Nintendo may have fixed the supply issues which plagued the launches of the NES and SNES Classic Editions, but many will still be haunted by the devilish degree of difficulty they experienced in securing one of these micro-consoles at anything close to its recommended retail price. Thankfully both are easy enough to obtain at the time of writing, but that hasn't stopped Nintendo launching what could end up being the most sought-after Classic Edition yet: the [deep breath] Nintendo Classic Mini Family Computer Weekly Shōnen Jump 50th Anniversary Version.
Released to commemorate the 50th birthday of Japanese comic Shōnen Jump, this gloriously glitzy device is basically a Famicom Classic Mini in gold with a new selection of games pre-installed, most of which are licenced titles that feature characters who have appeared in Shōnen Jump over the decades.
It's a fun collaboration which will obviously mean a lot more to Japanese players than westerners, but there's a massive downside to this arrangement: most licenced video games from this period are utterly terrible. The most notable exception here is Dragon Quest, which – while not based on a comic property – is a worthy inclusion as its creator, Yuji Horii, once edited Shōnen Jump and the comic series Dragon Quest: The Great Adventure of Dai appeared in the magazine between 1989 and 1996. Also, Dragon Quest lead artist Akira Toriyama has a long history with the magazine via his Dragon Ball series.
We're probably being little harsh here, as the language barrier is a huge problem with this console; if you can't read kana then you're pretty much stuffed, as the vast majority of the games are text-heavy RPGs. Even so, it would be a real exaggeration to refer to this selection of games as 'classics' (Dragon Quest aside, of course); they're typical of licenced fodder released during the 8 and 16-bit periods that bolted a lucrative IP – such as Dragon Ball, Hokuto no Ken (AKA: Fist of the North Star), Kinnikuman (AKA: M.U.S.C.L.E), Saint Seiya and Captain Tsubasa – onto a half-baked RPG-style game.
In case you're interested, here's the list of the 20 titles included on the Nintendo Classic Mini Family Computer Weekly Shōnen Jump 50th Anniversary Version:
- Kinnikuman: Muscle Tag Match
- Dragon Quest
- Hokuto no Ken
- Hokuto no Ken 3: Shin Seiki Sōzō: Seiken Retsuden
- Dragon Ball: Shenlong no Nazo
- Dragon Ball 3: Goku Den
- Dragon Ball Z: Kyōshū! Saiyajin
- Kinnikuman: Kinniku-sei Ōi Sōdatsusen
- Saint Seiya: Ōgon Densetsu
- Saint Seiya: Ōgon Densetsu Kanketsu-hen
- Captain Tsubasa
- Captain Tsubasa Vol. II: Super Striker
- Famicom Jump: Hero Retsuden
- Famicom Jump II: Saikyō no Shichinin
- Sakigake!! Otokojuku Shippū Ichi Gō Sei
- Ankoku Shinwa: Yamato Takeru Densetsu
- Tenchi o Kurau
- Magical Taluluto-kun FANTASTIC WORLD!!
- Rokudenashi Blues
As you can see, the lineup is totally different from the one seen on the Famicom Classic Mini and NES Classic Edition. The interface remains largely the same, although it has a slightly different design scheme to reflect its association with Weekly Shōnen Jump, and there's a cool 'idle' sequence which imitates the opening scene from the Weekly Shōnen Jump video game, Famicom Jump. Another neat touch is that instead of playing the same bespoke tune over the main UI, you get a randomised piece of music from one of the included games.
On a purely cosmetic level, the Nintendo Classic Mini Family Computer Weekly Shōnen Jump 50th Anniversary Version is physically identical to the original Famicom Classic Mini, with the exception of its gold casing. We imagine this could well divide opinion, but we think it looks utterly gorgeous; sure, it's a bit brash and overbearing, but there simply aren't enough gold video game consoles in the world. The packaging is also brilliant; the box is shaped like a copy of the Shōnen Jump comic, complete with authentic 'spine-and-pages' detail around the sides.
Onto the negatives, the controllers are still ridiculously tiny – they have to be, as – like on the original Famicom from the '80s – they bolt onto the side of the console when not in use. They're also wired (again, like the original) so they can't be replaced if they fail over time. The cable connecting them to the console is stupidly short, so you'll need to sit right in front of your TV to play. You could argue this is providing an authentic experience – most Japanese gamers will have played their Famicoms in front of the telly – but in the modern era of massive flat-screen TVs and wireless controllers, this feels like an unnecessary throwback. The D-Pad on the controller is also far too small, and we found it was hard to peform precise directional inputs as a result.
Given that it's based on the same hardware and software as the other Classic Editions released thus far, we'd assume that hacking the Nintendo Classic Mini Family Computer Weekly Shōnen Jump 50th Anniversary Version and loading up your own selection of games is perfectly possible, but we've not attempted it ourselves with this unit as yet, so there's a slim chance Nintendo could have introduced some kind of additional security to prevent it (although given that it didn't on the SNES Classic Edition, we'd say that's unlikely). Even if you did do this, it's genuinely hard to recommend this system to anyone who lives outside of Japan, doesn't have any kind of emotional or nostalgic connection to these games and doesn't possess the hands of a tiny child. We're sure that many Japanese players will have extracted some enjoyment from these licensed titles back in the day, but they're not in the same league as the likes of Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania or Mega Man 2.
The Nintendo Classic Mini Family Computer Weekly Shōnen Jump 50th Anniversary Version is therefore little more than a collector's item; it will look amazing on your shelf and we dare say that it will increase in value over the years, but as something to actually plug in and play, it's a non-starter for almost everyone, even those who are able to read Japanese text. The only real positive is that the machine's existence is proof that Nintendo is capable of working with third-party publishers on its Classic Edition range, and we could potentially see machines based on the N64, Game Boy and Game Boy Advance appearing in the future which come with more than just the usual selection of first-party Nintendo hits. Rare games on the N64 Classic Mini, anyone? It seems like a pipe dream, but stranger things have happened.
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