Of the 30 games, 16 support some sort of two-player component. You obviously need two controllers for the simultaneous two-player games. However, even for the titles that alternate, you can’t just pass back and forth. If you only have one controller, you need to unplug it and manually swap ports when it’s the other player’s turn. So you basically need a second controller if you plan on doing any multiplayer at all. The NES Classic version controller costs $10, but if you don’t care about the classic aesthetic, you can use the Wii Classic Controller or Classic Controller Pro.
Hands-down, the best part of the deal is the collection of games. I certainly have my favorites, but every game is timeless and iconic – not to mention fun. Yes, you can relive your favorite games through the Virtual Console on other Nintendo consoles, but having them all in one accessible and intuitive place works great. I also like the three different display options. One replicates the fuzziness of a CRT television, one is a crisp 4:3 display, and the last is “pixel perfect,” which makes each pixel a perfect square (rather than the slightly rectangular pixels in 4:3).
I switched among all three modes regularly, and none of them offer any clear advantages beyond personal preference. If the games are good, nothing else really matters, right? Well, a weird amount of your ability to enjoy the NES Classic Edition relies on your proximity to the console itself. You can’t just set it up
behind the glass of your entertainment center, then sit back on your couch and settle in for a long play session; the controller cord is too short. It’s just 30 inches, and you can’t sync it up to any wireless options, so you’re tethered to the system and can’t stray more than 2.5 feet from it. Once you start a game, you can’t get back to the game selection screen without hitting reset. This is odd since part of the appeal is hopping from one title to another. The reset button also controls your save states, which is a hassle.
When you hit reset and return to the menu, the system creates a suspended state of your game that you can lock in and access later. Save states are among the few modern amenities included, and I wish Nintendo had figured out a more natural way to implement them. There are ways to recapture nostalgia without simultaneously bringing forward the annoyances of being huddled on the floor in front of your TV.
Maybe Nintendo did this to preserve the sense of playing the original NES in the ‘80s, but it gets in the way of letting players appreciate the vast selection of great games. Swapping ports for two-player (if you only have one controller), dealing with restrictive cord length, and hitting the reset button to reach the main menu are frustrations that just feel unnecessary. However, under the right conditions – sitting at a desk close to a monitor with the console within arm’s reach – the NES Classic Edition lets you take an entertaining and rewarding trip down memory lane.