Play with power
The NES was the first console I ever owned. Somehow I had saved holiday and birthday money for over a year to get it (the idea may have been planted by a family member) at five years old, and although I don’t remember every detail of that process, I do recall walking into a Sears to actually get the thing, and subsequently taking it home and playing Duck Hunt.
Although I had played arcade games and Atari before (it’s what presumably gave me the idea), nothing really resonated with me until I played Mario for the first time. At that point, I knew this was something I would enjoy for a lifetime.
That’s a pretty common story among older gamers, who are the target audience for the newly minted NES Classic Edition — a simple, yet effective delivery system for 30 retro games from both Nintendo and third parties alike.
NES Classic Edition
Released: November 11, 2016
I know Nintendo kept stressing that this thing was small, but it still took me by surprise when I removed it from its box. It’s tiny. It’s five inches wide, and less than two inches tall. To turn it on, you’ll press the adorable little power button, which stays pressed for the duration of your session, complete with a red light notification. It’s a functional and respectable replication of the original but the biggest design flaw of them all? The cartridge slot doesn’t open up, even for show. It would have been really cool to buy extra games by way of DLC carts of sorts, or just have the thing open up for fun, but alas, no dice.
There’s another problem in relation to the controller hardware. The cord for the included classic remote is only 30 inches long, so you won’t be able to sit back and relax unless you have the actual hardware tethered up close, or solder yourself an extension cord. Only packing in one controller per box is also a bad move. Nintendo notes that you can use a Classic Controller or Classic Controller Pro from the Wii to get a second player in on the festivities, but naturally most people are going to want to use two NES Classic remotes. Pre-orders are currently sold out in the US, but you can snag one for $10 if you can find it.
If you can get through those annoyances, it’s smooth sailing. The NES Classic surprisingly provides an HDMI cable on top of the AC adapter, which is great news considering that Nintendo skimped out on providing even basic cables for some of its recent hardware offerings. The adapter is also small and non-intrusive, so it should fit in most power sources without taking up both slots or even blocking off part of a slot on a power strip.
And what about ‘dem games? It has ’em (here’s a full list). Balloon Fight feels so right given the unfortunate passing of former Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata, and the inclusion of RPGs like Final Fantasy, Zelda, Zelda II, and StarTropics round out the more arcade-oriented joints like Pac-Man and Punch Out!! Roughly half of the list supports multiplayer, and there are very few titles I’d really argue needed to be added given the pricepoint (Blaster Master, Battletoads, Dragon Warrior, and Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers come to mind). I might not like every game equally, but there’s very little fat on there.
The main menu provides basically all of the information it needs to. There’s a small list of everything with icons below, and a larger selection above that manages to cover roughly four games at a time. Everything is labeled whether or not it’s one or two players, which I really dig. Let’s take a look at the ancillary stuffy options too. There’s an auto-shutdown feature, screen burn-in reduction, and eight language settings (the latter will only alter the menus, not the games). In true Virtual Console-esque fashion there’s also four save/suspend slots per game.
I’m happy to report that the unit is also pretty quick in terms of load times. Selecting a game will bring you right into it within half a second or so. There doesn’t seem to be any “soft reset” button or any modern console UI menu trick (unless you’re using a Wii Classic Controller, which can assess the menu with the Home button), so you have to manually get up and press the reset switch on the Classic Edition itself. This also triggers the save state option, and if you opt to load another game without saving first, that save disappears — so make sure you pick a slot.
Lastly there’s three display options: a CRT filter (with scan lines), a 4:3 option (the original NES game look with a stretched screen), and “Pixel Perfect” (which shows the games how they were designed, according to the flavor text). Nintendo didn’t really need to go overboard with more than these three, so this is pretty much the baseline of what I’d want in a retro re-release like this. I tend to go back and forth between all three too, so mission accomplished. Based on my testing, the sound and video quality is noticeably better than the Virtual Console system.
30 games is just enough to not feel overwhelming, but keep people busy for a long period of time. I’ve already replayed several games all the way through, and plan on partaking in some multiplayer sessions with Tecmo Bowl and Super C for years to come. While it won’t blow anyone away, newcomers and veterans alike, the NES Classic Edition does absolutely everything it advertises and sets out to do. It’ll make a great holiday gift — if you can find it.
[This review is based on a retail build of the hardware provided by the publisher. As a side note, you get 300 Platinum Coins for My Nintendo by way of a pack-in card with the NES Classic Edition.]