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NES Classic Edition – Nintendo’s Mini Attempt At Maximum Fun!

By now, we’ve all heard about the NES Classic Edition. At about $60, does this mini system recapture that retro gaming fun or is it a maximum waste of money?

The details

I’m not going to go into all sorts of tech specs, you can get everything you need about that right on the Nintendo website here, or on a bazillion other tech/gaming blogs out there.

Here’s the quick highlights. The system is absolutely tiny. It fits in the palm of my hand with ease and is literally about as wide as the NES controller you plug into it.

Inside the box you’ll find the system, the HDMI and USB/AC cables, one NES Classic controller, and 30 pre-installed classic NES games. Seriously, it’s such a tiny little system that opening the box is almost shocking.

I remember unpacking my original NES way back as a kid and it felt like I was opening a treasure chest. This felt like opening a random grab bag from the local variety store. That’s still a thing, right? No? Ah well, showing my age I guess.

The games

As mentioned this system comes with 30 games pre-installed. I’m not going to go into great detail about reviewing each game here, but this is the roster of games that Nintendo has picked as their Classic NES experience.

Balloon Fight, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Dr. Mario, Excitebike, Final Fantasy, Galaga, Ghosts ’n Goblins, Gradius, Ice Climber, Kid Icarus, Kirby’s Adventure, Mario Bros., Mega Man 2, Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, Pac-Man, Punch-Out! Featuring Mr. Dream, StarTropics, Super C, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Tecmo Bowl, The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

All in all it’s a pretty packed list of all star games from the original NES days. Though I think I would have swapped a few for different titles, such as dropping Pac-Man in favor of Tetris. But hey, overall it’s a pretty great list.

So far I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting Tecmo Bowl and Super C, oddly Tecmo Bowl seems really easy to play now and Super C is harder than ever for this 40 year old! I’ve only owned the system for about a week and have jumped in for a quick trip down memory lane with about half of the games, but I’m really looking forward to spending a little more time with some of the more time intensive games like the Zelda’s, Final Fantasy, and Star Tropics.

The Good

The NES Classic Edition is a lot of fun. It does a fantastic job of recreating the games so many of us remember from our childhood. Because of the ability to choose your resolution you can really get that classic feel, even though you are hooked up via HDMI to a high definition television. You get three resolution options to choose from.

4:3 mode - A slightly horizontal stretched image and what I would call the medium setting. CRT mode - This recreates the experience we all remember, complete with scan lines and motion blur. Pixel Perfect mode - A high definition version with, well pixel perfection, exactly how it was meant to be played.

If you have tried any of the other classic gaming systems over the years, you’ll know that sound is always an issue. It’s not uncommon for these other systems to have poor to terrible sound reproduction when compared to the original systems. The NES Classic Edition knocks it out of the park though. Everything, from the look and feel to the sound and pixel flicker is perfectly rendered. Everything plays just as responsive as I remember, which is important for games requiring tricky jumps and movements.

Bottom line, they figured out the formula to recreate these classics perfectly.

The other thing I found to be a terrific design choice was that the included HDMI and USB/AC cables are fairly long. Which helps to offset one of the biggest negatives about this system, the controller, which we’ll talk about in a minute. As an added bonus, you don’t have to use up another outlet spot on the wall because the NES Classic can be powered via your tv’s USB port. It makes this a truly plug and play system.

From the time I opened the box, well after I stopped staring at how tiny and amazing this thing was, until I was playing my first game was less that 2 minutes.

The addition of adding in “save points” to the games is a bonus. Each game can have up to 4 save points so if you don’t have time to try to run through a game in one sitting, or don’t want to deal with the old password system, just hit that save and move on.

The Bad

There are really only a couple of things I want to touch on here. The first is the stupid controller. More specifically the fact it has a cord the length of a rubber band.

I saw a review of this system over on Engadget a while back that opened with the author saying “I don’t want to sit on the floor while I play video games, I’m not 7 anymore”.

It sucks having to site a mere 2 and a half feet from the tv. They REALLY needed to make this controller with a nice long cord BUT I understand why they made it the length they did.

Because Nintendo went all in on an authentic reproduction, there is no “Home” or “Reset” button on the controller. Which means that to get back to the main menu and change games, save, or switch settings you have to push the actual RESET button on the system.

Who would want to get up and walk across the room just to switch games, that’s so lame and outdated?! The controller cord was kept short so you are within arms reach of the system.

That will be 10 points in the Maximum Laziness character skill, thank you very much!

I know many have said they should have made it a wireless controller.

Yeah, maybe. At the same time a wireless controller on a retro system would ruin the nostalgic value. Same goes for adding a “Home” or “Reset” button to the controller. I like the fact that this controller feels EXACTLY like the one on the original system.

THIS is why having the longer HDMI/USB cords is handy. You can have the system further away from the television and give yourself a little space between you and your 50″ flat screen.

The last minor annoyance is that the 30 games it comes with are all you get. There is no ability to add more later if you want. Somewhat annoying but not a deal breaker.

Though it would have been terrific had they added the ability to purchase inexpensive “expansion packs” with an additional 30 games down the road.


The Verdict

If you have been listening to our show each week and have followed us here on the website for any time, you’ll know that Jason is probably having a fit right now. We are big fans of the awesomeness that is the RetroPie, in fact go check out Jason’s video series about building your very own via the links below.

That being said, for a casual gamer that wants an occasional dose of some of their favorites from yesteryear, the NES Classic is an absolute blast. At about $60 it works out to around $2/game and how many times do we spend that on app store games and in-app purchases. Same concept with arguably much more fun.

Yes. The cord on the controller is short.

True you only get one controller so the inclusion of the 2 player games will require you to spend more money on another controller. While you’re at it you can grab some third party cord extensions for the controllers if you like.

But all of that drives the price up.

Even though I have long wanted both the NES Classic and the SNES Classic, I have passed up buying them on three different occasions before the fourth time was a charm. I received a gift card for my birthday and I just couldn’t pass it up.

To get set up with the NES Classic Edition, a second controller and the extension cables for the controllers you’re creeping up to the $80+ range and that puts you close to RetroPie land. Of course RetroPie builds give you tons more options, there are also some legal questions about ROMS and all of that so when it comes to that you have to decide for yourself which way you want to go.

While going the RetroPie route gives you the ability to play WAY more games, the NES Classic gives you a smaller selection of 30 great games that are all perfectly reproduced and guaranteed to scratch that retro gaming itch. For a casual gamer like me, that’s really all I need as I simply don’t have time to play ANY games that often. This isn’t my daily gaming system. That’s done mostly on my PC or my trusty old PS3.

Bottom Line, the NES Classic Edition is 100% awesome and does indeed pack maximum fun into a miniature package. If you get a chance to find them in stock, I’d jump on it. You won’t regret it.

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