Is it strange that this set comes with a stand to set up as a display, but it's likely going to spend its entire life as a display piece on a stand somewhere?

I’ve written this review twice now. Not just started, but fully written the whole thing. The last version was 3000 words – all of that is to say, I’ve got some opinions on this particular set. The first version of the review was probably going to be pretty divisive, because I mostly reviewed the box and never actually opened it.

It wasn’t really a joke, it was more of a long story about what the Nintendo Entertainment System means to me, and the rather complex place that it has in my life and history. I had this set for well over a year before I ever opened it, and when I wrote that, I didn’t think I was going to. I have a lot of deep reasons for that, and I’m still going to touch on them (so, content warning for mental health and childhood trauma).

I’m still not going to review a lot of the set… because, honestly, this is the sort of set you’re either going to buy or you’re not. I don’t know that my words are going to sway you on it. The NES set runs $270 in the US, and if you don’t have some kind of connection to it, you’re not going to get it. This isn’t a set you play with, it’s one you build and enjoy, and then it’s going to sit there. It’s packed with little details, but it also needs you to have a personal hook. As I said, I wasn’t even planning on building it, but it turned into something that I did with my daughter, and we built the whole thing together, which turned into something special for us both.

I’m also going to crap all over nostalgia… because I’ve come to realize exactly how toxic that’s become as a thing. I mean, spoilers for the final thoughts and all, I really like this set, but there’s also something about it that just feels somewhat dissonant. Worse, it’s something that gets exploited all the time in nerd circles, with all kinds of products, kickstarters, special releases, video games, and basically every other single product that gets made these days.

The proportions are good on the set, but it’s smaller and doesn’t look quite right, especially when you sit it next to the real thing. For the record… that’s my wife’s original Nintendo. Mine was among several things that were stolen in college.

There isn’t a console more iconic than the Nintendo Entertainment System. There have been more popular consoles (the PlayStation 2 remains the best selling Console of all time, though it seems likely that the Nintendo Switch could ultimately surpass it), and it certainly wasn’t the first (that’d be the Magnavox Odyssey). It wasn’t even the most visually striking console, as the western version was a gray plastic box that was arguably a step back from the stylized lines of the Atari consoles that drove the console market into the ground just a few years before its launch.

Yet it’s instantly recognizable to almost anyone that cares about video games in the slightest, and to most people who don’t. It’s remembered, fondly and sometimes jokingly, by a whole generation that gathered around it to play the games that define the industry. The game that launched the console just passed a billion dollars in it’s by-the-numbers (but still entertaining) theatrical release. It’s been released as a mini console, the games have been released (and hoisted on many a sail) countless times, resold, and are collector’s items. The funny thing is that the only console you could maybe make a case to challenge it is the other gray plastic hunk from Nintendo, the original Game Boy, and how many of you even knew that the Tetris movie even came out back in April?

For me, personally, the Nintendo Entertainment System is arguably the most important video game system in my life. I don’t know if there’s a singular thing I can point to in my life that has a more centralized place in my life or development or childhood as a whole than it does. The NES sits very firmly in my most formative years… I had a friend whose older brother had a Deluxe Set when it first hit the wider US in 1986, complete with that terrible R.O.B. and Gyromite game no one could ever get to work, and we would occasionally get to play and enjoy Duck Hunt or Super Mario Bros. The daycare provider we stayed at got one in… 1987, and I ended up getting my one for myself in Christmas of 1989.

The details of the set, and how functional it is, are the little things that make it fun to build.

I’d gotten my own 19″ TV earlier in the year as well to enjoy, which was really fun. I’d actually gotten the TV because for most of 1987 and 1988, I’d spent pretty much every dollar I’d earned through allowance or chores renting an NES from local video rental places, and various games, and my father was sick of me taking his. He also used it as an excuse to get a bigger one, which was probably the stronger thing, but I wasn’t going to argue.

Tiger Heli and Jackal were two of my favorites, though there were several. I had been begging for an NES for Christmas that year, and had an idea it was coming, because I wasn’t allowed to rent a machine over Christmas break, despite having gotten one on the list at my local Phar-Mor (those of you old enough, and from a particular region of the US who remember what those places were, likely just got some big flashbacks).

