Within the last year, the options for playing classic Nintendo games has multiplied via the Wii’s Virtual Console and a small handful of NES clones now available.
While all the options sound very nice on paper, Ben Kuchera from Ars Technica’s Opposable Thumbs has taken the initiative to actually try all the different retro Nintendo solutions on the same HDTV and see which ones hold up best. As Ben explains it,
“I tested an original NES, the Generation NEX system, the FC Twin, and lastly the Wii Virtual Console version of Super Mario Bros. Each system is hooked up to my HDTV via composite cables except for the Wii, which uses component. I took a picture with each system at three different places in the first level…
I’m convinced that tracking down a working NES is worth the hassle and cost. It just gives the colors and image a level of quality that the clones can’t meet. These sprites are so simple, you really pay attention to things like color composition and design; when the Generation NEX muddies the image so badly, you’re doing yourself a disservice by playing the games so compromised. The FC Twin does a very good job, and since it looks and plays SNES games pretty decently for the price, it may be a good investment (I might have been too hard on it in my original review). I’m going to add a link to that review post so people can see the followup. I know the Virtual Console pictures are unfair—it’s a $250 system hooked up through component—but if you have the means, this is certainly the way to go. It makes your NES games look beautiful, and that may help me justify the cost of buying the games again.”
As one might expect, the cheap NES clones just don’t seem to have what it takes to match a genuine Nintendo piece of hardware.