You can keep your PlayStation 4 Pros and Xbox One Project Scorpios. Give me back my Nintendo Entertainment System.
Nintendo is releasing the NES Classic Edition on November 11 for $60. This standalone device is a miniature version of the company’s first console, which revived the gaming industry in the mid-’80s and rocketed Nintendo to the top. The Classic Edition comes with 30 games, including heavy-hitters like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda.
My first gaming memories are all about the NES, so a device that runs many of its best games easily on an HD TV sounds like a dream.
But it’s a dream that’s almost turned into a nightmare because of one stupid flaw.
What you’ll like
The nostalgic look
The NES Classic Edition is an adorable device. The actual console looks exactly like the original system … if someone had left it the dryer for a week (just like my poor Iron Maiden shirt that now belongs to my niece). It’s a wee machine, which is both cute and convenient. If you’re like me, you’re probably running out of space around your TV, but it’s easy to find room for the NES Classic.
And just like with the full-sized version, it’s a beautiful design. Grays may not be in fashion these days, but it’s refreshing to see a device that isn’t lacquered in black. And it has all of those lines and ridges … it’s actually interesting to look at, not just a soulless husk for circuits and USB ports.
The system comes with 30 games on its hard drive. While I miss some NES classics, it does come with many of the platform’s best hits.
If you like pure platformers, you have the original three Mario games. If you want some more action in your 2D games, you can go to Mega Man 2, Castlevania, or Ninja Gaiden. If you need something less linear, play The Legend of Zelda or its sequel, Metroid, or Star Tropics.
Sports fans can enjoy digital football via Tecmo Bowl or boxing with Punch-Out. You also have classic arcade hits like Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Pac-Man. If you like role-playing games, you have the original Final Fantasy, while puzzle fans can focus on Dr. Mario.
It’s a varied collection. Despite the aged graphics, these games still hold up thanks to their simplicity and excellent design.
Using the NES Classic Edition is easy. When you start it, you enter a simple menu that shows you each game you can play, which you can organize alphabetically, by release year, or by developer (in case you were only interested in playing Capcom games for some reason).
You don’t have a ton of other options or things to do outside of selecting games. You can save your progress in any of the games in one of five slots (some would say that’s convenient, I’d call it cheating). You can also change the way your games look. You can use a default display that shows games in a clean, 3-to-4 ratio, a “pixel pefect” version that isn’t quite as wide, or even a mode that tries to replicate the blurriness of an old TV.
Nintendo has done a good job balancing the simplicity of an older time in gaming (when a console only played games and didn’t bombard us with menus) while adding in just enough convenient features.
What you won’t like
The short controller cord
The one glaring negative about the NES Classic Edition is infuriating because it seems like such an obvious problem that should have been avoided. The controller itself is great. It’s an excellent re-creation of the original. But its cord is a nightmare. It’s comically short.
Unless you’re sitting right in front of your TV, the controller will never reach you. Even then, you’ll have to be uncomfortably close to the screen. Your best bet is to get an extremely long HDMI cord, so that you can move the actual console closer to you. But even that might not be enough. I have my NES Classic Edition on a table next to my couch. I’m sitting on the end of the couch right by the table. Even then, I feel like one good tug is going to unplug the thing.
I understand why Nintendo wanted to keep the NES controller wired. It’s part of that nostalgia. But there’s no reason to make the wire shorter than it even was in the original, especially in an age where we’ll used to the convenience of wireless controllers and have larger TVs. You’ll need to find outside solutions to get around the problem.
Minus the cord problem, the NES Classic Edition is a wonderful device that gives fans of retro gaming an easy way to play some of the best titles of the 8-bit era on a modern TV. But the cord really is a problem. It severely impacts your comfort while playing, and it limits where you can place your device.
Still, it really is a magical feeling to hold an NES controller in your hand and have so many games available to you from a single menu. I hope that this is the start of many similar devices celebrating classic Nintendo consoles.
The NES Classic Edition comes out on November 11. Nintendo sent us a device for this review.