I recently got my hands on the Analogue Pocket, after two years of missing every hardware allocation the company released. In the end, I was fortunate that I had a pal on social media was looking to offload theirs, because I sincerely doubt Analogue will have enough stock to meet demand.
But I do have it now, and it’s the only thing I want to play. This console is incredible, and reinvigorated my love of Game Boy gaming entirely.
I do have a lot of Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, mind you. Every time I’ve taken a trip to Japan, I’ve taken the opportunity to do some retro gaming shopping, and now my Game Boy collection sits at about 70 – more than I actually owned as a kid. I’ve been buying them up thinking they’re good practice for Japanese, but unfortunately, I find the actual Game Boy hardware to be too difficult to play with now. The lack of lighting on the screen and the need to crunch myself into odd angles under optimal lighting to see anything is something that I just cannot do any more.
I genuinely wonder how I ever managed it.
So that massive collection of Game Boy games has sat there, untouched, waiting for me to get an Analogue Pocket.
Now that I have one, the problems that I have with the Game Boy screens is more than dealt with. The Analogue Pocket has the greatest screen I have ever experienced, on any device, with no exaggeration. The depth of colour that it displays is so rich in contrast that it actually makes Game Boy games look new again. They look like some indie developer was inspired by the games of yesteryear, so made their retro homage, but while also taking advantage of the better control over colour that modern technology has.
Things are even better when you step up to GBA games (which the Analogue Pocket also supports out of the box, without an adapter). The GBA itself was a console that was already pretty capable at displaying games, but again, whether it’s Lyn in Fire Emblem, or the grim dark fantasy of the EA Lord of the Rings games (which were actually very good back in the day), the Analogue Pocket makes them look fresh. Invigorated. Exciting again.
And so, over the last couple of weeks, whenever I’ve had time for my own gaming (i.e. when I haven’t been playing something for review), I’ve found myself reaching for the Analogue Pocket. Some of the games I’ve been playing include:
Fire Emblem – I can’t stop playing Lyn’s quest these days. This is my third play through this year alone, but on the Analogue Pocket, I’ve got the ultimate version of the game (until they get around to doing a remake, which I dearly hope happens). The little low-resolution CGs of key moments in the game are particularly attractive when displayed on the Pocket, and that significantly boosts the game’s “visual novel” quality.
Phantasy Star Collection – For whatever reason, this is one of the rare GBA titles that emulation doesn’t seem to nail. Whether it’s a Retroid or Anbernic, or even the Ayn Odin (a powerful piece of kit that can run a few PS2 games), Phantasy Star Collection has a flickering effect when emulated that makes it unplayable. With the Analogue, not only is it playable, but the hyper-coloured art style of the first two Phantasy Star titles really pops out, with saturation so deep and gorgeous that it’s almost like a prototype for the Persona 5 aesthetic.
Mario Tennis – One of my favourite Game Boy Color games of all time (and still my favourite Mario Tennis title), this game looks humble, but the JRPG elements help to give the action context and a reason to play in single-player.
Nigel Mansell’s World Championship Racing – This is a really interesting example of what the Pocket does for old games. As a first-person racing title, I always found this to be too difficult on the eyes to play as a kid. It even had hills and dips, and the stuttering animation combined with the low-resolution graphics made it a horrible mess to look at on the original Game Boy. I was never able to win a single race. Now, however, I’m quite deep into a season. Thanks to the Analogue’s screen clearing things up, I’m now able to better see what’s going on and respond to it quickly enough to achieve smooth racing lines. I actually now like this game, and appreciate that I’ve somehow managed to hold onto my copy for 30-odd years now.
Snow Bros. Jr. – This is my favourite Game Boy game of all. I never actually owned a copy as a kid. My cousin did, though, and every time we took a family trip to meet them I would borrow the game to play it for as long as I possibly could. The day they told me they lost their copy I felt so incredibly sad. Thankfully, on my very first trip to Japan, I found a copy in Super Potato. Say what you like about the prices in SP (I know it’s controversial), but I will forever have a soft spot for them thanks to that find. The game holds up, too.
Wizardry Empire – Not many people realise this, but there were several Wizardry games released on the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Sadly, only in Japan. These are classic dungeon crawlers in every sense of the word, and perfect for the portable format. And, thanks to the Analogue’s crisp screen, I’m actually able to read the text more clearly, and it’s a much better resource for practicing my Japanese now.
The only problem with the Analogue Pocket is that the two shoulder buttons – which you need for some GBA games – are dinky, small, and unpleasant to press (a stark contrast to the face buttons, which are all glorious). Other than that, though, this piece of hardware brings me such joy, and takes me right back to my childhood. I’d be happy to hole up with nothing but this console for weeks.