Nintendo NES Classic Review
Dedicated consoles have been around for a couple of years, but recently these products have really started to take off. As retro gaming itself has become more and more popular, budget-conscious gamers have started buying up these little babies.
There are a lot of these consoles out there and most of them are a little iffy on the quality side, but for now there can be only one king of the dedicated consoles and there’s no substitute for the original.
The Best Dedicated Console: Nintendo NES Classic Edition (aka Classic Mini)
Nintendo has been at the forefront of pushing the nostalgia and retro gaming resurgence. It’s not really all that surprising, to be honest. Nintendo has one of the best classic game backlogs of any company at any time in history. They’ve been making a mint off their virtual console sales on the various home and handheld consoles, so it makes sense for them to bring out a dedicated machine for people who just want the classic games and don’t want to shell out $300 dollars or more for a premium modern Nintendo console.
Tiny is Beautiful
In terms of looks, Nintendo has a real winner on their hands. This mini NES is not an exact replica of the original, but a sort of riff on it. Unless you put them side-by-side however, chances are you’ll never know the difference other than size.
Although there’s a faux cartridge door, it’s just a decoration. This is a completely self-contained machine. There are two buttons on the front, two controller ports, and an HDMI output.
The controllers are pretty much exact replicas of the original, with the main difference being the plug. If you own a Wii or Wii U you can also use this classic controller with the virtual console, and Nintendo is selling them separately for ten bucks a piece. Unless you know you’ll always be playing alone you’ll want to order a second controller straight away. The NES had some of the best couch co-op games ever and that’s something which is very rare nowadays in new games, thanks to the kids with their fancy internet.
One thing you will also want to buy is a long HDMI cable if you don’t already have one. The wires on the controllers are pretty short and in this day and age of 60” flat screen TVs you’ll need some extra room. If, however, you are going to hook it up in a game room or similar place using a 32” TV then the controller lengths may in fact be perfect.
Speaking of TVs, this outputs in glorious upscaled HD on your LCD or plasma, but you do have a few choices as to how things should appear. There are three display modes to choose from: CRT filter, 4:3 mode, and pixel perfect mode.
The CRT filter does just what it says on the box. It applies several effects to make the games look the way you remember back in the day of CRT TVs, but still filling your widescreen. The 4:3 mode changes the aspect ratio from widescreen to something almost exactly like the original console. It’s slightly stretched horizontally, but you won’t notice.
The last mode is the really interesting one for retro gamers. You see, although we played these games on low-res TVs back in the day, they were designed on high-end (for back then) computer monitors. The pixel perfect mode replicated what the designers and developers would have seen as they were making the game. In other words, for the first time you could see the game as it was meant to be seen by the original makers.
It’s nice to have options and people who have seen the console in action says that it looks great on modern TVs. Side-by-side comparisons with the (very expensive) Wii U console running the same NES games clearly show the Mini ahead in no uncertain terms.
Of course, this could be the greatest little console in the world, but if its game selection was terrible it would be dead in the water. After all, you can’t dust off your old cartridges and play what you want. The good news is that Nintendo has not held back on the good stuff. If you were stuck with only this console for the rest of your life, you could tide yourself over with many of these games.
In total there are 30 games on the machine; just about every one is worth playing and all the major Nintendo franchises from that era are represented. We have Marios 1,2 and 3 as well as Dr. Mario. All the NES Zeldas, Metroid, Megaman, the Castlevanias, Kirby’s adventures, Final Fantasy 1, and more.
The selection really is great and if I wanted to introduce someone to the 8-bit NES catalog almost all of these would be on the list.
I have to say that this actually represents a heck of a deal. Virtual Console games on Wii or 3DS cost about five bucks a pop and the NES Classic costs $60 or $70 if you include an extra controller. Buying these thirty games would cost more than twice that, not to mention the cost of a Wii or 3DS itself. So even if you already own a console that can load and emulate these games, it’s still cheaper to buy the NES Classic.
There is also a very useful suspend and save slot function, but you actually have to get up and press the reset button to access the menus. That’s a bit of a hassle, but considering how short the controller cables are, you’ll literally always be within arm’s length of the console.
Setting the Bar
The NES Classic isn’t perfect, but in every way that matters this console has raised the bar for classic gaming systems. I really hope that the Nes Classic is super successful so that other original makers get into the retro game. Could you imagine an OEM console like this for the PS1, Dreamcast, or Genesis?
For now, there is no doubt that this is THE hot retro gaming item to have and we should start crossing our fingers for a SNES classic. If everyone goes out and buys this little guy I’m sure it won’t be far behind.