I bought this set shortly after it came out… and then it just stat there, on a shelf, before my daughter and I built it – next to the Saturn V I still haven’t built and the system scale Razor Crest that also hasn’t been built. Spoiler, she really wants to build that Saturn V and doesn’t give one tiny iota of a crap about the Razor Crest. I’ve somehow raised a kid who doesn’t like Sci-Fi, and if she wasn’t a tiny smart-ass who lives on snark and science, I’d wonder if she was mine (but no… she’s so much like me I assume it’s the Universe making some sort of karmic point).

By 1989, the NES was well into its lifecycle and simply dominated everything. I had notebooks full of sketches of Link and Mario, drawing my own levels and games. I remember that Christmas well, it was full of presents. I got this great wooden storage box with Link and Mario on it, but the Nintendo wasn’t in that. There were some G.I. Joe toys in that box. I got a Super Mario shirt in there as well. The box would go on to become my chair, my storage box for all things games, a makeshift desk, something for my G.I. Joes to storm against Cobra, and so many other things.

Inserting the cartridge is interesting in theory, but in practice, it doesn’t work well at all. It gets stuck very easily and the springs are just overmatched by the weight. The door mechanism also can be knocked off really easily, because so much bulk is put on the front of it compared to the top.

The Nintendo itself was wrapped in this odd shape present that my dad took great pleasure in putting together. It wasn’t shaped like a Nintendo box, it was much shorter and chunkier, shaped kind of like an L with a few odd-shaped bits coming off of it. Things were tucked away in places, and when I opened it, the first thing I found was the AC adapter, then the Zapper, and likely there was a whole lot of screaming. It’s been 33 years, and these memories are vivid and stuck in my mind, and still bring some smiles to my face.

That’s the power of nostalgia, and why it gets mined so heavily by companies when they do things like make the Nintendo Entertainment System LEGO set, release old throwback toys, and acres of overpriced throwback merch that’s made for pennies and will end up in a landfill in a few years while the planet burns around us. Nostalgia is a double-edged sword, and that’s the sinister side of it, because our memories are so precious, but they can be so quickly weaponized against us.

It works because those memories are so vivid, so engrained in us, so remembered that they bubble up to the surface. That is a happy memory of me at Christmas, with my dad giving me a bunch of gifts and his putting so much effort. The hope, of course, is that they can turn and get the next thing, while we forget all of the other things. Every brand out there is trying to figure out how to get more money out of us and get the emotional response by putting in no effort themselves. They can instead just hold up the old thing and go, “look, this thing you remember” and expect us to pay up.

The saddest thing is that more often than not, they’re right.

I’d joke and say that my leaving that panel slightly askew was intentional just to bug someone, but it’s more that no matter how much I tried, those panels just wouldn’t stay flush. I tried, and tried, and tried. But they would just keep coming up. Those large plates do not impress me, LEGO.

A big reason this set sat in the box for so long is because happy memories are not the only memories that the NES brings up for me. I played a lot of Nintendo as a kid. I mean, hell, I still play a lot of Nintendo as a man in my mid-40s. But when I got mine, I in the middle of the worst years of my life, the last good Christmas I ever remember with my family, and surrounded by so much terrible that when I think of it now I’m somewhat amazed I got through it (relatively) sane. The NES was so important to me as a child because it’s where I escaped from the truly awful things going on. I cannot break those memories from the good, and I wouldn’t want to.

I don’t use “worst years” in an over-exaggerated sense here like some 80s movies cliche because of some family strife or poor white kid going through a divorce or some nonsense. I wasn’t looking to start a band and turn it into a career whining about it. During this time, I was front-and-center to witness my brother’s accidental death and drowning, which can of trauma on a nine year old. This was followed by the death of the grandparent I was closest to, my whole family basically collapsing from the grief and trauma of it, starting to work around 14 (and haven’t stopped since, really) and me spending the rest of my formative years more or less providing-for and taking care of myself. Those are the memories that the NES also brings back to me.

So getting that NES in 1989 was exciting because for a few moments, I could forget all of that, lose myself in video games, and sit in front of a television playing Tiger Heli until I got angry after learning there was no ending, and the stupid-ass game just looped and started over when you got to the end. That little gray box would basically be my life for the next few years, because I wouldn’t have any friends or social life or anything else going on.

That little side bit pops off, just like it does on the NES. Just like on the NES, it serves absolutely no purpose. So… it’s an amazingly accurate, faithful, and pointless feature.

