It's finally here. The Analogue Pocket ($219) — a gorgeous new portable console that can play old Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advanced games in really high definition — was announced more than two years ago but, because of mostly pandemic-related production delays and supply chain issues, it's only now being released to the world.
If you pre-ordered the Pocket this past summer, you should be receiving the console very shortly (shipping started December 13). If you preordered early on December 14, your Pocket will arrive sometime in Q1 of 2022. If you preorder now, there's a chance your Pocket won't come until 2023. Demand is very high.
I've been lucky enough to test several of Analogue's high-end retro consoles over the last few years, including the Nt mini and the Super Nt, but the Pocket just feels different. Maybe it's because it is company's first portable console, or that it looks so damn sleek, or that it hits home more because I spent so much time playing Game Boy and Game Boy Color when was a kid, but after spending the last two weeks with the Pocket I can say that it's easily the coolest retro gaming console I've ever tested. It's fucking awesome.
The Pocket does exactly what Analogue's other retro consoles do: it plays old games, but upscales them so they look and sound way better. According to Analogue, the Pocket is plays games at 10x the resolution of the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color and 6x the resolution of Game Boy Advanced (although there's a slight difference in screen aspect ratio). And it really does make a huge difference.
When comparing the Pocket side-by-side with my old Game Boy Color — it's night and day. The Pocket's screen is a bigger and way more pixel rich, so games are so much more vibrant and colorful. It's also way brighter and, thanks to its backlit LED panel, you can easily play games in the dark. In fact, I found myself wondering how my kid-self was even able to see the screen of the Game Boy Color, which, even in the wrong light, becomes almost impossible to see.
Admittedly, I never owned a Game Boy Advance so I'm not as well-suited to make a comparison, but Analogue did send over some old GBA cartridges (Mario Kart, Castlevania and Advanced Wars 2, specifically) and they worked without a hitch, even if I was frustratingly bad at each. Turns out, old games are hard.
But the Pocket isn't just special for its ability to make old games look good. Analogue gave it a bunch of new features and abilities that make it kind of feel like a new portable console. It has a USB-C charging port, loud stereo speakers, re-mappable buttons and 3.5mm headphone jack so you can play games with sound in private. There's even a built-in synthesizer, which is a cheeky wink to the modding and music communities who have turning original Game Boys into chiptune synths for years.
The most convenient new feature, at least for me, is the Pocket's new sleep/wake feature. It allows you to quick press the power button and put the Pocket in a low power mode instead of turning it off; that way you can quickly boot up and pick up the game right where you left off, like in the middle of a Bomberman level or in the middle of Pokemon battle, without having to reboot the game. So it's a huge deal if you forget to save your game before turning it off, either.
Additionally, Analog is releasing a number of accessories for the Pocket, including various cables that will allow you trade and battle friends, as well as cartridge adapters for Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket and Atari Lynx games — as if there weren't enough game options. However, maybe the coolest thing is a dock ($100) that, just like the Nintendo Switch, allows you to play games on your TV with wired or wireless controllers.
The Pocket costs $219, which doesn't actually feel that much considering its cool factor and how well made it is. The only downsides, as far as I can tell, is that the Pocket doesn't have built-in Bluetooth (so no wireless headphones, unless you get an adapter) and it's 6-hour battery life isn't sensational (it takes about two hours to charge its 4,400mAh battery).
The biggest cost will probably be buying the game cartridges, which can be tricky because some of the most popular games can be difficult to find (and there are a lot of fakes out there). But if you have a lot of games already, you're good to go — and you've probably ordered the Pocket months ago.
Due to component price increases, Analogue has increased the price of the Pocket from $200 to $219, meaning if you were on the first wave of Pocket preorders you saved $19.