There is little doubt that retro stuff makes money. And just like I promised back when I talked about the SNES Classic, I am tackling the NES Mini console today – the one that started it all somewhat. Sporting a solid collection of games and a form factor that copies the original design down to the smallest detail, the Nintendo Classic Mini is a compelling package… If you have never played the NES before or do not have access to working versions of the games it has on offer.
For those of us that are pretty hardcore, however, this mini system reveals all of the flaws of being the product that starts a trend, and that means that there are some design issues, as well as some complaints about the collection of games.
No panic, anyway: my NES Mini review is going to cover everything.
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Extension cables needed – and I really mean it
So, what is the design issue? Well, it does everything to mimic the original NES and it does a very good job of this. One area where it fails miserably, however, is in the ultra-short cords on the controllers. Unless you plan on playing this console a couple of feet away from the television screen, these controllers are almost unusable. It is a glaring issue, but there might be an explanation because, pour one out for your Japanese brethren, their Famicom Mini has it worse.
You see, the Famicom had controllers attached to the console in Nintendo’s design thus the mini-console, similarly, has the same fate.
The controller cords on the original Famicom were miserably short, and the cords on the Famicom Mini are the same. What I think we are seeing here is a simple input swap with the exteriors changing, but central components – like cords – remaining the same, thus the Western NES Mini is cursed with the same lame short as heck cords that you find on the Famicom Mini.
It is really frustrating but at least there is some kind of explanation, though I do wonder how much play testing went into this design – it is that limiting.
Some hits are AWOL – more history than quality
The second issue is the collection of games. Do not get me wrong, they are all worth it, but I cannot help but feeling like there should be more than 30. When you look at the new Sega Genesis Mini console with its slew of titles, the NES Mini looks really paltry in comparison.
All of the classics are here, but then there are some games no one really cares about. For example, most gamers that have some kind of nostalgia for the NES are not trying to play the arcade version of Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Jr., or Balloon Fight. These are interesting relics and historical titles, but they are not what people think of, when you say “NES.”
There is no Ducktales, no Milon’s Secret Castle, Solomon’s Key is on the Famicom Mini, and we get Doctor Mario instead of Tetris. Sure, Tetris has complex licensing, but anyone that knows video game history, knows how critical that title was for Nintendo in terms of the Game Boy and finally putting a nail in Atari’s coffin for publishing video games for the NES, without Nintendo’s approval. If you want meaningful video game history, a title like the NES version of Tetris would make more sense, than the Nintendo classics that have made appearances on other places.
Also, no Dragon Warrior here or Gunsmoke or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Blaster Master. You name it, it is probably not here, and that is unfortunate, because many of these titles are emulated or on sale somewhere else. A true collection of the best should limit itself to the best. There is way too much air in this bag of potato chips called the NES Mini, and it is heartbreaking.
Some flaws, but high sales – it’s Nintendo, baby…
Nonetheless, it is a total must-buy item for collectors and fans of Nintendo. That is probably the market Nintendo was originally targeting, because the company is not naive – they know people download ROMs and emulate their wares.
They were probably taken off guard by the huge reception for the product and rectified a lot of the NES Mini’s issues in the SNES remake. There is little doubt that the latter is superior to everything that came out before and after it.
I would personally rank the NES Classic under the C64 Mini and the SNES Mini, but that could change if the stellar reviews the Sega Genesis retro reload is receiving hold up over time. One opportunity that I think was lost (but not forever) is that the NES remake could have been a serious platform for downloading ROMs and classic titles from the NES library to it.
The limitations of the system that are imposed by its design are unfortunate but that does not mean that Nintendo could not release another collection of games for it – something I think they should do, and quick.
Using the SNES and NES Mini as platforms for access to cheap ROMs from yesterday has so much potential for gamers that do not want to play mobile titles and do not want to pay $60 for new stuff.
There just seems to be a glaring lost opportunity here, and it will be interesting to see how Nintendo handles future retro consoles such as the much-anticipated and expected Nintendo 64 Mini.
Final impressions – not perfect, but a good start
Overall, I am personally satisfied with the NES Classic Console, because it set a standard for other makers to follow. And most of them have, to a large extent. With a few other remakes coming, the future might look bright for us retro gamers!
So, what do you think, retro folks? Is the NES Mini worth it – or somewhat of a cash grab? Do you think we can credit the craze it started with the current crop of retro mini consoles we are seeing now? How do you think Nintendo could improve the NES Mini now or in the future? Do you think they will release an update for it with more games?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.
Until next retro review!