During this week’s podcast I gave a pretty rant-y delivery of how I felt about the Mini NES that’s arriving this holiday season. It’s announcement has caused a ton of chatter online and justifiably so. Upon recording the podcast I had a pretty discernible opinion on it, and that has been fully crystallized just in the past 12 hours of reading even more comments and news bits about it. So here is my complete opinion laid out in list form:
+ The mini NES will be a fantastic draw for people that once owned the original console but have fallen out of gaming to a great extent (or completely). Not everything has to be aimed at every day gamers or have bleeding edge technology. There is a large demographic that are mildly interested in this sort of thing but can’t be bothered to amass a large collection of physical media, much of which can be expensive.
+ The 30 games that are built in are collectively very good. Some licensing problems can be surmised when viewing the entire list but this is a good representation of what the NES offered people way back when, and the original cartridges would cost many times what the Mini NES will retail for.
+ HD upscaling and save states. While a small section of the gaming population appreciate original hardware, it’s just plain easier to plug something in to your contemporary flat screen TV with an HDMI cable and just play the damn games without any fuss. This system will do that. Save states are a godsend for these games as well. As a kid we had all day every day in the summer to play and replay and replay some more. Now most of us don’t. Save states give you the convenience of not having to go through the first six levels of a game every time you attempt to beat it.
+/- The controller. First off, it only comes with one. Extra controllers can be purchased for $10 each, so we’re basically talking about a $70 purchase now. If you’re interested in this console it’s likely that you’ll want to show the games to someone else, or gather a group and relive the glory days while having a few beers. The majority of those interested will want a second controller, so $70 is the actual price point from a realistic perspective. This is important because unlike current gen systems that don’t include a second controller, it would’ve been extremely cheap to add in another one here. Plus the point of platforms like the Mini NES, Atari Flashback, etc. is to give people a one stop solution. A second controller sold separately hinders that model.
The controllers also have Wiimote-style inputs. This will enable you to play NES games on the Virtual Console with it. I suppose it’s better than not having the option at all, but it is hardly essential or mention-able in terms of an upgrade. At this point almost everyone has some sort of traditional gamepad for their Wii or Wii U so this feature is a bit superfluous. Also, it would have been nice to have the old style controller inputs that the original model had. Obviously these will be official Nintendo products, but playing with the tried and true NES pad would have been the preferred way to go for a certain number of gamers.
Lastly these controllers will be wired. As mentioned on the podcast, I’m of two minds about this. I completely sympathize with the decision because frankly cheap wireless controllers don’t always work very well. On the other hand one gamer made a good point: how many people have a TV that close to their couch these days? I would say the majority don’t, so that means there’s probably a good chance you’ll be playing this system exclusively while sitting on the floor. That’s a nice, albeit inadvertent nod to how we used to game as kids, but it’s also a royal pain for the most part. We did that in the ’80s and ’90s because it was essential, not because we wanted to. All things considered I do understand the decision to go wired though. They’re completely reliable and don’t give way to questions about the product’s quality.
– No cartridge slot. This right here would have increased the sales of this unit by at least 20%. A lot of us old schoolers that still love our old NES would gladly either replace it with this for easier set up and better picture or add it to our ever-growing list of consoles owned so that we could have an NES presence in yet another room of the house. Having no cart slot removes a portion of buyers that would’ve otherwise been very interested. The Retron series upscales the NES and a half dozen other systems to HD, and their tech is old. What’s the Mini NES’ excuse? I assume this was done simply to save a few sales on the Virtual Console or more to the point, they are making an unabashed statement regarding the fact that there will be a “new and improved” Mini NES released probably a year or so after this one. A real shame given how easily it could’ve been accommodated.
– No internal memory or external option to add games to. Knowing Nintendo and just the nature of the business I think we all knew they were not going to let you add ROMs to this thing. That doesn’t mean it’s not a disappointment though. This could easily serve as a base platform for people that don’t want to dick around with Raspberry Pi or something like that. You’re still making your money, you’re just adding reasons to buy and giving people more ways to use your product. (Side note: For as many problems as I have with this system, I would buy ten of them with a smile on my face if it meant that no one made a snarky comment about having Raspberry Pi ever again. We don’t give a fuck. It works for you and that’s great. The people that do give a fuck use it as well, but the people that don’t have no interest in it. Learn to live with that. For all our sakes)
– The games list. “But look at all these classics in one package” you say! Well that’s true. As mentioned above I do really like the majority of the games that are included with the Mini NES. Here’s the thing though: They could’ve had more, and when I say they could’ve had more I’m talking 2x, 3x, or 4x the number of games this system has. Easily. Without hassle. Without impacting their bottom line.
