The C64 Mini — a half-sized Commodore 64 replica with 64 pre-installed games and a BASIC interpreter — will arrive on store shelves this fall. This latest attempt to cash in on hardware-fueled nostalgia is another B-list effort, at best — though at least it’ll avoid some of the problems associated with Commodore 64 peripherals that made the platform less than a joy to use (owners of 1541 disk drives know exactly what I’m talking about).
I don’t want to make it sound like there aren’t any good games included in the list of 64 titles, because that’s not the case. Armalyte, Boulder Dash, Impossible Mission, Summer Games, and Winter Games are all highly regarded C64 titles. I’m also curious about another game, Destroyer — while I never played it, I did play its cousin from the same developer (Epyx), Sub Battle Simulator. It was my first naval combat simulator and I’ve got a soft spot for it to this day. I don’t know if Destroyer measures up, but I’m curious to find out.
But there are a lot of games that aren’t on this list, too. No Pirates!, one of the all-time best games for the platform. No Bard’s Tale, Defender of the Crown, Elite, Lemmings, Lode Runner, Maniac Mansion, Pool of Radiance, Prince of Persia, Spy vs. Spy, any of the games in the Ultima series, Wasteland, or Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. Check any list of top Commodore 64 games, in fact, and it’s telling how many titles on those lists won’t be included with this console.
So far, of all the companies to announce this kind of deal, Nintendo has offered by far the best-curated list of its own titles. While the NES Classic included a few snoozers that I wouldn’t really fire up, it also packed Super Mario Brothers 3, Legend of Zelda, Mega Man 2, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, and Ninja Gaiden — some of the most iconic and excellent titles of its own console generation. The SNES Classic has a similarly strong loadout. Despite packing twice the number of games and a few strong titles of its own, the C64 Mini feels like it’s missing its most iconic titles. Obviously, YMMV.
The system will support USB thumb drives up to 64GB and can apparently run third-party (and undoubtedly legally obtained) C64 software. Just name the drive THEC64-drive8.d64 and use the LOAD “NAME” command followed by — you guessed it — ,8,1 to load titles you’ve acquired through alternate means. But you can only load one game at a time on the drive, apparently, because every game uses the same name format for loading it. This might duplicate the old C64 load experience where “*” ,8,1 was typically used, but it’s not a duplication anybody was likely wanting.
The machine will come with one joystick, while another can be purchased. The keyboard isn’t functional, so you’ll have to hook up a USB keyboard if you want to actually make use of the BASIC interpreter. A full-sized version with a working keyboard is supposedly coming later this year. The HDMI port outputs in 720p with support for 4:3 aspect ratios and optional CRT filters.
The system has launched in Europe at €79.99, while the US launch is scheduled for October. Engadget’s review, published earlier this year, says the C64 Mini is fairly lackluster and we can’t say we’d recommend the system as it stands. Much like the retro Atari VCS, there’s not nearly enough oomph behind this nostalgia push for us to feel comfortable recommending it.
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