Review: The Analogue Duo Console for Turbo Grafx-16, PC-Engine, and Super CD Rom


Over the past decade, the interest in retro gaming has grown by leaps and bounds. It has grown from a niche hobby to a commercially viable sector. As legacy hardware continues to age, the availability of working consoles shrinks with each passing year. Couple that with increased demand, and supply dwindles further. 

In addition to limited availability of hardware, there are gaps to bridge when it comes to compatibility of modern displays and retro gaming consoles. The classic yellow, red, and white RCA cables that we all grew up with leave a lot to be desired when connected to a high definition television, if the signal gets through at all. There are solutions to these issues as companies have entered the fray with modern hardware dedicated to retro gaming. Several companies exist that make modern clones of Nintendo and Sega consoles, in an attempt to cash in, like Hyperkin, Retrobit, and others. The quality varies wildly. 

Analogue is one such company that is making consoles that play original game cartridges, but with modern FPGA technology and nuance. FPGA is an acronym for field programmable gate array, and this is a form of hardware emulation that is able mimic the old consoles on a hardware level, providing the closes possible experience to the original. By this point they have a track record of high quality consoles loaded with features, sold at boutique prices. If you ask any owner of their consoles and they almost unanimously agree that their products are worth the cost. 

The PC Engine has the most daunting and confusing hardware history out of any gaming console. It is not hyperbole to say that one has to read several guides to figure out how to obtain a consoles that is able to play the entire library of card and CD games. To be able to play both Hu Card games and CD games, several pieces of hardware are required: 

  • a base unit like a Turbo Grafx-16 or PC Engine (3 variations)p
  • a CD player unit (1 American version, 2 Japanese versions)
  • an interface unit (different versions for US or Japan)
  • a system card (at least 3 versions, depending on which CD unit you have)
  • or you can get a Duo system, which combines the three hardware pieces into one (there are four versions of the Duo units - 1 American and 3 Japanese)

The Analogue Duo simplifies the hardware into one neat package capable of playing the entire library of Hu Card and CD games that is cost effective, modernized, and sleek. Considering the amount of hardware necessary to play these games, the Duo's value proposition is tremendous. Consider also that upscaling and RGB mods are not necessary, the value multiplies. While these facts may not be obvious to someone unfamiliar with the original system, anyone who has attempted to cobble together a working setup will immediately realize this.

The back sports USB C, 2 USB A ports, HDMI, and an SD card slot

The quality of this console falls in line with it's FPGA brethren: flawless recreation of hardware operation while outputting crisp 1080p visuals. With this being Analog's fifth console hardware recreation, it is safe to say that they have mastered the art of displaying 240p resolution on HD displays. All of their consoles up until now have shown progression in the nuance and specificity of their settings for visual and audio fidelity. However, this time around there is a limitation on the amount of granular control that you have over tweaking the dials however, opting for presets and on/off type settings. This is perhaps due to the inclusion of their seemingly now standard Analogue OS, which was introduced in their last release the Analogue Pocket. The menus and options all seem to be copied straight from that. This is made obvious by the large presence on a TV screen, which is clearly out of place. It feels like more time should have been taken to dial the menu and settings for this console specifically, like was done for all other releases. This is the first time the operating system for an Analog console appears "phoned in", or copied and pasted. What happened to giving it the respect it deserves? There are a few Turbo Grafx-specific tweaks to video options, such as the composite color palate options, shader options that mimic the Turbo Express Handheld and LT (a combination PC Engine with built in screen). These are nice, but come off as a consolation prize instead of features.

The controller port is on the side of the console

The Duo is available in two colors: USA is black, and Japan is white. The quality of plastic and moulding are excellent as always. The console sits on a large rubber foot that firmly holds it onto a surface with no chance of sliding. While the physical design and form factor are superior and of the modern era, some design choices are odd. The most egregious of which is the location of the original controller port. It is placed on the side, towards the rear. All other Analogue consoles have their controller ports front facing, why would they do this? Not only does it necessitate a wider berth in a TV stand setup, the PC Engine controller cords are among the shortest out there, exacerbating the problem. 

Analogue is pushing the wireless 8Bitdo controllers on their website, which will pair with without the need for a dongle, and up to four can be connected. I understand the need to push forward past legacy accessories, but my issue is that the 8Bitdo controller is weirdly smaller than a stock PC Engine controller, or more specifically the dpad and buttons are too close to the bottom edge, so hand cramps set in fairly quickly. It also does not have turbo switches, opting for additional buttons mapped for rapid fire, albeit nonadjustable. The instructions lists a plethora of  controllers that the Duo is compatible with, including nearly all 8Bitdo offerings, controllers for Switch, Playstation, and XBox. I find myself using the replica PCE controller that was packaged with the Core Grafx mini from 2019, as it has a 10 foot long USB cord.

