Our favourite throwback handheld is the Analogue Pocket. It’s one of the most limited retro handhelds because it doesn’t replicate game ROMs. It plays Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges (as well as Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket Color, and Sega Game Gear with adapters). Analogue Pocket won’t play ROMs from a microSD card.
Analogue opened the Pocket’s FPGA hardware to developers using openFPGA, allowing anybody to design cores and software. Someone quickly “unlocked” the Pocket with a programme that can read microSD card ROMs. Spiritualized1997 on Github released these cores a day after the Pocket’s v1.1 firmware enabled openFPGA. This makes the Pocket a top emulation handheld (at least for games and systems up to the GBA).
We can’t tell you how to get these ROMs without specialised hardware, but we can tell you how to prepare the Analogue Pocket to play them. A PC and microSD card are needed.
1. Download Analogue Pocket Firmware
Install the latest Analogue Pocket firmware to load openFPGA cores. Analogue’s website has the latest firmware download. Download v1.1 [Beta] here (Opens in a new window). pocket firmware 3 B.bin. Here’s a step-by-step guide to update the firmware, but we’re already doing it.
2. Prepare MicroSD
Format an exFAT or FAT32 microSD card. Empty for firmware upgrade.
3. Copy Firmware File to MicroSD
Drop cards. Exactly.
4. Insert microSD into Analogue Pocket
Just above the right trigger button is the microSD card slot. Insert the card with the system off. Hold the power button until the system starts.
5. Update firmware patiently
Automatic firmware updates take a few minutes. Make sure the Pocket’s battery is full or it’s plugged in and charging to avoid losing power.
6. Download the GBA/GBC Cores
Spiritualized1997’s Github page features two projects: openFPGA GB&GBC and openFPGA GBA (Opens in a new window). Game Boy/Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance ROMs can be played.
Each project’s Releases section has the newest release. Extract both, keeping directory structures.
7. Transfer Cores to MicroSD
Put the Pocket’s microSD card in your computer. Delete the firmware update file.
Copy both extracted folders to the microSD card’s primary folder. Assets, Core, and Platforms should all be subdirectories. Before you drag and drop, make sure the cores are in the right places.
8. Transfer GBC and GBA BIOS and ROM files to MicroSD
Here, we can’t tell you where to look. Both the GB/GBC and GBA cores require BIOS files. ROMs are similar.
Copy all Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance files to Assets/gbc/common and Assets/gba/common.
9. Load files, start openFPGA, and play
Insert the microSD card and turn on Analogue Pocket. OpenFPGA, then system. You can load ROMs under Run. Now go play!