When Nintendo announced it was making a plug and play version of its classic NES console to sell in time for Christmas, it was so obvious it would be a home run for the company that even Nintendo's legion of detractors couldn't fault the concept.
Sold with 30 built-in games – including classics such as Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Galaga, Metroid and more (listed at the bottom of this article) – and costing just £50, it's a must have for gamers looking to brush up on their history, as well as those looking for a little nostalgia.
The device itself is adorably twee and weighs less than the average PS4 or Xbox One controller, let alone the modern consoles themselves. The device could have been smaller still, because clearly it doesn't take much to run these games, but the look of console forms part of the appeal.
There are just two buttons – 'Power' and 'Reset' – and four ports: HDMI to connect to a television, a micro USB port for power and two controller ports utilising the same connector as the nunchuck portion of the old Wii controllers.
This is to allow their use with the Wii U for playing NES titles on the Virtual Console. The device comes with one controller, with additional controllers available separately.
The controller itself is identical in size and shape to the original, but its cable is much, much shorter: roughly 78cm to the original's 232cm. Regardless of whether this was a choice born out of cost-cutting or some quaint desire to have players sitting on the floor in front of their televisions like the good old days, it was a bad and quite bizarre decision for Nintendo to make.
To remedy this, the only options are to spend more money on extender cables or a longer HDMI cable.
Once set-up, the home screen shows each of the available games as well device options and even the old school manuals. There are display options too. Games default to 4:3 but players also have the option for a more compact, but 'pixel perfect' mode, or to play games through an artificially old school CRT filter.
In action, these classic games are emulated to a much more satisfying degree than anything available through the Wii U Virtual Console. Colours are sharper, the image clearer and the overall effect more pleasing. There are still a handful of small glitches in the visuals however; for example the far right of the screen flickering during Super Mario Bros 3.
A common complaint has been that the NES Classic will not allow for an expanded library as it does not connect to the internet in any way. For the sake of simplicity and keeping the cost down, I understand why Nintendo would do this, but such connectivity would have made the NES Classic a much more modern piece of hardware.
What Nintendo could have done was increase the number of games on the machine, and make the NES Classic more of a complete greatest hits package. Though there are many all-time favourites on the machine, and rights issues will have prevented the use of some (Rare titles for example) it would have been nice to see the like of Contra, Mega Man 3, Earthbound Beginnings, Bionic Commando, DuckTales, Rampage, River City Ransom or Maniac Mansion. The collection it has though is mighty fine, and covers a lot of bases.
If Nintendo had left the games exactly as they were, that would rub up against certain modern expectations of videos games in some irritating ways. While some of this is inherent in the designs of these games, NES Classic kindly adds a rudimentary save system. Whenever you press the reset button to pop back into the menu, the system suspends the game until such a time as you return to it or start another game. Users are able to save up to four of these suspended states per game.
A simple and well-made plug and play device that just makes sense. For Nintendo, it's an excellent Christmas time product that's bound to sell well; for players, its a slice of 8-bit history bathed in nostalgia. Nintendo has produced quality emulations of a host of classics, but giving the controllers such ridiculously short cables was undoubtedly a mistake.
Now, please make one for the Super Nintendo.