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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Weekly News Recap: Week of September 15, 2014

This past week has been a pretty busy one news wise. We got started right away on Monday, and never really let up. Let’s hit the high points.

Minecraft

MOJANG BOUGHT BY MICROSOFT FOR 2 BILLION DOLLARS
Hot of the heels of the current-gen release of Minecraft on PS4 and Xbox One, news broke Monday that Microsoft had purchased Mojang, the studio behind Minecraft for $2.5 Billion. There was a predictable backlash, primarily from fanboys online, worried that Microsoft will “ruin” the franchise. Now I don’t think that will ever happen, but I was a little surprised by the news. Microsoft, for their part, put out a statement talking about the sale, which contained a bit of info that I thought was really important. They said that they will continue to sell Minecraft on other platforms, including the Sony and mobile platforms. I think that bit of info was put in to soothe those internet flames, plus it makes good business sense. The game sells incredibly everywhere, so it makes sense to sell it in as many markets as possible. The other bit of news related to the sale was that Notch, the creator of Minecraft, stepped down at Mojang.

Destiny

DESTINY SELLS WELL, PLAYERS PLAY IT A WHOLE LOT
If you look at a lot of the press around Destiny since the launch, you might think that everyone dislikes the game. Now, I’m not disputing that there are some definite issues in the game, some are fixable, others are too big to really fix post-launch; but to say that the game is “bad” I think is asinine. The numbers following the first week seem to suggest that fans are enjoying the game so far too. Activision has said that the game sold $325 Million to consumers in a week, which, while not a record, is still a really strong first week, especially for a new IP. Beyond that, Bungie said that players put in 100 million hours into the game in the first week, with the average time per-player being just around 20 hours. That is insane to me – within a week, most player have played almost a full day already.

TGS SHOWS OFF NEW FINAL FANTASY XV TRAILER
One of the other bits that caught my eye this week was the new trailer for Final Fantasy XV that came out of the Tokyo Game Show. FFXV already has had a pretty crazy development history, starting out as Final Fantasy Versus XIII way back in 2006. It’s undergone not only a name change, but also a switch to the PS4 as well as Tetsuya Nomura stepping down as director. That said, the trailer looked incredible – showing off the amazing graphics in place as well as the combat system, which is very similar to the Kingdom Hearts combat. I was really disappointed in FFXIII, but have been watching this one closely, so hopefully this will be the game that really gets me back into the franchise. Plus the end of the trailer features one of the best songs ever in a video game with the Final Fantasy Prelude.

RPG Week: Day 7 – Grabbag Goodies

Final Fantasy VIWith the last day of RPG week 2014, I want to hit a couple of my favorite RPGs that don’t really fit into any of the previous categories I’ve been talking about. There are three series that I want to hit today – Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts and Pokemon – which will wrap up my thoughts on the genre, at least for now. Next week will be pretty busy with Destiny releasing on Tuesday – I plan on having a whole bunch of different topics to talk about over the next couple weeks, hitting all the major parts of the game.

First though, I want to look at the granddaddy of all the console RPGs – Final Fantasy. It wasn’t the first RPG on home consoles, but it took the reins from Dragon Quest, released a year earlier, really setting the template for the genre on the home consoles. The series stretches all the way back to 1987 on the NES and has had a longevity that few series have enjoyed. Players these days might immediately think back to Final Fantasy VII on the PSX as their first experience with the series. To this day I still think that FFVII has one of the very best magic systems I’ve ever used in a game in the materia system. Spells are tied to the individual materia, which has a separate experience level that you raise, which makes the spells that much more powerful. Because the spells aren’t tied to characters, it lets you put the spells on the party members you feel like. Combine that with a strong story, memorable characters and moments that still resonate with gamers years later, and you have a game that has an important spot in the annals of history. That said, it’s not the best game in the franchise – that title belongs to the previous game, Final Fantasy VI. While FFVII might have the more well known villain in Sephiroth bent on destroying the world, it’s Kefka in FFVI that actually succeeds in his plan. To this day gamers still are a little unnerved by that damn Laugh of his. While the games in recent years maybe haven’t been up to the same level (I think FFX was the last really good one) the future is rife with potential, with a number of new games on the horizon.

Kingdom Hearts

Sticking with the Square-Enix games, I want to talk a little bit about their partner series with Disney, Kingdom Hearts. On the surface, it’s a pairing that might seem like it wouldn’t work. The tone between Disney animated movies varies so much, and the general tone across the Final Fantasy series skews more serious. I’ll freely admit that I was skeptical of it at first – it took my friend showing me it in action to convince me. In practice, it works so well it’s almost like they were meant to. Playing more like an action game, since the combat is in real-time, the game feels different enough from Final Fantasy that even with the familiar characters, it manages to form its own identity. Playing through the iconic worlds that the Disney movies take place in opens up all kinds of story telling options. An extra detail that helps ensure that this was going to be a unique and serious game, not a cash in style game, was creating the new enemy Heartless. Instead of just picking typical fantasy or RPG standards, Square-Enix created a brand new enemy and weaving their origin into the story. One thing that I haven’t been a fan of is the focus on side games on handhelds and the continual rerelasing of the older games. The good news is that Kingdom Hearts III is in the works – I would bet on hearing more either at TGS or E3 next year.

Pokémon Red

Finally, I want to talk about the first real RPG series that I think I ever really got into – Pokemon. I was ten when the first two games came out in the States – the perfect age to start playing. I got my first Gameboy that Christmas – a green Gameboy Pocket that I still have, along with a copy of Pokemon Blue. I dug right into the adventure – just really scratching the surface, focused solely on catching all 150 Pokemon. I picked the best Pokemon on the first day, and I still have that guy all these years later – my Venusaur I think has been in my party constantly since day one. Everyone knows about the explosion in popularity the series has enjoyed – and rightfully so. It’s both an accessible game for kids to pick up and start their own Pokemon adventures, bent on catching them all; but at the same time has surprisingly deep RPG elements behind the scenes. IV training, Pokemon natures, all the different mechanics that go into typing, both offense and defense, along with the actual catching of the Pokemon. I’m not one of the players that thinks only the first 151 are the best Pokemon, but I have definitely paid no where near enough attention to the details to really think about competitive battles. To that end, I always love going back and playing the classic Red/Blue games – and ultimately their remakes on the GBA.

And with that, I think I’ve put just about all my thoughts about the biggest RPG franchises out there today. Over the last week, I’ve hit a good variety of games – Western RPGs, JRPGs, High Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Third- and First-Person and even Space RPGs. It’s a genre that is full of limitless stories to tell, and the experiences always are deep and lasting – not to mention they are a good way to spend hours and hours and hours. Looking ahead, we have a real good fall for RPGs ahead of us, with a nice smattering of Shooters thrown into the mix too. It is going to be a wonderful next couple months – it really is a great time to play games.