Tech Up! Review | Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System

By Shane Jury 18.11.2016 4

The NES, or Nintendo Entertainment System, to give the machine its full title, was the hardware and software giant's first foray into the US and European gaming market. The Western version of the Japanese Famicom (or Family Computer), the NES was the console that revitalised the gaming industry after the crash of 1983, and went on to make Nintendo a household name, as well as kick off many third-party brands that persist today—Final Fantasy and Castlevania being notable mentions, as well as a vast number of Nintendo-owned properties.
Fans have seen rereleases of the NES library's heavy hitters many times over, be it through bonus inclusion on the GameCube version of Animal Crossing, a special line of ports on the Game Boy Advance, or passing over Wi-Fi with Virtual Console downloads, but not from dedicated hardware until now. How does this diminutive edition of the Nintendo Entertainment System operate in today's gaming ecosystem?
Image for Tech Up! Review | Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System

With the Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System (known in North America as the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition), Nintendo has clearly aimed to keep the spirit of the original machine intact. From the box that recalls the design and display of its bigger namesake, to the packaging that harkens back to many other fully-fledged console layouts, the NES Mini most importantly retains its key hardware design of grey and black, albeit in a far smaller form factor, as the edition name would suggest. Complete with a controller both visually and aesthetically identical to the classic NES pad, the machine looks the part. Light and elegant, the NES Mini is simple to fit in any entertainment centre, and even easier to move around when need be.
Packed with a basic instructional booklet, HDMI cable and USB cable, the system comes with everything essential to get started with, save one minor element. Whilst Nintendo has one-upped itself by actually including a method of powering the machine, unlike with the New Nintendo 3DS boxes, the USB cable is still missing the plug attachment needed to draw from. Not so much of an issue for homes already equipped with USB power ports in walls, or for buyers already with a spare USB plug attachment, but a notable omission nonetheless.

Image for Tech Up! Review | Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System
The NES Mini comes complete with 30 games built into the unit, accessible from a simple menu upon switching the machine on. Each game allows for four save states to be customised on this menu, as well as its own password or saving function, as the original release intended. A slight amount of input lag is present, but primarily due to the HDMI signal input and not due to the hardware and controller setup; the wired controller helps alleviate this. Nintendo's own line-up is as follows:
- Balloon Fight
- Dr. Mario
- Donkey Kong
- Donkey Kong Jr.
- Excitebike
- Kid Icarus
- Kirby's Adventure
- Ice Climber
- Mario Bros.
- Metroid
- Punch-Out!!
- Star Tropics
- Super Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros. 2
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- The Legend of Zelda
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
This selection covers a vast amount of the NES's heavy hitters and most of Nintendo's biggest franchises. Many have been seen multiple times in other rereleases, but have now debatably seen their best emulation standard as an official release.
Image for Tech Up! Review | Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System

Games from various third parties include:
- Bubble Bobble
- Castlevania
- Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
- Double Dragon II: The Revenge
- Final Fantasy
- Galaga
- Ghosts 'n Goblins
- Gradius
- Mega Man 2
- Ninja Gaiden
- Pac-Man
- Super C
- Tecmo Bowl
A good number of these games helped define the Nintendo Entertainment System and establish franchises of their own—Final Fantasy and Mega Man especially, and are thus excellent choices for the overall line-up. As with the Nintendo titles, the emulation quality for these games is excellent; all bells and whistles from the originals are kept intact, even the bordering and sound clipping in a few for that extra authentic feel.
The NES Mini offers up three ways to view the games, selectable through the game selection menu: the CRT Filter option replicates the faint scanlines that older television sets had, the 4:3 ratio picture slightly stretches the set image, and Pixel Perfect is as the developers intended.
As with recent Virtual Console releases, Nintendo has also graced Europeans with a full set of 60 Hz games, all equal to their American and Japanese counterparts, and no longer plagued with slowdown and horizontally-squashed screens. This, on top of the superior emulator quality over the Wii U equivalents, gives hope to the future Virtual Console on Switch.

