Analogue’s Super NT is the best way to play Super Nintendo games
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You have plenty of choices when it comes to playing Super Nintendo games, but each method has its downsides – except maybe Analogue’s new $190 Super NT.
The Super NT is a new console designed by Analogue to play Super Nintendo games without emulation on high definition screens via an HDMI port. But unlike the first analog NT system for the NES, which used the guts of older NES consoles, the company dives deeper into its FPGA (field programmable gate array) circuit design. These are chips that you can configure to behave the way they want via firmware updates.
In the case of Analogue and its chief engineer, Kevin “Kevtris” Horton, they composed their FPGA board to make an exact copy of the Super Nintendo. This means you don’t get the quirks of emulation – every game runs as it would using the original hardware. And you don’t get lag either, which is a pervasive problem for retro games on modern screens.
I’ve spent the last two weeks playing with the Super NT, and I think Analogue has built the definitive way to play classic Super Nintendo games, especially if you already own a ton of classic cartridges.
What you will like
Beautiful retro games without lag
If you want to play Super Nintendo games today, you have plenty of options. You can emulate the 16-bit system on a device like your PC or smartphone, but it’s never quite accurate. You also end up having some lag when the software processes games. You can plug a Super Nintendo straight into your modern HD display, but it looks awful. With an upscaler like the Framemeister or the Open Source Scan Converter (OSSC), you can take a 240p signal from a Super Nintendo and upscale it for a 1080P display. But these devices are often complicated, hard to find, and expensive ($300+). You can also get the Super Nintendo Classic Edition with its built-in games, but it’s also an emulator – and you can’t use your own physical versions of the games if you have them. Finally, you could just play your SNES on a CRT, but those old TVs are starting to break down (or you could just grab one from the side of the street, as our former colleague and retro enthusiast does from time to time Stephen Kleckner). time), they are heavy and take up a lot of space.
Super NT solves all these problems:
- It is not an emulator and it upscales games to 1080p without any lag.
- The games run exactly as they did on the original hardware.
- It’s easy to use.
- It’s affordable.
- You can use your own cartridges.
In action, the Super NT is pleasant to use. Games are crisp and clear, and you don’t get any weird artifacts from attempts to upscale your TV. You also notice the lack of lag if you’ve just played Super Nintendo games with some of these other methods.
The device has two Super Nintendo controller ports on the front, so you can use your original gamepads. But that also means you can use the 8Bitdo wireless dongle with one of its excellent SN30 controllers. That’s how I played, it worked perfectly.
You can see all of this in action without having any games yourself since the Super NT actually comes with two built-in games. Analogue worked with developer Factor 5 to include the new Super Turrican: Director’s Cut as well as Super Turrican 2, which are a pair of side-scrolling shooters with a ton of amazing graphical effects for the Super Nintendo. Every game runs better than ever and looks great on a modern screen. You can also use your Super Famicom games without the need for an adapter or secondary slot.
But aside from the games themselves, the FPGA board inside the Super NT had power to spare to allow Analogue to add plenty of clever extras. At any time during gameplay, you can press + select to bring up the menu interface, designed by Fez developer Phil Fish.
Within these options you can tweak all sorts of variables to get the exact experience you want from your old games. You can adjust the resolution up to 480p60, you can adjust the height and width of the image, and you can even apply algorithmic pixel scaling to smooth 16-bit images.
It’s amazing how many options you have, and it makes the Super NT feel like it’s from an alternate universe where graphics technology hasn’t advanced as quickly as user interface design.
What you won’t like
It’s not as convenient as a Super Nintendo Classic or an emulation
It’s the best way to play Super Nintendo and Super Famicom games I’ve ever used, but yes, it’s a lot more work than just starting an emulator on your PC. And if you manage to find one, the Super Nintendo Classic is great because it already has games built-in.
With the Super NT, you’ll need the physical games, and sometimes you’ll need to perform firmware updates involving an SD card that you swap between devices. It’s a more complex process, but the good thing with this is that Kevtris will probably update the firmware in the future with a ton of new options – that’s something he did with the Analogue NT (it even unlocked the option to load games from SD card on this device).
The Super NT is amazing, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. I would go so far as to say that Analogue does something important. Emulation was doing a lot of game preservation work before this, but it’s clear now that we were settling in. And if we didn’t have something like the Super NT now, it’s possible the passion for such a device would pass us by and we’d never have someone as brilliant as Kevtris to take the time to figure it out how to preserve it with FPGA.
But historical context aside, it’s just the best way to play your Super Nintendo games on anything short of a huge CRT. And having a sleek, modern console that plays Super Nintendo games that you can put in your entertainment center is important on its own.
Analogue’s Super NT starts shipping February 7 for existing pre-orders for $190. The company provided a sample unit for this review.
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