There's a reason throwback consoles like Nintendo's NES and SNES Classic Editions are so popular, and it's not just nostalgia.
It's because actually playing games on classic gaming hardware is kind of a nightmare. Booting up an original Nintendo console is a frustrating ritual of blowing on cartridges and fiddling with reset buttons. Even when it works, it usually looks terrible -- the ancient analog video cables of the 1990s just don't cut it on an HDTV. That's why high-end, third-party enthusiast consoles have been popping up over the past few years -- and Analogue, the king of premium retro gaming, just announced its latest HD retro console: the Analogue Super Nt. Basically, it's a Super Nintendo Entertainment System that looks gorgeous on your HDTV.
That sounds simple, but it's a feat that's actually kind of difficult to pull off. There are tons of retro game consoles on the market, and the shadow of compromise hangs heavy over almost all of them. Most retro consoles will play your classic game library, but they tend to have limited compatibility, incorrect color pallets or poor sound reproduction. Analogue's Nt and Nt Mini consoles, both designed to play original NES games, were among the few that actually delivered on the promise of a high-end, no-compromise retro gaming experience. Now the company's Super Nt wants to do the same thing for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
At its core, the Super Nt promises to be the most authentic SNES experience you can have without hooking the original hardware up to an ancient CRT display. Analogue uses a custom FPGA (field programmable gate array) chip to perfectly replicate the internal workings of original hardware. It sounds a bit like software emulation, but it's not. It uses a custom processor to recreate the hardware architecture of the original console to an exact degree. The end result, at least for Analogue's last console, was a system that played retro games perfectly and piped them out to a modern display in full 1080p.
The Super Nt seems to be on track to do the same thing for Nintendo's 16-bit library -- but it's not quite the same beast as its predecessors. Specifically, it seems to be a step away from the extremely premium experience Analogue is known for. The company started out by wrapping old Neo Geo MVS consoles in a gorgeous walnut shell. It went on to create the Nt and Nt Mini, premium NES consoles housed in a gorgeous hull of milled aluminum. Analogue consoles are more than just an incredibly authentic way to play your retro game library -- they're usually works of art unto themselves. The Super Nt, on the other hand, seems to be made out of plastic.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. Analogue's previous consoles were indeed beautiful, but their steep $400 (roughly AU$500 or £300) and $500 (roughly AU$630 or £370) price tags put them well out of reach of most retro gamers. The Super Nt, on the other hand, will be available for $189 (roughly AU$240 or £140) -- and nixing the premium trappings no doubt plays a major part in keeping the price under $200. The end result, however, is a console that very much looks like it's from the 1990s.
Even so, Analogue told CNET that the Super Nt is still a premium product, and that each of the console's four models (in classic SNES, Japanese Super Famicom colors, black and transparent flavors) are "designed and built like a tank," and are intended to last a lifetime.
The Super Nt is designed to be a perfect replication of Nintendo's original SNES, but modern technology does keep it from being fully compatible with a few games -- if you own anything that uses the SNES' Super Scope light gun, you're out of luck. That trick only works on older CRT televisions, and the Super Nt only has HDMI output. Bummer.
The Super Nt is set to launch in February, but preorders start today. That's a bit of a wait -- but if you want a modern Super Nintendo gaming experience with the ability to play the games the SNES Classic Edition doesn't come with, it might be something worth thinking about.