Caltrops: Lego Nintendo Entertainment System

2646 bricks, 8-bits, all fantastic

I am an old-ish man, and a gamer. As such, many of my earliest memories are tied to video game consoles. While some of those recollections are bound to the Atari (which is also available in Lego now, so maybe that will be later purchase/article). For the most part, when I think on my younger days as a video game nerd, I think of the Nintendo Entertainment System, or simply as Nintendo.

While I have a long history with Nintendo, they have a much longer story than mine, by many decades in fact. Few people realize they started out producing playing cards and such, 133 years ago to the day as of the publishing of this article. Can you even imagine all the world events a company that has been around since 1889 has seen? Anyway, watch High Score on Netflix if you haven’t. 

This brick based 8-bit system is joining the collection. It will lounge with other illustrious NES systems like my original, now in glorious yellowed plastic, and the official NES Mini (the 30 game one not the bootleg with hundreds of games). There is also a RetroPI with NES and Famicon games, that way I am less likely to spend hundreds of dollars on games I will likely play for a half-hour, just for the nostalgia; lookin at you Gargoyle’s Quest II and Bucky o’Hare.

The nostalgia level was epic, and although I managed to stop myself from buying this wonderful yet expensive set for quite some time, two factors led to the inevitable purchase. First, the Lego posts that I started putting up in the Facebook group on Friday’s reminded me just how much I enjoy Lego, even if I had largely avoided it over the past few years. They have now become a staple part of the website as well. Secondly, Kera and I have been spending some time at a local Retro Game store, collecting some of the systems we are missing and games we have desired. Plus, my parents finally found my original NES system (well, they bought it for my sister and I, but it’s fairly obvious just who got the most use out of it) exactly where I thought it was, even though they claimed to have looked for it in the attic several times over the past decade. At least I have it now, and all of my original games.

You can insert, click the cartridge in and then depress it to get it to pop up for removal; I may or may not have played with this function for an embarrassing length of time. Oh, whatever.
The antennae can be unhooked and angled. And for that authentic 80s feel, the channel dial clicks when you turn the dial.

Oh. Right. Let’s talk about the Lego Nintendo Entertainment System. The box is enormous; not Millennium Falcon or Death Star big, but big nonetheless. Within are two instruction books, one for the NES and one for the retro TV, as well as about 25 bags divided into 21 stages. The NES, Super Mario Brothers cartridge and the controller are built with bags one through eight. The rest of the stages go into making the fairly elaborate mechanism within the tv, and the TV casing itself.

Over the span of two evenings, spending a few hours each night, the Lego NES materialized before me. The charming set was just as enjoyable to assemble as it is to look at. The instructions were clear and assembly was easy, except the conveyor belt assembly that makes up the moving TV screen. The stages that went into its assembly were not difficult so much as tedious.

Lego certainly did not skimp on the bricks for this set. The Nintendo itself is well designed and goes together smoothly; it’s hardy, but I wouldn’t suggest dropping it. The TV is a work of engineering that is only a few steps shy of being able to put a man on the moon. Although the TV is well designed, the moving parts require everything to be in the right place and the rotating screen image is set into the conveyor belt and has just enough give to it to get in it’s own way now and then. The accessories are well done; The controller really looks the part, the Cartridge looks great and the stand on which the TV sets into feels so 80s that it hurts.

This set deserves more than just a few static pictures, so here for your eyes to feast upon, are MOVING pictures. Watch as they swivel about and show you these glorious “toys” in their full splendor.

Oh, but that’s nothing. The crank on the side of the Lego TV showcases the real glory of this set; Mario jumps up and falls down as the background moves like an 8-bit side-scrolling game. This was the reason that I deigned to buy this ludicrous set of Lego. I mean, other than the fact that the TV resembles the 13″ black and white TV that I cut my gaming teeth on, having inherited my parent’s Atari 2600 at a young age, the picture moves.

The Lego engineers were not satisfied with an authentic looking Nintendo Entertainment System. Even one that allows you to insert and eject the cartridge; They made a semi-functional TV screen. I will not bore you with the number of bags and pages of instructions that it took to make the conveyer belt that eventually became the TV background. My hand still hurts thinking about the entire hour of my life I happily gave to the building of that 8-bit world. I was going to pluck it out, unwrap and show it in this article but ultimately thought better of it. You’ll just have to settle for watching it in action, kind reader:

Wait: There’s more. One little surprise. I had hit a stride and was building like a madman night one when all of a sudden I found myself building something that was clearly not the structure. Sure as shit, it took me a few seconds to figure out what was going on. In the end it was a little hidden Mario world tucked away within the brick-based NES for no other reason than because they could. I approve.

One last semi-funny story. I was two bags into building the dual conveyor belt that the flat blocks are laid into to make the image. It has 30 individual parts, and I was 29 of them in, when I realized I was missing a piece. One of the two pieces that attach the images backing to the conveyor belts. It was for sure not going to hang correctly, and certainty would have jammed up the system.

It was late. Kera was in bed. I may have been inebriated. I looked through the bags again: not there. I moved the table away and searched on my grey and black rug for the grey piece: not there. After twenty minutes or so, I gave up, looked up the piece code in the back of the book and ordered one for a few bucks off eBay. Frustrating but it will get to me sooner than Lego customer service. Mildly pissed, I get up to make another drink, in preparation for finishing the build as best I could, when I stepped directly on that motherfucking piece.

Like a fucking caltrop hiding in the rug. I canceled my eBay order… my foot still hurts a little…

Click here for more Caltrops posts


Obsessive and neurotic collector of little plastic men, novels about the same little plastic men and paints to make the little plastic men pretty. Married to Kera, who puts up with him and pretends that she doesn’t hear him speaking to the little plastic men in between making pew pew noises in the hobby room. Requires adult supervision. A menace to himself but rarely to others. More beard than man

More about Tyson | Tyson’s contributions