I love retro games. Despite being born the same year the Atari Jaguar released, I’ve always enjoyed playing games on consoles before my time, such as the NES and Genesis. Even today, I still buy games for many systems released back then. When I saw Nintendo was making a miniature NES, I knew I had to get one. Even if I owned most of the games on other game systems, having them all in one box that happens to be a replica of one of the most iconic game systems was appealing. I was lucky enough to snag one online before they were completely sold out. Does the NES Classic live up to the hype? Is it accessible?
As for the hype, the NES Classic is great for anyone looking to easily revisit the best of the NES library. Most of the 30 included games are excellent such as the Mario trilogy, Mega Man 2, Metroid, and Techmo Bowl. The included NES Controller functions exactly like the original NES Controller. Using USB for power and an HDMI cable for video, the Classic is fast and easy to set up.
Unique to the Classic are various display options. There’s your standard 4:3 video mode, 4:3 with a CRT filter, and Pixel Perfect mode. I prefer the 4:3 CRT mode as it’s the aspect ratio I remember and reduces the “shimmering” pixels in the background. There is minor audio compression and lag but unless you actively play an original NES, you’d never notice. An in-depth technical analysis of the NES Classic is out of the scope for this review so if you want more information, I’d recommend My Life In Gaming’s excellent video covering video/audio in great detail.
So how accessible is the NES Classic? There’s a few features that make the Classic more accessible than you’d think. Each of the 30 games on the system have 4 save state slots. A save state allows you to save progress in the game at any point that can be reloaded at a later time. For example, if you come across a large gap to jump over in Super Mario Bros, you can create a save state right before the gap that can be reloaded should Mario fall down the pit. Save states are essentially infinite checkpoints, allowing gamers to more easily complete games.
Two concerns about the physical console I keep reading are the controller cables being too short and the requirement of hitting reset on the console to change games. The controller cables issue can be solved by purchasing controller extensions or a longer HDMI cable. I’d recommend the longer HDMI cable as it allows you to place the console in a convenient spot to hit the reset button. But what if you’re unable to hit the reset button? Luckily, if you have a Wii Classic Controller, you can hit the home button to bring you back to the Classic’s menu, no reset button required.
That’s another cool aspect of the NES Classic. It’s compatible with most controllers that plug into a Wii Remote. From the aforementioned Wii Classic Controller, to its Pro variant, to even the Tatsunoko vs Capcom fightstick, the Classic is compatible with many controllers released for the Wii. So if you’re like me and can’t find a second NES Controller, or you prefer a different controller, your Wii ones should work fine. As a bonus, the NES Controller will work with some Wii games. Give Mega Man 9 or Shovel Knight a try!
Something minor Nintendo did with the NES Classic that’s appreciated is the reduction of flashing lights in some of the games. Earlier this year, Nintendo modified Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow 3DS re-releases to eliminate repeated flashing lights and they did the same here. There also seems to be a built-in fail safe in the system that will blend screen elements together if colors are flashing on the screen. None of this affects gameplay at all and it’s a step I don’t see the competition taking with their re-releases.
Also, Nintendo released manuals for each of the 30 games on their website. I find reading the small font in game manuals from back then hard so the ability to load PDFs on my phone is excellent. I’m pointing this out because manuals for most games contain vital information that can help a new player out.
Is the NES Classic worth picking up for its MSRP of $60 in the US? Absolutely. Getting 30 games with extra features is a steal. I was pleasantly surprised with how accessible the NES Classic was by including features such save states and extensive controller support. I’d love to see more gamers get into the NES library with the Classic. Retro games are still fun to play, and the Classic is certainly playing with power.