The Analogue Pocket was designed with portable gaming in mind, and runs software for the Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Game Gear and Neo Geo Pocket Color, either natively or via special cartridge adapters.
However, the console's FPGA nature means that developers are actively porting 'cores' over to the system, which cover domestic consoles and home computers, too; the likes of the SNES, Mega Drive and Atari 2600 are all supported by the Pocket now, thanks to the efforts of FPGA developers.
FPGA development on platforms like the MiSTer has reached the point where PlayStation and Saturn support is possible – something that many people doubted would ever happen not so long ago. Taking this into account, it's easy to see why Analogue Pocket owners are now asking what the ceiling is for the handheld when it comes to platform support – and if the console's cartridge slot could be the key to expanding its potential.
Adam Gastineau – who has ported over SNES and NES cores to the Pocket – says that tests are still ongoing:
Discussions and tests are happening to determine what we can put on the cartridge bus. We don't really need extra memory or anything special for CD support, but it would be nice to have networking, external controllers, etc.
Of course, this isn't just about adding in stuff like more memory so more powerful systems can be supported – the slot could also be used to expand what accessories and peripherals are supported by the handheld.
Gastineau cites the work of Eric Lewis, the man who ported the Mega Drive / Genesis core to the Pocket, alongside a flood of arcade cores, as being essential to finding out what is possible. In terms of accessory support, he's already gotten an Atari 2600 joystick working on the Pocket, as you can see below.
"This is using SNAC [Serial Native Accessory Converter] to do so," says Lewis. "Idea is to hopefully get this packaged into a cartridge. Any ported mister cores that support SNAC should be able to easily support the cartridge as well. And of course, you can do things like this too — adding support to a core that didn’t support any SNAC!"
While it's clear that there's a lot left to uncover when it comes to the Analogue Pocket's power, there will obviously be a limit to what is possible with the system's FPGA chipset. Whether or not that limit will prevent support for systems like the PlayStation, Saturn and N64 remains to be seen – as we said before, many people swore that PlayStation support would never be possible on the MiSTer, yet it has happened regardless.
Even if there is a hard limit on what the Pocket is capable of supporting, we could still see the cartridge slot used to allow original controllers to be used, network play to be added, and other cool stuff.