A major update to the portable, retro-minded Analogue Pocket gaming system landed on Friday, and the new “OpenFPGA” features are the highlight. Thanks to last week’s “1.1” patch, anyone in the open source development community can build hardware emulation “cores” to make Pocket mimic almost any gaming and computing system up to the early ’90s, if not newer than Which.
Our chat with the CEO of Analogue left us wondering exactly how OpenFPGA would work, but we didn’t have to wait long to find out. By the end of Friday, the system was essentially “jailbroken” in support of “Game Boy” branded games. And things got even spicier Monday morning with the surprising emergence of a core that supports a system far more powerful than the Game Boy or Game Boy Advance.
Ladies and gentlemen… Pocket floats in space
The physical cartridge slot on Analogue Pocket supports any game with Nintendo’s Game Boy branding, right up to the Game Boy Advance, and that’s the obvious selling point for the system compared to something like an emulation box. If you’re the kind of gamer who prefers physical media but wants modern hardware benefits, Analogue Pocket is probably the system for you.
But even cartridge owners may prefer to skip physical media in some cases, especially to add the convenience of a portable system, and that goes doubly for use cases like homebrew or Japanese games with community-developed English ones. translations. So ever since my Analog Pocket review was published, interested buyers have been saying whether the system could be jailbroken — a way to skip physical cartridges and instead play ROM files residing in the microSD slot. loaded from the system.
Hours after my Pocket 1.1 article was published, the answer arrived in the form of a few downloads on GitHub. These files are cores for Pocket’s OpenFPGA system, with one supporting Game Boy and Game Boy Color game files and the other supporting GBA game files. Insert these cores into a microSD card, place compatible game files in the appropriate folders on the same card and presto: Analogue Pocket will now play Game Boy games, no cartridge required.
The origin of these files is questionable; they appeared almost immediately after 1.1 went live on a new GitHub account – guaranteeing that the creators had some form of early access to Analogue’s development environment before launch. (The accounts refer to a couple of British psychedelics bands, Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized, which is certainly an interesting identifier.) One of the related accounts confirmed that, in addition, it had access to a slew of Pocket-formatted image files that were previously only available on its own. for members of the press, designed to make the 1.1 update’s “Library” system look nicer. The latter account didn’t identify itself other than saying the owner is “an FPGA engineer”, so it’s unclear whether these developers were part of the Analogue Pocket development process – although a claim that the cores “have been heavily tested for months” implies a terribly pleasant relationship with Analogue as a company.
The biggest drawback at the moment is that these cores won’t work without transferring “BIOS” files from Game Boy and GBA systems. When you use a cartridge on Analogue Pocket, you play these games with a BIOS file developed independently by Analogue – which is why you don’t see the “Nintendo” or “Game Boy” home screens until you play those games. plays. (Those brief startup screens were part of Nintendo’s original BIOS systems.)
In addition, the new GB and GBA cores skip the coolest visual processing options built into Analogue Pocket, which take advantage of the high-resolution Pocket panel to add LCD-like effects to the modern IPS display. The anonymous developer behind these cores claimed that these filters would come to the GB, GBC, and GBA cores as soon as “an API update from Analogue” goes live.