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Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System review

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Summary

Our Score:

7

Pros

  • Some of the greatest games ever made for a bargain price
  • Adorable form factor that stays faithful to the old hardware
  • The best kind of nostalgia

Cons

  • A short controller cable that can’t be replaced
  • No way to expand the gaming library

Best Deals for Nintendo Classic Mini: Entertainment System

  • ebay

Key Features

  • 30 games including Mario 3, Punch-Out!!, Pac-Man included
  • No power adapter included in the box
  • One controller included in the box
  • Powered by USB
  • Manufacturer: Nintendo
  • Review Price: £50.00

The Nintendo Classic Mini should be the must-have gaming console this Christmas. It’s a perfectly designed miniature box that’s sure to fill us oldies with the warmest feelings of nostalgia. It will be accompanied by a selection of games that includes some of the 8-bit era’s greatest hits recreated in their finest form. For me, it’s the ideal console. However, a series of inexplicable design choices sees Nintendo once again standing in its own way of achieving perfection.

What is the Nintendo Classic Mini?

The NES Classic Mini is a miniature version of the 1983 Nintendo Entertainment System. The £50 console includes 30 of the hardware’s greatest games installed on it (you can’t expand this lineup with any more games, unfortunately) and is supplied with one controller. You can buy additional controllers separately.

Here are the games that are included:

  1. Balloon Fight
  2. Bubble Bobble
  3. Castlevania
  4. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
  5. Donkey Kong
  6. Donkey Kong. Jr
  7. Double Dragon II: The Revenge
  8. Dr. Mario
  9. Excitebike
  10. Final Fantasy
  11. Galaga
  12. Ghosts'n Goblins
  13. Gradius
  14. Ice Climber
  15. Kid Icarus
  16. Kirby's Adventure
  17. Mario Bros.
  18. Mega Man 2
  19. Metroid
  20. Pac-Man
  21. Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
  22. Ninja Gaiden
  23. StarTropics
  24. Super C
  25. Super Mario Bros
  26. Super Mario Bros. 2
  27. Super Mario Bros. 3
  28. Tecmo Bowl
  29. The Legend of Zelda
  30. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Related: Nintendo Switch – Everything we know

NES Mini

There will be some debate about the games that didn’t make the list (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, DuckTales and Batman, for example), but there can be no debate about the fact that this list is excellent.

NES Classic Mini review – Is it any good?

The announcement of the NES Mini console was my highlight of 2016. To have the console that initially sparked my interest in video games as a child available once again, in minuscule form and with some of my all-time favourite titles, all for a bargain price and just in time for Christmas – how amazing.

Looking at the console, Nintendo has done an amazing job recreating the look and feel of the old hardware. The plastic of the NES itself feels exactly as I remember it. The controller has that slightly grainy matte-black front with the satisfyingly clicky A and B buttons. The console and controller are everything I hoped they’d be in terms of both look and feel.

The game library on offer includes some games that, personally, are the reason I’m writing this review. I started playing video games when I was three years old. The very first game I played was Mario 3, and I’ve been playing it ever since. Mega Man 2 is another firm favourite, which I’ve played for the past 23 years. Seeing them emulated in the best form they’ve ever been is genuinely heartwarming.

The UI of the Mini does some smart things, too. Each of the 30 games allows for four different save points, ideal for players either looking to make these adventures a little less punishing than they were in the 1980s, or for experts looking to perfect speedruns. No longer do you have to worry about deleting your dad’s save because you fancy a game of Contra.

Also, whenever you back out of one game and want to select another, the console will “hold” the save state should you wish to save it, before selecting a new game. If you start a new game without saving the suspended state, then it will be deleted, but it’s a good way of nipping into the main menu to make changes to the display, too. You can also “lock” certain saves to avoid them being overwritten.

Related: Steep preview

NES Mini

However, the one downside is that to suspend play of one game you have to physically press the reset button on the console. I don’t see why a simple press of the start and select button on the controller wouldn’t suffice.

