Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hardware: My Heavily Postponed Generation NEX Review

Talk about a late-breaking story. Anything that can be said about Messiah's Generation NEX has been said by now. Now that the other shoe has dropped (and I've dragged it for a year or so), here's my two cents.

I pre-ordered the Generation NEX probably a week after it was announced. Honestly, it sounded great at the time. Messiah spun it in a way that made it sound like it was the penultimate replacement for every old and busted NES in every gamer's closet. This is an important factor of my review, and I'll be coming back to it later, so keep it in mind.

Natch, the NEX got pushed back, pushed back, pushed back, which only served to build up the hype. The community could only assume that the product was being refined. Messiah did a Q&A on their website, and I was really happy to see that two out of three of my submitted questions (about the Game Genie and the Four Score) showed up verbatim, and the third was addressed as well. I factored that in with my previous good experiences with Messiah's products AND service, and was very optimistic about the unit. A delay was no problem for me.

Finally, the big day came, and my NEX showed up in the mail. I was psyched, yet disappointed, as I had to go to work right away and would not be able to break it out until I got home.

One very long shift later, I was in the living room, ready to play. I opened the box and was presented with the thing I had waited months for... hmm.

Well, it was certainly cool-looking. No doubt a lot of work went into the design. The thing is slim, with a small profile. The front slot accepts a NES cartridge, while an additional top slot accepts a Famicom cartridge, with no need for an adapter. Excellent. When using the front slot, the whole thing is less than two inches high.

Two standard controller ports are to the right of the NES cart slot. Yes, standard NES ports, waiting to seductively accept your weapon of choice, including any NES gamepad, the Advantage, the Zapper, the damn U-Force, whatev. As a bonus, the ports are properly spaced to accept either the Four Score or the Satellite, neither of which I can use in my other Famiclone without some modification of the unit. Extra nice. I was happy with what I was seeing.

However, I had been hearing rumors about the quality of the unit, that it was powered by a regular cheap NOAC and that the video and audio were on par with every other Famiclone on the market and nowhere near that of the NES. Well, after hooking up the unit, I discovered that the rumors were true. This thing performed no better in either the video or sound departments as the Yobo I had purchased a year before. I think it was the sound that upset me the most; most systems that use a NOAC cause the sounds from many games to play off-timbre tones. This was no different.

The other thing that got under my skin was the compatibility issues, another problem with the NOAC. Obviously, the biggest system-killer here was Castlevania III, a game which was the sole reason many people bought a NEX. It will not play at all. It powers on and displays a blank green screen. Furthermore, many games either worked not at all or incorrectly, even if they were games that I could play on the Yobo without any problems (NOTE: The Yobo has its share of quirks with games, but not nearly this bad).

And now the swimsuit competition:

This is how Mega Man looked on the NEX... extremely glitchy. Every time I jumped this happened. Oddly, there was no glitching when I plugged it into a Game Genie and tried again. Hmm.

This is how the data-save screen in Startropics kept coming up. This was the best I could get it.

Here we have The Legend of Zelda: Abstract Edition. No music, no waterfall, just gray slate glitch screen.

Camerica's Micro Machines gave me a similar glitch screen. I wasn't really expecting this one to work though.

Oddly enough, I did eventually get it to load, and made it to this point before it finally crashed.

Finally, as a stress-test, I put in my old pirate Super Mario Bros. 3 cartridge and proceeded to play through to the end of World 8 and the end credits. It actually handled it like a champ; this particular cartridge is known for overheating and causing graphical glitching, yet I had no problems with it. Chalk one up for the NEX, for once!

After all of this, I felt ripped off, for one reason. When Messiah announced the NEX, they pitched it as being the unit to buy to replace your old NES. Throw that bad boy out the window, Generation NEX is in town. Potential buyers were expecting nigh-perfect compatibility, and I was among their number. What we received was a unit with a few great qualities and a few really awful ones. It certainly wasn't worth the $60 I dropped on it.

I must say this for Messiah's customer service, though - they are really good. They gladly swapped my NEX for a set of wireless controllers which I both use and enjoy.

The breakdown:

+Small, lightweight unit
+Great compatibility with NES controllers of all varieties
+Plays Famicom games with no adapter
+Built-in wireless support for Messiah controllers

-Somewhat hefty price tag
-Many games either poorly compatible or not at all
-Light weight makes removing games difficult sometimes
-Pack-in controller somewhat flimsy
-Sub-par sound and video

It's not what we were hoping for. This isn't the revolution in classic gaming; it's a half-hearted attempt at a "next-step." I love Messiah for trying to do their part to revitalize classic gaming, but for the price tag, you're better off buying an old toaster NES.


Blogger XLShadow said...

Such a sad story.

With Nintendo's Virtual Console on the Wii, you may have a modern way to enjoy the oldies. However, your collection of old carts are useless then.

11:37 PM  
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