Tomorrow, Analogue will start shipping its latest system, the Super Nt. Like the company's other consoles - such as the wooden Neo Geo and Analogue Nt Mini - this is a classic reborn; Nintendo's 16-bit legend reimagined with Field-Programmable Gate Array technology to deliver an experience which aims to better the original.
Analogue founder Christopher Taber has spoken to Polygon about the history of the company and why he chose to tackle one of the most iconic gaming systems of all time. He reveals that he started out collecting games before eventually moving into repairing and modifying classic consoles. The legendary wooden CMVS was his first project, and one he openly admits was aimed at too small an audience. The Analogue Nt followed - an attempt to make the perfect aftermarket NES using original components - but Taber then hit upon what has become something of a defining system, the FPGA-based Analogue Nt Mini.
Taber explains why FPGA technology is so revolutionary when it comes to retro gaming:
Emulators are great, and the guys who make them work their tails off to get [them] to work. But, ultimately, they’re making one-off patches to fix when the ROM is off by a microsecond, when it goes into Mode 7 or whatever. An FPGA works on a circuit level — it runs in parallel, like a true PCB. It works by replicating the cause, not the effect.
He also explains the rigorous testing process behind checking the console's compatibility with the SNES library; Analogue is working with a network of beta-testers and collectors to ensure every game works as it should:
These guys play every game to check for inconsistencies. With the Nt Mini, we’ve eliminated every reported bug through firmware updates, and we remain committed to that. We’re dedicated to it on that level.
The Super Nt is unique in that it will give players the opportunity to experience the cult SNES title Super Turrican in its intended form. Taber has worked with Factor 5 president and co-founder Julian Eggebrecht to bring the "Director's Cut" to the console, a version which massively improves on the one which actually made it to retail.
Eggebrecht reveals that the amount of money that changed hands to secure Super Turrican (and its sequel) on the Super Nt is "nominal" and that the release is more about rewarding fans with the definitive version than making cash:
We definitely aren’t feeding the team off it or anything. But Super Turrican is very important to me, because it was Factor 5’s big chance to go from a local European developer to make it out in the wide world, having a game in the U.S. and Japan. It made my career, in a way. When I went to CES in 1993 and I met people at LucasArts, they had all played Super Turrican. And that’s why they wanted to work with me, and that’s how my later career happened. Of course, I didn’t have the heart to tell them it was an incomplete version.
Naturally, the question of what Analogue is working on next crops up, and Taber reveals that as a kid, he was a Sega fanboy first and foremost. That could be the biggest hint yet regarding the company's next project:
I mean, hey, I’m a Sega kid. Who knows? Maybe we’re already working on it.
Finally, Taber explains why he created the company, and what drives him forward:
Not everybody wants a museum-grade experience when they boot up their old console. But, for the people who do want that, I want them to know that we can make that happen.
We'll be reviewing the Super Nt when it launches, so keep an eye out for that if you're interested in seeing how this uber-SNES shapes up.