Analogue’s Pocket Promises to Be a Comprehensive Database of Retro Handheld Games

Analogue’s Pocket Promises to Be a Comprehensive Database of Retro Handheld Games
Image: Analogue

There are still no specific details on when Analogue’s highly-anticipated but now thrice-delayed Pocket will officially start shipping to those who pre-ordered one, but the company has revealed some more details about the console’s new operating system, which sounds like it will be as much about exploring and learning about retro games as it is about playing and enjoying them.

Today Analogue announced that its upcoming Pocket will be the first console from the company powered by what it’s calling the Analogue OS. Looking very similar to the streamlined and minimalist operating systems on the company’s older consoles, like the Super Nt, Analogue OS will feature extensive customisation options for games, including original display modes that make games look exactly like they did on the screens of the original hardware, re-mapping controls (as well as the controls on wirelessly connected 8BitDo Bluetooth controllers), gameplay tracking, and the ability to create, store, and organise your own screenshots.

Analogue OS will also introduce a feature not seen on cartridge-based consoles before: save states allowing you to stop playing a game at any point and return to it later at that exact moment, without first having to get to a specific save point in the game itself. It’s a trick made possible by the Pocket’s custom FPGA hardware (explained here) where the console captures the current “state of the FPGA” and is able to store and reload it at a later point, assuming the original game cartridge is inserted in the back. Unlike other consoles that rely on software emulation, the Pocket doesn’t utilise ROM files.

Image: Analogue Image: Analogue

With Analogue OS, the company is also turning the Pocket into a sort of Wikipedia for retro games, with the ultimate goal of the operating system eventually becoming the “end-all scholarly database for all of video game history.” To achieve that lofty goal, Analogue has developed a new database from the ground up, including new standardizations for information like game titles, franchises, publishers, developers, and revisions, “carefully curated by experts and researchers in conjunction with collectors with access to complete game sets.”

Image: Analogue Image: Analogue

For instance, there are actually 18 different versions of the classic Game Boy game The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, with often small variations on game items, graphics, text, and even bugs between them. Analogue OS will include details on every last one, and the Pocket will report exactly which version of the game has been plugged into its cartridge slot. It’s especially ideal for completists trying to hunt down every last iteration of a cartridge where the exact version isn’t obvious by just looking at it, but also for those who are just curious where their copy may have originated.

To be completely clear, the database doesn’t actually include any games. If you find a listing for a game you’ve always wanted to play and try to load it, the console will ask you to insert the original cartridge. It’s not trying to be an all-you-can-eat/play Spotify-like service for retro games, more like what Goodreads has done for books. Gamers can even create playlists of their favourite titles, and share them with others by loading these playlist files on the Pocket’s SD card.

When the Pocket finally starts shipping, it will run Analogue OS 1.0, which includes a database that covers Nintendo Game Boy, Game Boy Colour, Game Boy Advance, and Sega Game Gear titles. Information about the games available for other handhelds, including the Atari Lynx and Neo Geo Pocket Colour, will be added to the database through software updates when the cartridge adapters for those consoles are released.

Analogue OS won’t be limited to just the Analogue Pocket. The upcoming Analogue Duo, which will play games from the TurboGrafx line of consoles, will also be powered by the new operating system and include a database update for all of those additional retro titles. However, there are no plans to bring the new Analogue OS to the company’s older existing consoles.