You wouldn’t have wanted to hang out with me either, because I was depressed and sad and angry. I wasn’t bathing, or taking care of myself, because I was hurt and scared and in pain – there was a bit of therapy for a few months, but it eventually went away and no one else in my family went to it, just me and my cousins. My dad checked out after that Christmas, and ultimately never recovered from it. Neither did our relationship; it had ceased to exist a long time before he died.

There were moments that we had, briefly, like when the Super Nintendo came out and we got Pilotwings and played it together. He loved planes, so that was a bonding experience, but I loved video games and was good at them, he wasn’t, so eventually stopped playing it with me because I’d win and he couldn’t cheat to get ahead.

Part of me will always cling to those little memories that we had, because even though in the grand scheme, there was more bad than good, there is still that little bit of good. And I wrestle with it when I see stuff like the NES set from LEGO, which, ostensibly, is a fantastic set. But it’s preying on memories like this, asking us to focus on the positive and putting a huge price tag on it, but it’s going to plumb a lot of things that many of us are probably not willing to look at. If I’ve learned anything about my generation, that Late Gen-X/Early Millennial crowd, it’s that we’ve got a whole lot of baggage we don’t know what to do with but is seemingly very easy to market to. We were the target of the 80s cartoon and toy boom, and that stuff was a proxy and filler for a lot of things that were missing.

The Warp Zone is a really nice touch, but I think this would have been way more fun if it was World 1-1 instead. World 1-2 is fun, but World 1-1 has the power to make anyone between the ages of 35 and 48 start singing the Mario Theme just by flashing the world start card.

Obviously, I have a deep emotional connection to the NES… a lot of people my age do. That’s why nostalgia works so well, and why so companies are hitting it so hard right now.  If you see something and just think, oh, that’s cool, I remember that, you’re a whole lot less to buy something than if you look at it and immediately flash back to the moment when you enjoyed it. In truth, that’s probably why it why LEGO lost its hold over me… because it was Star Wars that had the hold on me, never really LEGO. I’ve talked about it here before, but LEGO wasn’t a big part of my childhood.

I never mentioned LEGO in those stories above. I got stuff like G.I. Joe, Nintendo, and some other stuff that Christmas. Oh, and of course, my precious, precious, Go-Bots. My building toy of choice as a kid was Construx. I had LEGO, in that big red snap-lid box that basically all 80s kids had. I built houses with it at first, and eventually built barricades and forts for my G.I. Joe toys. I owned one classic Space Set, I think, the little buggy, but mostly just had basic bricks and wheels, the motor with the big-ass key, stuff like that.

It wasn’t until LEGO Star Wars came out, and being able to build and swoosh the things I loved that LEGO got their hooks into me hard. The stuff that still tempts me is the stuff that hits those things that I love. LEGO was the medium, and it was an exceptionally cool one, but not the part that drew me in. My love for LEGO stuff was all formed as an adult, and almost all of the things that I have picked up and keep now have some deeper connection. That Saturn V I mentioned before that I haven’t gotten around to building? It’s because I like the actual space sets, because those things were so important to me as a kid while Classic Space as a theme was not.

As I’ve aged, my tastes and interests have changed. I’ve looked back and reflected, and thought about my childhood and thought about trauma and pain and anxiety, and what I enjoy has changed a lot. Yeah, part of it is me taking a very cynical view of how much of this is all marketing FOMO from companies worth billions trying to squeeze us for every dime we have at a time when too many are struggling to buy groceries, and those of us who are well off are dealing with the reality that things like houses are likely out of our reach now.

Criticisms aside, it’s still a nifty little set. The biggest knock I have on it is that those controller ports are just absolute junk for actually holding the controller.

It’s this little dichotomy that’s at play in the NES set as you see it together. You turn the crank, and just instinctively, you start humming the Super Mario Bros. theme song. If you’re my age, you simply cannot help it. You look at this television, and you almost want to bang on the corners of it to bang on it a bit to fix the picture, blow on the cartridge (which didn’t work), and get a well worn copy of Nintendo power.

