Nintendo Classic Mini review: Freeze-frame of a golden era
TWO videogame consoles hit the shelves last week but only one of them sold out in double-quick time.
Was it because the €65 Nintendo Classic Mini costs one-sixth of the price of the PlayStation 4 Pro? Or was it because the 30 pixellated games bundled inside the Classic Mini outclass the 40-ish titles upgraded to shiny 4K (ish) for PS4 Pro? Or was it just that Nintendo’s particularly rubbish at forecasting stock levels?
Whichever you pick, you can’t ignore the value proposition with the Classic Mini, a re-recreation of the 1983 console that still brings a nostalgic tear to many an old gamer’s eye. The Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES) launched 33 years ago in Japan (and three years later in Europe) and resuscitated the dormant game console market. It hosted some of the most endured gaming franchises of all time, many of which remain household names, including Super Mario Bros, Zelda and Final Fantasy.
Three decades later, Nintendo has reincarnated the NES in a scale model of its original casing, a dinky little machine that fits in the palm of the hand. If you were to sneak a peek inside the Classic Mini (which isn't easy), you’d clock that the hardware now consists of just a small circuit board.
More importantly, it connects to your big fancy high-def TV via HDMI and, most crucial of all, this mini-powerhouse houses 30 titles, some of which count as the best games ever created.
It’s essential to stop here and point out that, for a child of the 21st century, the Nintendo Classic Mini’s games will appear crude, shallow and remarkably difficult. Even nostalgia can gloss over only so much of the shortfall our modern expectations will generate.
Compared to the sophistication of PS4 Pro, the graphics may appear laughable, the AI dumb, the audio coarse.
But beneath the surface in many cases remains immensely playable versions of influential characters and genres. Nintendo had the good sense to ease the pain of scorchingly tough difficulty level by permitting instant save points for every game.
Nintendo had much less sense when creating the controller, which is an exact replica of the original gamepad save for the fact the cable is woefully short. So either you drag the little console half-way across the floor to your couch or you sit hunched a few inches from the TV. Neither makes much sense, so you’ll most likely have to seek out an extender cable from unofficial sources off the internet.
Almost equal annoyance stems from Nintendo’s continuation of the 3DS policy of not including a power plug – here’s hoping you have a USB-enabled plug somewhere in your house.
Despite these missteps, Nintendo has crafted a winner just in time for Christmas. The bundled titles range from the stone-cold classics - such as Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros (1, 2 & 3), Castlevania and Gradius – to lesser lights such as Kid Icarus and Super C.
This is a freeze-frame of a golden era – no other games can be downloaded. But at the price (an optional extra controller costing €10 opens up two-player gaming), the Nintendo Classic Mini deserves to be a massive hit.
Good luck finding one in the shops . . . but in the meantime here's the full list of the bundled delights:
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 Ghoblins, 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 and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.