Legally, they can’t call it a Nintendo 64, but that’s pretty much what the Analogue 3D actually is. Here’s what I think you should consider about Analogue’s latest FPGA console.
Analogue now has a long history of producing quite high-end, desirable-but-expensive consoles for the collector market that focus not on emulation but instead on running actual code via specific FPGA hardware, making for a more authentic game experience… or in basically every case, a best-possible experience given they’re running on modern TVs or screens via HDMI and in resolutions that were pipe dreams back in the day.
Its latest effort is an HDMI-connected, 4K capable Nintendo 64 system, the Analogue 3D. Here’s what we know so far.
What is the Analogue 3D?
I kind of just said it above; it’s a 4K capable Nintendo 64. Only because Nintendo is rather famously irritable-for-legal-reasons about using its brand name, Analogue can’t call it that. It will play actual N64 cartridges from any region.
What, you really can’t tell me much more than that?
Not a great deal, no. Analogue’s really only just announced it as an effective teaser. Well, OK, it has also stated beyond the usual expected use of FPGA that it will provide “Reference quality recreations of specific model CRT’s and PVM’s”, which is interesting in itself for N64 games.
That tagline does make it sound just a little bit like it’s a *different* kind of product. Just me?
A lot of N64 emulators go for very technically-accurate sharp edge emulation of polygons within games.
However, back in the day the N64 connected to (largely) CRTs with much softer resolution, and as a result, a smoother “look”. It will be fascinating to see how well Analogue can actually nail the feel of a CRT, and what its 4K non-CRT visuals will look like.
I’m going to make the assumption here that Analogue will build in the RAM expansion pak into the Analogue 3D, and somehow patch around known issues with Space Station Silicon Valley, which (as far as I know) is the only N64 game that actually hates that thing. But that’s a guess, and maybe it will have an expansion slot in place. We shall see.
It… looks like a controller. I’m not sure how to feel about the loss of the classic “stick”, if it is indeed missing. Maybe someone at Analogue could invest in a lightbulb or two.
The Analogue 3D will also support Bluetooth controllers and 2.4G controllers, and there’s a not-at-all-subtle shadowed view of a modern looking controller at the base of its signup page. If you’ve got original controllers, it’ll also support those.
How much will the Analogue 3D cost?
Again, nothing is known for sure at this point, but Analogue’s whole deal is selling to serious enthusiasts with money to spend.
This isn’t a cheap AliExpress clone console coming with 10,000 games (9,757 of which are Somari).
Indeed, it doesn’t support ROM files at all (cough) at launch, instead running on AnalogueOS, the same name Analogue gives for the OS that runs its Analogue Pocket handheld device.
The Pocket, though, is a good example of likely costs. If you want one of those (and I do, dagnabbit), they run $US249.95, or about $395 AUD at current rates.
Plus shipping, and Analogue uses very fast shipping (once it has systems available) that can often run half that cost again. You get it fast, but it stings your wallet seriously.
So in other words, if you want an Analogue 3D, start saving your pennies now.
When can I get an Analogue 3D?
Yeah, that’s all Analogue has said so far, but its track record for speedy deliveries is… well… it’s not.
Also, if it’s like every other Analogue product, expect the sales process to be rather messy and crowded, and potentially to included waves of delivery availability.
Also expect the scalper crowd to descend en masse for eBay flipping at ridiculous markup rates. It’s a fact of life by now.
But I want HDMI N64 NOW!!!
I feel your pain. I am something of a retro game enthusiast myself. Still, patience is a virtue.
There are ways to make that happen if you’ve still got an existing, actually-Nintendo-produced N64, varying in cost and quality.
At the bargain basement end, you’ve got simple HDMI connectors like this one, which will take the signal from a standard N64 and send it to a modern TV, but never terribly well.
Expect really muddy visuals out of these, because they’re absolutely the lowest rung of quality. On the minor upside, Nintendo’s use of a standard visual connector means they’ll also work for the SNES and GameCube too for the most part — but again not well.
There are much better upscalers out there if you’re willing to spend the money. I rather like the RetroTINK series of upscalers — I’ve got a RetroTINK 5X Pro hooked up to a number of consoles for this purpose — but like the Analogue hardware, this is seriously pricey territory.
There’s also direct HDMI mods you can do (or have done) to an N64 to give it rather more permanent HDMI capabilities. I’ve never been down that road before — if you’re reading this and you have, I’d love to hear about your experiences and whether you felt it was worth it.