Analogue Pocket thoughts

by AJ "Tyron" Martinez @ • January 15 2022

The Analogue Pocket is an FPGA hardware emulator for the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and a handful of other handheld systems of the era. This is a vaguely organized braindump for people who are considering it. Note that I haven’t tested the Dock or any of the cartridge adapters.

The good

The screen is fucking gorgeous; it successfully tricks my brain into thinking “this is how these games were meant to look”. The desaturation slider compensates nicely for the lighting difference, allowing games to look great whether they were built for backlit hardware or not. The inclusion of a GB Light screen mode for original GB games is a cozy touch (and my preferred palette).

Battery life is respectable, I have yet to have the machine die during a play session even though I only charge it every few days—seems like this is a really good fit for travel. Audio’s great (including the speakers!), fit and finish is great, face buttons are great.

Savestate-on-sleep is a cool feature and seems to work fine from my limited testing (though see below).

The bad

The D-pad and shoulder buttons are not good. IMO, almost all reviewers have underplayed this.

On original hardware, the d-pad has tactile resistance and feedback when rolling from a cardinal direction to a diagonal. The Pocket’s is muted to the point of being missable, making intentional rolls feel floaty and unintentional rolls common. While playing a Tetris hack with a hard-drop feature, I constantly got unintentional hard drops until learning to keep my finger position in mind; this is not a problem I’ve had with other controllers. I think this will require a period of annoying adjustment for slower-paced games, but for fast-paced games it may be a singular dealbreaker. Consider your use case.

The L and R buttons are placed relatively low and close, requiring you to curl your fingers if you want to hit them with your fingertip (and I have small hands). The back edge closest to the shoulder buttons isn’t beveled, so if you typically hit shoulder buttons with your second knuckle instead, the sides of your fingers will dig into the sharp edge. The travel on these is also pretty minimal, without much feedback.

There seem to be a lot of reports of cartridges that work on original hardware, but don’t work on the Pocket until a forensic cleaning; have your isopropyl alcohol ready. Compatibilty with reproduction/“bootleg” cartridges is also apparently spotty, but reports on this are conflicting.

The ugly

Library and Dock features are greyed-out and missing, there are reports of sleep mode wiping saves, and Reddit is continually arguing about whether the cartridge slot is “loose”, which suggests some variability in manufacturing. The cartridge slot design is also a little suspect to me, offering very little protection. (The official adapters for Game Gear carts can also apparently destroy OG labels.)

Multiple models of flashcart (my EMS USB 64M, along with EZ-Flash and Krikzz) are either incompatible or inconsistent, and the “jailbreak” firmware that’s typically released a week after the hardware release is stil MIA. This means limited or zero access to homebrew; there are conversions of some GB/GBC games to .pocket format, but these require manual disassembly and patching, with all of the ones I’ve tried so far having some kind of bug as a result. (Most of these have since received updates, but my confidence is pretty low.)

There’s also some weird APU bug that breaks LSDJ in particular; if you’re one of those weirdos (like me) who were looking at this thing as a chipmusic production device, you’re limited to the onboard Nanoloop for now.


There is currently no reason to own a Pocket unless you have a sizable library of original cartridges or win the flashcart lottery. There is no timeline for firmware fixes or “unofficial” ROM support, and judging by email response times, Analogue is currently buried in bullshit.

Whether you care about the Pocket depends entirely on how much you value the screen. If you don’t have a serviceable way to play GB/GBA games already, consider keeping an eye on it and evaluating it when firmware fixes drop. Do not buy on the aftermarket unless you give absolutely zero fucks about the money you’re spending to do it.