With the NES Classic Mini currently proving to be quite hard to find at retail right now, chances are that the thought of sourcing its Japanese sibling may have crossed your mind. Released at the same time and boasting a design which imitates that of the system that started it all – 1983's "Family Computer", or Famicom – this Japanese variant appears to be slightly easier to obtain, despite the fact that you'll have to order one from abroad. However, should you choose to take the plunge – GameDigga kindly supplied our unit – you'll find a console which is well worth the effort, despite the obvious similarities it shares with the western version.

The biggest difference between the Famicom Classic Mini and the NES Classic Mini is obviously the design. As we all know, Nintendo's 8-bit hardware was redesigned by Lance Burr when it was released in North America, and the cute red-and-white casing was usurped in favour of a VCR-style aesthetic which attempted to distance the NES from consoles like the Atari 2600, which had turned retailers against the industry following the crash of '83. The Famicom Classic Mini looks like a toy, and that's part of its charm; while the NES has an iconic style, it's angular and even somewhat dull in comparison.

Like the NES Classic Mini, this system suffers from very short cable length which forces you to sit right in front of the television. You could argue that in the case of the Famicom, this was the norm – look for any image of Japanese kids playing on the console in the '80s and you'll see them right in front of the TV – but for 30-something players today, the prospect of sitting cross-legged on the floor might be less appealing. Unlike the NES Classic Mini – which has both wireless and wired solutions to this problem – there's no way of overcoming this issue with the Famicom Classic Mini.

The design of the Famicom is replicated so closely that the system features hardwired controllers, just like the original, and these slot onto the sides of the machine when not in use. Because the Famicom Classic Mini is smaller, the pads have naturally been shrunk as well to ensure that they still fit. This is perhaps the biggest bugbear with this system; while the pads are still perfectly usable, those of you with large hands might find them uncomfortable over long periods of time.

Using hardware from overseas usually means jumping through some annoying hoops when it comes to power supplies, but the Famicom Classic Mini is powered by USB and therefore presents no headaches for importers. There's no PSU in the box, but you can use any USB power block you have lying around the house – anyone with a recent smartphone is likely to have several already. You can also use your TV's USB socket to supply the unit with power, if it has one. The console connects to your TV via HDMI and – as was the case with the NES Classic Mini – the picture quality is superb. The same filter options are on offer here, too – in fact, language aside, the interface is exactly the same, as you might expect given that the internal tech is identical across the Japanese and western editions of this miniature hardware. That means save states for each game and scanned manuals which can be accessed online via QR codes, as well as impeccable emulation.

Software

Like the NES Classic Mini, the Famicom Classic Mini comes loaded with 30 games. Here's the full list:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Castlevania
  • Donkey Kong
  • Double Dragon II: The Revenge
  • Dr. Mario
  • Downtown Nekketsu Koushinkyoku
  • Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari
  • Excitebike
  • Mario Bros.
  • Pac-Man
  • Ice Climber
  • Galaga
  • Yie Ar Kung-Fu
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Atlantis no Nazo
  • Gradius
  • Ghosts 'n Goblins
  • Solomon's Key
  • Metroid
  • Tsuppari Ozumo
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Mega Man 2
  • Super Contra
  • Final Fantasy III
  • Mario Open Golf
  • Super Mario USA
  • Kirby's Adventure
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

The software lineup is also slightly different, with Bubble Bobble, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Donkey Kong Jr., Final Fantasy, Kid Icarus, Punch-Out!!, StarTropics and Tecmo Bowl making way for Atlantis no Nazo, Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari (AKA River City Ransom / Street Gangs), Downtown Nekketsu Koushinkyoku, Final Fantasy III, Mario Club Golf, Solomon's Key, Tsuppari Sumo and Yie Ar Kung-Fu. If you don't speak Japanese then you're naturally going to struggle with some of those titles, and the likes of The Legend of Zelda, which is present on both consoles but is naturally in Japanese on the Famicom Classic Mini.

As you might expect, the revised selection of games is tailored towards the Japanese audience, so while it might seem odd to lose classics like Kid Icarus, Bubble Bobble and Punch-Out!!, games like Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari, Final Fantasy III, Solomon's Key and Yie Ar Kung-Fu are held in just as high esteem in the Far East, hence their inclusion. The differences in software – twinned with the fact that it's not possible to add any more games to either the Famicom Classic Mini or NES Classic Mini – naturally lends weight to the argument that really serious Nintendo fans should own both of these consoles. From a western perspective at least, it's fascinating to see how the library of 30 games has been modified to suit Japanese desires.

The Verdict

So, should you invest in the Famicom Classic Mini if you're struggling to get hold of the NES edition? That really depends on how you feel about not being able to play some of the more text-heavy titles, and your opinion on some of the Japanese-exclusive games. The Famicom Classic Mini is perhaps best seen as a companion piece to the NES Classic Mini in this respect; there are just enough differences between the two – both cosmetic and in terms of software – to ensure that both are worthy of place under your television. It's just a shame that the controllers are so small and that the cables are so short; without a means of solving these issues via third-parties accessories, the Famicom Classic Mini is more of an acquired taste – but one that a great many Nintendo fans will want to sample nonetheless.


Thanks to GameDigga for supplying the Famicom Classic Mini used in this review.