The 8Bitdo controller is too small
initial list of compatible controllers

Revisiting the theme of scarcity, the games for the Turbo Grafx were not million sellers, so again, rarity factors into cost. The Japanese equivalent PC Engine fared much better in its homeland, but desired games still rank among the more expensive of the era, especially for coveted genres like shooters. While there are other ways to play Turbo and PC Engine games like emulation, anyone sold on emulation is most likely not in the market for hardware like this. Flash carts mitigate the cost of gaming on original hardware, but not all versions of the Turbo Everdrive are compatible with the Duo. This has never happened before with an Analogue console. So the Duo is LESS CAPABLE of playing flashcarts than original hardware. This is a huge problem and needs to be ironed out in a firmware update. 

The menu font is too large on an HD TV

I consider myself a hardcore PC Engine gamer, I preordered this the day it was opened. I was able to procure a collection of games prior to the great surge in prices. My assumption is that anyone purchasing the Duo most likely has a strong interest in the console with a sizable collection. I already have a dialed-in setup combination necessary to play these games on both legacy hardware on a CRT and modern methods like MISTer. I wonder how many other hardcore fans are there that will choose to buy this if they already have a setup? 

For newcomers to the console, this is far from a casual purchase at this price point.  With the surging price of original games, it is hard to believe that gamers new to this console and library will be eager to start collecting now. I think it is appealing only to those who already have the games to make use of it. All of Analogue's consoles to date have had unofficial firmware releases that have allowed for side loading game rom files, effectively eliminating the need to own original carts. It would be reasonable to assume the same will happen with this consoles, as this has been the case for all previous releases. I would guess many people that preordered this are expecting/hoping that to continue. Time will tell. 

I am happy to have a premium (although a tad less premium than their other offerings) modern console to play my PC Engine collection on a modern TV, but I feel like this design should have been more thought out. The controller port placement is hard to get over. The lack of Everdrive compatibility is troublesome. This is a rough launch for Analogue, and hopefully some of the other issues can be resolved through firmware updates. Of all the Analogue consoles, this is the only one that I feel is half baked. It is still worth owning, but Analogue did not live up to their own standard here.

Japanese Mega Drive and Genesis and Art Comparison

This post is simply a collection of pictures of my Japanese Mega Drive collection, and when applicable, comparisons of artwork between North America and Japan. Enjoy!

Two games that did not get western releases. It's a shame, as they probably would have sold well. 

It's interesting that the artwork is completely different for every release of Streets of Rage / Bare Knuckle. 

The Street Fighter series

Golden Axe did not receive a domestic port of part III. I think I actually like the American artwork better for this series, if just a smidge.

My favorite trilogy on the Genesis. Many people malign the American Shadow Dancer cover art, I kinda like the subtle approach. The Japanese art with the lightning and all confuses the issue I think. The American Revenge of Shinobi art is iconic, and is forever emblazoned in my memory as on of my earliest Genesis memories.

Thunder Force as a series was making strides with the release of TF3, why in the world did they change the name of TF4 to Lightening Force? It's regarded by many as the best shooter on the console, and they had to go and disassociate it from the Thunder Force name? Just another one of Sega's blunders. 

The Ghouls 'n Ghosts artwork is so awesome I'm glad it was not changed. The artwork on both versions of Crackdown are subpar. The Japanese Gain Ground artwork is confusing, so the more traditional presentation for the US is more appealing.

In this pic, the Japanese art work sweeps the board. Everytime I see Bill Pullman I think of the US Strider boxart. 

I feel that its harder to mess up artwork for shooters, or at least it should be. Why did the Air Buster 
artwork have to be changed? Or After Burner II for that matter? However, I do like the US Arrow Flash cover better. 
The Assault Suits Leynos cover is badass, unlike the Battlestar Galactic ripoff that was retitled as Target Earth. Trouble Shooter looks like Charlie's Angels in space. 

I don't know what the boxart for Crying is supposed to convey, so at least Bio Hazard Battle offers up somewhat of a concept. Darius II and Sagaia are similar enough. Honestly I don't care for either cover of Elemental Master. I think the US artwork for Steel Empire is better than the hazy abstract art on the MD cover.

The US Gaiares cover is pretty bad, and the Japanese cover feels like its sending a deeper message. Forgotten Worlds is identical, G-Loc is OK for both versions, but the shiny floating robot chic on the Japanese Galaxy Force II is out of left field.

