For a few years now there have been systems that replace classic video game system and computer software emulation with field-programmable-gate-array hardware (FPGA) like the open-source MiSTer FPGA kit and the commercial Analogue line-up of home consoles. There’s now a product that bridges the gap a bit in the MiSTer Multisystem.
Both systems can be expensive but the Analogue consoles replicate the SNES, Genesis, PC-Engine, and NES with modern flairs for minimalist design and are defined by requiring original cartridges with mysterious firmwares that are occasionally available to use ROMs but either way you’re gonna need a separate (expensive) Analogue console per-system for their level of high quality experience.
The MiSTer has always leaned more towards the “oh boy” end of technical challenges by requiring users to play a choose-your-own adventure of stacks of components to end up with a custom setup that plays the games you want, with the video and audio outputs you prefer, and managed with a Linux layer at the top. Cartridge connectors aren’t even an option for the MiSTer.
Either system eventually got you to the same goal of amazing hardware recreated on the fly using that FPGA magic. The MiSTer just does it in an open-sourceror way for the benefit of everyone and letting everyone develop cores that turn that FPGA into everything from the Acorn Archimedes to the ZX81 and Analogue prefers to keep their hu-cards closer to their chest as a commercial entity with more control over their consoles.
The MiSTer Multisystem supplements the traditional MiSTer stack with a dedicated all-in-one motherboard that turns the barebones DE-10 Nano into something more like a console. It handles USB, VGA, HDMI, your controversial SCART connection to the TV for RGB output, and more on a dedicated PCB inside of an optional 3D printed case that looks at home under a modern TV or next to an old CRT video monitor for scanline lovers. Just about the only limitation I can see is the lack of built-in S-Video or composite output. The MiSTer Multisystem also has support for input adapters using the SNAC system to let users plug in old controllers and lightguns as directly as possible.
There’s nothing here you couldn’t do with a more custom MiSTer setup, but it might be easier and more attractive to someone interested in FPGA gaming and vintage computers to have one add-on board in a 3D-printed case than having to farm out each of these things separately.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have a DE-10 Nano already you’re looking at about $618.76 USD or £454.80 GBP for the entire Consolized MiSTer Multisystem before shipping and any import fees and that isn’t cheap. Other bundles of MiSTer hardware end up around $455 for the kit from MiSTer Add-Ons. None of these MiSTer setups are really going to be the easiest things in the world to configure, but I’m curious if it ends up being easier than dealing with a Raspberry Pi which is the traditional go-to setup for an emulation box. Compared to the Analogue consoles, with the MiSTer, you don’t need more than one to play multiple systems.
The first round of 500 MiSTer Multisystem kits that ship in November sold out quickly and another round of 1000 more are promised to go up for pre-order soon. They’ll be announced on the MiSTer Multisystem Twitter account.
The MiSTer Multisystem creators also have a lengthy video answering questions they received about the console: