Looking at the design of my NES now, I view it differently aesthetically than I used to. I used to find it ugly, just a big grey block of plastic and metal. I assumed it looked so unappealing because of its age, I figured that back when Nintendo made it they focused on function over form. But after doing research on its history and learning about how Nintendo wanted it to look like a computer, to look sturdy and professional, I can see the design choices and appreciate them. The use of an antennae adapter instead of VHF is a plus (if you read my 2600 review you may remember how VHF can be a pain in modern times), the picture and sound are crisp and clear. The power and reset buttons look nice and professional. I can’t explain why but I love the way the power button clicks in and stays in when you press it and the way the cartridges snap down once you’ve inserted them. I don’t know what it is about snapping that metal piece down but its so damn satisfying to do.
Nostalgia glasses come off though when I go to start up Simon’s Quest and the screen remains black. “Shit, that’s right, I’m gonna have to blow into this cart and retry it at least a dozen times before it plays.” It takes a handful of tries before it finally works, even though I just cleaned all three games getting them ready for review. Playing through Simon’s Quest, Bionic Commando and Battletoads I was amazed at how well both the looks and sound of the NES holds up. There’s something visually appealing about 8-bit games. I can appreciate how much complicity and detail can be crammed into such a simplistic and limited amount of tools these developers had to work with. Some of these games have more personality than most modern games and they do it with <1% of the memory space today’s developers do.
The NES controller design is simple, but that’s not a bad thing. The buttons and pad perform and respond well and it just overall feels solidly constructed. Over the next few consoles we will see systems take the NES controller layout (basic pad on left and buttons on right with pause buttons in between) and add slightly more to it. Everything about the system from the controllers to the video and sound can be summed up by deeming it “simple but solid”. The actual console and controller look and feel professional and well manufactured. Aside from the pin connector needing replaced, which I said before is cheap and easy, the console holds up very well. The actual video and audio also holds up well, primarily due to the basic styles used. When we get to the eras of consoles where games try to actually look realistic (like around the PS1 and forward) we will most likely find the visuals feel very outdated. But the 8bit and 16bit era are timeless because they stick with simple visuals across the board and they differentiate themselves through their sound, features and personality. I enjoy replaying my NES and SNES more than any other console in my vast collection, that fact alone should tell you how great these consoles still are after 30+ years.