Ever since the Nintendo Classic Mini: NES (or NES Mini) was announced, websites and magazines (including ourselves) have been making quite a big deal about it. Well Nintendo’s new miniature marvel is finally with us and the device is every bit as good as we were hoping it would be.
Let get the bad news out of the way first, though. The NES Mini will not play your old NES cartridges, nor will it link up to your Nintendo account to allow you to download NES games you may have already purchased. It also doesn’t come with an SD Card slot, so you’re not going to be able to simply download a load of games off the Internet and load them onto the device for free. Oh, and despite only using it for a couple of days, one of the Start buttons is already sticking slightly if you press the right side of it. You can’t lift the flap on the front of the console either, which makes us rather sad. The length of the leads for both the pads and those that connect to the device are a little on the short side too, meaning care needs to be taken with regards to the positioning of your new toy. While that seems like a rather large list, the positives of the NES Mini far outweigh its few minus points.
From the moment you see the authentic looking packaging, it’s obvious that Nintendo has put an incredible amount of effort into hitting every gamers’ nostalgia gland. It’s styled on the original box that was used to launch the NES 30 years ago and it looks as eye-catching now as it did then. The device itself is incredibly light and looks absolutely fantastic, effortlessly capturing the distinctive design of the original 30-year-old console. The pads on the other hand are virtually identical to the original NES ones and make a lovely ‘clicky’ sound when you press them. Yes, it’s still not very comfortable to hold for extended periods (just like the originals in fact) but you can get around this by adding a Wii Classic Controller.
There are three distinct display settings, delivering a 4:3 setting, a super-sharp ‘Pixel Perfect’ alternative, as well as a suitably fuzzy CRT offering, all of which can be activated at any time by simply pressing the reset switch. The device itself is powered by USB, and it comes with a suitable power lead as well as a HDMI cable. Annoyingly, selecting the Manual options directs you to Nintendo’s online website, which is a little bit of a drag. The options are otherwise slight, being fairly basic offerings like being able to turn off the cute demo that plays when the device isn’t being used.
The games themselves can be navigated through a variety of ways, including Title, Two Player, Recently Played, Times Played, Release Date and Publisher. The emulation itself is excellent and while it would have been nice to have an option to turn off the flicker (which varies in intensity depending on the game) it’s never a deal breaker. The list of included games has been well covered since the machine’s release, and it’s quite frankly excellent. There are some odd choices on offer, sure, but the sheer diversity of included titles is impressive. Every type of genre seems to be catered for, from platformers and RPGS, to sports games and arcade conversions, while the range of different publishers, including Konami, Capcom and Square Enix that Nintendo has assembled should also be commended.
Playing games couldn’t be easier. Simply select the one you want and away you go. Games can be paused in the conventional way, or you can simply press the Reset button on the front of the system to access options, like changing the screen display. Pressing the Reset button also brings up a save option that can be stored in memory by simply pressing Down on the D-pad. Up to four different saves can be stored for each game, and a handy set of circles show which game has save files in place as you scroll through them the available list of titles. It’s an incredibly useful feature, particularly for the likes of Final Fantasy, StarTropics, Metroid and The Legend Of Zelda.
30 games represents amazing value for money and while it’s disappointing that there’s no way to add additional titles, it’s hardly surprising when you consider Nintendo’s stance on both piracy and how it approaches digital. Considering it would cost over £350 to buy cartridge versions of the featured games, or over £100 for their Virtual Console equivalents, Nintendo’s new system feels like it’s well worth the cash.
While it’s a real shame that there’s no ability to download Virtual Console games onto the device, the NES Mini otherwise does exactly what it’s supposed to do – deliver a nostalgic hit of truly great games at a very reasonable price point. Here’s hoping that the device does well enough for Nintendo to consider creating a SNES fellow-up in the future.
In A Nutshell
Sturdily made, and with a host of fantastic games, the NES Mini is everything we want from a plug and play device. Some will bemoan the lack of SD Card support, but there’s no denying that Nintendo’s new system represents amazing value for money.
Still need convincing? Here’s a look back at Darran’s visit to Nintendo’s UK headquarters where he playtests the device for the first time.