One Christmas morning in 1989, I opened a big present, bigger than me. It was the Nintendo Entertainment System, complete with PowerPad and Zapper. Nearly three decades later, I unboxed a futuristic block of aluminium: an NES clone called the Analogue Nt. And I felt that childhood glee all over again.
The Analogue console promises to offer a 21st century Nintendo experience. Not only does the $500 (£380) machine play any classic NES cartridge you can get your hands on, but it also sports a slot for Japanese Famicom games. Curiously, the Analogue also uses original NES processors that pumps a digital signal through an HDMI port that makes games look ultra sharp. You can play with original NES or Famicom controllers, so the system effectively let me recreate the lazy Saturdays of my youth in HD without blowing on any cartridges.
Except there’s one problem. Nintendo games are kind of boring. Running an 8-bit character from one side of the screen to the other is fine for a nostalgic thrill, but it’s not the mind-blowing, nose-picking fun fest it was when I was five. After playing Super Mario Brothers 3 for an hour, I started questioning my existence, wondering how I ever became so obsessed with this silly grey box. Maybe I should’ve been reading more trashy sci-fi novels as a kid. Maybe I should’ve learned to play the piano. Maybe my parents were right about video games turning your brain to mush.
I’m only being a little bit dramatic. The obvious explanation here is that kids in the '80s were easily entertained by simple video games. After all, they were neat and new at the time. But technology in 2016 makes the glitchy graphics and rudimentary design of NES games seem quaint, a cute reminder of how far we’ve come.
As a piece of hardware, the Analogue Nt is undeniably impressive. It renders the old NES games perfectly in HD and performs better than my original console on its best days. There is none of the lag that can plague emulators or cheap NES clones you can buy on eBay. You can even customise the colours of the games on the screen to take on an arcade feel or to resemble the classic look, complete with old school CRT messiness. The gadget did exactly what I wanted it to do (play old NES games) without any fuss or screw ups. I can’t say the same for a lot of gadgets I’ve tested.
Does any of that make old Nintendo games less boring? Not at all. My time with the Analogue NT felt like scratching an itch more than anything. For years, I’ve trolled eBay for the rare top-loading NES console that came out around the time I upgraded to Super Nintendo. I wanted to relive my childhood as an adult man in his early 30s. I craved one of those marathon Saturday sessions that would wipe my mind of all worries that didn’t involve getting Mario past that flying fish level. And I almost found that happy place playing the Analogue. But then I got bored and went back to playing Sim City on my iPhone.
That’s just me. If you’re a retro gaming aficionado, the Analogue Nt is a solid investment. At $500 (£380), it had better be. If you’re a wistful little shit like me, though, you should be excited about the new NES Classic Edition. Shipping in November for just $60 (probably £50), this adorable little Nintendo console comes pre-loaded with 30 games you’ll remember loving as a kid. It might lack the sophistication and versatility of the Analogue Nt, but at that price, it won’t matter if you only play once a month.
Looking back, I almost wish I’d never gotten an NES. I could’ve spent that screen time learning C++ and then I would’ve invented Facebook or something. That’s just the 2016 me talking, though. I loved my Nintendo as a kid, and the Analogue Nt helped my black heart embrace that emotion once again, if only for a fleeting few minutes. I wouldn’t spend half a grand to have that feeling on tap. That NES Classic Edition, though…
Let’s just say I know what I want for Christmas this year.
- The aluminium console is simply gorgeous.
- The upscaling and graphics are also gorgeous.
- There is zero lag
- Nintendo games are boring
- The Analogue Nt costs $500 (£380) (and is sold out at the time of this review).