Nintendo also banks on their name and nostalgia having you forget all the nonsense that surrounded their consoles (and still does – Nintendo makes great games but they’re an evil company). Like the fact that the games cost upwards of $60 in the 1980s – something that Nintendo lost a lawsuit for on price fixing, which is probably why rental was such a big deal back then, the system itself cost a ton as well. You think “that’s the same that games cost now,” but that’s almost $150 today – and games are overpriced today because they ignore economies of scale and are grossly propped up by other things like micro-transactions and price fixing (which apparently that lawsuit didn’t fix).

I look at this LEGO set, and see it at $270 (and that’s after a price increase, it was $230 at first) and think “that’s not so bad for a LEGO set” and part of my brain just wants to reach around and slap me for giving in to how much LEGO has managed to shift my idea of “that’s not too bad” in such a short amount of time. The “adult range” for LEGO has become something just truly terrible that’s mining this nostalgia range, and we have to be getting dangerously close to that first $1000 set. Even regular sets are going up, with Collectible Minifigs up to $5, smaller sets shrinking but going up and the average price range seemingly settling around the $40-50 range these days. Yeah, there are smaller sets, even some nice smaller ones, but shelves are dominated by the bigger stuff, and all of the things that are targeted at us, are way more.

The cartridge is where the size difference is really shown off. I also really wish that it would have had Duck Hunt on there too, but no way they were going to include a Zapper in this set. Which, fun fact, you can’t even use on modern TVs anymore. RIP Zapper… that stupid jerk of a dog really did have the last laugh.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that LEGO should be putting them out for free or anything… they’re just a company out to make money. Looking at this set, which is a great set, I have to consider more why I like things like this. As my 40s have gone along, I increasingly find myself going “that’s cool, but I don’t really care” more and more when I see things like that. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of things, I haven’t cared about picking up all the collectables and tat and things like that. The funny thing is that when it comes to memories, the things that I’ve started to value aren’t the things that remind me of the memories, but the actual memories. It’s why I don’t care about buying a whole bunch of new “inspired by D&D” stuff, but I’ve been buying all kinds of old D&D books.

Dealing with my own mental health in the past couple of years, something that is a constant struggle and journey, has made me really question and wonder why I hold on to some of these things. The Nintendo was something like that… a few years ago, I might have thought of that as something that was an overwhelmingly positive part of my youth, because I may not have thought about how much of it was just glossing over all the bad things. Those bad things were always there, I just sort of sectioned them off and didn’t think about them.

I’ve never been one for going back and trying to relive the past, to try and enjoy “classic” versions of old things.World of Warcraft was an example of that, which I enjoyed fondly before learning how much of a dumpster fire Blizzard was of a company (and now it’s just a guilty, guilty pleasure), I had no interest in WoW Classic. I wasn’t the person I was when the game first came out, so I wasn’t ever going to be able to play it the same way and enjoy it the same way. I didn’t want to be that person again or enjoy things the same way. I had no interest in going back, or spending that amount of time, in the game.

I wonder how they could have gotten some texture on the grip area of the cartridge. That’s one of the most annoying parts of trying to get it out should you happen to try and press the cart down into the console.

Nintendo was really the same… playing old NES games is a fun diversion for a little bit, but I never found the “comfort food” aspect of it like I do with, say, going back and playing Mass Effect or Call of Duty or a game like that. Maybe because games like that I don’t have as complex feelings on, or the stuff I remember about them come with a lot more fun.

Honestly, I think about that when I go think about the next system as well, the Super Nintendo, and how much different some of those things would be if I was thinking about it. I talk about a couple of games that I played with my dad, but what’s really more important to me are some games that I played with friends I made in high school, and the common bonds we formed playing them together and just getting obsessed. I haven’t talked to some of them in years, decades at this point, I guess, but I can still put in Super Metroid or Legend of Zelda a Link to the Past and smile because I get some happy nostalgia in there too. Plenty of bad, but always some good, and Nintendo sitting in there with it.

That should, ideally, work both ways, which is why the recent article on Gizmodo hit home for me while I was thinking about rewriting this kind-of-review for the third time. If companies want to come at us with nostalgia, we should be able to remember all the terrible crap they do too when they’re asking for our money (especially in this economy). Like how Nintendo routinely issues frivolous takedowns on YouTubers, abuses copyright strikes, and uses the legal system to financially ruin people that do no material harm to their company. Which is why I have no qualms about talking sailing the seven seas when it comes to Nintendo, something I usually take issue with, but increasingly with big companies… you know what, screw ’em.

