NES Classic Review

I received an NES Classic for Christmas from my wife and son, and I must say I really enjoy it. I do have a few questions, but first the product. The Classic is great. It does what it says on the tin: 30 classic games with near perfect emulation. So perfect that people have already hacked it to upload new ROM images for games through the USB port. At first I thought the CRT mode was a novelty, but it really does make the games feel more like how I remembered them as a child.  When I switch back to 'perfect' mode, the graphic feel too blocky.  Yes, the controller cord is way too short, but it's really a lot of fun for 60$, assuming you enjoyed playing those old games and can actually find one. I was super lucky that my wife's friend stood in line at ToysRUs for hours to get a Hatchimal, and picked up an NES for my wife to give me for christmas.

The games

I've really enjoyed playing the games again. Dr. Mario is still as addictive as a I remember, though my reflexes aren't what they used to be. I did finally beat the game on medium speed. Zelda and the Mario games are still awesome too, though I notice they aren't as pretty as I remembered them being. I suspect the color range of modern game consoles have spoiled my eyes.  Still fun to play, though.  Sadly my five year old has zero interest. He does say he wants to play Minecraft, though. So fingers crossed.

I finally beat Zelda again last night. I decided to use an online walkthrough listing locations of heart containers since I don't remember where they are anymore. It has been a few decades, after all. Next up is Mario 3 and I then I think I'll explore Startropics. I don't remember playing it as a kid. 

The selection of 30 games is pretty comprehensive. Most of the essentials are there; even MegaMan 2.  I would have liked Tetris as well, but I suspect that would cost a lot to license. At least Konami and Capcom put their best games in. A few choices are odd, though. Why Super C instead of Contra? And why no racing games? I think Nintendo owns Rad Racer. Still, for 60$ it's a steal. Which gets to my real question. Why did Nintendo make this?

Why did Nintendo Make the Classic?

Historically Nintendo makes only a tiny profit on the consoles. Most of their money comes from selling you more games, but NES Classic can't download anything new.  I suppose it could just be a money grab, but at $60 retail Nintendo isn't making much money. I suppose it doesn't *cost* them much either since the game development is a sunk cost, but still...  big companies don't generally do things that don't make a big difference to revenue.  So why did they make it?

(warning. personal speculation ahead. salt accordingly)

I think Nintendo has two problems to solve.  First, the Wii U wasn't a big seller and had few third party games. Combined with the threat from mobile app-stores hurting game revenue they really need the Nintendo Switch, their next console, to be a big hit.  

Their other problem is with retailers. They announced their new console before Christmas, but won't ship it until March.  Meanwhile retailers have unsold stock of WiiU and accessories, and no new console to fill the shelves. I imagine Nintendo knew retailers wouldn't be happy about this situation.

So the NES Classic addresses both of these problems. First, it gives retailers something to put on the shelves to replace the Wii U. Second, it reminds the generation of people who played with the NES as a kid (ie: me) that Nintendo is still around. It reminds us how much fun a home console is, and primes us to want more Nintendo games when the Switch ships in the spring.

This understanding explains a lot of the product details. The short controller cables encourage buyers to get a set of accessories and adapters; which are high profit margin for the retailers. It also explains why the console is not expandable. If the NES Classic had an online store where you could buy more games then it would be a competitor to the Switch. However, as a standalone unit it's fun for a while and around the time you get bored of the games the Switch will be ready for you to upgrade.  

So really the NES Classic is a Christmas card to a generation of people in the 30s and 40s to remind them that Nintendo still exists, and build demand for the Switch.  And I have to say: it worked on me. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go find a Tanooki suit.

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Posted January 11th, 2017

Tagged: nes review