You can play games in three different display modes: 4:3, “pixel perfect” or the classic CRT mode featuring the beautifully old-school scan lines. Other CRT modes tend to give me eye strain – in the Street Fighter 3: Third Strike re-release, for example – but Nintendo has done a masterful job of creating an old-school display that isn’t only pleasing on the eye, but also a joy to play.

It does an excellent job of mimicking the feel of playing on a old TV – and that’s exactly what I want.

Once the NES Mini is set up and I’m playing one of its games, the console is absolutely perfect. The trouble lies in the setup, and its execution, which is the result of some inexplicably bad design choices.

First up is the controller. While the controller itself is brilliant, it only has a 30-inch (76cm) cable. This means that I literally can’t plug it in and sit back without yanking the console towards me – which is ridiculous. I tried setting up the NES Mini with TVs in multiple spots around my home and it proved impossible. I had to resort to using a PC monitor. The only option for those looking to play on a TV is to use a super-long HDMI cable, with the console on the floor right in front of you.

This is a console that originally launched in the era of 15-inch CRT TVs, but has been redesigned in a generation of wireless technology. The inclusion of wireless controllers should be a given, and it’s shocking that it isn’t an option. It may be true that the exclusion of wireless keeps the price of the console down, but this comes at the cost of usability and practicality.

Despite its continued brilliance, Nintendo manages to be the games industry’s Sir Mix-a-Lot: it loves big buts. It has designed an amazing retro console – but it’s unplayable in most living spaces thanks to painfully short controller cables. It has a selection of 30 amazing games – but that’s all you get from an era that had literally 100s of titles. It’s only £49 – but it doesn’t come with an AC power adapter; Nintendo played a similar trick with the DS XL, which didn’t come with a charger.

These head-scratching decisions are so frustrating because, once I start playing the NES Mini, it’s everything I want from a games console.

I know that when my child is old enough to start gaming (about eight months old, I reckon), this will be the first console I give them. I want my kid to experience the amazing games I first did, and thankfully they’re all in the Mini.

Related: PS4 Pro review

NES Mini

The only issue is that it’s likely to have a negative impact on my kid’s eyes because their nose will have to touch the monitor (not the TV, as I can’t set it up on the TV) to play it.

VERDICT

The NES Mini could so easily have been perfect, and it absolutely should have been. An adorable little box that includes the original Mario trilogy, Mega Man 2, Pac-Man and other greats, all looking absolutely stellar for just £50. The controller, too, feels as superb as the original.

So it’s inexplicable that the console is pretty much impossible to be set up on a TV, as a result of a short controller cable that uses a bespoke plug and a power cable that’s equally short, and which doesn’t come with its own power adapter.

It seems that in making the Classic Mini we also get Classic Nintendo: so close to perfection but a few bizarre design choices leave us pondering what could have been had the company pushed the budget just a touch further. I’d have paid double the asking price if it gave us a little extra length, or even the length of the original NES controller’s cable.

As it stands, it’s bizarre to encourage couch co-op when the Nintendo Classic Mini can’t even reach my sofa.

Overall Score

7

Best Deals for Nintendo Classic Mini: Entertainment System

  • ebay

jimmy

November 10, 2016, 1:44 pm

Not sure if your ruler is faulty, or that you have a misleading picture? But that cable you show is way longer than 30cm, more like 70cm? Still too short, agreed, but we like accuracy in our reviews!

Evan

November 10, 2016, 2:37 pm

Thanks for pointing this out. It's actually 30-inches (not cm) long. This has been changed now.

asztmás kakaóscsiga

November 14, 2016, 9:32 am

it is still 30cm (at the pro/con list and at the end).

please use cm-s instead of retard units :)

asztmás kakaóscsiga

November 14, 2016, 9:32 am

you can get an extension cable, same as sold for the wii

John Lawless

November 16, 2016, 12:44 pm

ive got a extension cable for my classic controller witch is almost 6ft off amazon for £4 heres a link for uk people https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw...

EM87

November 19, 2016, 2:27 pm

7, and those cons AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

The library ISN'T SUPPOSED to be expandable. They never did this thing with that intention. They also have virtual console ROMs to sell. About the cable length i can agree, but it CAN be extended and it's very cheap to do.

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