow the same options while playing on the go. As for the quay itself; it feels high quality and it does exactly what it promises. Compatibility with various wireless controllers is particularly impressive, providing an option for whatever suits the needs of the gamer.
Xbox, PlayStation, and pretty much all of 8BitDo’s boys third-party wireless bluetooth controllers will work with the Analogue Dock to support TV playback. With button remapping, even the X and Y buttons can be used and improve the playability of some titles.
Other features that put Analogue Pocket above original Nintendo hardware are its stereo speakers and sound quality. Previously all channels came out of a single speaker, but now the sound comes out with a more accurate and beefy crackle. If desired, the volume can be increased absurdly and it will travel a substantial distance.
Some features are compatible with GB Studio, and it feels like the console is bordering on being a Game Boy devkit for budding game designers. Support for Homebrew games promises an almost endless library and they use an SD card. Some are full-fledged games like the indelible Deadeus, or you can try a Wolfenstein 3D Portage Game Boy Color!
Analog Pocket can reach about 10 hours on a single charge. That’s a respectable battery life, but nowhere near what Nintendo’s low-power handheld consoles could achieve with just a few Duracell AAs. The tradeoff is well worth it and being a rechargeable ionic battery – the type used in other modern handhelds, guarantees long gaming sessions.
Having to update the firmware is pretty straightforward, but it’s way too complicated. Users cannot simply update the Pocket’s firmware from the console itself. Expect to download the firmware to an SD card and install it on the console. Since Analogue has promised more features like improved save states and screenshots, it can be tedious to have to start the process over again.
The analog docking station apparently requires firmware updates as well. It’s not exactly clear what the updates do, as there is no front-end or patch notes. Unfortunately, this is probably something that will need to be done from time to time in order to get the best possible experience.
By far the most disturbing aspect of the Pocket is how exposed the Game Boy and Game Boy Color carts are when inserted. A careless gamer could easily get it to move while playing, but in our Analogue Pocket review this problem never occurred. It’s definitely something that could happen to someone and it’s something to consider while playing.
Apart from these little tricks, the analog pocket is the sleekest and best way to play retro Nintendo handheld games. Everything about the unit looks like silver and has a sophisticated matte finish with a heavy grip. For its price, players will get everything they bargained for and more.
The analog handheld console was reviewed using a retail unit purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information on Niche Gamer’s review / ethics policy here.