Posted November 15, 2016 by Dawid Venter in Hardware Review

Review: Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System


I’m an 80s child. I grew up with He-Man and The Masters if the Universe, Knight Rider, Airwolf, Rambo, bad hair and worse fashion. It was an era that was going to shape the future for many industries, but there’s one particular console that became as iconic as the era itself – the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

If you were an 80s kid you owned one, or knew a friend or family member who owned one. We did perhaps not have the official NES here in South Africa, but our knockoff Golden Child Family Computer system did a great job to introduce us to Nintendo’s many classics. We’re now in a modern era where publishers are aware that nostalgia has become a big deal and with that Nintendo released the Nintendo Classic Mini Entertainment System. There’s only one question – does it live up to the legendary NES? There are one or two quibbles, but it’s mostly a resounding yes!

A retro console for the modern era


Wondering just how mini it is? Have a look at the above image for scale (yes, I know I’m comparing it to the biggest console on earth). There are many words that can describe it: cute, adorable, microscopic and Mini-me comes to mind. It really is a tiny little piece of plastic, but the overall build feels solid. On it you’ll find the two controller ports, the on/off switch, reset button, HDMI port and USB port. You see, this little piece of history is powered via a USB cable, which means you can plug it into any other hardware that supplies power via its USB ports. I plugged it into the back of my Wii and it worked like a charm. The other important bit comes in the form of the HDMI port.

You won’t find any traditional red, yellow and white AV ports on the back, neither is there an RF cable port. It’s strictly designed for modern-day televisions and won’t work on old CRT TVs at all. That’s because this little guy has a trick or two up its sleeve. Once powered up it’ll pop right into the menu where you have access to 30 classic NES games, but before jumping into any game you might want to tamper with the visual settings. You have three screen modes to choose from in the form of the default 4:3 (which I believe is the best), Pixel Perfect that makes each and every pixel stand out more so than the default mode and the CRT filter. The CRT filter is fun to play around with as they’ve done a fantastic job of bringing that oldschool tube TV look to life on your pretty HDTV. I’ve seen filters like these being used for emulation of older games on PC, but I believe that this filter is the best one I’ve yet encountered. Once you’ve decided on the style it’s off to the games!

Now you’re playing with power. Mini power

It should be said that navigating the menu is a breeze and without any slow-down issues of any kind (in case you’re not aware, this little unit is more powerful than the 3DS, so it’s flexing its muscles with ease). The only real problem you’re posed with is what to start with first. Here is the list of games you’ll get to play:

  • 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

Of the lot I loved Super Mario Bros. (duh), Super Mario Bros. 3 (One of the best games on this planet to this day), Double Dragon 2, Megaman 2, Excitebike, Ninja Gaiden and Super Contra. Something that blew my hair back was the fact that the games look much sharper and crisper than those you’d play on your Wii or Wii U. I also found that I barely experienced any flicker (when some images randomly appear or disappear at a rapid rate). Games like Double Dragon 2 and Ninja Gaiden did have some flicker, but nowhere near as much as it usually would. Yes, these games are all still as difficult as you remember them, but there is a saving feature that’ll aid you in this modern age where we’re too lazy to start from the beginning whenever we switch our console on. Once you press the reset button your game will create a restore point. It’s up to you whether you’d like to save the restore point, but you have four slots available per game. It’s very handy and allows up to four members in a family to own their own save slot. It’s a neat feature that will definitely assist gamers of various skill levels. To do all these weird and wonderful things you need a controller.

The controller that comes bundled with it is an exact replica of the NES controller in the 80s. There’s nothing that’s changed and oldschool gamers will feel right at home as the B and A buttons, along with Start and Select buttons, are positioned exactly as you might recall. There is however one major flaw, and this could be a bit of a deal breaker for those interested – the cord of the NES controller is at most a meter long. You are not going to comfortably play it in your lounge, unless you’re sitting on the floor. Also, because the console is so small and so light you’ll find that you often move it by accident when even slightly pulling on the controller cord. It’s a massive oversight. It’ll work just fine in Jimmy’s bedroom where he’s right up against his TV, but when the family gets together in the lounge you can forget it. Hopefully they’ll fix this for the SNES Classic Mini…

More tricks up its sleeve


This new NES controller is definitely not just a one trick Pony. The adapter at the end of the controller that plugs into the port is the exact same one that plugs into the back of the Wii Remote. Unfortunately you can’t sync the Wii Remote with the NES Classic Mini (to solve that one meter cable issue), but if you’ve downloaded any NES games from the Wii or Wii U Virtual Console you can now play those NES games using the official controller. It’s a clever little trick and shows you that Nintendo really put good thought into it all. When it’s hooked up to the back of a Wii remote the cord length does not matter, and in this case it works perfectly.

The NES Classic Mini is a deserved blast from the past. Not only did the NES save the video game crash in 1983, but it paved the way forward for games we play today. If you played and enjoyed the NES as a child I highly recommend you pick this up, just be aware of that very short controller cable and get ready to sit with your legs crossed in front of your TV on the carpet like you did when you were a kid.

Note: We generally don’t score consoles, but if I were to give it a score it would get a solid 8.5/10.


Dawid Venter

Married to a gamer wife who kicks my ass at most shooters. If it's got analogue thingies, with buttons that's connected to a big box I'll play it no matter the format.