It’s pricey, but it does what it says on the tin
When I first got wind of the Analogue Nt mini, I immediately went into shock after seeing the price. $450 for an NES re-creation? I had to find out if it was worth the scratch.
While many of you will probably never be able to justify the cost, this collector is more than satisfied with the results.
Product: Analogue Nt mini
Described as the “antithesis of clone gaming systems,” the Analogue Nt mini is a loving, hand-crafted re-creation of the NES experience. So what’s the difference between this expensive piece of metal and all the others? It’s the FPGA, which ensures 100% compatibility. Having owned several other NES clones like the RetroN series, there are a handful of games, fan projects, or other hardware odds and ends that won’t work — likewise, some won’t play Famicom carts.
But with the Analogue, it’ll play everything, and without degradation, or input lag, and the ability to upscale to 1080p. Based on my experiences in the past week with the system, this is all accurate. That includes the controller, which is an 8Bitdo wireless remote that retails for $40 on its own. You can also use original controllers if you want (including Light Guns), and there are four ports available (and a handful of real four-player games like Super Dodge Ball and Gauntlet II). The Nt mini also showcases the NES’ fantastic sound output with 48KHz 16-bit stereo audio. They covered all their bases.
The creators claim that there’s no lag, and if there is, it’s your own TV’s fault and you should double check your specifications through this site. Based on my testing with multiple monitors and three different types of TVs (from low to high-end), this claim is also accurate. I’m not particularly bothered by a small amount of input lag, even for hardcore platformers like Mega Man, but not having any is always a great perk. A $450 perk? That depends on how much you still play NES games.
I had the chance to speak to Christopher Taber of Analogue myself, and asked outright “why would people use this system over a free emulator?” Taber responded in turn with this: “Accurate retro gaming emulation is extremely difficult to achieve. As it turns out, emulating old gaming hardware is actually highly complex. Basic compatibility is readily available, but performance accuracy…that is another story.”
He continues by clarifying, “You end up with glitches, slow down, inaccurate sound and flat out incompatibility and errors. The reality is, the original hardware is the only option that works perfectly. I think time is a valuable thing and if we are gonna sit down and take the time to play a game, wouldn’t you want to know you are experiencing it exactly right? I do. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Chris states that their engineer spent “over 5000 hours” perfecting the system.
If you take a look at the back you can also go fully old school in addition to the modern HDMI setup (1080p/720p/480p). There’s an RGB/component input, as well as support for S-Video and Composite –and, if you wish, a toggle between NTSC (60Hz) and PAL(50Hz). The MS-DOS-like main menu is muted, but gets the job done. You can scale the resolution or screen position in any way shape or form, add in scanlines (to a degree of “2x, 3x, 4x, 5x or original,” not just “on or off”), or enable cheat codes. Everything is instant, from option swaps to the actual initial cart load.
The package is stuffed as well, with an AC adapter with multiple prongs for different regions, a USB cable for charging the controller (which you can do on the console with a USB port, a nice touch), and an HDMI cable. With an SD card slot on the side the mini has a wide-open future, including unofficial firmware for save states and ROMs given the open-ended nature of the machine and its propensity to be jailbroken. An in-house developer has already broke ground on this initiative already.
Although I was provided with a unit for testing, I would buy one with a caveat. I’m a special breed of retro gamer, as the NES was the first system I ever purchased, and I own over 100 carts and a handful of Famicom games. I’ve also been collecting video games for over 20 years, so I realize that I’m a niche within a niche.
Any way you slice it I’m impressed that pretty much every box has been ticked with the Analogue Nt mini. It supports an array of controllers, four players out of the box, it’s sturdy and doesn’t feel like it’ll explode if I drop it, and can handle every single game in the entire history of the NES with old and new video inputs. If I go to a yard sale or a Goodwill and pick up a cart, I know for sure that it’ll work with no provisos. To me, it’s the definitive NES recreation and the best way to preserve the system, full stop.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. Click the gallery below for more pictures.]