Nintendo’s got a gift for repurposing. In the 30+ years since it was first released, the NES and its beloved range of intellectual properties have been repackaged in just about every way imaginable – and heck, even that system’s most beloved protagonist was on-loan from a platformer about a giant ape with a princess-stealing problem.
Mind, none of this is a criticism, really. The gaming company is exceptionally good at reinventing old goods. And say what you will about its traditionally tendencies, most of Nintendo’s foot dragging is a result of a company with too much invested in its own properties to license things out willy-nilly.
Pokemon Go is the ideal example. After years of calls from fans and board members alike to embrace the mobile platform, Nintendo finally went all in. The game succeeded in part because it wasn’t a simple port – it was a popular property tailored to the technological possibilities of its platform.
But the fact of the matter is that demand is still strong for those 30-year-old games. There’s a reason they do so well as downloads for systems like the Wii and Wii U. Nintendo’s devotion to gameplay is precisely why we likely won’t ever see them as straight ports for mobile devices while the company is still kicking – most just don’t work all that will with mobile hardware restraints.
Look at the NES Classic Edition as something of a compromise. Granted, it doesn’t afford the same portability as an iOS version of Super Mario 3, but it offers up a lot that mobile games don’t. Chief among them is presenting the games the way they were meant to be played, complete with a replica of the original NES controllers they were designed for.
The other immediate benefit is the sheer number of titles the system ships with – 30 in all, and these aren’t just crappy third-tier games. You get all three Super Mario Bros. titles (plus original), Castlevania, Punch-Out, Final Fantasy, both Legends of Zelda.
There are a few weird choices – like the fact that only the second Mega Man is pre-loaded and that it has Super C but not original Contra. But still, if you owned the NES the first time around, there’s almost certainly something here for you.
And the titles play great. The controller feels like the original – not like those cheap plastic joysticks with preloaded Atari games that were all the rage a few years back. Within a few minutes, all of those wasted hours spent inside on sunny afternoons after school suddenly come flooding back like muscle memory.
The nostalgia factor is sped along by the fact that the system itself looks like a pint-sized version of the old NES, not all that much larger than the controller itself, complete with functioning Power and Reset buttons. There’s even a spot for the cartridge loader, though that doesn’t actually pop up.
The software is built around a menu system that lets you scroll through the 30 different titles. Once you’ve started playing, you can save the game anywhere and can associate multiple accounts/save points with a single title, so up to four people can play concurrent games. The saved games can also be locked, so the kids can’t play over or erase your progress.
That’s really the sum total of the innovation here, and Nintendo’s not saying whether it will allow for additional games after purchase, which would be a big plus for those looking for those with a hankering for A Boy and His Blob or additional Mega Men. As it stands though, $60 seems like a pretty solid deal for a system with 30 games.
The additional controller will cost extra, and from the looks of it, the system isn’t compatible with any old one you might have lying around. Of course, the original NES has the benefit of being cheap and plentiful second hand, along with offering a broader range of titles – all worth factoring into the equation.
If you’ve got one lying around the house, just plug the thing in. But if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to relive the glory days of your parents’ wood paneled basement (or to expose a new generation to the feeling), the NES Classic is a quick and relatively inexpensive way in. It ships just in time for the holidays on November 11.