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Got the retro gaming bug? Have you been drawn in by the Wii virtual console releases and fancy owning the original hardware again? A lot of interest has been generated by the virtual console and modern  2013 gamers are looking with interest at getting a NES console,after all,we just cant get away from the fact that with downloads you dont ACTUALLY have a good old solid game cart to admire or box to enjoy the retro artwork thereupon,so for those of you about to splash the hard earned on a machine,Ive drawn up a few pointers to,hopefully,help you make the right decision for YOU.

1) Price

An NES is a good investment IF you want to stash it to appreciate in value-buy the right set and make sure its complete and as good condition as possible.However Im really addressing this guide from a gamer's point of view so Im going to approach it as a playing machine with emphasis on function rather than beauty.

    If youre looking for a nice clean NES with little of the familiar plastic discolouration prevalent on many machines,plus all the leads youll need and a controller,expect to pay £25 or more plus postage. You MIGHT get a game in it for that price if youre lucky!

Expect some discolouration on the majority of loose machines,its cosmetic basically,though it does make the plastic slightly more brittle if dropped (but you're not going to do that ???)

Small chips to the thin ovelap lip on the cormers are common-Id be honest and say a scruffy console,discoloured and chipped but in good working order is still more use than a tidy grey one with a filthy internal connector-ASK the seller how well it works!

Boxed sets will always attract far higher premiums,often £50+ for a 'regular' set with all its polystyrene inners.The 'ACTION SET' is a basic set with a ZAPPER gun thrown in,in a bigger box (doh!)at about £60, a 'SUPER SET' is a basic set,with 4 pads and a 4 player adapter tap will also set you back about £60+ and the 'grail' for collectors, the DELUXE SET,containing the R.O.B Robot,complete with Zapper and all accessories will often run to £200 and way beyond.Condition as always is paramount,nice clean sets with (if possible) instructions and as much original wrapping as possible are highly sought after,if you dont need all that,save yourself a wad and buy 10 loose games with what you save!

Youll pay a little more if the console has been fitted with a new 72 pin connector,this should by rights give you a better chance of  a 1st time start.

Finally,early NES consoles,bearing the Mattel Version on the loading door generally bring more than' NES version' machines. They both work identically and will play all your PAL UK games.DONT BUY A PAL 'B' CONSOLE OR 'EUROPEAN VERSION'!!The UK and Italy, along with a few further flung areas like Australia were designated Pal 'A' and the rest of   Europe Pal 'B'.

PAL B carts do not work in pal A machines and vice versa,so always check what youre buying-many sellers honestly dont know the difference!

2) Reliability

  Very sticky area and the point where you should be asking 'do I really need the hassle?' The NES is a basic machine that,looked after well,SHOULD function exactly as it was intended to. However the indirect contact method whereby games are inserted,then pressed down onto the console connectors,leaves it very prone to being thrown off its stride by dirty cartridge connectors,thus causing either a grey screen with no display,or worse,a flashing power light on the console,along with a blue screen and no sign of life.This is,in the vast majority of cases,caused by dirty cartridge contacts and they CAN be cleaned but if the console has been fed a diet of dirty games and enough muck transferred over to the actual console connectors then the console will struggle to run anything at all and youll be left with,at best,a machine needing refurbishing with a new connector (youll need to be practical but its possible!!) or,if you dont feel thats within your capabilities,you're left with a useless piece of old junk,hence the many stories of nightmares with NES consoles.

ALWAYS ASK THE SELLER about how well the NES loads up,be realistic-its NOT a modern laser based system,its a simple metal on metal connection and metal oxidises (dulls)over the years,so virtually ALL loose carts will need a bit of a polish up and regular clean.Youll have to expect the odd stutter- its unreasonable to blame a console seller if the console suddenly wont run a game,ALL NES will have the odd hiccup,but usually a quick clean of the game will solve this-again youll HAVE to be a little practical to keep it tip top. Which reinforces the point that its more often GAMES that are the problem,however a dirty old unused console with an original connector inside is something youd be better off avoiding-so ASK your seller.

Many parents are currently buying NES as a knockabout console for the kids,its NOT a good idea-if you MUST play old games,buy a 'plug and play' set,as,unless youre quite knowledgable on NES consoles youll be getting your ear bent about games not working every day,as the kids wont make allowances for the age of the machine!

New 72 pin connectors are fitted to many consoles,its a good idea to do this,however,theyre only as good as your carts thereafter-feed it dirty auction win 'loft find' games for a few days and you might as well never have bothered!Again its all down to how you keep it!

Most NES will be connected direct to the TV aerial Rf input,you can use the AV outputs too,but the vast majority will be connecting straight into the TV aerial socket-itll need TUNING in-it WONT find the picture automatically like a SCART lead!ALSO,the ZAPPER light gun is unable to register on LCD TVs so thats very much a point to look out for.- youll need an older CRT set!

3) Games

LOADS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So many Nintendo classics have their roots here and at pocket money prices- a Super Mario Bros#1 + Duck Hunt 2 game cartridge can be had for as little as £2.50,as can so many others.Of course,its not just a gaming machine,its now a 'collectable' and as such,certain games attract BIG prices,some in excess of £100 boxed and complete.If youre just wanting to play games,this needn't be of relevance to you, a loose cartridge can sell for 1/3 the cost of a complete/mint boxed title. The games may seem basic looking to younger gamers but mums and dads will remember so many arcade classics from the 80s like Popeye,Mario Bros,Donkey Kong and many Zapper games are absolute classics like Hogans Alley,Wild Gunman and many more,so youll not run short on choice!

4) Maintenance

Be practical-you'll need to clean carts regularly,or all the aforementioned problems will creep up on you.If you buy a mint spotless cart,DONT imagine you wont need to do anything with it,theyre OLD games,often with oxidised contacts and will need a little care and attention.That said, the build quality is superb-basic but so solid and reliable-very rarely do you find a genuinely faulty NES game,dirty yes, faulty-rarely,so with a bit of elbow grease you can become a dab hand at resurrecting those grotty old carts that you got for nothing because the seller couldnt get them to load!

The console is really difficult to do much with,there were cleaning sets sold back in the day,containing a cart style cleaning tool to insert into the console.Youll struggle to find one of these now and to be honest the success Ive had with them is limited,they may help maintain a good clean connector but dont seem to resurrect dirty ones.Look after the carts and they'll look after the console for you.

I'm not going to go into detail on cleaning here, this is about deciding if you really want a NES or not,but its quite simple IF youre a little teensy bit practical.If you feel youre NOT,Id strongly advise you buy a SNES or even N64 as the direct slot loading will give a much easier life in 99% of cases.

But DONT be put off owning a NES or youll miss out on Zelda 1&2,castlevania 1,2 &3,Probotector 1&2,Mario Bros,Donkey Kong,Metroid,Turrican,a real who's who of Nintendo names-theyre all here!

Just remember its going to require a little patience-you wouldnt jump into a 40 year old classic car to drive 500 miles to make sure you got to your wedding on time,but you can enjoy it every bit as much for what it is, a piece of history thats still quite usable and enjoyable.Its testament to the NES' bulid quality that theyre still around in vast numbers,I wonder if the same ratio of disc based consoles are still running in 25 years? The playstation would seem to suggest not,Ill bet in very few years there will be more working NES than PS1s around!

Thanks for sticking with it, I havent stuffed it full of pictures-there are Millions on ebay so look around-if youre not a practical type think twice and at least buy from a reputable seller,but above all ENJOY it!!!!! Happy Gaming!

(Prices are only a rough guide and are roughly current as of 3/2013,expect them to rise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

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