Fez and Super Hypercube designer Phil Fish specializes in a retro-futuristic visual design that is apparent in his interfaces, but now Fish has taken that a step further by working with classic-gaming-hardware company Analogue on its upcoming Super Nt revision of the Super Nintendo. Fish designed a new menu and boot-up sequence for the device, which launches early next year for $190 and enables you to play Super Nintendo games on high-definition screens without latency.
And because the Super Nt is technically no different than the hardware in Nintendo’s 16-bit system, Fish wasn’t creating some new overlay for Android running on an ARM processor. Instead, it’s as if the developer went back in time and worked within the restraints of the most cutting-edge gaming tech from 1991.
The Super Nt starts with a splash screen featuring the Analogue logo. If you’ve ever played a Phil Fish game, you’ll recognize the style immediately.
“The startup was a joy to create,” Fish explained to GamesBeat. “I just started making as many variations of [the logo] as I could think of, and then spent some time animating some glitchy-ness to them.”
When Analogue released its first product, a revision of the NeoGeo, Fish purchased one and started talking to the company’s founder, Chris Taber. As the Super Nt project got under way, Taber thought that Fish could potentially help with the pixel art for the project, and he was right.
“I had a general direction and idea of what we wanted and the limitations surrounding the hardware,” said Taber. “Phil started putting together concepts, animations, and art and we just went back and forth for months until we were both really happy with it.
Fish’s original plan was to make the boot sequence random every time. It turns out that just wasn’t possible.
“We soon found out the Super Nintnedo hardware couldn’t quite hack it,” said Fish. “So instead I created a set of 10 different animations that will play randomly every time you boot up.”
Finally, chiptune artist Squarepusher came in to provide the chime.
Once you are in game, you can bring up a menu overlay that is simple-looking but enables you to switch between various resolutions and other powerful options that a Super Nintendo never could do back when you were a kid.
Fish approached this design from the point of simplicity and user-friendliness.
“I’d never worked with actual old-school hardware limitations before, so it was a fun challenge to design around that,” said Fish. “I designed the interface around a simple square-shaped font I created that would easily work with the Super Nintendo’s tile limitations and still look cool and legible.”
You can see in the video below that the interface has a basic, utilitarian look, and Fish went that way for a reason.
“I wanted to keep the interface as simple and minimal as possible so as to not get in the way and let the games shine,” he explained. “I wanted to stay away from windows — and instead have everything overlaid on top of the paused game, so you can see the effect of the changes you’re making in the settings.”
I think it is rad that Fish is building a Super Nintendo UI, and I asked Taber how he felt about it.
“It’s pretty fucking cool, man,” he said. “Super Nt has a wickedly talented group of people working on it. Phil did an excellent job on the user interface. It’s exactly what I was hoping for. There are a lot of pixel artists out there who I think mostly stick with the same ol’ generic stuff. Phil understands this and put something together that isn’t the same ‘retro pastiche’. Of course within the boundaries of what is possible on a Super Nintendo. Super fortunate and thankful to have such talented people contributing to Super Nt. We’re beyond stoked.”