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Nintendo NES Classic Edition review

Micro consoles are nothing new, so why is the NES Classic Edition – or Classic Mini NES , as it’s called here in Europe – causing such a stir?

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Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System

Micro consoles are nothing new, so why is the NES Classic Edition – or Classic Mini NES as it’s named here in Europe – causing such a stir?

It’s a testament to the strength of the Nintendo brand – and the unwavering commitment of their fans – that this ‘throwaway toy’ is as hot as anything else right now. It’s easy to accuse Nintendo of constraining supply, but when the launch of a product brings Amazon to a grinding halt, it’s safe to say that demand must be significant.

Retro micro consoles have been around for a long time, but the Sega and Atari equivalents never caused as much commotion or panic buying. So what makes the NES so different and essential, and is it worth getting one?

The answer to the last question is a qualified yes.

The NES Classic Edition is a charming, nostalgia-soaked trinket that is right at home with any Nintendo fan’s Amiibo collection. In addition, it’s also the best way to play NES games on a modern television. But there are a few caveats.

Small but perfectly formed

The NES Classic Edition is tiny, really tiny. And tiny means cute. It’s an accurate, scale replica of the original Nintendo Entertainment System that looks and feels spot on; it’s just tiny. It gets all of the little details right, even down to the way the power button needs to be depressed on and off. Coupled with the exact copy of the NES controller (short cable aside), the NES Classic Edition is a beautiful object in its own right. 

And when you plug it into a television, things get even better.

Nintendo Classic Mini NES / NES Classic Edition

Goodbye Virtual Console

The NES Classic Edition comes bundled with 30 games. It’s a solid collection that contains all of the classics you’d expect along with decent smattering of third-party hits and other games of note. You’ll most likely have played – and own – many of the included titles, but there are still a few surprises. Games like Double Dragon 2 and StarTropics get a new lease of life by their inclusion.

Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System games

The library can’t be expanded, however – the console has no online connectivity at all – but for the price it’s hard to grumble. For the majority of players, the included roster is enough to make NES Virtual Console on the 3DS or Wii U redundant.

Perfect pixels

The aesthetic appeal of the NES Classic Edition and its robust game selection are all well and good, but it counts for little if the games themselves are not well emulated.

The good news is that they run beautifully. The Options menu gives you the choice of three different outputs: Pixel Perfect, 4:3, and CRT. The first option displays every pixel as a perfect square. It’s certainly sharp but the image will feel slightly constricted if you are a long-time Nintendo player. 4:3 mode generates an picture shaped how you remember, whilst the CRT option adds scan lines and a little fuzz to replicate the feel of an old television. In Pixel Perfect or 4:3 mode the colours are vibrant and the picture quality is crisp. The CRT effect is perhaps a little too pronounced for my liking but it’s still a nice touch. The result is leagues ahead of the murky NES emulation on Wii U. 

Using a QR code reader you can also download scans of the original game manuals to a phone or tablet. It would have been nice if they were also included on the system itself but it’s nice to have another slice of Nintendo history officially at your fingertips.

The long and the short

So the NES Classic Edition is a home-run? Well, not quite. There are a few well-documented problems.

The short length of the controller cable is an issue, there’s no denying it. Cable extensions are available (but in short supply) and some third-parties are producing wireless controllers, which kind of misses the point. It’s the one big failure on Nintendo’s part.

The exclusion of a AC adapter is also bemusing, although the abundance of compatible mobile chargers does mitigate the problem. The upside of the device using a USB power cable is that it will directly connect to many modern televisions for power, as well as the Wii U, PlayStation or Xbox you already have under your TV.

The tiny form-factor and USB cable also lend the device a degree of portability. My NES has already made the plug-and-play journey between the living room and bedroom multiple times. In fact, it’s just a delight to have the console around the house.

NES Classic Edition

If you are at all interested in retro games, or Nintendo’s heritage, the NES Classic Edition is a recommended purchase. The combination of its design and build quality, excellent emulation and authentic controller compensate for the headaches caused by the short cables and absent AC adapter. However, it’s certainly not worth paying over the odds to get one, so have a little patience and avoid the scalpers and eBayers trying to make a quick buck.

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Thumbsticks editor, and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Fire Emblem Three Houses, Skyrim (still), and Grid.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Alex

    19th November 2016 at 5:50 pm

    I like how you glossed over the supply issues. That’s the real story. Nintendo promoted this for months and then when it came time to release it, they didn’t have anywhere near enough units to meet demand. It seems like a nearly perfect product, but when you have to work like a dog to get it and watch scalpers reap the profits, it’s enough to turn a person off entirely.

    • Daniel New

      19th November 2016 at 6:00 pm

      I understand that frustration but just like the scarcity or the Wii or amiibo figures, I expect the supply issues to be resolved before too long. However annoying the current situation is, it doesn’t change my thoughts on the final product. That said, a detailed look at Nintendo’s history product of shortages could be in order. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Justin

    19th November 2016 at 7:54 pm

    I bought the Classic and it comes with an AC adaptor.

  3. jas

    20th November 2016 at 12:44 am

    Fantastic review. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

  4. Alex

    20th November 2016 at 3:37 am

    Nintendo missed a HUGE oppertunity here with people who dont want to purchase a Wii.

    Put the Nintendo Classic out with some pre installed games, add a solid state drive and allow for internet access. Charge $5-$10 to download more games.

    Enough with Nintendo’s artificial demand for games and systems by deliberately shorting production and release runs. First I can remember was Super Mario Bros 2 in 1998. They have been doing this for almost 30 years.

    Eventually this will backfire, especially now that people are beginning to get accustomed to instant gratification with digital downloads and a readily available supply of competitors systems.

  5. Joe

    20th November 2016 at 1:56 pm

    The purpose behind the short supply was to make sure the end users really wanted it. Yes the short supply of accessories sucks but hardly a deal breaker. It gives tjem a stepping stone to inderstand how many really want it. In plan site Nintendo stated exactly how much it would cost and that it was a limited release. If your dumb enough to pay scalper prices d ebay prices thats a decision on yourself you cant blame Nintendo. Be patient mor will come. Crying won’t solve it..I spent 13hrs in a freezing know what to expect and it was well worth the wait..I didn’t like the Wii U..thats where they dropped the ball. But I still have my original NES System..no need to by Virtual Console games. Well done Nintendo keep up the good work..us old guys can see the colors in Dr Mario now..

  6. Jim

    13th December 2016 at 11:59 pm

    Is having a “cute” unit really enough to overlook the flaws, like the short controllers and lack of expansion opportunity? I’ve heard terms like “wonderful” and “almost perfect” used to describe this product. Is this just because the unit gives people the nostalgia warm fuzzies?

    The “pixel perfect” mode is also available on 3DS Virtual Console SNES games, so it’s not like this is some revolutionary feature to Classic Mini.

    I just don’t get the hype on this thing. Any Nintendo fan who’s owned a Wii, Wii U or 3DS over the past 10 years has had access to all of these games, and a whole lot more.

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