Nintendo released their first plug 'n play console, The NES Classic Edition, on November 23rd, 2016 and now that I have had some time to play around with it I've got some things to say.
Yes, the NES Classic Edition was and is still nearly impossible to get a hold of. Let's just get that right out of the way. Nintendo vastly underestimated the demand for this product and the online stock was gobbled up in only a few minutes. Fortunately for me, I was able to snag one and I am happy that I did. Let's take a look at the hardware itself.
The packaging is really nice. It looks exactly like the original NES box and I really like that. They also brought back the classic "Now You're Playing With Power" slogan which is awesome for long time Nintendo fans like myself. In the box you get the console, a controller, a power cable and an HDMI cable with a Nintendo logo on it. The controller that comes with it is an exact clone of the original NES controller and it feels absolutely perfect. I think they may have even used some of the original molds to make it because the internals can actually be swapped with an original NES controller, essentially giving you a brand new controller for your original NES. Nintendo wisely used their Wii Nunchuck style for the plug but decided to only give the controller a 1m long cable. This is obviously way too short and many fans have already complained about this. However, the use of the Nunchuck style plug means that the controller can be plugged into a Wiimote and used for virtual console games or ROMs on a soft-modded Wii, which is very cool.
The console also feels really well made, which is not surprising. Nintendo has a long history of making nearly unbreakable hardware, and the NES Classic Edition is no different. The buttons on the front work just like the original NES and this is why the controller cable is so short. You need to have the console close to you in order to hit the Reset button to access the User Interface (UI) and change games. Other controllers with the Nunchuck style plug that have a Home button can do this without using the Reset button. Unfortunately, you only get one controller in the box and you have to buy extra controllers separately. This is easier said than done because the controllers are sold out as well.
The UI on the NES Classic Edition is great. It first of all just looks really good and is very intuitive to use. They really nailed the retro look and kept it nice and clean. It shows the cover art for every game which is something I love about NES era video games. So much work went into the cover art on these games. The UI also shows the player which games are multiplayer and they also give you three options for the emulation style. 4:3 Mode gives you a nice 4:3 aspect ratio, Pixel Perfect mode gives you perfectly square pixels much like PC emulators, and CRT Filter mode applies a blur and scanlines to the screen for a real retro experience.
As for included games, there are 30 of them and there won't be anymore from Nintendo. Some fans were hoping more games could be added later but Nintendo says this is not going to happen. This however doesn't mean that the system won't be hacked and I have read on forums that this has already been done but I have not seen it in action. Here's the list of games included:
- Balloon Fight
- Bubble Bobble
- Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
- Donkey Kong
- Donkey Kong Jr.
- Double Dragon II: The Revenge
- Dr. Mario
- Final Fantasy
- Ghosts 'n Goblins
- Ice Climber
- Kid Icarus
- Kirby's Adventure
- Mario Bros.
- Mega Man 2
- Ninja Gaiden
- Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
- Super C
- Super Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros. 2
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- Tecmo Bowl
- The Legend of Zelda
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
This is a solid list of games, although if I were choosing 30 essential NES titles my list would be very different. For instance, I would have included River City Ransom and at least one Ninja Turtles game but it is still a solid list. There are hours and hours of fun to be had with these games and I am sure that licensing issues had a generous influence on what games were included on the NES Classic.
The NES Classic outputs 720p which is respectable but I was hoping it would be 1080p. Still, the video output looks really good on my TV and I am not sure how much of a difference I would even see if it were 1080p. The emulation is excellent. It plays and responds just like a real NES right down to the flashing sprites and the slowing of action when too much is on the screen. The NES emulation on the Wii U was notoriously bad and Nintendo has greatly improved it here. The NES Classic video signal is crisp and clear where the Wii U was washed out and blurry. Here are some screenshots:
Audio is the main issue with the NES Classic for me, other than the availability problem. Overall, the sound on the NES Classic's emulation just doesn't sound as good as the original NES hardware and there is a major issue with sound effect timing. For some reason sound effects on the NES Classic are very delayed. So much that it actually bothers me. As someone who has played a lot of NES and still plays regularly on original hardware I noticed this problem right away, but maybe people who haven't played in years won't even notice the problem at all. Check out our video that illustrates what I am talking about. I decided to demonstrate using Ninja Gaiden as an example and the problem is most noticeable when jumping.
I know it has been said over and over but Nintendo's lack of ability to put enough of NES Classic Editions into the market really is a major issue. The NES Classic Edition is a pretty nice piece of hardware but what good is it if nobody can buy it? I am writing this review over two months after its initial release and you still cannot walk into a store and buy this thing. Sure, there have been small restocks here and there but they still sell out in minutes. Reggie has said that Nintendo did not anticipate the demand for the NES Classic but fans everywhere were predicting this would happen long before its' release . They claim that they thought the audience for the NES Classic would be a small number of 30-year-olds looking to get some nostalgia or introduce their kids to the games they played growing up. Putting all of that mess aside, this is still the best and most cost effective way (if you get it at retail) for people to get back to their gaming roots and play some NES. The NES Classic retails for $59.99 in the US and $79.99 in Canada. That's pretty cheap considering the amount of games you are getting and additional controllers are only an extra $9.99 USD or $12.99 CAD. Buying a real NES in today's retro gaming market could cost you $80 easily and you won't likely get any games with it.
I recently became an uncle and my sister and I used to play NES together all the time. I managed to get her one for Christmas after getting up at 3:00 AM to order one the minute stock was released. The nostalgia trip was great for my sister and it will now be easy for her to introduce my niece to some great classic games when she is a little older. Maybe in a few more months these will be common and more people who want to play them will be able to get their hands on one because it is a good little console, but it does have a few glaring flaws. The controller feels great but the 1m long cord is ridiculous. The video output is perfect but the audio quality/timing is bad. So I guess it is sort of a mixed bag, but still worth owning.
The NES Classic is great for people looking for a quick shot of nostalgia, but it isn't meant for hardcore fans like myself.