Image for Tech Up! Review | Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System

The one major shortcoming of the NES Mini, and that is quite literal, is the length of the controller cable. Simply put, it is absolutely nowhere near long enough. For purchasers wanting to add the NES Mini to their entertainment centre, this becomes very difficult to do without having a TV display right in their face.
It could be argued that Nintendo wished to bring back the authenticity of sitting on the floor with the console nearby when playing games, and there is evidence for that by the Reset button on the machine, with this being the only way by default to exit to the game selection menu. Most will disagree on this and point to the original controller's long cable length seldom becoming a hindrance. Those seeking for a couch gaming experience with the NES Mini would be well advised to seek out extension cables to aid the only harsh negative in a great retro package from Nintendo—and hopefully the first of many more.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Pushing into a corner of the market that few believed it would ever tread, Nintendo has created one of the best packages for self-contained retro games seen yet. Small, sleek and elegant, the NES Mini provides both nostalgic bliss and exceptional emulation quality for a solid selection of gaming's forbearers. The lack of a plug attachment and comically short controller cable are the only issues that, with luck, the potential Super NES Mini won't repeat.

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You just can't win with Nintendo, can you? Just when they're onto something bloody brilliant, they throw in a few oddballs to mess with us.

Just what is it with Nintendo not including plugs in their hardware now? I had no idea that was the case when I got this, and was incredibly lucky I had bought my first smartphone earlier this year, so was able to use my charger plug to hook it up.

The other major issue is obviously the controller cord. It really does make it unplayable in most situations. I'm surprised Nintendo isn't offering its own official cord extensions or wireless controllers for it, it's that bad.

I am also weirded out that the system menu is mapped to the Reset button on the console itself. Quite why they did this and not add a simple home button to the controller is beyond me. Thankfully, if you're playing with a Wii Controller Pro, the home button on there brings up the system menu, so they clearly purposely mapped that in. No reason they couldn't do the same to a new button on the NES pad. Hide it on the shoulders or back of the controller if you're that worried about messing up the faithful design. Certainly a pain if using the NES pad and wanting to multi-save state often, having to reach for the console every time. Also, you need to unscrew the wrist strap thing on the Pro pad if you want to use it in slot 1 and another pad in slot 2. It blocks the slot 2 port, so you have to switch them otherwise.

Probably my other complaint, although less of an issue, is that the menu itself is a little confusing when it comes to the save states and what buttons you need to press. Countless times I ended up starting the game from scratch instead of resuming where I had paused at when jumping to the menu, and whilst I've now trained myself to work it properly now, I still don't think the whole thing is particular clear in its functionality. A little simplifying needed, or a way to prevent screwing up and starting from scratch before saving the state.

Other than these issues, it's a cracking little thing. Brilliant idea, and I have to wonder if Nintendo plans to do anything else with the hardware given that it uses USB and can apparently store data. I hear the machine's also been hacked in Japan, so whether that means homebrew or a way to add games, I don't know. Ignoring that, though, it's great, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't care far more for a SNES Mini. I just had to buy this, though, so I hope this is something Nintendo is able to continue doing with its retro consoles. Game Boy and N64 Mini, anyone?

I've got one but can't open it until xmas.

I love it but there's no reason why they couldn't have added a lot more games, or an online store to buy more. That's my big gripe with it.

( Edited 19.11.2016 09:13 by Trepe )

I found this quite interesting over on NeoGAF. I know the price is a factor, but it's still an impressive start:

Famitsu home console openings

1998.11.27 [Sega Dreamcast] (¥29.800) - 101.490 (3 days)
2000.03.04 [Sony PlayStation 2] (¥39.800) - 630.552 (2 days)
2001.09.14 [Nintendo GameCube] (¥25.000) - 133.719 (3 days)
2002.02.22 [Microsoft XBox] (¥34.800) - 123.929 (3 days)
2005.12.10 [Microsoft XBox 360] (¥29.000 / ¥39.795) - 62.135 (2 days)
2006.11.11 [Sony PlayStation 3] (¥49.980 / ¥59.980) - 88.443 (2 days)
2006.12.02 [Nintendo Wii] (¥25.000) - 371.936 (2 days)
2012.12.08 [Nintendo Wii U] (¥26.250 / ¥31.500) - 308.570 (2 days)
2014.02.22 [Sony PlayStation 4] (¥41.979 / ¥46.179) - 322,083 (2 days)
2016.11.10 [Famicom Mini] (¥5.980) - 262,961 (4 days)

( Edited 19.11.2016 23:35 by Adam Riley )

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Very cool numbers. Wonder what they've been like here. It has been difficult to get one tho, apparently. Some people started selling them into the hundreds of pounds on ebay etc.

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