Ah, the NES. Considered the most iconic gaming system of our time, and indeed the best selling games console of its time. The NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) has a special place in the hearts of gamers as it helped to revitalise the gaming industry following the great crash of 1983, when mass production of low-quality games meant that many people’s faith in the future of gaming was lost. Marketing took over where game development should have prevailed.
Nintendo spotted a gap and by god did they claim it. With NES, they introduced the (now standard) business model of licencing third-party developers, allowing them to produce and distribute games for the Nintendo platform. Along with NES came Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Klax, and the original Final Fantasy in 1990. It’s easy to see why it’s such an iconic system.
Analogue Interactive is making a NES all of its own — while tuning it back into its roots and focusing on the gaming experience. If you wanted to play the NES today, as the Analogue Interactive website points out, “options are limited and riddled with compromises”. So let us introduce the Analogue Nt. With a library of almost 2000 titles, it will allow you to experience the NES and Famicom in utter quality. Forbes have called it “…a beautiful and passionate redesign of an iconic console”.
The console is designed with the heart and brain of the NES — the identical CPU and PPU used in the original, Ricoh 20A3 and Ricoh 2C02. This makes it the only NES on the market built with the original hardware — unlike many knock offs you’ll see today. This means you’re not simply getting an emulation device, you’ll be able to play original (American, NTSC) NES and Japanese Famicom games. But what makes the Nt even greater? It’s an RGB NES. This means it outputs high quality analogue signals like RGB, Component, S-Video, and Composite. You can also connect your HDTV with a HDMI cable. In short? You’ll be able to play NES games on your big-screen TV and experience each razor-sharp pixel in awesome clarity. For purists, that may not be your bag, but personally (as a retro-gaming enthusiast) I think it’s well worth experiencing.
Another selling point is its sound. If, like me, you get a tingly feeling whenever you hear your favourite video game music, this will appeal to you. It’s nothing to chortle at — nowadays, video game scores are some of the most beautiful and emotive instrumental pieces around. Personally, my favourite pieces are from the Final Fantasy Series (7, 8 and 10) and Skyrim: the Elder Scrolls as well as obviously the original Sonic, Shining Force II, Echo the Dolphin and Shenmue for the Sega Dreamcast. There are orchestras that play video game music live in sell-out concerts for a reason (my fiance and I were due to attend one, Video Games Live: Bonus Round this year for his birthday but sadly I got the date wrong and so we missed out. I’ll never forgive myself!).
NES arguably brought with it some of the most iconic music that would lead to, for many, a lifetime of video game music appreciation. Well, the Nt supports Famicom expansion audio as well as adjustable Mono and Stereophonic Sound. It features audio hardware of high quality pulling the audio directly from its original source. This means that you get to listen to classic 8-bit video game tunes with no interference.
Interestingly, the founder of the Analogue Nt, Chris Taber, was a Sega kid, rather than a devout player of NES games. He did play some classics, though which proved inspirational enough to warrant the creation of the Nt, stating “I wanted to fully explore this piece of video game history, with no compromises”. His statement clearly rings true when you add up all the features of the Nt and add in the fact that the creators even built their own motherboards. Chris says, “Our lead designer, Ernest Dorazio, hand-routed each and every connection on the board. The electrical signals are painted on the PCB (printed circuit board) like a piece of art, integrated tightly with the Nt’s design. Putting this much effort into designing something that most customers will never end up seeing may seem superfluous — but we couldn’t imagine making something any other way.”
The design is also clearly well thought through. The console is fabricated from a single, solid block of 6061 aluminium. It’s a sleek, retro looking thing. It looks like an old console, with a modern feel. I… think I know where they were going with this one.
The Analogue Nt comes in at £330, which is pretty expensive (when you consider that the price is sans-accessories like a NES controller or HDMI cable) but it’s clear to see why it’s this pricey when you consider all the love and devotion that’s gone into its creation. While there’s an argument that companies create products just to make money, it’s evident the Analogue Nt was created with gaming evangelicals in mind, by gaming evangelicals. It’s available in 2015, with shipping due to start in February. Pre-orders have been running since Spring 2014 so it’s fair to say that this console is in demand already.
It’s pretty interesting that retro, no-nonsense items are making a comeback, such as vinyl collecting, as well as fashion trends and retro-sounding modern music. People crave nostalgia. We love that feeling we get when we hear an old tune, smell a familar smell (for me, it’s independent bakeries, the non-posh kind, they take me right back!), stumble across a piece of old clothing we wore way-back-when, it’s why BuzzFeed is littered with listicles containing “x items you’ll recognise if you’re an 80s/90s kid” posts. That’s what makes the Analogue Nt so brilliant. That Xbox and Playstation network crash that happened over Christmas? Yeah, modern gaming technology is great, don’t get me wrong, but when it fails, it totally fails. With the Nt, just like the NES, you just plug in and play. Speaking for myself but I’d be willing to bet that as a collective, we miss that. I don’t think we’ll ever get back the feeling of playing your first NES, Mega Drive or Playstation (which ever one was your first), for the first time, but it sounds like the Nt allows us to get pretty close.