- Slightly reduced replica of Nintendo’s original 8-bit console, complete with a top door that flips up and down, AC adapter ports and A / V ports.
- Super Mario Bros. (1985) buildable game cartridge, which can be inserted into the NES.
- A 1: 1 scaled replica of an NES controller, which is inserted into the player’s ports on the front of the console.
- 80s style television and stand.
We Build the LEGO: Nintendo Entertainment System
The latter has a crank on its side. Turn the crank, and a level of Super Mario Bros., made entirely of LEGO, goes from the television screen. The television, not including the stand to be built, is about eight inches wide and nine inches wide. The entire set, including the console, fits easily on the shelf – or, if you feel uncomfortable, in the media cabinet under your current television.
The Nintendo LEGO Entertainment System is 2646 pieces. Instructions for building it are spread over two instruction manuals: one for the console, controller, and NES cartridge; and another for the TV, the rotating display, and the standing.
First, you build the NES console. Besides a wonderful secret inside the house (more on the end of this article), it’s a pretty simple experience – methodical bottom-up placement of a brick to create the signature shape of the console . I was intrigued by a mechanism in the house that allows you to insert a cartridge into the LEGO console and push it down, just like you do with an actual NES. There is a neat trick to this, which involves connecting rods and pins, creating a sliding grip.
The construction of the controller and the cartridge are simple and concise; their appeal is to see familiar objects from my childhood take shape slowly. But they are wise in construction, they are lulled before the exciting second half of the set – the television and its side level Mario scrolling.
Here that LEGO designers, free to pay homage to the design of the other company, create something ambitious and completely unique. The TV is something out of time – from the look of the wood panels to the look of the channel clicking to its raisable antenna, it looks like every 80’s TV we’ve ever had – the kind of a thing to be in MoMA as an example of a time-consuming aesthetic.
As for Mario’s level of scrolling inside the TV, his construction is creative and compact. The scenery is actually a mosaic, using a mix of 1×1 tiles and slabs to create the illusion of sky, bushes, clouds, and platforms. Printed tiles of Goombas, Koopa Koopki, Coins, Question Blocks, and Power-Up Points are overlaid.
The mosaic is built on top of a long belt conveyor, which is mounted around a spindle and mounted inside the TV. When you turn the crank, it rotates gears, rotating the display. The Mario avatar is mounted on a plastic stick, which is pressed against the tiles. He “jumps” in response to a chase on strategically placed LEGO studs. That both of these effects were accomplished through a single crank and gearbox is fantastic wisdom.
The main reason why magicians never tell their secrets is because the solution is never as convincing as the illusion; it is often mundane to the point of feeling cheap. This LEGO set leads to the opposite effect. Knowing how it works and building it, first of all, makes it more impressive. Astonish with the resource. Plastic, brick bonding can create a simple and elegant machine when placed in the right order.
One of the last details worth mentioning: the above mentioned secret inside the console.
LEGO is about both the building process and the end result. Designers underline this philosophy by hiding Easter Eggs inside the building – tiny aesthetic details that serve no practical purpose, except to entertain the builder and leave them on something exclusive. And once the set is ready, the builder can choose whether to reveal the detail or not; the average person would never know she was there.
The LEGO Nintendo Entertainment System has a doozy of Easter eggs hidden inside its console. Often, LEGO markets these Easter Eggs as a selling point in their press releases, but not this time. He caught me completely off guard.
If, like me, you see the building process as a kind of storytelling, consider this spoiler warning, and skip the next two paragraphs.
There is an empty space inside the console, and the developers used it to build a 1-2 Earth diorama from Super Mario Bros. (1985). You see the lifts up / down. You should see the exit pipe jumping upwards to reach the first Warp Zone. And you see the Warp Zone itself, with the three pipes leading to Worlds 2, 3, and 4.
It’s a minimalist rendering; I didn’t know exactly what I was building until I completed it. But when I suddenly click, a wave of nostalgia washes over me. It was 1989. I had six, and my mother, who was playing with the NES after I went to bed, told me about the Warp Zone she had discovered in the middle of the night. After I finished breakfast, I turned on the NES to see it for myself.
These explosions of childhood recognition make the LEGO Nintendo Entertainment System an exceptional exception. Like Nintendo, LEGO knows the power of nostalgia. Just like every generation that rediscovers Mario, every generation rediscovers LEGO; every brick from 1958 matches every brick today, and creates an intergenerational, shared experience. It is fitting that this set, this cheerful tribute to the childhood of the 1980s, allows many adults to rediscover that part of themselves and incorporate LEGO into the lives of their adults.
The Nintendo Entertainment LEGO System, Set # 71374, was created by LEGO designers Daire McCabe, Pablo Gonzalez, and Leon Pijnenburg. It retails for $ 229.99. It will be available in LEGO brick and lime stores and the LEGO online store on August 1st.
Kevin Wong is affected by LEGO. Talk about your favorite sets with him on Twitter at @kevinjameswong.