Analog Pocket Review: The best way to play old Game Boy cartridges
I admit it: I’m a skeptic, and a sour one at that. I rarely let fun or interesting new products pass without a “harumph” or a “humbug”. That’s why I think I have to back off here.
See, when niche video game console maker Analogue announced the Analogue Pocket, its first handheld retro gaming system, I rolled my eyes and scoffed. In my defense, Analogue’s previous consoles, which played Nintendo and Sega games, were made in limited numbers, making them scarce and highly sought after. Analog devices are like the hypebeast sneakers of the retro gaming world, for better or for worse.
So the analog pocket seemed to me like it was doomed to be a limited-use handheld with some incredible features that…would be hoarded by collectors who left it on a shelf. Or that it would be a new nerdy status symbol for the well-ordered. Well, after waiting almost a year for my pre-order, I can say I was wrong.
This console exists, I have one, and despite all the hype, it’s even a little better than I thought it would be, especially thanks to some recent software updates. If you don’t care about the nostalgia of using a real Nintendo Game Boy, the Analogue Pocket could be the ultimate upgrade for your retro game collection.
The initial promise of the analog pocket was quite simple: This modern handheld device, with its high-resolution screen and USB-C rechargeable battery, works just like a Nintendo Game Boy. Pop in one of your beloved childhood game cartridges – maybe it is Super Mario World from the original Game Boy, perhaps Pokémon Crystal from the Game Boy Color, or maybe Metroid Fusion from the Game Boy Advance era – and it comes to life in vivid, pixel-accurate detail.
Let’s say you’re more of a Sega Game Gear person, or maybe you prefer the Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket, or the obscure PC Engine Express. You are lucky! Adapters – sold separately, of course – allow you to connect to these games as well.
At the heart of the Analogue Pocket is a technology Analogue has used in all its products. Unlike the generic retro Android-based gaming handhelds that “emulate” console hardware with software, the Analogue Pocket has something called an FPGA. FPGA stands for field programmable gate array, and field programmable part means it can be trained on the fly to emulate many types of classic gaming hardware as soon as you fire up a cartridge.