When the NES Classic Mini console was announced, I knew I wanted one. Not for nostalgic reasons (I wasn’t alive when most of these games were released) but because, for £50, you get many of the best games from that era on one unit. I pre-ordered one the next day assuming that, like most Nintendo products these days, stock would be hilariously limited. The release date has come and gone, it seems I was correct. My local GAME store had in exactly enough for pre-order customers and the situation appears to be the same all over again.
The console itself is very true to the original, just significantly smaller. The controller is exactly the same, other than having a Wii compatible connector on the end rather than the original NES connector. A second controller was available for an extra £7.99, though I find it a little odd that they didn’t just package it with 2 in the first place. The console itself is powered by micro-USB — it’ll probably run itself from your TV’s USB port if it has one — and runs the games very crisply over HDMI. The interface is quite well designed and offers you 4 save slots on each game which you can save to or load from at any time, as well as allowing you to alter the picture to look like an old TV, or display the games how the designers intended.
30 games are built into the unit with no capability to add more, and while Nintendo has received some criticism for this, I don’t see it as much of an issue. Most of the 30 games on there represent some of the best and most famous titles for the console and the combined play time is huge. The only game I particularly wish it could play which isn’t present is the 1991 Star Wars game for the NES but presumably there would have been licensing issues, or it just wasn’t deemed popular enough.
After about two weeks with it, my early impression is that I’m quite bad at most of the NES titles I’ve tried. I still haven’t got round to playing everything (essays) but so far ‘Gradius’ and ‘Ghosts and Goblins’ have been my favourite.
‘Gradius’ is fairly similar to other side scrolling space shooters such as ‘R-type’ and is punishingly difficult. Waves of enemies come at you and killing all of them generally results in a power-up dropping. If you can find the time away from shooting the other stuff that fills the screen, pressing B spends that power-up on an upgrade for your ship (faster engines, missiles or a shield). The most devastating aspect of the game is that when you die (you will, a lot) any upgrades disappear, and you have to continue from a checkpoint with nothing. In the first level, you will fight two volcanoes, followed by a boss that fills 1/3 of the screen. After that, things got weird pretty quickly (the enemies were mostly the Easter Island heads) and I haven’t managed to get much further.Like I said, the second level got really weird.
‘Ghosts and Goblins’ is basically 2D Dark Souls. The premise seems to be that some bad guy has kidnapped a princess (your girlfriend?) and so you don a nearby suit of armour and fight your way through endless waves of zombies, crows and gargoyles (I have yet to see any ghosts or goblins). 1 hit removes your armour and another kills you: surviving a minute in this hellish universe seems like a major accomplishment. At one point I made it to the second level, before promptly dying to what might have been a flying burrito.
Other games present like Super Mario Bros 1, 2 and 3, ‘Metroid’ and ‘Double Dragon II’ are undeniably classics, and still hold up today (particularly when played 2-player to share the pain of defeat). Other games such as PAC-MAN and ‘Galaga’ are decent but do seem a little like filler, particularly considering they can be played pretty much anywhere on the internet. A few of the titles are, at least in my opinion, quite bad though; I’m no American Football fan but ‘Tecmo Bowl’ is incredibly confusing, for example, play is interrupted around once per second for you to choose an action for your team from the screen and I didn’t manage to score once. ‘Bubble Bobble’ — highly critically acclaimed at the time — is a bizarre, brightly coloured, platformer that perhaps just hasn’t aged well.
For £50, the NES Classic is worth buying. Most of the time I’ve spent on it has been 2-player and the frustrating nature of most of the games makes you want to keep going. As is all too common with Nintendo products however, it seems that the available stock has been too low to satisfy eventual demand, resulting in ridiculously high resale value and disappointed customers. Hopefully Nintendo will pick up on this and approach the (surely inevitable?) SNES Classic release with more finesse.