Fair warning, we’re going on an emotional journey. It’s going to look grim at first, but bear with me, it should be worth it.
Why grim? Because I’m going to be honest with you. If you’ve been one of the many pining to get your hands on a NES Classic because you want to play your old favorites again on a modern television, you don’t need an NES Classic. I won’t tell you where or how, but these games are readily available online. Illegally, sure, but they’re there and you’d be playing these games the same exact way the NES Classic does: Through a means called “emulation.” You can stream to your TV with a device like the Steam Link. And to be fair, the NES Classic has some huge shortcomings. The controller cables are inexcusably short, and while titles like Ice Climbers, Balloon Fight, and even the beloved Donkey Kong may be considered classics, they don’t hold up particularly well. The library included on the NES Classic is for the most part excellent, but there are some that time has been less kind to and you’ll wish those games would have been replaced with favorites that are missing.
Truth be told, I don’t feel like reviewing the NES Classic any further than that. Any number of dedicated gaming sites can fill you in better on the pros and cons of the machine better than I can, and if you’re looking at it from a purely technical standpoint, it’s going to come up short.
This completely not terrible game pictured for size comparison.
I’m a collector of all things Nintendo (with the exception of the Wii U, which is quite a disappointment), so of course I knew I’d want an NES Classic when it was announced. I knew it would be a hot item, I know the power of nostalgia all too well, and hell, I didn’t mind that it would be hard to find. I love little moments like this and given the appeal of the NES Classic, I love that people that don’t live the same lifestyle I do would get to experience something like this. Something about this thing is so fucking magical, and we can all use some magic as of late.
I had no problem waiting until after Christmas to track one down. I have two original NES consoles and a shit ton of cartridges. Let someone else experience the sheer excitement of tearing the wrapping paper off of this thing during the holiday season. I’d be back for it afterwards when the supply issues iron out. I would like to take this moment to point out that what I do have a problem with are scalpers. Shame on retailers who don’t limit one per customer, but if you’re buying these things up to flip them for more than twice the MSRP, then I’m afraid that ritualistic suicide is your only option.
I waited. For the past two weeks or so I’ve been on the hunt. I turned to Reddit, who let me in on a little secret called Brickseek. This site searches your areas Target and Walmart inventories and is fairly accurate. If you’re looking for one, I highly recommend it. I had several close calls, and will admit that I got discouraged. Finally, after spending my Super Bowl Sunday not watching the Super Bowl, as I was off to bed, I thought I’d take a peek to see if any of my local stores had gotten any late night deliveries. Sure enough, the closest 24 hour Walmart got 3 in. It was midnight. I was off to bed.
There would be time to sleep later.
As I got closer to my destination, I couldn’t help but see other cars on the road as fellow contenders. There were only 3 in the building, anything could happen. The store was surprisingly busy for it being past midnight. I got to the electronics department, failing to find any NES Classics in the locked glass case.
I found an employee, asked her which isle N6 was. She brought me back to the video game case.
“What are you looking for,” she asked.
“The NES Classic,” I replied.
She asked another employee if they had any. He laughed at the mention of it, insisting they didn’t have any*. I was tired. My heart sank. But I pushed it, telling him I knew they had 3 in their inventory.
“If we got any in tonight, they’d be locked up in the box out back.” I had no idea what this mysterious box was, but the woman who was helping me did and set out to take a look.
Minutes felt like hours. But this, this part right here coming up, is where we get to my review of the NES Classic. The part where she comes back, miniature reproduction of the classic Nintendo Entertainment System in hand, the moment that I know that this crazy midnight trip to a store I typically don’t like to do business with had paid off, this is where I say all that I need to say about the NES Classic. The feeling that my spirit could make a Super Mario sized leap out of my body came over me. It was a feeling I hadn’t felt since I was a kid, on Christmas morning, getting that one toy you wanted more than all the others. Maybe it was an NES for you, or a SNES or Genesis. Maybe it was a Turtles Sewer, the Millennium Falcon, or the Ghostbusters Firehouse. It may sound silly and materialistic, but pure, youthful joy is undeniable. We need these moments. And when that joy is coming from something as harmless and innocent as a piece of plastic in a familiar image from our youth, with hours of fun spent with friends and loved ones, adventuring in the Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule, and Planet Zebes, looking back at better times, I fail to see anything wrong. The chance to go back doesn’t come often enough. The more I get older, the more I want that and of course, the more often I find that I can’t. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take what I can get.
I’m not sure why, but opening the box to reveal these words hit me like a ton of bricks.
No, you don’t need the NES Classic to play these games. But you should get one any way. It’s not perfect, but the package as a whole, the throwback box, the poster, the feel of that uncomfortable square controller in your hands, having to get up off the couch to hit the reset button, and the games themselves create a nostalgia trip that I dare say the return of Ecto Cooler could not match. Most of the games on it are absolutely fantastic, but you already knew that. Your fond memories will serve you well more often than not. And believe me, memories will be in abundance as you make new ones.
Nintendo promises that the stock will be stable soon enough, but I recommend trying to find one while they’re still hard to get. You’ll come out with it with a story to tell.
* – I did get to see this same guy on my way out the door, and yes, I did have the pleasure of pointing out to him that they did indeed have them. Petty, perhaps, but satisfying nonetheless.