Analogue Co.’s Pocket has always turned heads: for being the first the most authentic looking Game Boy replacement ever announcedfor later takes an extraordinarily long time finally get out. But he went out and did it it was pretty good. For some, its biggest drawback was that it required older, increasingly expensive physical cartridges to play the game.for the most part) couldn’t just download the ROM files. The Pocket really needed something the kids called a “jailbreak” if it wanted to at least fulfill its fantasy of being the ultimate Game Boy device. Today that jailbreak went in through the side door.
A bit of grounding: When the Pocket finally shipped last December, it had only the most barebones operating system and lacked many of the system’s promised features, such as save states that support your game progress. (Analog also didn’t release the originally announced Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket, or TurboGrafx-16 cart adapters.) Early adopters were happy to have uber Game Boys with beautiful retina-quality displays, which they understood would be the case. Long before the device in their hands was actually finished.
The same goes for potential developers eager to make fun new things with a powerful portable. There are two in the pocket field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs)which programmers can reconfigure to closely approximate the hardware of another device. They are great for simulating classic video game systems, and hobbyist developers can certainly make the most of them by developing new FPGA cores to simulate more consoles, that is, software that tells FPGAs how to configure themselves. But this feature was also delayed.
Fast forward to today. 8:01 am PT Analogue has finally released a new version of Pocket’s Analogue OS. Today’s Analogue OS v1.1 beta adds the long-promised “Library” and “Memories” features; the first shows information about the games you have entered, and the second mainly shows the states mentioned. v1.1 beta also finally opens up the system to developers, under the name “openFPGA”. As an example of what hobbyists can achieve with newly opened FPGAs, Analogue Released the OpenFPGA kernel simulating Space war!, one of the first video games. Neat.
And so it happened. A nice and necessary update, but it wasn’t the jailbreak that many people were hoping for. See you in six months! (Actually, Analog is Analog, rather eight.)
About three hours later at 11:23 a.m., a Github account called Spiritualized1997, created less than 24 hours ago, was uploaded. A repository called openFPGA-GBA; it loaded a minute later the other is called openFPGA-GB-GBC. Each repository contained a downloadable file. “Follow these instructions to play Game Boy Advance on your pocket,” said the instructions accompanying the GBA repository, outlining five steps to install the v1.0.0 Spiritualized1997 GBA kernel on the pocket and flash it with ROM files. A second repository offered similar instructions, but for a kernel that runs Game Boy and Game Boy Color ROMs.
To summarize: Today, Analogue Pocket gained the ability to drive third-party FPGA cores. Three hours and 22 minutes later, two of Pocket’s most popular supported handhelds have mysteriously received new, third-party FPGA cores that can do what everyone has wanted since Pocket came out: load games from ROM files stored on a microSD card. Is this finally a jailbreak?
Yes Yes. Rather, the jailbreak is finally here startedbecause today’s two v1.0.0 Nintendo colors are just the first wave of what’s clearly going to be a longer, more continuous rollout.
So what’s going on here? Who is Spiritualized1997 and how did they release GBA and GB/GBC colors for the Analogue Pocket just three hours after today’s Analogue OS v1.1 beta made such things possible? Why is their account so new?
Most observers’ theory—to be clear, kotaku can’t confirm – this is Spiritualized1997 Kevin “Kevtris” Horton, a legend in the emulation scene and the FPGA emulation guru behind all of Analogue’s FPGA-based gaming machines. worked on Analog NT mini (playing 8-bit NES games), the Super NT (SNES games), the Mega Sg (Sega Genesis games) and of course Pocket.
Horton has a history of releasing unofficial “jailbreak” software for Analogue Co (you’re now thinking of a Dr. Seuss book). consoles he helped develop after downloading the first jailbreak firmware for the NT mini in 2017. “The Core Store is officially open for business!” he wrote on the AtariAge forumCiting the NT mini’s potential to handle games from a variety of systems, up until then there were only 8-bit Nintendo games loaded from physical cartridges.
In case that left any doubt, he added, “Yeah, that means it’s running a ROM now!”
And that’s how it’s gone for all Analogue consoles since then. Horton (and Analog) became a bit more reserved after the NT mini jailbreak, instead jailbreak software through intermediaries such as Smokemonster move and shake the emulation scene. But with a wink and a nod, people in the scene understand where this popular, hardware-enhancing software really comes from. (Previous Analogue consoles were closed platforms, so who else could make them?)
Because of this, many people assumed that Analogue Pocket’s amazing hardware would be released to play games from ROM files. It’s been a long eight months, but today’s surprise Spiritualized1997 FPGA cores are exactly what Pocket owners have been wanting, just in a slightly different form than usual – discrete FPGA cores downloadable via Pocket’s new openFPGA feature. This made this jailbreak look a little more subtle than usual. It’s not a firmware change, it’s just alternate colors when you use the microSD card. The end result is the same.
Again, this is just the beginning of a longer jailbreak process that will continue over the coming months. After all, the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance are just three of the handhelds that people want to play on the Pocket, not to mention the people clamoring for it to support TV-based consoles like the Genesis and SNES. The Spiritualized1997 FPGA cores, both up to the newly minted v1.0.0, also lack several features used by Pocket’s official internal cores, notably display filters. These and more improvements are coming; the missing filters are probably just because The openFPGA API is still immature.
Spiritualized1997, whoever he is, is also quite active on Reddit. One user complained about the lack of a Sega Game Gear core Spiritualized1997 answered “soon.” This is apparently a supernatural helper Released an 80MB archive of screenshots of 6,959 titles existing Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, and Game Gear games, you don’t know the specific file format that Pocket’s new “Library” feature expects. So now you know how to make your Library look great.
“This is fantastic! Finally, Pocket is waking up from its deep slumber,” said a Reddit user in response to news of two new FPGA cores. “I didn’t start myself [in] moon!”
“It’s been a roller coaster today,” said another. “Regards, thanks!”
So, if the heavens don’t part and “jailbreak is here!” And while it may not have a flashing neon sign, make no mistake, on July 29, 2022, the Analog Pocket finally got a major feature that owners have been wanting since December. But this jailbreak is not a once and done; it’s slow and steady, and now that the pump is on, more ROM-friendly colors will follow over time. Game Gear first, apparently.
kotaku Contacted Analogue Co. for comment.
At the end of today’s Analogue OS v1.1 announcement, the company tweeted“Analog does not support or endorse the unauthorized use or distribution of material protected by copyright or other intellectual property rights.”