New retro "Pocket" handheld plays games of every Game Boy – and more
There's never been a better time to be into retro gaming. But while the classic mini consoles from the likes of Sega and Nintendo with their built-in libraries of emulated games will scratch the nostalgia itch for many, the likes of Analogue have sought greater depth and authenticity by offering up modern hardware that plays original game cartridges.
Where Analogue's previous efforts have breathed new life into classic 8- and 16-bit TV console game collections, its latest release, the Pocket, is its first handheld system. And it plays host to games for all the classic portables you can shake a pixelated stick at.
The Pocket is directly compatible with the entire Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance libraries – that's already an awful lot of fun to be had. But thanks to existing cartridge adapters, the Pocket can also play games for the Sega Game Gear, Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket Color, and, intriguingly, "more."
Like Analogue's other machines, the Pocket uses a Field Programmable Gate Array – two, in fact. FPGAs are essential highly-customizable circuit boards, and it's these that allow the clever folk at Analogue to essentially recreate the hardware of retro games machines, and run their games natively rather than under emulation.
It sounds as though the second FPGA is there solely for developers, with the exciting prospect of expanded hardware emulation down the line (perhaps that's where the "more" comes in).
It's also set to feature what sounds like a monster display: a resolution of 1,600 x 1,440 is packed into the 3.5-inch for a density of 615 ppi. (The new iPhone 11 Pro has a density of 458 ppi.) Which sounds like overkill, frankly, but who are we to argue?
Perhaps most surprisingly, Pocket comes with its own built-in digital audio workstation, Nanoloop. It includes both a synthesizer and sequencer to allow both music creation and live performance. Analogue says you will be able to "shape, stretch and morph sounds" as well as "capture music or play and sculpt live." It's a feature that will be superfluous for many but a big draw for music and chip-tune hobbyists.
There'll also be an optional Nintendo Switch-style dock, so, should you choose, you can play Game Boy Tetris on a gargantuan living room display. It can sync with any Bluetooth controller made by 8BitDo, or wired controllers can be hooked up over USB. Like all Analogue machines, Pocket is compatible with the company's digital to analog converter, so dedicated retro gamers can play on a CRT display.
Though we've only renders to go on, the Pocket's svelte design is already turning heads. Imagery suggests Pocket will ship in either all-white or all-black. It'll come with a rechargeable lithium ion battery, microSD storage, in-built stereo speakers and also 3.5 mm headphone out.
Pocket is set to arrive in 2020 at a price of US$199. This doesn't seem to include the dock, the price and release date of which are not yet clear. Analogue says only limited numbers of the console will ship, so if you're interested, it may be wise to register interest on the Pocket product page to be alerted when orders open.