With Microsoft and Sony actively pushing their competing Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Pro consoles, semi-affordable virtual reality having just arrived in the form of PlayStation VR, and dozens of big-budget games vying for your hard-earned cash, video game fans will have a lot to choose from this Holiday season.
But just to keep us on our toes, quirky Japanese video game developer Nintendo will tomorrow release a piece of hardware that’s a little bit different from the rest: the NES Classic Edition.
You can get hold of your own bundle of retro joy through Amazon, and here’s everything you need to know about this tiny, retro console.
The NES? Wasn’t that around in the ‘80s?
You bet your Reebok Pumps it was! The NES, or Nintendo Entertainment System to use its full name, was the first Nintendo-branded home console to be released outside of Japan. With 61.9 million units sold globally during its lifetime, the 8-bit NES was hugely successful and paved the way for a slew of successors, as well as consoles from future competitors Sony and Microsoft.
But now, here in the neon-lit future of 2016, the NES is being given a new lease of life in the form of the NES Classic Edition (known as the Nintendo Classic Mini in Europe and Australia), a faithfully rendered, albeit absolutely tiny, version of the ‘80s NES that plugs into your TV via a standard HDMI port and comes with 30 classic games pre-installed. The console even comes with a wired NES controller, although they’re a tiny bit smaller than the ones older gamers may remember using.
Can I play my old NES games on it?
No. Before you go rummaging through the attic in search of your old game collection, you should know that, while the NES Classic Edition does have a small cartridge slot cover, it is purely cosmetic and can’t be opened (besides, the old NES cartridges are about as big as the NES Classic itself). You’ll be able to play only the 30 games that come stored on the console’s hard disk.
Which games come built-in?
Although you’re limited to the games that the console ships with, the good news is that — as its name suggests — there are some absolute classics on there. Here’s the full list of titles available:
- Balloon Fight
- Bubble Bobble
- Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
- Donkey Kong
- Donkey Kong Jr.
- Double Dragon II: The Revenge
- Dr. Mario
- Final Fantasy
- Ghosts N’ Goblins
- Ice Climber
- Kid Icarus
- Kirby’s Adventure
- Mario Bros.
- Mega Man 2
- Ninja Gaiden
- Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
- Super C
- Super Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros. 2
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- Tecmo Bowl
- The Legend of Zelda
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Are these the full, original games?
Yes. The games pre-installed on the NES Classic Edition are technically emulations of the originals, but you’d be hard-pushed to notice the difference. The only people who are likely to feel like something isn’t quite right at first are gamers in the UK who, back in the days of the NES and SNES, were unknowingly playing games that ran slightly slower than their North American counterparts due to the different TV signals used (though it could be argued that these gamers are finally getting to play the games as they were intended). The only other “addition” is that your progress in any of these games can now be saved at any point simply by pushing the console’s “Reset” button — something that will no doubt come in handy when you’re suddenly reminded just how difficult some of these games were!
Can I play two-player games on it?
If there’s a two-player option in the game you’re playing, then yes, but you’ll need to purchase an additional controller. Gone are the days when your Nintendo came with two gamepads out of the box; a second one will cost you around $9.99/£7.99.
You might be wondering how those old NES games will look blown up on your high-definition LCD or plasma display. The good news is that the NES Classic Edition offers three different display options to suit all tastes: The first, called “pixel perfect” mode, presents the games in a perfectly square format and sharpens the image so that the graphics look crisp even by today’s standards. The second mode presents the image in the same 4:3 aspect ratio of our old-fashioned TV sets, while doing just a bit of cleaning up to ensure that the 8-bit graphics don’t offend your 21st-century eyes. Finally, there’s a mode that simulates an old CRT monitor by applying a filter to emulate the look of playing the original NES on an old tube TV, complete with those ugly but oh-so-nostalgic scan lines.
Some retailers are bound to shave a few pennies off the system here and there, but the NES Classic Edition is already fairly competitively priced, retailing at $59.99 in the US, $79.99 in Canada, and £49.99 in the UK, which is about the cost of a single game for current-generation consoles.
The most obvious negative about the NES Classic Edition is that there is no way to install additional games to your library. You get what’s in the box and, with a lack of WiFi, LAN connection or an SD card slot, that’s it for the life of the machine. Whether this will result in your NES Classic gathering dust on the shelf a week or so after purchase will depend entirely on the degree to which you enjoy playing older games, or perhaps if you intend to
force your children to play buy it for your family to enjoy from time to time. Either way, it’s fair to say that the NES Classic Edition isn’t especially future-proofed.
For those who owned a Nintendo console in the 1980s, much of the value of the NES Classic Edition will come from getting to play those old-school favourites again in their original format and with a classic Nintendo controller — Nintendo clearly knows the power of nostalgia. On the flip-side, the games that come pre-loaded on the console are much less forgiving than some of today’s immediately rewarding, free-to-play mobile games, so there’s always the danger that some of them will neither be able to compare to our fond memories of them, nor appeal to younger players.
Even so, the NES Classic Edition is both attractively priced and, thanks to its miniature-form-factor and simple interface, is bound to appeal to gadget lovers everywhere, regardless of whether they’re old enough to remember its games. As a Christmas gift, the NES Classic Edition is sure to appeal to many, and with the original NES as loved as it was, there’s a good chance that these mini consoles will positively fly off the shelves when they launch tomorrow.