When it comes to actually playing games, the Super Nt is simple to use while also offering a dizzying array of features. Setup is simple: you plug it in and connect it to your TV via an HDMI cable. Out of the box, your 16-bit games will look crisp and clear. But once you dive into the system’s menus, you can further customize the experience in many, many ways. You can alter the size of the image, and choose from a half dozen resolution options. You can brighten the picture, tweak the scalers, and utilize a buffer mode so that you can choose a balance between screen tearing and lag. You can add scanlines for an old-school tube TV feel; you can even alter the depth of the scanlines if you really want to. Similar options exist for the audio, and even for the menu itself, with multiple fonts and colors to choose from.
It borders on overkill, but it also speaks to the audience Analogue is aiming for. If you’re the kind of person who has dozens of SNES carts lying around, you probably also have strong feelings about scanlines and lag. One of the best features of the device is that it lets you tweak these features in real-time; you can pause a game, bring up the system menu, and then mess around with the display or sound until you’re happy with it. Everything is instant and the degree to which you can customize the experience is impressive.
Analogue says that the console works with every single cartridge released for the SNES and its Japanese counterpart, the Super Famicom. I wasn’t able to test all 2,200 available games, of course, but over the course of the past week each of the dozen cartridges I popped in worked perfectly, whether it was standard classics like Super Mario World and Super Metroid, or slightly more obscure releases like 1992’s 16-bit take on Lethal Weapon. There are also two games built right into the hardware, which you can boot up from the main system menu: side-scrolling sci-fi shooter Super Turrican, and its unreleased director’s cut. It’s not quite as iconic as Nintendo’s belated release of Star Fox 2 on the SNES Classic, but it’s a nice touch.
The Super Nt also features two standard SNES controller ports so you can use your old gamepads and other accessories like the Mario Paint mouse. Curiously, the console doesn’t come with a bundled controller, so you’ll either need to use classic gamepads or splurge on a modern version, like the 8bitdo wireless SNES controller. 8bitdo — which makes some of the best wireless retro controllers around — has a line of $39.99 gamepads that emulate the original SNES controller almost perfectly and also match the Super Nt’s various color schemes. They also work pretty seamlessly: you simply plug an adaptor into the controller port, hit the “pair” button, and it works. (Analogue says that controllers aren’t included “so that people can mix and match colors.”)
But while the Super Nt is functionally similar to its predecessors, there’s no getting around the fact that it doesn’t feel as premium as the original Nt. That’s not to say it’s a low-quality device; the sleek plastic shell looks great, and is a step above every other third-party SNES console out there. You can also get the console in one of four different colors including black, translucent, and two gray variants based on the original SNES and Super Famicom color schemes. They all look great, but there are some drawbacks that come from the shift to plastic. In particular, the buttons on the console feel flimsy, and the cartridge slot isn’t very secure; every game I put in could be wobbled around once inserted. The original Analogue Nt looked and felt like a device that cost $500. For better and for worse, the Super Nt does not.
Ultimately, though, these are relatively minor complaints. If a wobbly cartridge is all I need to give up for nearly $300 in savings, it seems like a fair tradeoff. And even with its plastic casing, the Super Nt is still at the high-end when it comes to aftermarket retro consoles, comfortably sitting next to machines designed for 4K TVs. The console is plug-and-play in that you can play decades-old cartridges with a minimum of fuss, while also powerful enough to let you tweak virtually every aspect of the audio / video experience. It’s both simple and complex, offering the best of both worlds.
And it’s the perfect reason to hang on to Uniracers for at least a few more years.