Today's announcement that the Nintendo Entertainment System is coming back to stores as the NES Classic Edition mini-console featuring a wired classic NES controller and thirty games built right into its internal memory has sparked a lot of excitement online as gaming fans cheered and prepared to preorder. However, I've also seen plenty of questions pop up on social media about the news and while I'm not a Nintendo spokesperson, I am a long-time customer and consumer of the company's products, so perhaps I can be of help when it comes to answering these queries. Allow me to condense the questions down to the basic generalized sentiments I've seen all day today and respond with my thoughts.
Q: What is this NES Classic thing? Are they making new NES consoles? I have all the old cartridges in my attic.
The NES Classic Edition is a small, new version of the Nintendo Entertainment System that physically resembles the old NES from 1985, but sports a smaller form factor. It features thirty games such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Mega Man 2 built into its memory, so there isn't a cartridge slot on this console. It only plays those thirty games, but they are some of the best games in the console's library.
Q: So how do I play Duck Hunt without my old Zapper light gun?
Duck Hunt isn't one of the thirty games, so you won't be playing it at all on a NES Classic Edition. Besides, the old Zapper and today's modern HDTVs don't work well together at all. See, when the trigger on the Zapper is pressed, the game causes the entire screen to become black for one frame. Then, on the next frame, all valid targets that are on screen are drawn all white as the rest of the screen remains black. The Zapper detects this change from low light to bright light, and determines if any of the targets are in the zapper's hit zone. If a target is hit, the game determines which one was hit based on the duration of the flash, as each target flashes for a different duration. After all target areas have been illuminated, the game returns to drawing graphics as usual. The whole process is almost imperceptible to the human eye, although one can notice a slight "flashing" of the image. Although the Zapper just detects light, it can only be used on CRT displays. It will not work on LCDs, plasma displays or other flat panel displays due to display lag. Moreover, the NES Classic Edition uses special controller ports like those found on the Wii remote, so your old Zapper wouldn't plug into it anyway.
Q: So you're saying I need a Wii remote for this thing? I got rid of my Wii years ago.
No, you don't need any Wii or Wii U accessories, but if you did have either console, you could use the new NES controllers with them as plug-ins to the Wii remote for playing Virtual Console games on those consoles. You can even use the Wii's Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro as controllers for the NES Classic Edition if you have them, but it's not required. Everything you need comes in the NES Classic Edition box (except for an AC adapter if you're buying it in Europe where it's sold separately).
Q: Europeans don't get an AC adapter in the box? Is Brexit to blame?
Nintendo has a history of not including AC adapters with hardware, particularly in Japan. This isn't the first time they've done this and, honestly, it's not right.
Q: How do I connect the NES's old video outputs to my modern Zapper-less HDTV?
That's not a problem because the new NES outputs through HDMI. It even comes with the HDMI cable!
Q: Futuristic! So obviously those thirty built-in games are just to get me started and then I can download more games from Nintendo, right?
No. The NES Classic Edition does not offer any online connectivity options or any kind of eShop or download store, nor will there be any expansion cartridges offered later. What you see is what you get. The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Punch Out-
Q: Punch Out!! Yeah, I'm gonna knock out Mike Tyson all over again!
Actually, this is the revised version of the game featuring Mr. Dream at the end instead of Mike Tyson. The Tyson license expired during the original NES's lifespan. The Mr. Dream version of the game was first released in 1990. Even the Virtual Console versions of the game feature Dream, not Tyson.
Q: Well, that sucks. What about that Kirby game that was, like, eight Kirby games in one?
That was Kirby Super Star. It was a Super NES game, so it's not included. Kirby's Adventure for the NES is one of the thirty games though.
Q: They should make a new Super NES mini console then. That console had better games than the NES did.
Maybe they will someday. The NES Classic Edition is seemingly being marketed as part of a new line of retro classic consoles (even the packaging is a throwback to the old classic NES packaging of the early 1990s), so if sales of the NES console perform well, who knows what tomorrow could bring.
Q: I hope that when they do make a new Super NES, that awesome Goldeneye game is on it.
That's... well, I think that's a discussion best left for another day.
Q: So it sounds like this new NES is a piece of junk. I've seen similar retro consoles from Sega, Atari, and Colecovision and they all feel cheap and inferior. The music and sound effects probably won't sound like I remember them either. Isn't this just more of the same?
We won't know for sure until the NES Classic Edition is released, but most people say they feel safe with this new NES just based on the Nintendo brand name. Unlike other legitimate retro consoles on the market which are banking on nostalgic brand names that have been licensed out to third party hardware producers without much external quality control from the original license holder, Nintendo itself is handling the NES Classic Edition and it's very rare for Nintendo to release truly unreliable hardware.
Q: What's this new NES cost?
MSRP is $59.99 with extra controllers selling for $9.99 each.
Q: What?! For that price why shouldn't I just buy one of those retro knock-off consoles from the shady guy at the mall kiosk who has systems for half the price loaded with the double the NES games? He has Mario and stuff too. And like five versions of Contra! Why isn't Contra on this new NES?
First of all, those are pirated knock-offs and Nintendo and its partners are not receiving any money from those sales unlike sales of the new NES. Second of all, they are similar to the cheap and inferior consoles you were complaining about a moment ago. Finally, you'd have to ask Contra's publisher, Konami, about that but you can rest assured that sequel to Contra, Super C, is one of the built-in games. The original NES version of Contra hasn't been seen since 2007 when it was included with Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS. Fans would really like to know why.
Q: It sounds like this new NES doesn't do all that I want it to do. I'm pretty handy with technology. Why would anyone spend $60 on a limited new NES when they could just build a Raspberry Pi box, load it up with emulators, download the entire NES ROM set from a torrent site, play with settings and wireless controllers until everything works, and connect it to the TV as a living room gaming PC? That's so much easier and anyone who disagrees is stupid.
There are a lot of people out there who don't want to mess with all of that or are unable to understand how any of that works. It's much easier for them to just pay the $60 and buy the new NES. It's alright if you want to build your own emulator box (piracy angle aside) since you know what you're doing, but the NES Classic Edition is aiming at a mass market demographic made up of lapsed gamers, casual gamers, and anyone who wants a solid selection of NES games that just work when you plug the console into the TV and turn it on. The console and its controllers are designed to evoke that nostalgic glow we all enjoy when remembering fun memories. It's OK if the new NES may not be for you. You don't need to be angry or defensive. Let excited people be happy. Please don't diminish their joy.
Q: Why have you spent all this time and effort to respond to the Internet's collective negativity?
I suppose it's because I'm tired of seeing people rush to complain about anything that isn't made or meant exclusively for them. It's OK if you want to buy a NES Classic Edition. It's also OK if you don't. The same goes for seeing a movie, attending an event, or spending your free time as you please. If something makes you happy and isn't harming anyone, you should be able to enjoy yourself without the online echo chamber shouting you down.
Q: Is Bionic Commando one of the thirty games?
No, but I wish it was.
Q: Me too.
Finally, something we agree on.