The NES Classic Edition (Or How Nintendo Got Its Groove Back)

In the grand scheme of console gaming, I'm a Nintendo guy through and through. I was lucky enough to grow up with the NES, Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64. I took a few years away from gaming before embarking on a furious search for the Wii back when it first launched. Beside the requisite Atari 2600 every indoor kid in the 80's owned, the only non-Nintendo console I've ever owned was a cheap, used Sega Saturn long after it was discontinued, but oddly I only used it as an audio CD player for my home theater setup.

I'm not a rabid gamer, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the 80's and 90's glory days of Nintendo. I still have my NES and SNES hooked up and ready to play, and have been searching for about a year now for my long-lost N64. (I know I could just go buy another one, but I'm holding out hope that my original launch-day hardware still exists somewhere.)

The thing I - and many other retro-Nintendo aficionados grapple with is the plateau of picture quality of yesteryear consoles and the ever-increasing resolution of today's high-definition TVs. The widening chasm between the two renders some pretty muddy images that can't hold a candle to playing Super Mario Bros. on the good old-fashioned 13" Sony Trinitron of my youth. I still hang onto this TV specifically because it's the screen on which I experienced most of the Atari and Nintendo games of my youth. There are upscaling HDMI third-party Nintendos out there, but to the tune of $600 or more. There are HDMI scaler devices, many designed specifically for old-school gamers like us.

But up until now, there hasn't been a standalone solution from Nintendo itself, short of downloading ports on the Wii. That is, until this week.

To say Nintendo is having a renaissance week is a bit of an understatement. After largely sitting out the mobile gaming movement, they roared into the space with the release of the insanely popular Pokemon GO app. It's a fun game and all, but I was never really actively gaming at the time of the Pokemon craze. My heart remained with Mario, Zelda, DuckTales and Rescue Rangers. So imagine my excitement this week when Nintendo - yes, honest to God Nintendo of America - announced that, just in time for Black Friday and the Christmas season, we're getting a brand new NES for a new generation.

Well, to say it's a new NES is overstating it a tad. What we're getting is the NES Classic Edition, a mini reproduction of the NES we all know and love (not the hideous top-loading redesign). It isn't a console really, but more of a toy, akin to all those cheap knock-off Atari and Sega Genesis models that come with a collection of games built-in. The "NES Mini" will come with a rather impressive roster of 30 classic 8-bit Nintendo games built-in, including Super Mario Bros 1-3, The Legend of Zelda I and II, and many others:

  • Balloon Fight™
  • BUBBLE BOBBLE
  • Castlevania™
  • Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest™
  • Donkey Kong™
  • Donkey Kong Jr. ™
  • DOUBLE DRAGON II: THE REVENGE
  • Dr. Mario™
  • Excitebike™
  • FINAL FANTASY®
  • Galaga™
  • GHOSTS’N GOBLINS®
  • GRADIUS™
  • Ice Climber™
  • Kid Icarus™
  • Kirby’s Adventure™
  • Mario Bros. ™
  • MEGA MAN® 2
  • Metroid™
  • NINJA GAIDEN
  • PAC-MAN™
  • Punch-Out!! ™ Featuring Mr. Dream
  • StarTropics™
  • 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™

There are a lot of glaring omissions there, but it is a pretty formidable collection of classics. Unfortunately, as it's only a toy and mini in size, it won't accept NES cartridges, but hey... that's what we still hang onto our original Nintendos for! It also connects to your modern TV with HDMI, so there's hope that the games we love will be scaled to look glorious in 1080p. It even comes bundled with an HDMI cable, something not all electronics do these days. Bonus!

There are a couple caveats, of course. Besides not taking NES cartridges, they also don't use the old controllers. It looks like the NES Mini will come with one in the box, but it has two ports on-board like the NES of old, so add-on controllers are a must. At least they're cheap - just $10. It's a standalone toy, so if it's successful (and why wouldn't it be), there will likely be multiple new Minis on the horizon with different collections of games. That's a lot of family room clutter. You might consider the MSRP of $60 a caveat, but hey... an HDMI capable genuine-article with 30 of the best Nintendo games built in is pretty much a no-brainer.

All I can say is, come November, shut up and take my money already.

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