Minines

The NES Classic Mini has finally arrived, bringing nostalgia and retro gaming back into vogue. They are instantly so popular as to become impossible to get a hold of, but should you be paying whatever the insane prices online are asking? Is the NES Classic Mini worth your time and money?

Design

NES mini

When they called this the NES Mini, they really meant it. I still can’t get over just how small it is. The mini console is about the size of a PS4 or Xbox One controller. It features some excellent build quality, too, with a look and feel that is reminiscent of the original NES. The paint job is spot on and with the exception of the cartridge reader and moveable lid, it looks exactly like a miniaturized NES console. For many of you here in South Africa, this thing is alien to you. Instead you likely used a Famicom, or pirated version of it. Yes, there’s a mini one of those too. 

The buttons have retained that satisfying click, and the plugs are all crisp and tight. The console uses an HDMI output and mini-USB power supply.

The controller feels exactly like the original Nintendo controller, with all the faults of that original design. Be prepared to combat a short cable and the stabbing corners in the palms of your hands. Still, it feels the way the games were originally, so for the diehard retro gamer it’s probably for the best. If you don’t like the original NES controllers, or you need a second controller for two player gaming and you didn’t buy a second NES Classic Mini one, you can also use the Wii Pro/Classic controller if you prefer, although the short cable is still an issue.

Set up

NES mini plugs

Setting up the NES Classic Mini is absurdly easy, reminding me of the original days of console game. It is literally plug and play – plug the supplied HDMI cable into your TV, and use the supplied USB cable to plug into the power point (you will need your own USB to power point adapter – or power it through your TV if it has USB ports). Plug in the controller and press the power button at the front of the console. Yes, that is really it.

You may, however, need to rearrange your TV cabinet and couch. The supplied cables are really rather short, an issue that is compounded by the absurdly short controller cable. I had to rest the NES Classic Mini on my coffee table (which I moved closer to the TV cabinet than normal) so that I could still play despite the controller cable being less than a meter long – I ended up even moving my couch to try and accommodate the short distances. With the lack of direct power adapter and the short cables, I’m inclined to think this device is actually intended to sit on a person’s desk, making use of a PC setup rather than gaming in the living room.

Interface

NES mini UI

Once you hit that power button, the whole thing becomes very interesting. All 30 games are displayed, but the actual interface is hilariously 8-bit. If you leave the console to idle, Mario will come on screen and select various games at random to show off in attract mode, as well as showcase the different display options.

The NES Classic Mini can be used in standard 4:3, which will probably look right if you played the games on old TVs back in the 80s and 90s. There is even a CRT filter that injects scanlines that you can use if you really want the games to look how you remember them, although the filter actually gave me a headache in record time. Alternatively, you can opt for the pixel perfect version, which uses the original output of the games without stretching them to the 4:3 that was the norm in the era. This may mess with your usual jumps and timing, though, as the levels will be a slightly different size to what you’re used to.

Emulation

NES mini Megaman 2

In actual fact, you might find the games in general are slightly different to what you remember. While I’m incredibly grateful to play the games with an HDMI cable instead of needing various converters and adapters as would be required with the original console, the graphics haven’t received any upgrades. Some games are more vibrant, crisp and colorful than others. I was a bit surprised to see that some games weren’t quite as bright and colorful as I remembered them.

The controls are also exactly as they were. Gaming was hard back in the NES era, and the controls could be a part of that. That said, I did seem to be faced with some extra difficulties – I’m not sure if it’s the approximately 50ms input lag on my modern TV, or a slightly different frame rate from the original games, but my timing and control abilities were off. I couldn’t pull off the same manoeuvres that were still muscle memories from the original games, and I often got frustrated when characters seemed to move after I tried to stop, or didn’t quite land the jumps they should have.

Still, the emulation quality is top-notch, with each game faithfully represented. It is worth nothing that there can be some image corruption at the screen edges, especially if you run the screen backwards and forwards. However, this is something that happened in the original games as well, and it usually only lasts for about a second before returning to normal.

