A second chance for an underappreciated console

We’re living in a second golden age for console gaming. Active communities, open developer tools, and easy distributions have given new life to many dead systems. If there’s one company that deserves the most credit for bringing the love of cartridge-based console gaming from the ’80s and ’90s back into the semi-mainstream, it’s Analogue.

started with , an obsessive (and expensive) wood-grain reboot of the iconic Neo Geo. Then came the Analogue Nt in 2014, bringing easy, high-definition NES gaming into our homes. In 2017, the Super Nt did the same for SNES games, then the Mega Sg for the Sega Genesis, and most recently it supports everything from Game Boy to Neo Geo Pocket thanks to a range of adapters.

The last of the analogue is something different. While previously they all lived and died with cartridge ports, the new Analogue Duo takes us into the next generation of gaming: optical. That’s right, Analogue ushered in the multimedia era with this love letter to one of Japan’s most beloved consoles, a machine that barely scratched the surface anywhere else in the world.

Analog / Engadget

Analog’s most expensive console in years and its first system with a CD-ROM drive is the latest rage for a forgotten gem. It’s not quite perfect, but it’s a great addition to any serious game collector’s arsenal.


  • Elegant, classy design
  • Simple and intuitive interface
  • Clear HDMI output
  • Easy compatibility with any region

  • Middle managers
  • Analog’s most expensive car in recent years

$250 in analog

This system is the TurboGrafx-16, known in the Japanese domestic market as the PC Engine. It was released there in 1987, two years ahead of the Sega Genesis and three years ahead of the SNES. It became hugely popular, eventually surpassing Sega and keeping up with Nintendo for most of its life. By the end of its activity, its library offered about 700 games.

It didn’t do so well in the US. The TurboGrafx-16 didn’t arrive until 1989, after the Genesis brought burst processing to the masses. Nintendo and Sega were soon engaged in a marketing war of epic proportions. NEC’s humble TurboGrafx-16 didn’t stand a chance.

It didn’t help that it wasn’t really a 16-bit console. Although it offered 16-bit graphics support, it only had an 8-bit internal processor, so it couldn’t match the power of the competition. An additional CD-ROM did not help. Although it came to market years before the Sega CD, the Genesis add-on included an add-on processor to provide an early taste of 3D processing. The TurboGrafx drive was just that: an optical drive.

The system struggled on in the US for a few more years before NEC pulled the plug in 1994. In Japan, new games didn’t make it to the system until 1999, meaning even the most die-hard fans in the US missed out on the majority of games. The best PC Engine titles.

Since Analogue Duo can play imported games just as easily as native games, this is a great excuse to dig deeper into the library.

Out of the box

Analogue DuoAnalogue Duo

By Tim Stevens for Engadget

The Analogue Duo is a slim console that shares a similar aesthetic to the PC Engine Duo released in the US under the name TurboDuo. NEC’s Duo combined the CD-ROM peripheral into a single, sleek, unified device. But the Analog section feels nicer. Its plastic body feels sturdier than the flimsy stuff used on consoles in the 90s, and the bottom is even covered in rubber. In fact, the Duo feels more like high-end home theater equipment, while the TurboGrafx-16 feels like a 30-year-old toy.

There are two slots in the front. On the left is where cartridge-based games go on HuCard or TurboChip, two media formats NEC has used over the years. On the right side is the CD-ROM slot.

Output to your screen is via the HDMI port on the back, but there’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack with its own volume button if you want to listen privately. You’ll also find a port for wired controllers on the side, but you’ll need an adapter to use the TurboGrafx-16 controllers as it uses the smaller Japanese connector rather than the larger American one.

On the back is an SD card reader for software updates or the like, plus a USB-C port where the system gets its power.

At the heart of the system is the Altera Cyclone V processor, a dual-core Arm Cortex field-programmable gate array (FPGA) chip that can effectively be coded to run like any other processor. This is the basis that has allowed Duo to emulate the PC Engine and all its derivatives over the years.

