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Hands On: Nintendo NES Classic Edition

Just turn it on and play: Nintendo's NES Classic is a $60 time machine

The NES Classic Edition is shaping up to be the best way to play 8-bit Nintendo games.

Remember when video games used to be simple? When you could just pick a game, turn on your console, and play? Nintendo wants to indulge your desire for such a time with the NES Classic Edition, an adorably small emulator that allows you to easily play 30 of the 8-bit console’s most popular games on a modern TV for the price of a standard AAA console game.

The NES Classic feels refreshingly simple in its scope. You can’t connect it to the internet, so you won’t have to wait for firmware updates. You can’t buy more games for it, so you don’t have to think about whether or not developers will be supporting the console in three, four, or five years. It’s simple in way that no modern console can match.

Related: NES Classic Edition trailer showcases Nintendo’s 8-bit legacy

Whether you’re a lapsed Nintendo fan looking for a way to play old favorites, or maybe a parent looking to introducing old games to a new generation, the NES Classic Edition may wind up being the best, most accessible way to play to games like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and Donkey Kong.

There’s nothing quite like a Nintendo

Nintendo is known for its attention to detail, and the NES Classic Edition is no exception. It looks like a hard-plastic miniature model of the original, front-loading NES. It has the same dark gray stripe over the top. There’s even a purely cosmetic front-loading tray door (it does not open), that says “Nintendo Entertainment System on it.

It’s hard overstate just how small the console is. It can fit in the palm of your hand, and could easily fit into your backpack or carry on suitcase for even a day trip.

On the front of the console are two controller ports, plus power and reset buttons. The reset button can be used like a “home” button to bring you back to the game select screen. On the back, the NES Classic Edition connects to a TV via HDMI. There’s also a port for power, of course.

The controller is a perfect replica of the original NES controller. The size, shape, and weight all feel like the original — or at least as close to the original as we can remember. The controller is wired, and connects to the console using the Nintendo’s Wiimote port. Though Nintendo declined to say one way or the other, it seems possible that other controllers with that port, such as the Wii and Wii U classic controllers, may be compatible, as well. (Nintendo has confirmed that the NES Classic controller will work with the Wii and Wii U, but not the other way around.)

Related: The Japanese version of the NES Classic Edition is a must for collectors

While the controller’s faithfulness to the original is great, it does have one problem – a short cord. While every set-up is different, we think it’s fair to say that most players will have a hard time playing the NES Classic from their couch. As one Digital Trends staffer noted, some players might revel in being forced to sit on the floor right in front of the TV. But many more would prefer to play in comfort.

30 games, one box

Using the NES Classic Edition is as simple as turning it on. With no online features, the console boots straight to the game select screen, where players can scroll through the device’s software library. Each game clearly shows whether it supports one or two players on the main menu. Once you select a game, you can press any button to see a short description of the game, then press start to play.

The games are incredibly faithful ports.

The games are incredibly faithful ports. All we tried — Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Double Dragon II, and Castlevania — ran smoothly. We encountered no bugs, graphical glitches, or other issues.

Though mostly identical to the originals, the games do differ in one important way. You can save. By pressing the reset button on the console, you can save your game any time, similar to creating a “save state” on a PC emulator. Rather than allowing users to manage the console’s storage, the UI simply offers four save slots for each game. This may be a bummer for players who like to save a long history of progress, so they can revert back later, but using save slots seems fitting for an old-school console.

Our take

Unless you’ve sank a fair bit of money into the Wii U virtual console, and have easy access to all of these games, the NES Classic Edition seems like a fun device to have around.

The console costs $59.99, plus an extra $10 if you want a second NES Classic controller. That price seems reasonable. You would spend far more if you decided to purchase all the included games individually at their usual Virtual Console MSRP – and that’s not including the cost of the Wii or Wii U itself.

The fact that it may not have all of your favorite games, or the ability to customize your library, seems like a small compromise. More is more, and sometimes it adds complications. The NES is about simple, turn-it-on-and-play nostalgia.

The Nintendo NES Classic Edition emulator box will be available starting November 11, 2016, at Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and other retailers.

Highs

  • Great library of games
  • Games run smoothly
  • Looks awesome
  • Allows you to save your game

Lows

  • Controller cord is very short