Fun side fact, if I really felt like flaunting my poor impulse control, I’d show off that not only do I have a little Raspberry Pi 4 that was in that tiny NES case… I was going through a box of old unfinished projects a few months ago and found six of them. Turns out when I wanted to work on a project, back before they became impossible to find, I’d just go buy a new one. I should sell the things.

Yet, I’m still not really all that driven to go out and spend hundreds and hundreds to relive it all at this point. A local shop near me has a metal replica of the Master Sword and Hylian Shield and it’s always been “oh, that’s cool” and never so much as glanced at the price tag. A sticker from time to time? Sure. But honestly don’t know that I feel like buying any LEGO sets or action figures or anything else like that at this point.

Part of it is just… saturation. It feels like the well has struck bottom when they’re dredging up what they are at this point. Maybe it’s peak pop culture, or maybe that I’ve never gotten along with meme culture in general, or who knows. There’s just so much coming out that feels like hacky retread anymore and its tiresome. Remasters, revisits, rewatch podcasts. Stuff I genuinely like that I can’t be bothered to get to because it’s just the same thing again, so I’d rather go back and enjoy the old thing that I know I like.

The controller is so… strange. It’s simultaneously recognizable but also just off. The start and select are too small, the red buttons are too big, and the cable was presumably made that short so the NES mini wasn’t as stupid anymore. Also, as I mentioned earlier, that plug is garbage and it needed another pass in development.

It’s possible to go back and revisit things and make it work, and work between the things that get lumped in under nostalgia, fan service, or throwback. The recent season of Star Trek: Picard mostly managed to do that well, which was impressive, because the first two seasons of that show were somehow the worst seasons of Star Trek ever made. The latest one was good (though it leaned heavily into nostalgia), and was very well acted.

The Mandalorian is an example the other way, where it reaches back into things that have meaning, but I wouldn’t lump it into nostalgia… or even fan service most of the time (though it certainly can be guilty of it). The recent season and it’s focus on the greater Mandalorian culture, and Bo Katan in specific, was not reliving a hugely revered part of the setting helped (though her stories were great in Rebels and Clone Wars).

A third example that’s a strange case where there’s fan service that works well, but has effectively no nostalgia to it, would be the Dungeons & Dragons movie, Honor Among Thieves. It’s a film that’s far, far better than it has any right to be, and it certainly leaned heavily into the game… but there’s nothing there that people look to longingly which they’re trying to sell us again. At best it’s marketing for the current game, but it’s more a love letter to the spirit of the game, and it did that exceptionally.

Putting the controller next to real controllers really amplifies the size mismatch, since the controller is not the same scale as the console. Which makes sense, since you’re going to hold it, but once you put them next to each other, it looks very strange.

Of course, Wizards is just an absolutely god awful company that can’t help but squander any positive momentum or good will it has. It’s somehow managed to piss off its customer base twice in the past six months, enough that it had an effect on Hasbro’s stock price and outlook. Yeah, we had a movie, and they were in full damage control leading up to it because they made everyone angry that played the game in January after basically trying to end everything about the D&D ecosystem and more or less kill every 3rd party publisher and get them to all go looking elsewhere.

It’s not a coincidence that Critical Role, the most popular D&D game (which is not owned or run by Wizards), is creating their own system now. They’d finally managed to earn some of that back, and then answered it by sending Pinkertons to a small streamers house and threaten him for opening unreleased Magic the Gathering boosters on stream. But hey, remember that terrible 80s cartoon? Nostalgia!

LEGO doesn’t have that sort of track record with sending union-busting thugs or abusing the takedown system on Youtube (well, that I know of), but they certainly are hitting the nostalgia well hard as they continually jack up prices and continue to expand the nostalgia market targeting adults. It’s only a matter of time till we see more FOMO tactics with the products… one of the saving graces of it thus far is that the products seem to linger on forever in the adult space. I’ve sat on this review for over a year and the set is still available to purchase, so there’s that.

Building the TV was both frustrating, in that it’s fiddly and tends to break in the middle, but so much fun once it all comes together and starts to work. You will just sit there and turn that crank for so long once you have the mechanism and the screen in place.

