When Nintendo revealed the NES Classic Mini, ergo its game library, retro fans were delighted to discover dozens of third-party hits being included. It was as if Nintendo were finally acknowledging the fact that it wasn’t just their own software that made the NES a success, but also the likes of Mega Man, Castlevania and Contra. It’s an acknowledgement we’ve waited a lifetime for.
Playing with Power: Nintendo NES Classics – an officially sanctioned product, published by Prima – is clearly being released to tie-in with the nostalgia storm the NES Classic Mini has created. Yet, it’s one step backwards.
It focuses solely on first-party games, and is written in a similar manner to the now defunct US publication Nintendo Power, as well as other typically hyperbolic in-house produced material.
The pages even look and feel like something from a ‘80s magazine, with chunky fonts and blurry screenshots printed on low-quality paper. Sadly, we don’t believe this was intentional.
The back cover promises to take us through three eras of NES history, which soon emerges to be something of a half-truth. This is a compendium of game guides, rather than a detailed history of the NES. Although there are a few features present, they come up short of expectations. The behind the scenes chat with Shigeru Miyamoto regarding Super Mario Bros. 3’s creation is a fine example, spanning a single page.
There’s also a “priceless” (to quote Prima) teardown of the NES itself, lifted from the pages of Nintendo Power. This is a tad more interesting as it shows how far technology has come since the days of 72 pin connectors.
Other features are simply baffling, such as the multiple page look at what’s inside a GamePak. It’s without a single photo of a cartridge PCB, using dull textbook-style images of ROM chips to illustrate instead.
The writers – Garrit Rocha and Nick von Esmarch – stumble elsewhere. It’s a wildly accepted fact that nobody knows the release date of Super Mario Bros. in the US. The NES had a staggered launch as the videogame market was left fragile after the infamous 1984 market crash. Nintendo provided retailers with NES consoles on a ‘sale or return’ basis and even paid to set-up lavish displays in their stores.
The ‘soft launch’ is mentioned here in mild detail, but it’s also stated that Super Mario Bros. arrived on launch day – 18th October 1985. This is something that has never been confirmed, not even by Nintendo. It’s believed SMB arrived during the NES’s second wave of titles in November, but nobody has been able to clarify the actual date.