Analog Pocket review – stone to the future

by Ana Lopez

Retro gaming only gets better over the years as what was once a niche pursuit is bolstered by a range of high-end third-party devices, allowing consumers to play and experience classic games in modern ways, and analog could be the only are leading the charge.

After success with devices like the Analogue Super NT and the Analogue Mega Sg, which play SNES and Mega Drive games respectively, the retro-focused company turned its attention to handheld gaming. In comes the Analog pocket, a stunning device clearly modeled after the original Game Boy and capable of playing cartridges natively through real hardware. This innovative thinking allows you to bring your old Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games to life like never before.

It doesn’t end there though as you can also buy cartridge adapters to play Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket and Atari Lynx cartridges on the same device. The main selling point here, as well as the convenience, is a gorgeous 3.5-inch 615 ppi LCD display that’s ten times the resolution of the original Game Boy, giving classic games a vibrant, pixel-perfect facelift that you must see to believe. But at $219.99 (before shipping or extras like the dock) / is it worth the price, or more importantly, the wait? Let’s dive into ours Analog Pocket Review Find out.

Full disclosure, Analogue did not send us an Analogue Pocket for review. Instead, I ordered one when pre-orders became available in December 2022, and my unit arrived around December 20, 2023, over a year after ordering. This is a luxury piece of equipment and a complicated machine to reproduce, so as demand continues to skyrocket, it’s no surprise waiting times are an issue. But it’s something to consider, especially with so many other portable devices on the market.

I already had quite a large collection of Game Boy games thanks to being old and actually growing up in the 90s. Of course ordering the Pocket in 2022 meant I had a full year to add to it as well , so you better believe that by the time my order showed up I had built up an impressive library of GB, GBC, GBA and Game Gear games all ready and waiting to be tested to the fullest.

Analogue Pocket review: An Analogue Pocket is shown next to a stack of Game Boy games

To me, this is a very important thing to distinguish from the bat. Are you a big fan of the Game Boy consoles? Do you have an extensive collection of games? Do you actually play them? Then the Analogue Pocket might be for you, but if you’re not an enthusiast, it’s going to be that much harder to sell. So let’s first look at what the analog pocket does right.

It’s hard to capture in photos, but the main appeal of the Pocket is undoubtedly its crystal-clear 3.5-inch LCD screen, protected by gorilla glass, and with a resolution of 1600×1440 that perfectly stretches Game Boy games up to ten times the resolution of the Pocket. originals. Pokémon Red is the first game I loaded and the clarity is truly breathtaking. The whites can be blindingly bright, but the sharpness of the pixels makes this feel like the best way to ever play a Game Boy game.

Nothing beats it, and with the Game Boy form factor it really hits all the nostalgic buttons in the brain. Playing black-and-white games, of course, produces a fairly sharp, high-contrast image, but Game Boy Color titles come to life with a vibrancy and level of detail that blows my mind. Playing Pokémon Crystal on the Pocket almost brings me to tears, and I wish I was kidding.

Analogue Pocket review: An analogue Pocket is visible next to a stack of Game Boy games

As you age, the color given to the oft-faded GBA games similarly gives them a much-needed boost. Titles that were dark and gloomy on original GBA hardware are now the colorful and saturated visual masterpieces they should be, with titles like The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap and Metroid Fusion especially looking like they’d be played on modern day games today. hardware can be released just as they are. The GBA era is going down as an incredible era for pixel art, and the Pocket helps these games realize their potential.

One problem with GBA titles is that they have a different aspect ratio, so the Pocket adds black bars to the top and bottom of the screen. You can choose to change the way the pixels are rendered to squash or stretch the image, but given the form factor there’s no satisfying way to fill the screen with GBA titles that don’t detract from the visuals of the game. However, if this is a sacrifice Analogue made to create the ultimate Game Boy device, it’s a minor inconvenience.

So the screen is one thing, but hardcore Game Boy fans will want to know how these titles work. Well, crucially, it’s important to reiterate that the Analogue Pocket doesn’t run cartridges through any emulation. The device actually uses hardware to play them back, so the performance is as perfect as it gets. I’ve tested Game Boy, Game Boy Colour, Game Boy Advance and Game Gear cartridges, and absolutely every cartridge plays and runs like a dream.

