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2021 could be a great year for ‘alternative’ consoles

Analog pocket

At first glance, Analogue Pocket looks like a new version of Nintendo’s iconic Game Boy Pocket from the mid-90s. And that’s that kind of thing. The handheld accepts original Game Boy cassettes, but also those released for Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. That means you can bounce between Pokémon Red, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Advance Wars on the same bus journey. Analogue is also planning $ 30 adapters that let you play Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color, Atari Lynx, TurboGrafx-1

6 / PC Engine and SuperGrafx games.

Analog pocket


However, the analog pocket is more than a “play it all” machine. The handheld enhances the original Game Boy design with two extra face buttons, two shoulder buttons on each side of the cartridge slot and three small system buttons. There are also stereo speakers, a headphone jack and a 4,300 mAh battery that is charged via USB-C. The 3.5-inch screen also has a resolution of 1600 x 1440 which should offer superior brightness and color reproduction. Finally, the company will sell a $ 99 dock that allows you to play cassette-based games on a TV.

Pocket will also support Nanoloop, a program that musicians use to create chiptune music. The functionality can help justify the pocket’s steep sticker price. At $ 199.99, it’s more expensive than Nintendo’s Switch Lite handheld. Some would argue that it is a steal, but considering the screen and the internal hardware required to run so many types of boxes. The first units are expected to be shipped in May 2021. Buying one can be a challenge: Analog opened pre-orders in August last year and sold out in minutes, upsetting many hopeful customers.

Analog Duo

Pocket is not the only analog machine that supports TurboGrafx-16 cartridges. Analog also works with a home console called Duo. As the name suggests, it has two tracks for physical media. The one on the left is for HuCard cartridges – the format that TurboGrafx-16 and PC Engine were launched with – while the one on the right accepts discs designed for the TurboGrafx CD add-on. In addition, the Duo will support titles developed for PC Engine SuperGrafx, a successor to TurboGrafx-16 which was only released in France and Japan.

Analog Duo


Like Pocket, Analog uses field-programmable gate array (FPGA) chips to read the original TurboGrafx-16, PC Engine, and SuperGrafx games. This means that the Duo works like the original hardware and does not trust any software emulation or ROM files to work. There’s only one drawback: Analog has not yet developed a chip to mimic PC-FX. To play games from the current system, look elsewhere. Still, it is a beautiful console aimed at a small but passionate part of society. (How many collect TurboGrafx-16 games?) Analog says the Duo will be out sometime next year for $ 199.

Play deal

Panics Playdate is a quirky little thing. It has a monochrome screen, unlike the analog pocket, and a foldable crank on the right side. The latter is not there to power the device, thankfully. It’s a real control method, just like the D-pad and twin face buttons. Teenage Engineering, the company that designed the OP-1 synthesizer and Capcom pocket synthesizer, helped Panic dream of the undeniably sweet hardware. It measures 74 × 76 × 9 mm, which is smaller than the Game Boy Pocket and therefore far more portable than the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite.

Panic Playdate


Panic is best known for its developer-focused Mac and iOS software, such as Nova and Transmit. The company has also published occasional video games, including Fire alarm and Untitled Goose Game. As Panic’s Greg Maletic told Engadget last year, Playdate is meant to be a spiritual successor to Nintendo’s iconic Game & Watch series. It has since transformed into something that sits between these devices and a more sophisticated handheld. Each Playdate, for example, is a devkit, and owners will be able to install third-party games directly on the system. “[Developers] do not have to go through us, “Panic confirmed in a blog post in October last year.

Playdate costs $ 149 and is expected to air early next year. For that price you get a “season” with free games that are unlocked weekly. Originally it was supposed to be 12, but the console’s long-term development has enabled Panic to “start even more season 1 games from more developers,” according to a blog post. A number of developers, including Keita Takahashi, the creator of Katamari Damacy and Wattam, have confirmed that they are working on Playdate titles. Panic has also shared a bunch of societal prototypes including a Doom Harbor.

