This week I was finally able to get my hot little hands on the NES Classic Edition, Nintendo’s upcoming throwback console that is, by sheer coincidence, also hot and little. Here’s what you need to know.
How does it look?
My first thought was to describe the NES Classic’s visuals as “superb,” but then I remembered that all 30 of the included games are decades-old 8-bit titles, so instead I’ll go with “accurate.”
The default display mode has the games presented in an old school 4:3 resolution. There are also two additional options, the simulated fuzz of CRT mode and the much-talked-about Perfect Pixel mode (which maps every pixel as a perfect square). After messing around with multiple titles in multiple modes, the regular 4:3 is my personal favorite; it’s nice and bright, the colors are warm, and it looks better on my widescreen TV.
Yeah… but, like, how does it look?
Oh, the system itself? It looks just like an old NES. Only smaller.
Imagine a perfect, pristine Nintendo Entertainment System console circa 1985. Now shrink it down. Shrink it some more. Ok, one more time. There. So beautiful. So perfect. So tiny. (And approximately 5-inches by 4-inches by a little under 2-inches, if you’d like less abstract size information.)
Just like its older brother, the NES Classic includes fully functional Power and Reset buttons on its face, as well as a pair of controller ports. Just like you remember. Only—let me reiterate—smaller.
What about that retro controller?
The NES Classic Controller also looks the part; it’s a perfect analog to its forefather, and it should feel gloriously familiar in the hands of retro gamers.
The only difference, really, is that it’s made out of hardier contemporary components. There’s a nice weight to it—not too heavy, mind you, just a nice solid feel. Similarly, the buttons and D-pad are good and springy.
My only complaint? The cord is short. Criminally so. (Again, for you numbers people, we’re talking about 30 inches.) Considering that most of us are going to be playing this on big ol’ flat screen televisions, this can prove problematic.
Where can I buy a second NES Classic Controller?
Brother, if only I knew!
While the NES Classic Edition itself has only been available for pre-order in brief windows via online retailers, I have yet to see the standalone NES Classic Controller available anywhere online, so you’ll likely just have to hope you can locate one come launch day. Thankfully, there are other options.
Since this controller connects using the same expansion port found on Nintendo’s Wii Remote, any Wii Classic or Classic Pro Controller should work. I’ve taken to using a PDP Wired Fight Pad for my player 2, and, in truth, that may be a superior solution.
You see, there’s no easy way to exit back to the main system menu using the “proper” NES Classic Controller. Instead, you’re forced to manually get up and press the Reset button. Like some sort of damn savage.
With a Wii Classic, a Fight Pad, or a similar controller, however, you can use the central Wii/Wii U Home button to quickly return to the game select screen. And, of course, there’ll be the inevitable flood of new products styled specifically for the NES Classic Edition shortly after it hits retail.
Already announced—but, sadly, unavailable at the time of this writing—is a pair of accessories from Nyko. The first, the Extend Link, is a 6-foot controller extension cable. The second, the Miniboss, is a wireless controller option (with a 30-foot range) that seeks to ape the NES Classic’s iconic style. I will get my aforementioned hot little hands on them soon, and I’ll be more than happy to share my thoughts.
Does the cartridge door open? Is there extra internal storage for new content? Can it play all my other eShop games?
No, no, and no.
The NES Classic Edition is a closed system. Its preloaded stable of 30 games is all you get. It’s also literally closed, as the old cartridge bay is just a part of its single-piece upper shell—it’s just for show. And there’s no internet connectivity, wireless or otherwise, so access to the Nintendo eShop (or your Nintendo Account) isn’t even an option.
As an aside, you will get a Point Code you can redeem for your My Nintendo account, and this is the first piece of hardware to offer such a perk. Still, that’s neither here nor there.
How was the setup process?
You will likely spend more time taking the NES Classic out of its box than you will connecting it. Just plug in the HDMI cable (included) and the AC Adapter (also included), and you’re in business.
On its first boot, you’ll be asked to choose your system’s language. Thereafter, it’ll go straight to the menu each time you power it on.
Consider this like one of those plug-and-play machines you buy for that hard-to-shop-for friend or family member as a last resort. Only official and much, much better.
So it’s an authentic NES experience?
Yes and no.
On the one hand, Nintendo has taken pains to modernize the experience. Gone are convoluted password systems—each time you press Reset you can select the suspended game and drop it into one of four save state slots, which is both functional and satisfying—and desperately blowing on and then frantically waggling a cartridge to try to get it to load.
By the same token, some things seem eerily accurate, like the visual effect afforded by the Classic Edition’s CRT filter. Also, I swear to you and all that is holy that, when a particularly large numbers of enemies were being rendered on-screen in Ghosts ‘N Goblins, the gameplay slowed down noticeably. Just like old times!
Will old school gamers like me like it?
Oh, this thing was made for you. It checks all the right nostalgic boxes while also affording a level of simple convenience that’s impossible to resist.
Further, I can honestly say, in the absence of any hyperbole, that the game emulation performed by the NES Classic is the best I’ve ever seen; better than those mall kiosk knock-offs, better than the various PC and handheld options out there, hell, better than the Wii/Wii U. This system has been built from the ground up to do one thing, provide an optimal NES emulation experience, and it does that—in spades.
Will my kids like it?
That depends highly on the kids in question, but I will say my brood love revisiting Super Mario Bros. (and its sequels), as well as other classic titles featuring characters they already have some sort of attachment to like Kirby’s Adventures and The Legend of Zelda. They’re classics for a reason, and they still hold up.
My kids did, however, seem wholly unimpressed with my own retro platforming favorites—Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Kid Icarus, and the like. Also, for the record, if they don’t dig Ninja Gaiden and Tecmo Bowl, they’re sleeping outside tonight! (I’m only joking, kids. Please don’t tell your mother.)
Is it worth the money?
Look, you already have a plethora of NES emulation options at your disposal—legal and otherwise. You can play all these games and more on your laptop, your phone, or, conceivably, even your trusty old original NES.
However, if what you are looking for is a pitch-perfect classic Nintendo gameplay experience optimized for your modern television, look no further than the NES Classic Edition. Or, perhaps, you should look further, because these things are sure to be hard to come by. Good luck!
Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America