Pencils, Tonari, and the N64
Instruction Set, 2023/10/20
Welcome back to Multicore. This is Instruction Set for the week of Friday, October 20th.
I spent the past week in Singapore covering the launch of Oppo’s Find N3, which has been rebranded elsewhere as the OnePlus Open. It’s the best folding phone yet; you can read my review here. More to come from that event soon.
Anyway, I’m back in Japan, so let’s catch up on the rest of the week.
Analogue, makers of the miraculous Analogue Pocket FPGA gaming handheld, has announced its next project. Despite the curiously generic name, the Analogue 3D is an FPGA-powered recreation of the Nintendo 64.
There aren’t many details yet, or even full shots of the actual box. Analogue says the 3D will run games at 4K resolution and support “reference quality recreations of specific model CRTs”, which sounds like how the Pocket uses its high-resolution screen to simulate handheld console displays.
“This is why 4K is so important for 3D games,” Analogue CEO Christopher Taber tells Paste. “FPGA plus 4K equals 100 percent control over everything, in every detail. Analogue 3D performs like a masterful fucking orchestra — a symphony — because, again, everything is designed from scratch, in house, with complete control over every dynamic. Therefore every nuance is able to be calibrated to an unprecedented degree. To me, it’s either this, or buy a fucking original N64 and a CRT. End of story.”
8BitDo is also working on a controller, which (if you boost the exposure a little on the teaser image) looks like a smart modern update of the N64’s unorthodox layout.
Analogue makes great stuff and I have no doubt that this thing will be cool when it ends up shipping, which is supposed to be next year. The N64 is a challenging system to emulate, whether through software or on FPGA hardware like the MiSTer, so this should be the most capable Analogue machine to date.
It’s disappointing, then, that Analogue isn’t supporting openFPGA, the development environment that enables third-party cores on the Pocket. It doesn’t seem like there’s a technical or legal reason why the Analogue 3D couldn’t be open to developers who’d want to work on PlayStation or even Saturn cores, but for now Taber’s line is that it’s designed for “pure N64 and the original legacy ecosystem surrounding it, nothing else.”
I already have an HDMI-modded N64, so those CRT display modes are going to have to be pretty great for me to consider this without openFPGA support.
Speaking of emulation, look at the latest Windows-based gaming PC from AyaNeo:
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