It’s great to see 30 classic games so excellently recreated on the mini NES, although it does feel surprising that there is no cartridge reading or online capability of the console to allow for more games to be added over time. It’s worth nothing that gaming has changed a lot since then, though. The games on the NES Classic Mini are a lot more difficult to what we’re used to playing now. I was so happy to play Metroid, Mega Man 2 and even the original Zelda games again, but they are a lot harder than you might remember. It’s a fun challenge, but be prepared for some serious frustration, too. Also, while it is a wide range of titles, and some must play games for people who may have missed out on the original NES, the selection doesn’t quite cater to all types of gamers – I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw future classic mini consoles released with more genre specific libraries.

As a reminder, here’s the list of games:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Bubble Bobble
  • Castlevania
  • Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
  • Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Double Dragon II: The Revenge
  • Dr. Mario
  • Excitebike
  • Final Fantasy
  • Galaga
  • Ghosts’n Goblins
  • Gradius
  • Ice Climber
  • Kid Icarus
  • Kirby’s Adventure
  • Mario Bros.
  • Mega Man 2
  • Metroid
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Pac-Man
  • Punch-Out! Featuring Mr. Dream
  • StarTropics
  • Super C
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Tecmo Bowl
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Additional functionality

Nes mini extra

Unlike the original games, the NES Classic Mini allows you to suspend gameplay. Unlike the old days when a phone call, family dinner or other immediate obligation meant losing your progress, you can now suspend your gameplay at any time. In fact, there are four slots per game where players can save their suspended games. Never again will you need to restart your entire Metroid play through just because you had to go do something else.

That said, you can’t suspend the gameplay from the controller. Instead, players need to push the Reset button on the actual game console. It’s not that far of a reach thanks to the ridiculously short controller cable, but it can feel counter-intuitive to a modern gamer not to be able to use buttons on the controller to access the console’s UI. Additionally, the saving and loading system is a bit clunky and can lead to saving or loading by accident thanks to some weird D-pad mapping.

Last Updated: November 15, 2016

NES Classic Mini
The nostalgia and high-quality emulation make this an easy-to-recommend purchase for anyone who cares about retro gaming. However, a few design and implementation issues prevent this from being a truly must-own item for all gamers.
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56 Comments

  1. Alien Emperor Trevor

    November 15, 2016 at 13:02

    Is D also going to review this? Because he always tells us the important info, like how many kit-kats fit inside it.

    Reply

    • Andre Fourie

      November 15, 2016 at 13:22

      XD ROFL

      Reply

    • Lord Chaos

      November 15, 2016 at 13:22

      I do so hope he doesn’t use actual cats this time.

      Reply

    • The D

      November 15, 2016 at 14:45

      Two bars, but they might melt on the internal circuits when they overheat. <3

      Reply

  2. Ottokie

    November 15, 2016 at 13:06

    What do kidneys go for these days?

    Reply

    • DragonSpirit009

      November 15, 2016 at 13:08

      Depends… Have you abused them a lot?

      Reply

      • Ottokie

        November 15, 2016 at 13:09

        …no

        Reply

        • DragonSpirit009

          November 15, 2016 at 13:09

          That’s not a convincing no.

          Reply

          • Ottokie

            November 15, 2016 at 13:13

            It comes with built in tequila resistance

          • DragonSpirit009

            November 15, 2016 at 13:14

            I thought it was beer!

          • Ottokie

            November 15, 2016 at 13:16

            the 13 bathroom breaks to 6 beers ratio states that is untrue.

          • DragonSpirit009

            November 15, 2016 at 13:17

            You did an experiment!? XD

          • Ottokie

            November 15, 2016 at 13:18

            Frequently

          • DragonSpirit009

            November 15, 2016 at 13:19

            Well that is disturbing

          • Original Heretic

            November 15, 2016 at 13:21

            He’s just getting down with the sickness, it’s all good.

          • Dresden

            November 15, 2016 at 23:04

            Mandatory Disturbed upvote!

          • Andre Fourie

            November 15, 2016 at 13:24

            Beer=Bathroom=Lots & Lots

  3. Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

    November 15, 2016 at 13:09

    Needsitmyprecious!

    Reply

  4. Lu

    November 15, 2016 at 13:10

    But is it VR ready?

    Reply

  5. Lord Chaos

    November 15, 2016 at 13:10

    It has Castlevania?!?!?!