This was the one thing that single-handedly tipped the scales and dumped my interest in the toilet. There exists right now a Sega Genesis plug n play system that boasts 80 built-in games and it accepts original Genesis cartridges as well. Also, it’s been out for years. Also, it will cost you $40 max, $30 if you shop around. Now granted it doesn’t upscale to HD and has questionable wireless controllers but again this thing came out years ago. It’s OLD. Given all that, it still was able to cram almost three times as many games onto it as the Mini NES was able to. This is just like the cart slot situation: what is Nintendo’s excuse for this? There simply is none. Storage is cheap and there are certainly more than 30 NES games that they have easy access to. It’s a straight up example of a company purposely holding back to enable a mobile phone-style production and development schedule. Check back here in November 2017 when the new Mini NES (“now with more than double the games!”) becomes available.
– The price. Yes you heard me right! The price sucks! It blows! It’s a rip off! It a total gouge! It all comes back to what I just wrote above. You are paying more for less here. Simple fact. For $60 this thing could’ve had any number of games on it, and certainly way more than 30. Not throwing in an extra controller runs counter to the whole point of owning one of these. I would be shocked if the internal memory was more than 1GB. With everything missing from this console and the fact that competitors with their own pros and cons can weigh in with more games and more compatibility, I have to wonder where the price point came from. Ohhhhh yes. How could I forget? Gamers will buy anything so long as it has the right label slapped on the box!
After someone reacted negatively to the Mini NES another commenter replied with one of a few reasons why they disagreed: “Some people like to support a company.” No really, that was one of his reasons. Do you want to know what that translates to from gamer speak to English? “I have unbridled loyalty to this game company and I view everything they do with rose colored glasses. I will buy their products often, even if I can’t justify it every time.” That’s the mentality. Nintendo has a great following and deservedly so. Like many subcultures of the community though, it’s often inhabited by sorely biased individuals that will reconcile any problems one might have with a company’s business strategies, no matter how illogically they have to think. Another example I mentioned on Twitter (@SnatchGames) from another individual: “If you remove the price of the controller and the console itself, that’s 30 games for like $40.” Wow. So we’re removing part of the cost that we quite literally have to pay in order to make our argument. A fool and their money are soon parted, and look no further than the gaming world to find countless examples.
This is not an NES in any way, shape, or form aside from the shell these parts reside in and a reasonable facsimile of the original controller. This is a plug n play system that’s severely underpowered for reasons state above. I know what you’re thinking: “No one ever said it was supposed to be an NES!” Oh but yes they did. Right here they did, and that’s the top search result on Google at the moment. Is that Nintendo’s fault? Of course not. It doesn’t have anything to do with Nintendo, but it illustrates the incorrect assumptions people have been making since this was announced yesterday. People are still asking whether or not it’s in HD or if it can play old cartridges while simultaneously singing its praises.
Summary There is a market for the Mini NES. It’s for the person that grew up in the ’80s and early ’90s that’s shopping in Target and making an impulse buy, or the guy that used to own an NES and just wants to play a little every so often. There’s nothing wrong with that and I think this fills a nice little niche. Many people are thankful that Nintendo may finally be realizing that they have a license to print money of sorts, and are branching out to this sort of thing. I agree.
I love the concept here, hate the execution. This is a half-hearted effort designed to tug on our heart strings and stretch our wallets as far as possible for as little effort as possible. That’s what I don’t care for. The Mini NES could’ve been a revelation. Over 100 of your favorite childhood games! Plays cartridges just like your old system and upscales them to HD! Here’s two controllers since we all know that asking you to pay extra for a second one would be a con! Etc. etc. No matter what I or anyone says, this will still sell well. For as much as I’ve bashed it I actually think it deserves to, but there are a lot of gamers out there that either don’t understand value or are flat out ill-informed. Actually, maybe they’re not. I think sometimes certain people see that simple red logo on something and just don’t want to look at what’s really going on.