There’s none of the lag and choppy performance you’ll get when running ROMs through an emulator. It’s as close as you’ll get to a modern PC Engine reboot, but with a much cleaner result.


Analog Duo mediaAnalog Duo media


Whether you’re playing local or imported games, everything will look perfect. As with previous Analog releases, the Duo outputs a 1080p signal over HDMI, resulting in the absolute cleanest way to play your games on a modern digital display.

While there are ways to get an HDMI signal out of the TurboGrafx-16, from the RGB adapters on the back to the outputs soldered into the system itself, even with something like a scan line converter, you’ll never get a signal. it’s crisp and clean.

But for those who want to keep that old-school flavor, Analog includes several different game modes to offer a CRT-like look and feel.

To be fair, even the biggest games for this system don’t offer much in the way of high definition graphics compared to modern titles. But there are many things worth your time. Lightning Gate is one of them and it is among the best side view shooters or shmups to hit the console. The quality of games like this helped PC Engine succeed in Japan.

Castlevania: Blood Rondo, although it is generally believed to be the largest title for the system. Released on CD-ROM only in the Japanese market in 1993, it still ranks among the best Castlevania titles of all.

It’s damn good and plays great on the Analogue Duo. Load times for these and other games are reasonably fast, and the drive isn’t as noisy as many console CD-ROM add-ons used to be.

Game on Analogue Duo

The Analogue Duo provided flawless compatibility and playback for almost every game I threw at it, with only one missing: SCI: Special Criminal Investigation — thankfully has nothing to do with the TV series CSI. SCI is a sequel Chase HQ, was big in American arcades. Its unique mix of driving and shooting, as well as the inclusion of amazing period cars like the Nissan 300ZX Turbo, made it a real favorite of mine. In fact, this was the first game I tried to play on Duo.

So imagine my dismay when the Analogue system wouldn’t play it or even recognize it. It just showed a blank screen, similar to what happens on a region-locked US TurboGrafx-16 console when trying to play a Japanese game. So I went into Duo’s settings, obviously changed the region to Japan, and the game played without issue.

This is the only game where Duo fails to properly region detect, which is a minor annoyance at best that I’m sure will be fixed soon in one of Analogue’s frequent updates.

Firmware updates are easily applied via the integrated SD card reader, which is where your game saves are stored for CD-based titles. This makes them easy to back up or even edit. It’s also possible to import your old save games with the appropriate USB adapter.


Analog Duo 8BitDo controllerAnalog Duo 8BitDo controller

By Tim Stevens for Engadget

If there’s one fly in this ointment, it’s the controllers. As always, Analogue has partnered with 8BitDo to provide the peripherals for the Duo. The $24.99 gamepad is the standard offering, and while it looks good in photos, it’s a bit flimsy in the hand.

First, it feels light and flimsy like 8BitDo’s other products, with buttons that rattle when you shake the thing. The controller doesn’t even offer the same weight and sturdiness as the original TurboGrafx-16 controllers, which certainly don’t set themselves apart.

But 8BitDo controllers have one major advantage: they’re wireless. They pair quickly and easily with Duo and work without lag. They also have a dedicated home button to open the Analogue menu.

However, there’s one final kicker with the controllers: they charge via micro-USB. 2024, 8BitDo. Even Apple has switched to USB-C.


I really enjoyed testing the Analogue Duo. It was an opportunity to play releases I hadn’t discovered in years, as well as experience some games I hadn’t tried yet.

However, it’s easy to see this as a very niche release for Analogue, a company whose obsessive fans are already far from the mainstream. Emulation is infinitely cheaper and still produces great results, but those of us who love classic console games know that there’s just something different about playing it from the original media.

Whether that extra something is worth the extra cost is between you and your accountant. Despite being Analogue’s most expensive release in years and supporting a decidedly underrated console, the Analogue Duo is yet another quality-of-life improvement for retro gamers and collectors. I can’t imagine playing my HuCards any other way.

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