    *Goes looking for one

    Reply

  6. AfricanTime

    November 15, 2016 at 13:12

    Exicite bike FTW

    If you cant put your own cartridges in, then whats the point.

    No contra ; (

    Reply

    • Raptor Rants

      November 15, 2016 at 13:13

      Yeah no Contra sucks

      Reply

      • Lord Chaos

        November 15, 2016 at 13:18

        *Sends retort

        Reply

      • Admiral Chief Argonian

        November 15, 2016 at 13:22

        Ek hoop jy kom 7de vir 7 jaar

        Reply

        • Ottokie

          November 15, 2016 at 13:23

          Is this the part where people say “comma matters”?

          Reply

        • Lord Chaos

          November 15, 2016 at 13:24

          Seconds. Motion passes.

          Reply

        • Raptor Rants

          November 15, 2016 at 13:32

          what??? WHY? I meant as in yeah it sucks there is no contra!?

          Reply

          • Lord Chaos

            November 15, 2016 at 13:35

            See Ottokie’s comment… Too late for you now. 😛

          • Raptor Rants

            November 15, 2016 at 13:42

            nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

          • Lord Chaos

            November 15, 2016 at 13:44

            That’s a lot of o’s. Did you steal Geoff’s 0’s and shrink them?

          • Admiral Chief Argonian

            November 15, 2016 at 13:47

            Commas, they save lives

    • Geoffrey Tim

      November 15, 2016 at 13:16

      It has Super C…which isnt as cool, but it is Contra

      Reply

    • Admiral Chief Argonian

      November 15, 2016 at 13:23

      <3 me some Excitebike

      Reply

  7. Original Heretic

    November 15, 2016 at 13:27

    Are the various cheats for the games still in effect?

    Reply

    • Andre Fourie

      November 15, 2016 at 13:29

      o_O

      Reply

      • Original Heretic

        November 15, 2016 at 13:30

        What? I’m curious to know how faithfully there were recreated.

        Reply

        • Ottokie

          November 15, 2016 at 13:31

          They are all still there. And the glitches 🙂

          Reply

          • Original Heretic

            November 15, 2016 at 13:34

            Some of those glitches became cheats when used properly!

          • Ottokie

            November 15, 2016 at 13:35

            And thus a sport bigger than eSports was born. Speedrunning!

          • Original Heretic

            November 15, 2016 at 13:36

            Yeah jeez, I’ve watched the Mario 1 speedrun world record. Damn, that’s some hectic timing involved there.

          • Lord Chaos

            November 15, 2016 at 13:37

            Saw a guy(human, not assuming gender) finish the first Diablo in 3 minutes and 12 seconds.

          • Original Heretic

            November 15, 2016 at 13:39

            It was a guy, guaranteed. Assume that gender, assume it hard!

          • Ottokie

            November 15, 2016 at 13:37

            Beginning of January around the 10th is AGDQ. biggest speedrunning event of the year. 7 days long. Retro and new games being run.

          • Original Heretic

            November 15, 2016 at 13:41

            And here I am, one of those guys who like to take his time and enjoy games. The only time I like speed in a game is when I play Forza.

            Well, used to play Forza… 🙁

    • Geoffrey Tim

      November 15, 2016 at 15:07

      It’s 100 emulation – so every glitch, cheat and error is still there.

      Reply

  8. Andre Fourie

    November 15, 2016 at 13:31

    What do they go for?

    Reply

    • Original Heretic

      November 15, 2016 at 13:32

      About R1 000 through legit sources. Avoid the scalpers, they’re selling for up to 10 times more.

      Reply

    • Spathi

      November 15, 2016 at 13:33

      The eyes Boo, they always go for the eyes!

      Reply

      • Original Heretic

        November 15, 2016 at 13:34

        “Adventure, camaraderie, and steeeel on steel. The stuff of legends, right BOO?”

        Reply

    • Lord Chaos

      November 15, 2016 at 13:34

      Just over R1000 on takealot, meaning that once they get stock again I can get it with ebucks.

      Reply

  9. chimera_85

    November 17, 2016 at 10:29

    Haha no thanks.

    Reply

  10. MakeItLegal

    November 17, 2016 at 11:44

    why would you waste your money…. my shitty view…

    Reply

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