Nostalgia works though, it’s why companies are so quick to go after it. It’s also possible for it to be served and approached without it being exploitative. I’ll be honest… I don’t think that what LEGO is doing here is exploitative… the person who designed this set clearly loves Nintendo and put so much heart and soul into building it. There are little things here and there throughout the build that are likely to bring a rush of memories if you grew up in that era.

Not just Nintendo, even. The television is honestly a bigger standout in this set than the Nintendo is, which is odd. I won’t make jokes about only having four channels, because I had access to cable through my babysitter and we got it at home in 1988 or 1989 I think… I know we’d had it for awhile by the time the Iraq war started in 1990 (god, I’m old), because I watched it on CNN because that was a thing we did back then. We didn’t have the internet yet, so we had to get our lies about patriot missiles and the like directly from the television instead of digging around social media ourselves. Life was “better” back then. Come on LEGO, where’s my General “Stormin’ Normin” Schwarzkopf minifigure? That’s the minifigure that we need to make this television feel truly authentic.

My single favorite feature in the whole set, and the most innovative thing, are the dials on the front of the TV. It was disappointing that the power and reset buttons didn’t actually work… but that the dial both turned AND clicked brought me so much joy.

Nostalgia is effective, but one of the things that it ultimately lacks is that it cannot be communal – it’s not a shared feeling. Memories can be shared, but the feeling that nostalgia ultimately hits is something in our brain that’s something inherently personal and selfish.

That hit home as I was sitting there building this with my daughter. We were having so much fun building this set, while I was explaining things to her, telling her about my childhood – something that, honestly, she just never hears about because I don’t talk about it much. We had my iPad on and were watching YouTube on as well, but it were things we both enjoyed to watch together, like Mark Rober or Ann Reardon, or she was talking about Minecraft, the sets that LEGO will be go after her with in a couple of decades. Mostly, though, she was far more interested in the engineering and building techniques.

She’s played Super Mario Bros. She’s played on the NES mini and the classic NES games on Nintendo Switch. But they hold no special meaning for her. The Nintendo doesn’t either. The important thing about this set, if she looks back at those memories fondly, won’t likely have anything to do with the set… it will be the time that we spent together building it. There’s something great there that can be shared, but it’s nothing that can be hit at with nostalgia later.

Until she has kids of her own and is putting together some giant Creeper set I guess and talking about the time she and her dad were dealing with the stupid bottom of the LEGO Nintendo television set and how it comes apart because it’s not properly reinforced, so the torque of the gears will pull it apart.

If you had the problems I did with it coming apart from the torque of the gears, you know that the area on the left of this picture is the problem spot.

Sorry, I snuck in an actual review point there… but that’s my biggest issue with the set. It’s beautiful, but over-engineered. The gears on the bottom of the mechanism has too little clearance and it will just pull itself apart. We rebuilt the thing three times trying to get it to stay together.

We ended up building the set over a few weeks, since we were only doing a bag or two at a time, and couldn’t do it every night. Ten-year-olds are stupidly busy, and that doesn’t make sense to me… they’re ten, but they are somehow. It was also around the holidays when we building it, so that didn’t help.

Too often, nostalgia just ends up as the thing that’s waved as the “remember this” and that’s all there is to it. To use an analogy… it comes off like that person you know who quotes a line from a movie that was funny and thinks he just told a joke. At it’s most craven, that’s all it is, just pointless consumerism that’s out there. We’re getting close to Comic Con season, and we’re about to be absolutely thick with it, when nostalgia gets wrapped around FOMO and all the worst bits of everything.

I don’t know exactly why it feels like it’s gotten worse lately, because I know it’s a myth that nothing new happens. New things happen all the time, it’s just that they’re never remembered the same, because they can’t prey on the same emotional hooks like nostalgia can. We remember all the remakes, reboots, and things like that in popular entertainment because they’re preying on nostalgia to work. They always have… and contrary to the trope, this isn’t recent, the entertainment industry has always been about this.

The TV stand feels like such an afterthought, it’s flimsy and requires you to position it just right. It doesn’t sit centered on the bottom, either, it’s slightly off so that it falls in a bit, but the whole thing feels like it’s one elbow away from a trip to rebuild town.

It’s more apparent with media the exploitative nature of nostalgia and how they try to farm it, which is probably why they don’t bother a lot of the time. They can get away with reboots and remakes that don’t rely on nostalgia, and instead are trying to capture a new and different audience. After all, this time remaking Spider-man or Batman will be the real winner, right? Assuming we ignore the hundreds of millions of dollars the last one made to pretend it didn’t exist.

