This Fan-Made Mini NES With Cartridges is Cool, but it's Not What the NES Mini Should Be

This Fan-Made Mini NES With Cartridges is Cool, but it's Not What the NES Mini Should Be

A very cool 3D-printed NES emulation machine is prompting people to ask why the NES Mini isn't similar, but Nintendo has good reasons for keeping things simple.

The deliciously-named Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer that's small and highly affordable, thus making it a valuable bit of tech for developing countries. It's also a popular emulation machine, as its tiny form makes it easy to slip into all kinds of 3D-printed plastic shells.

One stellar example is the Raspberry Pi NES Classic Console, a tiny NES put together by a modder nicknamed daftmike. If you've been paying attention to our excited babbling about Nintendo's upcoming NES Mini plug-and-play "console," then you'll immediately notice daftmike's NES construct looks very familiar. But daftmike began working on his project some time before Nintendo revealed the NES Mini – and the Raspberry Pi-powered machine is far more intricate than Nintendo's system, besides.

Most notably, daftmike's little NES has changeable cartridges. These are likewise 3D-printed shells, and each one is loaded with an NFC chip. As a result, new games can be written onto the cartridges via a mobile download. In daftmike's demonstration video, he even "upgrades" his Pokémon Red cartridge to a Game Boy Advance ROM of Pokémon FireRed.

Neither Pokémon Red nor Pokémon FireRed are NES games, of course: daftmike's demonstration exists to show off what his little machine can do even though it's 40% of the NES's original size. Its controllers, which are also scaled-down, utilize USB hookups.

daftmike's video is a lot of fun, and it's prompted some viewers to ask why Nintendo doesn't also make a tiny NES with working parts and switchable cartridges. That's not a hard question to answer, though: Nintendo doesn't need to make the NES Mini any more complicated than it already is. It's pre-loaded with 30 great games. You get a controller that's compatible with the Wii U (and maybe the NX?). The games will presumably, hopefully, be well-emulated (whereas Raspberry Pi-based emulation still leaves something to be desired). Its NES-shaped shell doesn't have as many cool moving parts as daftmike's NES, but there's only so much tech you can stuff into a $60 gizmo.

If you're upset over the NES Mini lacking changeable games, it's important to remember it's not really for you. That's not meant to be a nasty, sarcastic remark. You and I know what to look for in thrift shops and used game stores. We know how to navigate the secondary market, digital storefronts, and – ahem – ROM sites.

By contrast, the NES Mini is engineered for Wal-Mart shoppers who happen to glance at the unit in between picking up diapers and school supplies. They say, "Wow, awesome, I loved the NES as a kid!", and $60 later, they have an inexpensive nostalgia machine that easily lets them re-experience the pastime they abandoned due to a lack of time, a lack of money, or general changes in the market.

(With infinite apologies to KC Green)

They're not interested in swappable cartridges that their kids will inevitably kick under the couch. They're probably not even interested in bothering with the hook-ups that'd be necessary to let the NES Mini download new games. And Nintendo certainly isn't interested in spending more money than it has to – especially not when the NES Mini has already generated so much excitement months before its November release. Supplies are going to dissolve like ice cubes on sun-baked asphalt.

Clearly, some of us game-savvy ladies and gentlemen are still interested in the NES Mini even though we own many of its games in other formats. I know I am; that tiny man is going to look so handsome on my shelf. But I wouldn't be willing to go far above $60 for the thing, even if the higher price point meant swappable cartridges (which you'd also have to pay for, presumably).

All that said, if daftmike ever mass-produces his Raspberry Pi NES Classic Console I'm sure I'll manage to find a non maxed-out credit card somewhere at the bottom of my purse.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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