Analogue Pocket review: An Analogue Pocket is shown alongside an original Game Boy and a Game Boy Color
The Analogue Pocket also has quite a few tricks up its sleeve, as there are options to adjust the video and sound in just about any type of game. For example, you can play Game Boy cartridges in different color palettes or display modes, with either the typical grays or some that mimic the palettes available on the Game Boy Color.

There aren’t many similar options for Game Gear or GBA titles, but you can adjust brightness and sharpness. Each system has the option to switch between a pixel-perfect visual mode or a scan-line mode to represent the original hardware, and while I haven’t used those, I appreciate that the option is there.

If you want to spend the extra money there’s also the option of using the analog pocket dock to play it on TV, and this does exactly what it says on the tin. The device’s great performance makes it a fantastic way to play Game Boy games on the big screen, and it’s very easy to dock the device and sync BlueTooth controllers like the 8BitDo Pro 2 or the Ultimate. Not everyone needs it, but it works flawlessly if that’s what you’re looking for.

Analogue Pocket review: An Analogue Pocket is shown while playing a Game Boy Advance game

So that’s all the Analogue Pocket does right. But it’s important to note that the things he does well, he does almost perfectly. This is the best modern device for playing Game Boy games over a long distance, and in order to be the ultimate Game Boy device, the form factor is clearly intended to be based on the Game Boy color, with a size smaller than the original gray brick, but much bigger than something like the Game Boy Lite and Pocket.

The Analogue Pocket is much heavier, although it feels well made with some real weight for the materials, but it can become uncomfortable during extended play sessions. While the front of the device has four buttons that allow users to play GB and GBA titles accurately, and they feel great, the shoulder buttons leave a lot to be desired. They are too thin to rest comfortably on and require a good push to activate. I wish they were a little ‘clickier’ and they would be much more comfortable with them sticking out a little bit more.

While it really shouldn’t be a problem if you’re using one of the cartridge adapters like Game Gear’s, it sits on top of the shoulder buttons, rendering them useless. Given the width of the cartridges, I don’t know what the solution is, and theoretically no games using the adapters should use the shoulder buttons, but it’s annoying.

Analogue Pocket review: An Analogue Pocket is visible with a Game Gear adapter and a copy of Sonic The Hedgehog for Game Gear

Another point to consider is the price, as well as the delivery time. If you’re in the US it’s not too much of a problem, but as I live in the UK I was charged a £70 customs fee on top of the hundreds of dollars I dropped on the device, dock and Game Gear adaptor. This is a luxury device, so I recommend that you take a long, hard look in the mirror first to ask if this is for you.

Finally, since the Analogue Pocket runs on FPGA hardware, community members have created cores to run games and devices through emulation. With a little work, anyone can play Mega Drive, SNES, and titles from other platforms through emulation. The Analogue Pocket is a fantastic way to play many of these games thanks to its beautiful screen, and its portability also adds a lot to the experience.

After almost a month I absolutely love my Analogue Pocket, but I am also aware of its shortcomings. However, any game that uses the shoulder buttons makes it that much more difficult, and moving your hands around can sometimes make the already heavy device awkward to hold for long sessions. Of course, you can always launch it on the doc (if you bought one), but playing GBA games might be a slightly better experience. Although I’m sure after the success of the device we’ll probably get an Analogue Pocket GBA.

Analogue Pocket review: A white analogue pocket is visible against a yellow background

Nevertheless, playing Game Boy games has never been better, and it’s a godsend to browse my old library on that beautiful screen. Just being able to put the device to sleep and pick up games later is a blessing, and in a portable form factor it’s just incredible.

Whether you need an Analogue Pocket depends entirely on how invested you are in the Game Boy library. This device costs a lot of money for something designed to do just one or two things, but if you’re into GB games then this is an absolutely essential buy and a wonderful way to experience some of the classics. The price and wait times are hard to stomach, so I don’t know how much I can recommend it to someone with a mild interest, but any handheld gaming enthusiast with a stack of games to play will be in heaven.

Table of Contents

Analog Pocket Review

A distinctly premium device designed for enthusiasts, the Analogue Pocket achieves everything it sets out to do with flying colors. A beautiful screen, a premium device and a plethora of features make this the best way you could ever hope to play Game Boy games. But whether you can handle the price or the wait is entirely up to you.

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