The Nintendo Classic Mini Family Computer was released in Japan on Thursday, November 10th, and thanks to the magic of Amazon.co.jp, I received mine in Colorado on Friday, November 11th. I’ve spent the weekend playing it, so of course I have THOUGHTS.
First off, yup, it’s small.
The biggest concern I’ve seen with the Famicom Mini is the controller size. Yes, they are incredibly small. No, they are not uncomfortable. I don’t know how Nintendo did it, but even after about ten hours of play this weekend, my hands never cramped or hurt. YMMV of course, but I was pleasantly surprised how natural the controllers felt.
The interface for the system is fast, intuitive, and contains an original earworm 8-bit tune. I tried all the display filters, and while the CRT simulation is pretty good, pixel perfect mode was the only way for me. I haven’t invested in any of the high-end NES output equipment, so my only experience with NES/Famicom games on HDTVs is Virtual Console. I can confidently say that the Famicom Mini in pixel perfect mode is the best I’ve ever seen these games look.
While there’s a decent amount of overlap with the NES Classic Mini’s game lineup, what was exciting to me is getting to play the Famicom Disk System versions of games. Loading up Castlevania to see this was pretty surreal:
Of the FDS games I played on the Famicom Mini, I managed to finish Metroid and The Legend of Zelda.
One of the most surprising parts of playing FDS games to me was the (substantial) initial loading when starting a new game. However, if you utilize save states (accessed using the reset button on the console), you will only experience this once.
Load times do occur at other points in the game though. In Metroid, they happen when you are using elevators to travel between zones. In Zelda, they pop up briefly when you enter a dungeon. So what’s the benefit of playing the FDS versions of these games? In Metroid, many sound effects are significantly better to my ears- less shrill, more bass-y. The strength of the disk format presents itself in Zelda by way of significantly reduced slowdown. Remember on the NES when the game would slow to a crawl when you were in a dungeon and there were a bunch of Darknuts on the screen? Not here.
Outside of the Disk System titles, I completed Super Mario Bros.
This was a good test of the controller- I was able to complete the platforming challenges with the same level of precision as I would with an NES controller. On the subject of controllers, there is one bummer about the Famicom Mini. On the original system, the second controller had a microphone. This had gameplay uses, like being able to blow on it to kill Pols Voice enemies in The Legend of Zelda. Despite being labeled, this functionality is removed on the Famicom Mini’s P2 controller (so I had to take down Pols Voices with my sword).
This is really my only complaint with the system. I know some folks are unhappy with the controller / power / HDMI cable lengths, but the system fits perfectly in my retro gaming setup, on a table between the couch and TV.
I’ve still only scratched the surface of the games included with the system, but so far, I’m incredibly happy with my purchase. Like the NES Classic Mini, the system is currently sold out, but restocks are on the horizon. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on an NES Classic Mini to place alongside it; I’m sure they will compliment each other nicely.