Any old-school gamer knows that the original NES had some awesome games for it. Unfortunately, the system also used a somewhat less than awesome design, and the result is that all these years later, getting your NES to actually play any games can be a huge pain. The cartridges get dirty, the contacts within the system get dirty from them, the connecting pins wear out, and before you know it, you have to blow in your cartridges, press reset hundreds of times, and do all kinds of other crazy stuff just to get your games to work. And sometimes that still isn’t enough.

Enter Messiah Entertainment and the Generation NEX, a brand-new console designed to play the cartridges for the NES and Famicom. At first, it may seem unnecessary to make a new system that can only play older games for an already existing console, but the big difference is that thanks to a much better design, the NEX has much less trouble getting games to play than the average NES. The system offers many other improvements as well. There is support for wireless controllers (sold separately), the ability to play both NES and Famicom (the Japanese version of the console) games, and dual audio ports to allow you to plug the system into a stereo TV and have sound come through both channels (it does not convert the games to true stereo however — it is the same sound coming through both speakers). The potential of this new system had me intrigued, and I quickly grabbed the TJG credit card and ordered one for myself…for research purposes, of course. [It’s coming out of your paycheck, by the way. – ED]

Generation Nex Packaging

Generation NEX packaging

At A Glance
The first thing that people notice about the Generation NEX is how small it is. The entire package — system, controller, cables, packing materials, etc. were all shipped in a box that was smaller than the NES console. The NEX is about one third the height of the NES, and is also less wide and not quite as deep. In addition to being small, the system is also extremely light.

In addition to the console, the unit comes with one controller (more on that later), stereo A/V cables, an AC adaptor (that is much smaller than the NES’ adapter), and an instruction booklet. These are no ordinary instructions however; they are shaped like an NES cartridge and even come in a black plastic sleeve. In addition to containing useful information on the setup and operation of your system, the book also contains a rarity and price guide for the NES library. A very cool feature for collectors.

Generation Nex Manual

The Generation NEX’s groovy, gamepak-shaped Instruction Manual

I Didn’t Even Have To Blow In It!
Because the most significant improvement the NEX offers over the NES is that it has a much easier time reading NES carts, this was the first thing that I put to the test. Using a copy of Mega Man 2 that I had not been able to get to play properly in my regular NES for several years, I set to work. To get this game to play at all on the NES, I would have to blow in it and reset the system multiple times until I could get past the dreaded “grey screen” and see the title screen. Even when I did get that far, the title screen was usually filled with graphical glitches and the whole process would have to be started again. And even when I did get the game to start up properly, it usually only lasted a few minutes before becoming glitchy or failing altogether.

Things were drastically different on the Generation NEX, however. I took Mega Man 2 out of the box and without cleaning it or even blowing in it, shoved the game into the console. It loaded up without a hitch, and I was able to play the game to completion.

Tests on other games provided similar results. Every game in my meager NES collection worked perfectly, although I should mention that none of them had ever been as troublesome as my copy of Mega Man 2. Later that day, I went to the store and bought a few more games to try out. Of the six that I purchased, four worked on both my original NES and the Generation NEX, and two games, P.O.W. and Karate Champ, did not load on the NES. At first they wouldn’t work in the NEX either, but after multiple tries, and some blowing, they eventually did.

Generation Nex NES console size

Size comparison: NEX with inserted NES gamepak (left); NEX on top of original NES (right)

Not only did every game that I try load up, but all of them played perfectly, without any additional slowdown, distorted audio or glitches. However, it should be mentioned that I was only able to test this on the fifteen or so games that I have at home. There have been some reports of game incompatibility, and a rather extensive compatibility list can be found on Messiah’s website.

Although the system had little problem reading my dirty games, I would still recommend cleaning games before using them in the NEX, as this should help prolong the system’s life. The most common way to clean NES carts is to pour a bit of rubbing alcohol onto a cloth, and use it to swab the connecting pins. For those of you who are more hardcore about cleaning your games, a screwdriver capable of opening NES carts can be ordered from Lik-Sang, which will allow you to open the cartridge and have more direct access to the connecting pins. Once this is done, you can clean them with alcohol, though I have found that rubbing them with a pencil eraser (preferably a Pink Pearl) works best — though you must be very careful not to get eraser rubbings into the cart!

The Generation NEX Experience
As I said earlier, the games I tried played almost exactly the same on the NEX as they did on the original NES. The main difference between playing a game on the NEX or the original system is the new, redesigned controller. The new controller has rounded edges, similar to the SNES controller, which are easier on the palms than the corners found on the NES controller. The NEX controller is also slightly smaller and much lighter than the original, however, whether or not this is an improvement will be a matter of personal preference. Some players will no doubt prefer the heavier, more “solid” feel of the original controller, while some will enjoy the almost weightless NEX controller. Also, the distance between the D-pad and the A and B buttons is noticeably shorter on the Generation NEX controller. I found that it was a bit too close together for my liking, but individual tastes may differ.

Generation Nex NES controller

Controller comparison: The NEX controller Vs. the original NES Controller

There are also wireless controllers available on the Messiah website, which are sold separately from the system. I was not able to test these out, as $60 was more than I wanted to spend to get wireless controllers for a system that sits about 5 feet away from my couch. Gamers with less ideal setups may want to check them out, though.

The NEX does exactly what it promises, which is play original NES and Famicom games. Although it probably can’t play every filthy cart that you might throw in it, I did find it to be able to play every single one of the games I tested on it without much difficulty. This is including a few games that would not work on my NES anymore. The NEX is a suitable product for anyone looking to replace their NES, or for people looking to get in on the impressive NES library.

The systems are slowly making their way onto store shelves, but it will probably be easier to order one through Messiah Entertainment’s website. More information can be found on the website as well.