Atari VCS

Atari is not the video game it used to be. The company, best known for the Atari 2600 and classic titles such as Pong, was most influential in the 1970s and 80s. Since then, the iconic brand has been sold several times and worn through bankruptcy. What remains of Atari has not given up. The company is preparing a brand new system called Atari VCS. The design is absolutely Atari-like, with long identities along the top, and for at least one model called the VCS 800, a faux walnut finish on the front. The company has also made a retro joystick to keep up with a modern controller. Longtime Atari fans will also appreciate the Vault, a collection of classics that includes Asteroids, Break out and Centipede.

Atari VCS


However, the Atari VCS is more than a retro console. It is a “fully functional mini-PC”, according to Atari COO Michael Arzt, powered by an AMD Ryzen R1606G processor with integrated Vega graphics. By default, the console runs Atari OS, a version of Linux designed for the living room. However, you can use “PC mode” to install and launch other operating systems such as Windows, Chrome OS and Valve’s Steam OS. Atari believes this model sets the console apart from cheaper Android-based options. The VCS 800 can be a simple game console for the living room, but it can also be a semi-decent PC for surfing the web and accessing basic apps.

An Atari VCS 800 All-in-Pack, which includes a console, joystick and standard controls, can be pre-ordered for $ 389.99. It’s expensive: for $ 10 extra you can buy a PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. The console was first unveiled as the Ataribox at E3 2017. It was renamed in March 2018 and then crowdfunded on Indiegogo a few months later. Atari hopes to ship backer units and a small number of pre-orders by the end of the year. However, full retail production will not take place until January 2021. VCS has come a long way, and some people are understandably skeptical of Atari’s ability to deliver. After all, the company is small, and works with eyebrow-raising projects such as cryptocurrencies and hotels with an Atari theme.

Intellivision Amico

Atari is not the only retro brand trying to come back. A team led by Tommy Tallarico, an industry veteran who has worked on over 300 games, is creating a new Intellivision system. Amico is meant to be a simpler system that anyone can play, regardless of age or experience with video games. It comes with two controllers that have plates instead of D-pads, four shoulder buttons, a small touch screen and everything required for basic motion controls. The console comes with six games and a host of downloadable add-ons that cost between $ 2.99 and $ 9.99, including an exclusive sequel to the beloved Earthworm Jim platform games.

The Intellivision team believes that the informal market is currently poorly served. According to Tallarico, modern games are too complicated and do not encourage people to play in the same room. Amico will solve this with a game library that does not include violence, bad language or sexual content. There will also be no looting boxes or microtransactions, so parents can have full confidence in what their children are playing. That’s the idea anyway.

Intellivision Amico


Like VCS, the Amico is expensive. The drawer-shaped system will cost around $ 249 at launch, which is only $ 50 less than the Nintendo Switch and Xbox Series S. (You could also argue that the Switch has a similar need for family-friendly gaming.) There is still a group of people who grew up in the 1980s and remembers the Intellivision name with love. For these people, the curated library and simplified controllers may be enough to justify the price. The Tallarico team was originally aiming for a launch in October 2020, but that date has since been pushed back to next May. If the timing is right, we can have an Atari and Intellivision rematch on our hands.

Replace Pro

We can not end this list without giving the aforementioned Switch Pro a long time. To be clear, Nintendo has never confirmed the console’s existence. Bloomberg reported in August that the company planned to launch an upgraded Switch next year. According to unnamed sources, the company has considered a more powerful model that can support 4K graphics. It can replace the standard switch – which has already received a minor overhaul, which increases the battery life a bit – or sit next to it. There is no guarantee that a Switch Pro will happen. Nintendo has performed incredibly well during the pandemic and sold a staggering number of consoles in the last three quarters. Still, a Switch sequel could help maintain that incredible momentum next year.

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