American gamers' portable 8-bit fantasies have become reality. As last Friday was petering out, Nintendo of America announced the "Classic NES Series", consisting of a Game Boy Advance SP with a NES controller colour scheme, and a selection of eight NES titles to choose from: Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Excitebike, Ice Climber, Xevious and Bomberman. The Classic NES Series will launch in the States on June 7th, with games priced $19.99 (about a dollar more than their equivalent price in Japan).
Following the success of the Famicom Mini series of NES to GBA ports in Japan, speculation has been mounting for a while that the series would make an appearance in the West, so this move won't come as much of a surprise to most. In the US (and Europe), the NES sold millions of units during its time, and the GBA enjoys a stranglehold on the handheld market. Furthermore in both regions there is a need for software that will sell - only first-party Nintendo titles and big franchise associations (e.g. The Sims Bustin' Out) have been doing the business lately, with a number of interesting and critically acclaimed titles slipping through largely ignored.
Indeed, had Nintendo realised how popular the Famicom Mini series would prove to be, it might have launched the Classic NES Series equivalent sooner rather than later. But although the platform holder probably expected a certain amount of interest when it launched the series on February 14th in Japan, very few people inside the company or otherwise seemed to realise that a crop of 8-bit NES titles would outstrip expectations and surge to residence in the Japanese Top 10 so quickly. The first official chart following the launch of the 8-bit revival appeared just two days later, and already signalled around 150,000 units worth of sales for the three games in the Top 10 alone.
As for the Classic NES Series' European fortunes, the series is presumably quite likely to make an appearance, but when quizzed this morning Nintendo of Europe told us nothing was in place "at this stage". Not to worry though - if you really want to get your mitts on handheld versions of the original Zelda and Mario Bros. titles and their ilk, you can of course just import them from the start of June thanks to the GBA's delightfully region-free system design. Failing that, you can always find a stack of second hand NES items on eBay, and they're unlikely to cost you $19.99 per cart, either.