New Analogue Duo console reclaims the delights of retro gaming
The Duo is a modern re-interpretation of the PC Engine by NEC; a cult gaming console that found success in late 1980s Japan
Retro gaming has been a niche interest for many years. With nearly half a century of history to draw upon, the note-perfect emulation of long-obsolete software is able to tap into a rich streak of nostalgia, as well as stir fresh interest in the graphics, sound and gameplay of the past. Like so many specialist markets, there are casual dabblers, more dedicated enthusiasts and complete obsessives.
Christopher Taber is one of the latter. Taber has been working in the retro sphere for a decade and his Seattle-based company Analogue, was set up to ‘celebrate and explore the history of video games with the respect it deserves.’ Taber and his team started out with the Super Nt and Mega Sg, scaled down versions of classic Nintendo and Sega systems that use custom circuitry – not emulation – to allow original games cartridges to be played at 1080p resolution as well as enhanced sound, and wireless controller compatibility.
Last year the company announced the Pocket, which sets its sights on the most iconic portable console of all time, Nintendo’s Game Boy. As well as backward compatibility with nearly 3,000 games issued for the Game Boy family over its lifetime (Nintendo made 119 million units between 1989 and 2003), Analogue are also promising a stack of adapters that’ll allow you to slot in cartridges from other legendary handheld systems, including the Atari Lynx and the Neo Geo Pocket Color. That’s not all; a built-in synthesizer and sequencer turns the Pocket into a portable music workstation, drawing on the evergreen sounds of 8- and 16-bit technology. Pocket is due to arrive in May 2021.
Newly announced is the Analogue Duo, the company’s first venture into the CD-Rom format. The Duo is a modern re-interpretation of the PC Engine by NEC, a cult gaming console that found success in Japan but could never quite overcome the dominance of Sega and Nintendo in the West. With support for Bluetooth and wireless controllers, as well as slots for CDs and cartridges, the Duo is another step towards reclaiming the medium’s vast history.
Just as the Pocket evokes the Nintendo original with a more sharply defined functional form, the Duo evokes heritage without being overtly retro. ‘We work from some of the core shapes and heritage of a video game system or family of systems and distil it into the purest form that resonates with us,’ Taber explains, ‘I think with all Analogue products we’re approaching the design with a "perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away" philosophy.’
Adamant that the artistry and creativity of this early wave of game development is something that deserves far greater scrutiny, Analogue is hoping to reclaim their delights for future generations. ‘I think the modern video game industry is largely homogenous, from games, to hardware design,’ Taber muses, ‘Compared to other industries, it is quite immature. We’re interested in pushing that boundary in every way we can – or it’s just not interesting to us.’ Above all, it’s about ensuring that long lost creativity survives and new ideas come forward. ‘Video games are not respected at the same level as film, music, etc.’ says Taber, ‘even though their history is made up of the same components – incredible artists, storytellers, creators, visionaries. There are decades of incredible human creations to explore.’ §