There is an extremely high probability that if you were a gamer in the 80s or 90s, you owned or knew someone who owned a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It is easy to look back at the summer of 1985 through phenomenally rose-tinted glasses, but it’s not too much of a stretch to say the NES single-handedly helped save the US videogame market. At a time when Atari was collapsing, and pundits were predicting a shift to home PCs, the Japanese manufacturer dropped in with their game-changing console. Bundled with games like Duck Hunt (which had a gun!) the revolution was lit.
That other staple of childhood, Lego has been giving kids and adults alike the chance to ram bricks together since the 1930s. Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen started making wooden toys in 1932, and two years later Lego was born. The name, incidentally, comes from the Danish “leg godt”, meaning “play well”. And play well we have due Lego’s creative, problem-solving, and sharpening of fine motor skill benefits. In fact, about the only negative thing about Lego is standing on them bare feet when the kids haven’t cleaned up properly.
With such a long, illustrious history of entertaining the public, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Nintendo and Lego team-up. The result is a fantastic must-have piece of kit for fans of both companies. If you’re looking for a fun new project to keep yourself busy, take a look at The Nintendo Entertainment System Lego. For a quirky conservation piece for any gamer to decorate their bedroom or living room with, could it get any better?
What’s in the box?
Lego fans will be happy to know that the NES kit is a big one. Tearing open the box reveals a bunch of plastic bags containing a ton of bricks required to build the components. There are over 20 individual mini-builds in fact, each one clearly labelled, to correspond with the instructions in the manual. Lego has always been user friendly, and their easy to follow 3D instructions are an art form in themselves.
Lego instructions are also fabulously detailed, and the NES kit has not one but two booklets. Maybe take a seat for this, because the booklets contain over 200 pages – each. The first one covers the console, handheld controller and the cartridge, weighing in at 212 pages. The second is 248 pages, detailing the TV which takes longer due to an increase in complexity and smaller pieces.
It wouldn’t be Lego without learning something, and the booklets also provide a bit of info about the creation of the original NES. There are a few blurbs about some of the games, including screenshots. Plenty of classics rear up form the past such as Donkey Kong, Metroid, Excitebike, and The Legend of Zelda. It’s not exactly a Wikipedia entry, but the additional info adds a nice warm nostalgic glow before the building begins. Younger gamers are advised to avert their eyes lest the blazing pinks, cyans, and purples from the screenshots cause retinal upset.
A few stickers round off the pack, which make the finished product look a whole lot more realistic when fixed in place.
Building the thing
Having two separate booklets means making the set is perfect for two people to do together. Or, for individuals who like to oversee every step in the construction – one manual at a time. However you tackle it, the Lego NES isn’t a project you bang out while the partner is looking for a new Netflix series. It is ideal for those looking for something lengthy to sink their teeth into.
The instructions, for the most part, are simple enough to follow. As in other kits, you quickly spot when you’re building along the wrong lines, so a quick back step or two quickly gets you on the right track. Construction begins with building the base out of bricks and plates, followed by some Technic style parts in the cartridge holder.
There are a few deceptively tricky elements to the console, but the game cartridge is more straight forward, as is the handheld controller. Things heat up when building the TV, mainly due to the scrolling screen.
Yes, Mario gets a scrolling screen to showcase his jumping and bopping talents. Scores of tiles go into making this section, which is fiddly, but well worth the effort. Once complete the screen is rotated by a small handle discreetly tucked away at the side of the cabinet. Turning it sends Mario on a 2D Lego powered escapade. His adventure is limited, but it makes a great way to cap off the project and looks fantastic in action. If you’ve got the Bluetooth Mario from Adventures with Mario Starter Course, you can pop that on the telly unit to emit sounds from the original 1985 game.
For the record, make it to this stage, and 2,646 pieces have gone into the construction. Far from being the largest Lego set, but around the same as Lego Minecraft: The Mountain Cave.
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the Lego NES for the real thing. A closer inspection reveals the tell-tale Logo gaps, yet it’s equally as cool. The set looks great once complete, and unlike many Lego sets, it comes with a certain level of interactivity. This includes the scrolling screen, as well as a bunch of neat extras. The dials make satisfying clicking noises when rotated, and there is a foldable antenna which can be adjusted to (pretend) to clear the picture.
Lego has gone for realism in other kits before, but the NES is one of the best so far. The TV has a glorious wood-panelled 70s look to it, and the actual console requires a double-take to confirm if it’s the genuine article or not. Lego has captured a pivotal moment in gaming history with this set, that should provide a blast of nostalgia for gamers young or old.