The Analogue Pocket, reviewed. Finally. – Input
Ah, a month or so after every other outlet and influencer in the world gave their take on a review unit, tis I, Analogue’s old frenemy, here to put in my two cents on their latest product, the Pocket.
If you’re not familiar with Analogue, allow me to catch you up on retro gaming’s hottest luxury manufacturer. Founded in 2011 by Christopher Taber, Analogue got its start by gutting old Nintendo NES and Neo Geo MVS consoles and using their parts to create upgraded, hardwood enclosed, digital-friendly versions called the Analogue NT and CMVS. Since there are a limited number of retro consoles available on the market — and game preservationists tend to get a little squicked when you start gutting and flipping them for cash — the company soon pivoted to FPGA (field programmable gate array) technology for its future releases.
An FPGA is a microchip that can reconfigure itself on the fly at the hardware level to become other kinds of chips, such as those found in older game consoles. Thus, armed with the (heavily subsidized) tech and FPGA wizard Kevin “Kevtris” Horton, Analogue soon developed the NT Mini (NES), the Super NT (SNES), the Mega SG (Genesis/Mega Drive), and the upcoming Duo (TurboGrafx-16, PC Engine CD, and SuperGrafx). All of these pale — in both ambition and execution — in comparison to the Pocket.
The Pocket is a landmark release.
The Pocket features a traditional, vertical Game Boy DMG layout and can play Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and Game Gear games (via a cartridge adapter, sold separately), with support for Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket, and Neo Geo Pocket Color on the horizon (also through adapters sold separately). Beyond retro gaming, the device also supports a second FPGA core and multiple audio applications for developers and creatives to use as they please.
The Pocket is a landmark release for the company, as well as for the larger FPGA development scene. So, does the console itself match up to its impressive pedigree?
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And we’re off to a rocky start! Purchasing the Pocket back in August of 2020 was an absolute nightmare of queuing, crashed payment systems, and confusing guidance. Then came the interminable 16-month wait for the handheld to actually ship — granted, part of which was due to the ongoing supply chain crisis. Unfortunately, the situation is no better today.
The Pocket as a product and Analogue as a company both have dedicated subreddits littered with buyers nervous about what quarter (or year!) their products might ship, if they’ll ever get cartridge adapters for their preferred system (we’re still waiting on the Neo Geo Pocket and Atari Lynx units to get shipping dates and for the TurboGrafx-16 adapter pre-orders to even begin), and what happens in the case that something about their order goes awry.
When we’re talking about games like Tetris, that’s a lot of money.
Analogue has never been known as a company with good, comprehensive, or attentive customer service — something even its most diehard fans will cop to — which makes it a lot more difficult to swallow the difficult truth that is a product development cycle during a …….