Wings of Wor goes for a more realistic approach compared to Gynoug. The others are largely unchanged.

The US Twin Cobra cover is fairly generic compared to the menacing Tiger. Musha and Musha Aleste have great art, this just depends on if you like the anime stylings of the latter. The Japanese Vapor Trail is again a bit too abstract for its own good. Phelios is again whitewashing the anime out of the cover.

The US received two variants of Raiden Trad for some reason, neither of which are as cool as the Japanese version. Fire Shark keeps the same theme, although the pilot looks more heroic on the US version when compared to the embittered pilot on the Japanese cover.

The only changes here are Task Force Harrier, in which the US version is less explosion-ey.

Minor cover art changes aside, what's with the diminutive cartridge case on Super Fantasy Zone? Its adorable. 

These are the heavies, and they did not receive US counterparts. Being that they are great games, the fact that they were not ported and thus fewer copies of the games exist probably contribute to their asking price.

No US ports to compare here.

More unimported shooters.

Review: Power A Fusion Wired Fightpad for Switch and Playstation 4

With more retro game collections being published on modern consoles, comes a need for retro inspired controllers that are compatible with modern consoles. The PS5 Dualsense controller is a great controller, but it still has a crappy dpad, which is essential for 2D games. Some third party companies have had great success with newer lines of retro controllers, such as 8Bitdo and Retrobit, but their controllers are not compatible with the Playstation line of consoles. 

Power A is a third party controller manufacturer that has a wide breadth of products for modern consoles, and I never really paid too much attention to their products. Enter: the Power A Fusion wired fightpad. This controller is clearly modeled after the Sega Saturn model 2 controller, which no one will argue is a bad choice. The "fightpad" descriptor is applied as it has the six face buttons that are necessary for most fighting games (ever since Street Fighter set the precedent), but it is for general 2D use as well.

It is perfect for the Contra collection, Castlevania collection, Megaman collection, Genesis classics, and so on. New collections appear every year, so for those of us who need a proper dpad this is a no brainer. The exception would be for 8 and 16 bit Mario games. I think those games are best served by a NES or SNES controller, as the Nintendo dpad is inseparable from the Mario experience. As good as the Saturn style dpad is, it would be blasphemy to use it in that way. 

There are so many good retro collections these days

The build quality is impressive, it feels solid in the hand, much more than the original Saturn controller (which was fairly light). The dpad feels very good, it is raised and floaty to the same extent, with a touch more reistance that enables you to feel the directionals a bit more. The buttons are all the same size, which is an improvement over the different sized buttons in my opinion. The are convex and glossy, and have a deeper press travel. It is a different feel, but it is not a bad one. Depending on the version of the pad (XBox, PS4, Switch), the various home, select, start, plus, minus buttons are present and placed somewhat centrally. 

The shoulder buttons have a psuedo clicky response, which is very responsive and shallow. I have always felt that the Saturn controller's shoulder buttons were too "clicky", and this is an improvement. There are also triggers, which have a deeper pull, yet terminate earlier than on a PS4 controller, which makes sense as they are not analog so the longer trigger pull is not necessary. There is a toggle switch on the top of the controller that allows you to select your shoulder/trigger button assignments, which is a nice touch.

trigger toggle for the PS4 version

...and on the Switch variant

The decision to make this a wired controller is a good one in my opinion. It is unlikely that this controller will be someone's primary controller for the PS4 or Switch, so if it were wireless that would require a charge, which would be a hassle. Being hard wired also decreases latency, which is important in games with fast action, like fighting games.

The usb cable has tabs for click-in security

Another feature, which is totally unnecessary, is the swappable face plate feature. The top plate is attached by magnets, and each controller comes with three color options. I don't know why this is a thing, and it probably raises the price a bit. I like the blue for PS4 and red for Switch, but to each their own.

These were sold for $50, which perhaps is a bit steep for what it is. It would have been more cost efficient to forgo the swappable plates, and maybe have been more appealing at a lower price point. I do not believe these are being sold at retail currently, so whatever the price on the secondary market is what it is. The Switch has more 3rd party 2D controller options available, such as the 8Bitdo M30 (bluetooth and 2.4ghz) and officially licensed Retrobit Sega controllers, so this is perhaps not the first option there. The PS4 and Xbox do not have as many options, so this fills a greater need there. 

In conclusion, these controllers are very good for the purpose that they are intended - for use with 2D games on modern consoles. I would not try to use these for any 3D game. That being said, they will definitely have some utility as more and more retro game collections are released. I don't get the sense that these sold very well, so if you're interested pick them up sooner than later.