THE RANT: If you were born in the second half of the twentieth century you know what the name "Nintendo" means. When I was a kid EVERYBODY had one of these (everybody except me, my dad stuck with the Atari 8-bit and Macintosh computers until I was ten, then moved on to PCs. I didn't get a NES until 1989. Anyway...) The name is so famous that it's become synonymous with "video games," (at least here in the USA.) For those of you who don't know in 1984 the entire video game market crashed because stupid companies kept sloshing out the same swill year after year until people got fed up with it, decided they'd rather spend $200 on a cool home computer rather than a piece of junk video game system that went obsolete a month after you just bought it, and overnight game companies and retailers were standing out with their weenies in the wind. Thus Nintendo had to disguise their game system as a toy by packaging it with a stupid robot and later some dumb power-pad piece of garbage to try and fool John Q I'm-not-wasting-my-money-on-the-stupid-video-game-fad-citizen into even looking at it.
Well by some ironic machination of fate, it just so happened that the NES didn't disappoint people with poor arcade translations or over hashed maze games, it actually had games that were cool, it had games with some depth, replayability, and graphics as good as the home computers, an it's games were fun. Add to the fact that the only real competition it had for the home video game market at the time of it's release was the totally obsolete (and pathetically tired by this time) Atari 2600, and you've got a recipe for success. Nintendo sold games and systems like rocks stars sold albums, the record being like a $290 million dollar gross on Super Mario Brothers 3 or something ridiculous like that. Nintendo single handily revitalized the entire video game industry, and had a virtual monopoly on home console systems until the SMS came out a few years later. The NES eventually faded away when the 16 bit systems came along, but not until after selling a gazillion units and making Super Mario more recognizable than Mickey Mouse.
Aesthetically I think the OG Famicom looks cooler, plus it has tons of games and accessories that were never released elsewhere. Earlier models had hard wired controllers (always a bad choice) and the 2nd player controller had a built in microphone (to my knowledge there is only one game that uses it.) The Japanese Famicom has some advantages over the American NES in that the cart sizes are smaller as well as it's a top loading system, so no bent up connectors over time. Disadvantages are it tends to be made of cheaper materials.
The Famicom Disk system was probably the one system that was actually killed by piracy. Back in the day someone could buy a few blank disks and load a Famicom game on it in the street for five bucks (while we here in America had to beg out parents to take us to the stupid mall to get the same game on Cart for $50.) Games like The Legend Of Zelda debuted on the Disk system. However it didn't take long for bootleg disks to show up on the black market, which eventually led to Nintendo pulling the plug. Sad thing is that as time goes on the game data on the disks will eventually fade and corrupt, leaving the pirate cart versions of such games the only ones available.
Many Famicom/Nes games were rereleased as GBA special editions and are availible for purchase through the Wii Virtual Console.
The Good: A rediculous amount of games. Millions of accessories. Will keep you collecting forever. Very easy to find stuff, and nowadays it's usually very cheap.
The Bad: You'll find 20,000 copies of SMB3.
The Ugly: The later NES games started to suck as more and more companies devoted their resources to making decent games on the 16 bit platforms. Also the contacts on the system tend to bend because Nintendo was too cheap to make them out of stuff that wouldn't warp, so a lot of the old systems suffer from the blinking screen of death syndrome. However replacement parts are easy to find on Ebay and on a 1 to 10 scale, where 1 is putting two Lincoln logs together and 10 is building a 747 from scratch, it about a 3 to install.