Don’t worry, you’ll be able to find this one on a shelf.
If you play video games and you’re within this website’s primary demographic, then there’s a good chance you are already aware of the cultural impact of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The venerated successor to the original NES is not the highest selling console ever, not even when ranked against other Nintendo consoles. Additionally, the SNES had to contend with some of the most heated competition in gaming history from rivals such as Sega. However, the SNES has maintained a level of reverence not normally seen in gaming; known the world over for having one of the strongest libraries in the history of gaming.
That iconic status is what is leveraged with the SNES Classic Edition, the second of Nintendo’s “Classics” line (which is what we’re apparently calling this now.) Just as the original SNES model was meant to be an enhanced edition of the NES, the SNES Classic attempts to build upon its predecessor in the NES Classic Edition. In that respect, the SNES Classic succeeds, though it doesn’t move much past that point in quality.
First off, the size of the device is just as novel and small as you’ve likely heard. The console could easily fit in a jacket pocket or a small bag, and weighs even less than you would expect. Set up is extremely easy, with only a HDMI port and mini USB connector in the back. Anyone who’s used a modern TV or a smartphone would be able to install the SNES Classic in seconds. Visually, the device looks exactly like the SNES you remember, save for the cartridge slot being sealed and a power indicator light on the front. The power switch functions the same way.
Within seconds of power up, players are taken to a very straightforward but aesthetically pleasing interface for game selection. You can sort the 21 games however you need to to locate what you want to play, and the machine’s options are easily available at the top. In the options, you can change the display settings; such as how the TV displays or to put borders around the games. From there, it’s simply a matter of selecting which game is most appealing to your nostalgia.
In terms of selection, the SNES Classic is very much a crash course of the 16-bit era of gaming. Included are the following:
- Contra III: The Alien Wars
- Donkey Kong Country
- Final Fantasy III (but is actually Final Fantasy VI)
- Kirby Super Star
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Mega Man X
- Secret of Mana
- Star Fox
- Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
- Super Mario Kart
- Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
- Super Mario World
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
- Super Metroid
- Kirby’s Dream Course
- Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
- Super Castlevania IV
- Super Punch-Out!!
There are less games than on the NES Classic, but once you take into account which games are on each device, the SNES Classic comes out on top in terms of quality. I’m far more likely to play every title on the SNES Classic than I am to play Ice Climber once. The SNES Classic also has the advantage of having a game not previously available in finished form, Star Fox 2. SF2 was an interesting concept, a first person take on the classic Star Fox formula with the addition of more pilots and a real time war map. I’m hard pressed to call it anything special, particularly since the franchise peaked with the game that Star Fox 2 was canceled in favor of.
Should you be like me though, you might find that you are a bit rusty at the old classics. Don’t worry though, Nintendo has you covered. The Reset switch on the SNES Classic has been changed to automatically freeze a game and return to the main menu. From there, you can either save the current state of the game just like the NES Classic could, or you can rewind your gameplay to 45 seconds before your last mistake or missed collectible. I’m not afraid to admit that being able to backtrack gameplay like that is a huge blessing. I know that’ll attract the ire of some “hardcores,” but it makes practicing a particularly challenging section so much easier. Or, it would be, if the Reset button wasn’t the only way to trigger this function. That’s right, you have to over to the console itself to use the Reset, there is no hotkey on the controller. On the one hand, it helps make the SNES controllers included look and feel exactly like the originals. On the other, making that perfect representation creates a lot of issues.
Building on top of that inability to go to menu, the cords for the controllers are still too short. To Nintendo’s credit, the cables are longer than on last year’s NES Classic, but only by a couple of feet. I’d like to think I’ve just been spoiled by years of wireless controllers, but I don’t think that’s the case. Even in my small office, about child’s bedroom size, the controller comes up about a half foot short. What’s more, the HDMI cable included is shorter than you’d expect too, leaving very little wiggle room. That creates a massive clash between the nostalgia factor and actual convenience.
Which brings me to the elephant in the room: the Nintendo Switch exists. The Switch is the first Nintendo home console since the GameCube to not have some form of library of downloadable versions of their back catalog. While the big N has indicated classic titles will factor into the Switch’s paid online service set for 2018, there’s no actual proof they plan to just sell older games this time around. That’s not great, because I could easily see the entire interface of the SNES Classic just become the Switch’s version of the Virtual Console to help make the Switch a more comprehensive experience. Sure, it’s neat to have the classic SNES controller, but it brings with it a backward way to play games in its short cable and the need to put important functions on the console. On the other hand, the Switch could easily provide the same games and features, with the added convenience of modern gaming and portability to boot.
If anything, I’m not sure anyone who regularly plays games needs the SNES Classic at all. There’s a decent chance that particular audience has a functioning SNES, or Retron 5, or can make a Raspberry PI (but trust me guys, no one cares that you can), so nostalgia is the only reason to pick one of these up- and the Switch is just as perfect a device to make the same statement. Instead, I contend the “Classics” line is still meant for and best serves people who have lapsed in gaming or want a simple to access trip down memory lane.
Even so, I admit that once everything was set up and I’d compensated for the inconveniences, I couldn’t stop the feeling of seeing an old friend come to visit. The wave of nostalgia crested over me, and it was fun to just take it in and adventure on Yoshi’s Island. I realize this might not be the perfect way to play these games for myself, but the SNES Classic Edition does exactly what it says on the box. Just do not buy it off of some dude on Craigslist please, there will be enough of them this time.
Review unit purchased by Reviewer