Review by RCoker

Reviewed: 08/11/01 | Updated: 08/11/01

The system that started it all!!!

The 8-bit NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) came out in 1985 in the United States, and it ended the video game crash of 1983-1984. This system gave Nintendo dominance in the video game industry for a number of years until the 16-bit systems came along. This review will grade the various elements of the NES:

Hardware Design:
The Trapezoid-shape of the NES gives it a unique look. The NES was probably the only system that was a front-loading deck where you put the cartridge in and push it down. This system was very easy to hook up for the most part. However, the hardware isn't without its flaws. On many instances, people started getting flashing gray screens when trying to load a game after a certain number of years of play on the NES. To get around this problem, many have to often blow into the system or the games to get them to work. This problem comes from bad cartridge contacts, which the NES was notorious for. This issue was kinda maddening but was able be worked around by cleaning the games and the cartridge contacts with a Q-Tip and alcohol. Fortunately, Nintendo released a top-loading NES (with a SNES-ish look) in 1993 which nearly eliminated this problem entirely; however, not too many units were produced. Also, the NES had the problem of automatically erasing saved games from games like Zelda, Final Fantasy, and any other game that had battery-backup memory. The instructions to turn the system off in order to keep the saved games in memory were to hold RESET while turning off the power. This was really unnecessary, and many people didn't know of this. Therefore, this caused some people panic when they turned the system off without holding RESET, and after turning the game on again, found that many hours of their hard work were lost. Overall, the hardware design of the NES isn't bad, but it's got certain flaws.

Grade: 72 / C (5/10) Moderate

The controls of the NES were relatively simple for the most part. The control pad, the A button, B button, select button, and start button, provided a plenty of buttons for its games. Many NES packages came with a gun called the zapper which was used for games like Duck Hunt. The controllers on the NES fit fairly comfortably and were easy to use. Later on, some variations of the NES controller were released such as the turbo controller and NES Advantage. The Turbo controller made button response better. The NES Advantage was like an arcade pad, which enhanced the playing experience for games like TMNT2, TMNT3, Double Dragon series, etc. These variations were great innovations by Nintendo. The controllers that came with the newly-redesigned NES seem more comfortable than the originals. On the other hand, many games on the NES seem to have really good gameplay despite the slower 8-bit 1.79 MHz 6502 CPU. Compared to that, the Sega Master System had an 8-bit 3.58 Mhz Z80. While most NES games have good play control, there are also some that show the NES' slower CPU in that they have somewhat sluggish control. Overall, the NES controls fare really well.

Grade: 86 / B (8/10) Very Good

Graphical Capabilities:
The NES' graphics chip is capable of displaying 16 colors onscreen out of about 52 colors. There is only one plane. The screen resolution is 256x224.

The NES' graphics are inferior to the SMS' graphics. The NES isn't capable of displaying many colors at all, and having only one plane available can limit backgrounds. However, some games like Crystalis, SMB 3, and many others have pretty good graphics (for the system). Some NES games also used extra chips to help with some scrolling, parallax, etc., though. Overall, the graphics on many NES games lack detail, and you won't expect to see any eye candy that is present in later games; But it was a leap above older systems like the Atari 2600.

Grade: 67 / D+ (4/10) Minimal

Audio Capabilites:
The NES uses a 5 channel PSG with only one selected waveform for each channel (Ch. 1 and 2 are square wave, Ch. 3 is triangle wave, Ch. 4 is random noise, and Ch. 5 is PCM). PSG stands for Programmable Sound Generator. Timed bursts of static are often used to simulate drums and other types of percussion, though some games use digital samples for drums (with extremely low sample rates). Speech and other digitized samples sound extremely poor because they are only 1-bit, and the sample rates are extremely low. All NES sound/music is in mono. To help with the NES' limited sound capabilities, some games use extra in-cart chips to add extra sound channels. The VRC7 in-cart chip, used in Lagrange Point (Japan Only), generates its sound using FM synthesis. Even though the NES has a sound chip, better than the Atari 2600, that is good enough to make music, it is very limited in the variety of sounds it can produce (even has less features than the SID chip in the 1982 C64).

Grade: 63 / D (3/10) Very Primitive

Overall Musical Composition/History:
Many NES games have put out some very memorable game music like Metroid, Zelda series, Mega Man series, FF series, and more. Hip Tanaka, Koji Kondo, Nobuo Uematsu, Rob Hubbard, and many other composers are responsible for some of the really good songs on the NES. Overall, the NES has a ton of great music, but writing interesting music is tougher on more primitive sound hardware with limited features.

Grade: 86 / B (8/10) Very Good

Overall Quality of Games:
Here's where the NES really shines. This system has a lot of games that have given me countless hours of fun. Games like Zelda series, Mario series, FF series, Metroid, Castlevania series, Ninja Gaiden series, TMNT series, and many many others have provided a ton of entertainment for years. However, the NES is also one of those systems that had the most bad games such as Deadly Towers, Bokosuka Wars, Hydlide, Tag Team Wrestling, M.U.S.C.L.E., etc. But the number of games don't matter; only the number of good games. And the NES seems to have more good games than most later systems. Overall, the NES has many classics.

Grade: 97 / A+ (10/10) Virtually Perfect


Hardware Design = 72 x .10 = 7.20
Controls = 86 x .20 = 17.20
Graphical Capabilities = 67 x .10 = 6.70
Audio Capabilities = 63 x .15 = 9.45
Overall Musical Compostion/History = 86 x .15 = 12.90
Overall Quality of Games = 97 x .30 = 29.10

TOTALS = 83 / B

= 7/10 Good

Overall, the NES is a good system by Nintendo that will be remembered by many gamers. The design isn't the best, but it's adequate. The controls are nice and simple, and most games generally have pretty good play control. Eventhough the graphics are rather simple, it didn't hurt the system much at all. Many NES games have good music despite the very limited primitive sound chip. Overall, the NES boosted the video game industry in the mid-80's, and it set a foundation for later video games.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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