Announced earlier this week, Analogue 3D is an N64-like console that plugs into modern HDTVs, accepts original N64 cartridges from all regions, with four original N64 controller ports.
Analogue CEO Christopher Taber shared more details on the console in an interview with Paste, and claimed that it would offer a far better experience than the N64 emulation on Nintendo’s Switch Online service.
“To me, it’s either this, or buy a fucking original N64 and a CRT,” he said. “End of story.”
Currently, the Analogue 3D has a broad ‘2024’ release window and no price point. However, Taber suggested that its investment into the FPGA-powered console – which he claimed has spanned over three years – wasn’t cheap, and results in “by far the most powerful and expensive” internal technology in the company’s history.
“Reimagining the N64 with 100 percent compatibility and accuracy, and what I know is necessary for it to be just like the experience we all had when we first played it in the context it was created for (CRTs, namely), is not something anyone has achieved, not even close to,” Taber said.
The CEO suggested that Nintendo couldn’t do much better on an emulation front, even if it made an “N64 Classic” mini-console in line with its previous classic systems.
“The nature of how [N64] software emulation functions with even the most powerful components – it isn’t possible,” he argued. “It will inevitably result in a subpar experience.”
Switch Online’s Expansion Pack tier launched in 2021 and was met with frustration from some players due to emulation issues and a lack of features.
Some games have a noticeable audio delay, while others have graphical issues such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s inability to properly handle fog (see the image below).
Nintendo of America’s president even commented publicly on the issue and said the company was taking criticism of Switch Online’s N64 emulation “very seriously”, and there has been some evidence it’s slowly improving the situation.
Like its previous consoles, much of Analogue 3D’s development went into making a general-purpose FPGA board act like the original console. However, Taber said the 3D required “an order of magnitude greater amount of LE’s, fabric speed and more” compared to its prior systems.
This was necessary to not just authentically recreate N64 games’ graphics, but to boost them significantly to 4K resolution – something he explained is much harder to do faithfully than with 2D graphics.
“This generation of videogames is where its context starts to really become important,” he said. “All of the videogame systems designed within this era were made to be played on a CRT. N64 games have mixed asset resolutions, amongst many other things. Scaling early 3D games for modern televisions is radically more complicated than 2D games.”
He continued: “This is why 4K is so important for 3D games. 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.”
Taber also confirmed in the interview that Analogue 3D will support all N64 accessories, save states for games which require a control pak, and the option to turn off many visual effects including anti-aliasing.
By default, Analogue 3D will run N64 games at native speeds, complete with slowdowns, but optional toggles will enable “overclocking, running smoother, eliminating native frame dips,” and more.