Everyone Else Is Doing Virtual Reality, So Obviously Nintendo Is Launching a New NES
Why go forwards when you can celebrate some of the best games of all time, and immediately top the Christmas Lists of 30-somethings everywhere?
Plenty of things were better, or at least they seemed that way, in the 1980s. Tom Cruise. Powerful Dynasty shoulder pads. Those chocolate-on-chocolate-on-chocolate Feast ice creams (the pre-Magnum luxury melty sweets on a stick). Transformers. But one thing that definitely was not is video games. Quit the hooting, granddad, Defender was a load of crap, and Tetris just a bunch of lines.
I'm joking. Obviously. A bit. Point is: video games are eons ahead of where they were in the 1980s. Look at Treasure Island Dizzy, and then at, I don't know, the Ratchet & Clank reboot of earlier this year. Pole Position and Mario Kart 8. Elite and the imminent No Man's Sky. Here, in 2016, given the choice between the two and the two only in each instance, I'd always pick the latter. More accurate controls, more levels of play, as a terrible SEGA Master System advert once bragged about. With Safari Hunt.
But despite this position, I can't help but feel very excited indeed for Nintendo's brand new (not-actually-new-at-all-really) console of 2016, beating the NX to market by who knows how long: the Nintendo Classic Mini, a professional wrestler's palm-sized 30-games-in-one plug-in doodah for tellyboxes that comes pre-loaded with more NES-era "classics" than any man, woman, child or adroit simian could shake a stick with a shit on the end of it at.
Coming out in America on November the 11th, with the dates for other territories TBC, and immediately putting itself at the top of Christmas Lists amongst 30-somethings across the 50 states slash the world, this grey box of emulated treats, a diminutive mimic of the original 8bit NES, is a lot like already-out-there micro-consoles collecting a raft of retro hits and misses – there's something like 340 of them just focusing on the Mega Drive, at the last count. The differences are a) that this is an official Nintendo product so you know it's built to last and probably won't be lying about what games are included on the box; and b) seriously, come on, look at those games.
Am I about to list them all? I think I might. See, where I said up there that video games in the 1980s weren't as good as they are today, which is true, that isn't denying the fact that a great many foundations for series we hold dear today – Zelda, Metroid, Mario and more – began on the NES. And while sometimes clunky of controls and always less-vivid-than-you-remember of visuals, the greater percentage of the 30 titles on the Nintendo Classic Mini are bona-fide try-them-at-least-the-once affairs, if for no other reason than to see where the lore of Samus Aran, of the Belmonts, of Little Mac, began. Nutshell: for sixty bucks in the States, and one hopes for something like £50 in the UK, this is video gaming history for a fraction of the price of assembling the same collection via Nintendo's eShop. (Sometime VICE contributor Chris Scullion worked that out to be over £105, or $150.)
Deep breath, now: Balloon Fight; Bubble Bobble; Castlevania; Castlevania II: Simon's Quest; Donkey Kong; Donkey Kong Jr.; Double Dragon II: The Revenge; Dr. Mario; Excitebike; Final Fantasy; Galaga; Ghosts 'N Goblins; Gradius; Ice Climber; Kid Icarus; Kirby's Adventure; Mario Bros.; Mega Man 2; Metroid; Ninja Gaiden, aka Shadow Warriors; Pac-Man; Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream; StarTropics; Super C, aka Probotector II; Super Mario Bros.; Super Mario Bros. 2; Super Mario Bros. 3; Tecmo Bowl; The Legend Of Zelda; and Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link.
The NES Mini, as we might as well start calling this thing, because that's what it is – albeit without the option of sticking your own, old-school cartridges into it, do not try that – outputs in HD (fingers crossed the emulation quality is sound), as you'd expect given that they even got that right for the Wii U, and every game will save your progress as you go. Which is great for a whole load of those aforementioned 30-somethings who have children of their own now (oh, hi) always fucking demanding shit when you're trying to murder a Hammer Brother. Sorry, son, I can't help you with that PlayStation VR headset that's got itself somehow wedged somewhere it shouldn't be, daddy's at the end of Kid Icarus and this gigantic-eyed wall-cum-mythical-monster boss is substantially harder than muscle memory is willing to remember.
(To be fair, the end of Kid Icarus is a piece of piss. Or at least it was when I was eight or nine. I don't suppose I'll get anywhere close to it these days. Thanks, hands-holding modern video games.)
But isn't it fantastic, really, that Nintendo gives precisely no shits whatsoever about what's going on in terms of Obvious Video Game Trends. Everyone and their sickly aunt is trying their hand at virtual reality, and here's Nintendo saying that all-senses-enveloped gaming isn't its bag for next year's Wii U-succeeding NX, and then mere days later confirming the re-(re, re, re, re)release of a host of video games probably older than the average user of a 3DS. Good luck to them, I say. "We're not sure about this mobile lark," was their line not so long ago, and look at Pokémon Go. Smashed. It.
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Which is why I'm sticking my neck out and saying, here, right now, here it comes, that the NES Really Small No Seriously Look At It will outsell the PSVR by, let's say, three to one. Because, why not? This year's been totally batshit insane in so many ways, when it's not been completely tragic, so who's to say that Nintendo won't find themselves unable to meet demand for the NES Barely There At All You'll Really Have To Feel For It Amid All Those Cables From The Other Consoles You Don't Need Anymore.
I want this to be a success. To sell out. To make someone's day, and the day after. I want a bunch of greying grumps, my age and older, to point their most-likely-to-care kid at this and say: look, see that, that's real gaming, that is. And for their most-likely-to-care kid to laugh at them, offer an, "oh, dad/mum", and jog upstairs to play Dota 2, telling their mates on Skype that they just gazed upon Galaga and almost choked on their (no car has ever come near it) garage-cooled can of supermarket-brand energy drink. But I want that to not matter because this isn't for the kids, obviously. It's for them, the grumps; and it's for me. And you can't have it. (You can, though, more information here.)