Nintendo Goes Retro: The Mini NES

Mini NES.jpgWe know that Nintendo has a new HD console in the works with the NX, but we don’t know a hell of a lot of details about said console. But this week Nintendo announced a different console, one that’s aimed in a different direction. Coming this November 11, Nintendo is bringing a Mini-NES to us, complete with HDMI video out, a classic NES themed controller and 30 pre-installed classic games. I think this is an excellent way to bring what made Nintendo so special to us older gamers to a younger generation, the kids just starting to play games now who never had the opportunity to play the NES. They’ve never had the joy of getting a cartridge to work after you spend 10 minutes blowing on it and the console; they know the names of the classics but haven’t (most likely) ever had the chance to play the originals. It’s also a fantastic way for us older gamers to reacquaint ourselves with our favorites, especially if you’re like me and gave your original NES away back in junior high and just haven’t been able to find another at the local retro shop since.

A lot of the games that will be part of the new Mini-NES are available already in other forms, mainly on the Virtual Consoles for Nintendos current group of consoles. That doesn’t mean that this is a rehash though – based on what Nintendo has said about the controller being based on the NES one, there’s something very different about playing those classic games on that controller, it’s a special feeling playing the games with the exact controller they were designed for. We don’t really think a lot about that these days, the controllers on the big two consoles are functionally identical, it’s just a few minor design and layout details that differentiate them. The NES controller is such a different feeling and looking controller compared with what we’re used to now – it’s blocky, almost uncomfortable in your hand; it’s incredibly simple in its design, two buttons and a D-pad. It’s actually something I’m really curious to see how the younger generation of players will react to – it’s a weird situation because there are tons of players who are familiar with the controller, but just as many who aren’t.

Mega Man 2 American Box

What they are familiar with, at least more so, are the games the Mini-NES will come with. The list of 30 games hits some of the biggest games that the NES had, including games that started franchises we’re still playing to this day. There are plenty of Nintendo favorites on there, along with a couple other third party gems. The full list includes:

  • 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
  • Pac-Man
  • Punch-Out!!
  • StarTropics
  • Super C
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • TECMO Bowl
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Just looking at the list there are plenty of games that I’ve already played and beaten time and time again, but keep wanting to play another time. Games like Super Mario Bros 3, Mega Man 2, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid are some of the best NES games of all time. There are a couple deeper cuts in there that younger fans might not have ever played – StarTropics in particular jumps out to me. If you’re a new fan to gaming, or you’ve been playing for a handful of years, this is an incredible collection of games that forms the foundation of modern gaming. If you want to get a history lesson while playing some really amazing games at the same time, this Mini-NES is a must have this November.

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Konami – What the Hell is Going On?

Konami Logo - ClassicIn a recent interview that wound up on NEOGAF and was google translated from Japanese, Konami outlined their new course of action. Now, I mention the path that the interview took to get here because I want to be clear that it’s got a pretty serious tint of internet to it. But the interview does look pretty legit, and if it is, boy, things took a turn quickly.

Konami is a developer that has a ton of longevity to their name. Going all the way back to the early days, Konami was responsible for Castlevania, Contra, Metal Gear and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; as well as giving us the most famous cheat code in gaming history. In more recent years they added Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill to their repertoire. Looking at those franchises, you would really be hard pressed to find a bad choice in the bunch. And yet they’ve all petered out in recent years, with Metal Gear Solid being the one to persist. Based around this interview, we have a more clear idea as to why.

Castlevania NES Title

Konami is also a developer with their hands in other jars. And we’re now seeing that their management sees those other outlets as more economically viable. Console and PC game development is more expensive than ever. With that as their rationale, Konami seems to be poised to jump headfirst into mobile gaming – perhaps to the extent of completely leaving consoles. There’s no denying mobile gaming has really evolved in the last few years. Look at the money that Angry Birds and Candy Crush have made. But to me, pulling out of consoles – an established market with devoted fans – to try out mobile is a really risky move. I think the core audience for Konami was always “hardcore” gamers – mobile is decidedly a casual market. I really worry about just how games like Castlevania, Contra and Metal Gear Solid translate to mobile – assuming that’s the plan. That’s also not looking at a purely mature game like Silent Hill – I really can’t see that series transitioning well to mobile.

Maybe I’m wrong and Konami has a solid plan to make these all work perfectly. And if that’s the case, that’s actually a great thing – it helps contribute to the maturity of mobile gaming. With other companies starting to push into that sphere more and more – like Nintendo and Square-Enix – that’s going to be the case. But at the same time, those other companies aren’t leaving their core audience – console gamers – and moving totally over. Konami is taking a big jump with this move – and leaving massive franchises potentially to die. There’s still a lot to wait and see happen, but I really do worry about the future of some classic gaming names.