A hands-on look at the Analogue Super Nt
An impressive forgery.
When I first kicked off my Game Boy Works project nearly four years ago, I didn't concern myself overmuch with production values — the video aspect of the show was intended to simply be a sidebar to the text. Almost immediately, though, viewers began asking me to use something better than the crummy handheld, standard-definition, composite-output-only emulator console I recorded from. One viewer was even kind enough to help set me up with high-grade capture gear… which set me on a dark path of seeking to make my videos look as good as possible.
As a result of this process, I'm always on the lookout for the best possible medium for playing and capturing classic game video. My setup has grown somewhat daunting in its structure over the past few years, but it works, and I'm always eager to integrate a new device into the mix. To date, the single most valuable player in my office has proven to be the Analogue Nt Mini, which immediately became the backbone of my 8-bit capture and streaming process upon its release a year ago.
Needless to say, when Analogue announced plans to follow up with a Super NES clone, I was all aboard. My "junior" Super NES offers an excellent RGB video signal, but I do worry about its fragility as it ages. Since I use that console for both Super NES Works and Game Boy Works (via Super Game Boy 2), you can understand why I fret about losing access to a working Super NES.
The Super Nt launches officially today, and I've been exploring a unit for the past week or so. It's a pretty impressive device, as expected — though, as I note here, not quite the comprehensive replacement for my original Super NES I'd been hoping for. It's close, but it's missing a critical capability. I suspect everyone else's mileage will vary.
Assuming you don't have an elaborate home recording studio structured around RGB video capture, though, about the only thing the Super Nt can't do is play light gun games. I ran it through a gauntlet of "weird cartridge" stress tests that encompassed pretty much every add-on chip for the Super NES except that one shogi game with the 32-bit RISC coprocessor, and every one of them held up fine. The audio quality, always the trickiest consideration for Super NES emulation, turned out great, too.
The Super Nt itself is tiny, barely large enough to hold a cartridge. Since the Super NES and Super Famicom used very similar cartridges, the Super Nt can accommodate either type in a single slot (unlike the original Nt models, which needed separate NES and Famicom slots). It includes two controller ports that accept standard Super NES devices, as well as the sold-separately 8bitdo SN30 controllers that have been designed to color-coordinate with the four shipping variants of Super Nt.
The 8bitdo seems fine. I didn't notice any sync errors or input lag, though I don't feel the third-party controller is quite as responsive as Nintendo's own controllers. Which is to be expected. The 8bitdo SN30 works on real Super NES hardware, too, and it's a pretty decent choice for a wireless retro controller. Not perfect, but definitely usable.
I tried out a few different Super FX/2 "show off" stages in Yoshi's Island, and everything looked great. You can see "Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy" in the video above. Other stages I tested "off-camera," including the beloved Raphael the Raven battle, also played as they should.
Other Super FX and Super FX/2 games, like Star Fox, DOOM and Stunt Race FX, run exactly as intended. Note that there are no polygonal smoothing features, no framerate enhancements, or anything of the sort for these games. They play faithfully to their performance on Super NES hardware, no matter how much you might wish for higher-resolution sprites in DOOM and smoother motion in Star Fox.
Expandable speciality cartridges (Super Game Boy, Super Game Boy 2, and Hudson's Same Game) all performed brilliantly as well. You even hear some static hiss when playing Super Game Boy as the console patches through the SGB's analog audio circuitry, something I have never noticed on real Super NES hardware before due to the analog noise present in the vintage hardware. The Super Nt runs "clean," which makes the SGB's audio noise stand out.
Note that in order to hear SGB audio, you need to activate a menu option; by default, the Super Nt's cartridge expansion audio feature is set to off, resulting in mute Game Boy games.
Like the Nt Mini, the Super Nt includes an SD card slot on its side to receive firmware updates. If Analogue blesses a "jailbreak" mod similar to the one they enabled for Nt Mini (which allows ROM loading from SD cards and the use of different console cores), I assume this slot will see a lot more use. I'm curious to see if a potential jailbreak includes support for SA-1/DSP/Super FX/C4/etc. expansion chips at the system level, or if those more advanced builds would have to be run from original carts.
And, finally, the source of my biggest frustration with the Super Nt: The back of the console only includes a USB-based power port and an HDMI jack. There is no analog video-out, which means no playing the console on a CRT television, and no support for light gun games. Hopefully Analogue will make good on its vague allusions to selling a Super Nt-compatible digital-analog converter, enabling the full range of Super NES software. Yeah, there weren't a ton of light gun games, but still.
All in all, I'm impressed by the Super Nt, even if it lacks a crucial feature I need for my own use. I doubt many people will even notice the ironic lack of analog-out, which means Analogue was smart to cut it: It probably shaved quite a bit off the final retail price, and it would have appealed to only a minority of consumers.
Otherwise, this is a pretty fantastic device. For less than $200 (before shipping and controllers), you have a console capable of faithfully running the full suite of Super NES software in several flavors of high definition. While casual players will probably be content with the much less expensive Super NES Classic Edition, this is a vastly more versatile device. Whether you have a library of original Super NES carts or just a fully loaded Super EverDrive, there simply isn't a better and more convenient option for playing Super NES on modern televisions on the market.
If the video above doesn't answer all your questions about the console, I'll be streaming Yoshi's Island from the Super Nt this afternoon and will attempt to field all the questions I can (assuming I can get my audio working correctly, that is).