That’s not to say that nostalgia doesn’t exist there… it certainly does. The sheer amount of “sequel” series that come out these days makes that apparent. Star Trek Picard was probably the worst offender I can think of for that in recent memory, especially with the most recent season (which, again, I thought was good). The advertising and marketing leading up to the launch of the new season consisted of a three step process:

  • Get rid of nearly every character that didn’t have a legacy connection
  • Show off pictures of characters that fans love
  • Remind everyone that the old characters were coming back constantly

Elsewhere we see that cycle repeat, again and again and again. Let’s bring it back to LEGO, where I talked about this in my AT-ST review, they keep revisiting a well that hits older vehicles and ships that aren’t going to carry all of the same connections and love to younger audiences (in other words, ostensibly, LEGO’s target audience).

There’s a reader on the top of the television, when you remove the top panel, specifically for the Mario LEGO thing. It’s a fun little feature… if anything I just wish they’d made it support more than the Mario fig.

The more that companies keep relying on the nostalgia engine to pump out merchandise, the more they risk that it just dries up, ultimately. Or so you’d think. On one hand… the market is bigger and wider than it’s ever been right now, with more things being redone, more stuff being sold, and more companies trying to remake the same thing, than at any point before. There’s more money out there being spent… and honestly LEGO isn’t all that different. Yet there are signs that it’s already changing.

I’ll give credit where credit is due; my anti-corporate and anti-capitalism bend isn’t exactly a secret, but LEGO, despite not being our friend and constantly jacking up prices, has also been investing in factories and hiring workers while most other companies have been laying off workers and teams while their profits remain high. Their growth has been slowing, but still creeping upwards (after a year or two of drops, the first they’d seen in some time). Hasbro and Mattel are both sliding, with the prices greatly increasing and the quality dropping sharply. An example would be G.I. Joe getting a “classic” re-release line, where they brought back straight-arms, because why not reintroduce the feature that was so bad they dropped it after one year on something that’s been around for forty?

Every time though, we get a little more inoculated to it and it becomes easier to pass up on it. The Nintendo was a revelation and unique, the Atari was a surprise… but how do they follow up on it (it’s already been leaked… and it’s not at all exciting, but I won’t spoil it here). Nintendo can only re-release the same games so many times before people just tire of purchasing it and just move on, which is why so many don’t even bother with Switch Online or the even worse value plus version. So they start manipulating the nostalgia with some artificial scarcity and FOMO to make people jump on it, or gating it off instead. Things get tied up as convention exclusives, timed exclusives, or store exclusives… and after awhile they get forgotten.

That’s why ultimately memories are more important than nostalgia. Think about it for a minute, on all of the things that you think about when the new products come up… how many do you remember a few years after the fact? Or even months after the fact? Even when it comes to LEGO, how many of those old LEGO sets do more than just gather some dust or sit in storage. Even the stuff that I love that I’d love to have display is ultimately constrained to this fate, and there are far more things that I’ve purchased or wanted to purchase that lose that punch and draw quickly after I have it.

You can make an argument that the fun of it, especially with LEGO, is in the assembly and the display. And it’s a valid argument… but it can only happen so many times and still remain valid. We’ve seen that with Star Wars, going in to our third (and so far the most inferior) version of the UCS X-Wing, or who knows how many of other sets that just come out again, and again, and again.

I suppose what I’m saying is that despite the fact that this is a great set, one that, on it’s own, I’d rate a five out of five, despite the few flaws that it has… it still makes me think a lot more than most others. It’s certainly not a perfect set, but it was one you can see that was built with a whole lot of thought and love. It was most certainly over-engineered, but that was true of the original Nintendo Entertainment System as well (Seriously, that whole tray and the fact that the reader pin-outs were only on one side – which is why it eventually wouldn’t make good contact and start flashing red at you), and it’s just going to sit there on your shelf once you build it. Buy it, or don’t – if you do, please use the FBTB affiliate link and support the site. Most likely you already have, but maybe you have some connection to it. Just… don’t confuse the good memories you have of the original system with nostalgia that they’re trying to exploit to sell us things.

You can buy 71374 Nintendo Entertainment System at or


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