The NES Classic Edition has arrived at Bleeding Edge

Posted: December 20, 2016 by ryanlecocq in Technology


Early this morning, the old warriors fastened on their rusted and battered armor.  They drank their coffee while tying boots that had stood at many the midnight hour, as the gates of chaos were opened.  Kissing their wives goodbye, they mounted the war chariot with promises that the conquest would bring great spoils.

When arriving at the battle line, the old lions whose manes were shot with gray, stood beside the younger men who had risen earlier and with more vigor.  The cubs were frantic, brimming with anticipation at their first early morning raid.  The old lions told their crass jokes and laughed their hearty laughs.  The gallows humor of an old warrior can only be possessed by one who has lost as many conquests as they have won.

Then the woman in the blue shirt came out and informed the hungry mob that times had changed and no raid would be required.  The old warriors were handed a slip guaranteeing them victory without conquest and told they could come back after eating their breakfast.  Much remorse was had for the better days when they had to freeze to death, instead of sitting in the castle within reach of the Keurig.


I hope you enjoyed that little parable.  The short version is Mike and I finally got our NES Classics today.  Since all of those people who get paid to write about games got theirs in the mail for free a month ago, I won’t bother explaining what it is and does.  If you are anything like me though, you have been suffering through the coverage by all those un-scientific people as they crudely squee about it instead of answering what you really want to know.  So let’s get technical mother-effers.


How perfect is the emulation?

As good as I have ever seen.  If your first experience with classic NES titles was on Virtual Console, you are probably unaware that the emulation used there is considered uhh… bad by the gaming community.  While emulation on PCs and other devices is much more sophisticated than what Nintendo has offered before, even the best NES emulators are not 100% accurate to the originals.  This is often for the better, as the NES has several hardware drawbacks that cause visual glitches.  Every bit of the games is recreated here, including those glitches.  This suggests that Nintendo is emulating at a very low level and reproducing the functions of the original hardware as closely as possible.

While the inclusion of the ability to render with scanlines or at the original pixel ratio is cool, the real standout here is the emulation accuracy.  What makes many of us so nostalgic for these games is how much we hard-wired ourselves to play them.  When playing the games on modern hardware, the glitches and slowdowns that were part of that hardwiring are often removed.  This makes the game just plain feel different and can completely ruin your feeling of nostalgia.  That is not the case here.  Everything from the floatiness of Double Dragon 2 to the rubber-band throttle feeling of the original SMBros is recreated perfectly.  Kid Icarus lags just where it’s supposed to, so my jumps feel just like they did 25 years ago.  For that, I would almost pay $60 for each of these games.


Sound Quality?

Perfect, by which I mean awful.  The Ricoh 2A03 sound chip used in the NES was not exactly high-fidelity, even for the time.  While it pounded out decent sound from a single TV speaker, the flaws become very evident when played on a HiFi system.  If you are using a home theater system, I would highly recommend cutting the highs a bit, as they can be truly unpleasant at high volume.  While that may sound like a negative, it’s actually just because the sound is recreated so accurately.  Unlike many other reproduced versions, the tracks are not being played through a more modern midi library.  The sounds are just as crude as they were in 1985.

Once again, the standout part of this is accuracy.  Not only are the sounds accurate to the ear, the timing and duration is also perfect.  Many of us included the audio cues made by the game in our training while playing it.  If you learned to dodge at a certain time after hearing a certain sound, you will find that results match expectation.  Finally.


The long and short about controllers.

For how much I’ve seen people complain about the short controllers and the lack of extra ones available for sale, I haven’t seen much thought put into solving it.  The NES Classic shares its controller port with the Wii Classic Controller and Nunchuk, meaning that Nunchuk extension cables will work just fine.  You know, the ones you can buy on Amazon for .79c.  It’s also important to note that if you use a Classic Controller, the other design flaw of the Classic is removed.  The home button serves the same function as the reset button, meaning that for the cost of two extensions and a classic controller (about $12 US total if you order a used controller), you can play in bed without getting up.  That’s a pretty painless solution if you have Amazon prime.  To think, if those people had just ordered those things when they started bitching, they would have had the solutions about 3 days later.

To be blunt, do not pass this retro gem up because you are mad at Nintendo for making the cables short.  Just use your noggin and your Amazon or eBay account and fix the problem yourself for less than the cost of a single Xb1 or Ps4 controller.  I can understand wanting to have a matching NES Classic controller to complete the set, but apparently those things are unicorns and we may never see them.  For now, the play experience is much improved with a pair of extension cables and at least one Classic controller.


Hope that answers a few questions.  I have to get back to playing with it.


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