I was nine years old when my neighbors got a Nintendo Family Computer, and it seemed like it was nothing short of a miracle for my young mind. I began hanging around their house whenever they play so I could get a turn.

Months later, my parents—as a reward for my good grades—managed to save up and get me my own FamiCom (one of the many fake FamiCom variants—we really didn’t have a lot of money to spare). I only had two games: Pacman and Pipeline (the original Mario Bros game). As you could imagine, that got old real quick so I learned to save my allowance to rent games and to clamp down my shyness and borrow from any kid that had a FamiCom. I did what I had to.

So you could imagine my excitement when Nintendo announced last July that it will release the mini NES Classic Edition. Together with the all the geeks of the world, I went bazonkers. This is it, I said. NOW I have money. NOW I can have access to the old games I loved. And after scouring dozens of stores, I finally got one. Here are my impressions on the mini NES:

The good: Pretty little thing. Adorable. Charming. Maybe even endearing. The mini NES looks so darn cute, you can’t help but smile the moment you pull it out of the box. It’s surprisingly tiny—even though you already know it has a “mini” tacked on its name. Fortunately, the controller that comes with the console isn’t miniaturized, and feels solid enough for some serious gameplay.

The awesome: Genuine nostalgia fount. It’s like going back in time. Even though the console has an HDMI output, the games in the mini NES retain their old-school charm (even simulating the CRT lines). I plugged it to a 4K TV and laughed when the games only occupied a square on my screen. The only concession to modernization is the new save feature—something that the old system didn’t have. It’s a good thing too, because NES games were notoriously brutal, and losing your hard-earned progress just because you need to leave the house can be utterly frustrating.

The reason why we’re here: The games. As cute as the mini NES looks, it’s the games that we came for. The mini NES carries 30 “classic” games, including famous titles such as Super Mario 1, 2, and 3, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Metroid, Galaga, and Punch-Out!! It’s like playing with an old friend—a friend you know all too well and shared many wonderful memories with.

The bad: Controller shortage. The mini NES ships with only one controller. This is a problem because some of its games feature two-player capability (the Mario games, for example, are two-player). But what’s worse is the incomprehensibly short cable of the controller: it’s only 1/3 of the original length of the NES controller, and this shortness will force gamers to sit closer to their TVs. If your TV is wall-mounted or a bit large (like with most people nowadays), you’ll have a problem. As such, it’s hard to consider the mini NES as a living room console.

The really bad: Manufactured scarcity. Everyone knew the mini NES would be a hit. With its low price point and nostalgia factor, it was going to be “The It-Gift” of Christmas 2016. At least, it would have been if not for the baffling lack of stocks everywhere. Nintendo has been accused of purposely generating this scarcity to create the illusion of high demand and perhaps even gain additional publicity. Both were unnecessary since the console was wanted by a lot of people anyway.

The inexplicable: Locked at 30. The mini NES comes with 30 pre-loaded games… and nothing else. There’s no way to use your old cartridges, or even better—buy digital games online. If Nintendo just loaded its NES library in an online store (nothing fancy—just a convenient way to buy NES games), this would have been a long-term console. As such, the extremely limited library makes you feel like you’re playing on borrowed time.

VERDICT

The Nintendo NES Classic Edition is fun—there’s no argument about that. But it’s not what it was meant to be, which is a game console you could enjoy in your living room with friends. However, with its low price tag, it’s still a reasonable purchase and I’d recommend getting one if you’re lucky enough to find an available unit.

Specifications  
Developer Nintendo
Type Video game console
Controller 2 controller ports; comes with 1 NES Classic Controller; compatible with Classic Controller Pro
Accessories HDMI cable, AC adapter
Other Features Comes pre-loaded with 30 games
Price US$59.99 (approx. P3,000)

 

Test: Nintendo NES Classic Edition
Form Factor7.5
Ease of Use8
Enjoyability8.5
Performance7
Value for Money8.9
8Overall Score