Analogue in 2021

Regrettably, 2021 was more 2020 season two than 2020 redemption, but the world spun nonetheless. Slightly later than last year, we’re going to look back at Analogue in 2021.

Back with the Classics

As the world plummeted deeper into peril, and the silicon shortage began to choke even the biggest players, Analogue were still able to restock their products – albeit not indefinitely.

Super Nt was the first to return to availability, with a bespoke restock of all three variants in April. Based on r/AnalogueInc polling, the majority of members looking to make their purchase succeeded.

April wouldn’t be the only restock for Super Nt, as August saw it accompanied by Mega Sg and Analogue DAC. While Super Nt stock dried up again, some variation of Mega Sg and DAC were available until late December.

At the time of writing the Analogue Store is in pre-order mode (more on that later). Fingers crossed we don’t have long to wait before Super Nt, Mega Sg & DAC become available again.

Updated Firmware

Firmware support for Analogue Super Nt, Mega Sg & Nt Mini Noir was limited throughout 2021, with only one firmware update releasing for the three platforms – and that was back in February.

Noir owners were especially aggrieved as the latest v2.3 firmware introduced bugs for games that were previously playable. That 69 issues image above isn’t an edit, it’s from the issues page on the Noir jailbreak GitHub.

Meanwhile, the original Nt Mini from 2017 was recategorised as a legacy product, confirming the end of support for that device.

Coming Soon

At the turn of the year, Analogue Pocket was slated for a May release. It shipped in May October December 2021.

Analogue Duo also got unceremoniously delayed out of 2021 without so much as a tweet.

It’s clear demand is still high for Super Nt and Analogue Pocket. If you have to put your chips somewhere, Analogue may as well put them on the money.

Real Artists Ship

Analogue Pocket finally shipped!

We’re still working on our sentiment survey analysis, but I can disclose that 899 Pocket owners were asked to rate the device out of ten – they averaged a score of 8.75/10.

It became clear that more than manufacturing issues were delaying Analogue Pocket as numerous firmware issues and incompatibilities have damped the launch experience for many users.

Similarly, numerous key features were absent from the launch firmware – instead being slated for a January 2022 release of Analogue OS.

Dock also shipped in December, and while functional, a number of key features were absent at launch including support for Analogue DAC and many 8BitDo controllers.

Analogue were less transparent about when some of these features will ship.

Interest Free Loans

The day after Pocket began to ship Analogue opened more pre-orders of Analogue Pocket.

Unlike previous pre-orders, which were sold in singular batches, Analogue adopted an open pre-order system, with fulfilment split into three groups: great Q1 2022, manageable Q4 2022 and total despair 2023.

Analogue Pocket remains available to pre-order at the time of publication, but you’re now looking at the abyss 2023 if you want it.

Analogue charge upfront for pre-orders.

Kept in Captivity

Unlike previous FPGA consoles from Analogue, the Pocket did not receive a jailbreak within seven days of release.

This disappointing truth is compounded by severe flash cartridge incompatibilities. Several, if not most, flash cartridges have innumerable issues, whether it’s certain save formats not working properly or the cartridge failing to pass Analogue’s BIOS.

Interestingly, this was also the first time EverDrive products where not explicitly mentioned in the device’s manual.

At the time of writing we still don’t have jailbreak firmware.

Community Appeal

Of course, the community fought back.

Analogue Pocket supports the loading of special ROMs exported by game creation tool GB Studio. This export alters the structure of .gb + .gbc files to a new .pocket format.

Clever boffins have been patching games to match the new .pocket format, enabling a one-at-a-time jailbreak for Game Boy & Game Boy Color titles. Strt-Slct have been compiling patches on this page.

GB Studio mode isn’t just a pseudo-jailbreak, it’s also for community creations. Strt-Slct have also been compiling GB Studio titles on this page.

Looking Ahead to 2022

The most pressing issue for Analogue right now is bolstering the firmware for Analogue Pocket & Dock. When launch day features from the Super Nt, Mega Sg & Nt Mini Noir are missing, it isn’t acceptable.

Flash cartridge support also needs significant attention. Jailbreak or no jailbreak, these cartridges work on original hardware and should also work on Analogue’s preservation of that hardware.

Analogue Duo is next to wear the vapourware crown, and I’m okay with that. With Analogue selling Pockets in the tens of thousands, we need that product to be finalised, polished and truly primetime before FPGA development efforts divert.

It’s worth remembering that cores for Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket Color & TurboGrafx-16 were also promised for Pocket. I suspect the TurboGrafx-16 core will come alongside Analogue Duo. I’m calling it now, Analogue Duo will ship in 2023.

As for the annual October announcement, I’d rather they skip it this year. When the firmware isn’t where it needs to be, and hardware orders are backed out of the year already, it seems idiotic to announce something you cannot ship.

Looking to the future, I still believe full-time, $199 NES is a massive chasm in Analogue’s product line-up. If they have to announce anything in 2022, I hope this is it as it may encourage them to fix the outstanding issues on Nt Mini Noir.

Please comment over in the Strt-Slct subreddit.