Welcome to Windows 95… err I mean the Classic SNES Mini
The SNES Classic menu screen is all a bit Windows 95. It’s almost like they made it in Mario Paint. Some people might like the retro looking menus but personally I would liked to have seen a slicker looking interface. A nice touch is the use of the original boxart. Offering an extra hit of nostalgia before going into your favourite game. A minor niggle though, is that the box art is the US version and not the PAL versions I grew up with.
Love or hate the interface, one thing for sure is that it’s easy to navigate and offers several welcome features not seen on the original SNES. You can now record your games via save states which also let you rewind your progress at any time. Anyone familiar with the original games will know how ruthless the original save points were. Making this a very welcome addition to the SNES Classic. Purists will probably complain that it takes away the challenge of the original games. But frankly, if you don’t want to use it, you don’t have to.
The games themselves run just as well as they did on the original system. EU users will also get the benefit of seeing them run at 60hz for the first time (European consoles were capped to 50hz). There’s also several viewing options available, Pixel perfect or 4:3. Personally I prefered pixel perfect mode for its overall sharpness. If you want a more authentic 90s experience there’s also a CRT filter to try.
The choice of games is superb. The 21 games offer something for everyone and Nintendo has done a great job choosing games that provide an elegant cross section of the SNES back catalog. Naturally there’s some classic games that didn’t make the cut. I would have loved to have seen Donkey Kong 2 and Bomberman and there’s definitely a few included that I would happily live without.
It’s surprising to see how well the games have stood the test of time. When it comes to retro gaming, reality rarely lives up to nostalgia, but with the SNES the graphics have a timeless quality about them. This is especially true for the 2D side scrolling games that were so popular in the early 90s. I’ll go out on a limb and say that Super Mario World is the best Mario game ever made. Zelda, Street Fighter 2 and Contra 3 are all as bright and vivid as I remember too.
Donkey Kong still stands up as the definitive SNES game from a graphics point of view. It holds together so well, pushing the system to it’s limits without going too far. Sadly the same can’t be said for Mario Kart and Star Fox. Mario Kart is still great fun but it’s hard to go back to if you’ve played the modern version, the original is just so…. flat. Star Fox lacks the charm of the other games on the system but it has to be said, the music is awesome.
After playing the SNES Classic for a week, the one thing that stands out more than anything is my craving to play the games online. Street Fighter 2, Mario Kart and F-Zero are all crying out for online modes. Even the addition of online leaderboards would have been a big incentive to keep playing.
A big selling point of the Classic SNES Mini is the inclusion of the previously unreleased Star Fox 2. Fans of the original will no doubt enjoy it, but for me it was a very underwhelming. It’s great that Nintendo finally released it, but for me it’s come twenty years too late. Had this come out during the SNESs hayday I’ve no doubt it would have been a hit. But now it’s just a very crude 3D shooter with zero nostalgic value.
To Buy Or Not To Buy?
At £80 the SNES Classic isn’t cheap. But if you compare it to how much it would cost to buy the original hardware and games second hand it actually works out as a steal – Mario Kart alone goes for £20+. That said, if you have all the old equipment sitting in your loft there’s not much to gain from the Classic except a HDMI output, save states and Star Fox 2.
The real elephant in the room is what’s the point of spending £80 when emulators are readily available? You’re only ever a few clicks away from literally every SNES game ever. Also you can use any joypad you like. There’s even some wireless 3rd party SNES controllers that hold up to the originals. The downside of course is that it’s not exactly legal.
For those who don’t want to embrace emulators, there’s always the Wii U’s Virtual Console. It works out far more expensive than a SNES Classic of course. However, you do get a fully fledged console that also happens to offer SNES games. Plus it’s only a matter of time before the Virtual Console comes to the Switch, and when it does, hopefully they’ll implement some much needed online features to classic games.
The SNES Classic is an excellent bit of kit. You get a near perfect representation of the console wrapped up in neat, convenient package that doesn’t take up much cupboard space – which is just as well as that’s where it’s going to spend much of it’s life. Sadly, once the nostalgia wears off, there’s little to keep me interested in retro gaming. I’m not knocking the SNES, the same can apply to any game I’ve already completed. Plus, I’ve been playing the SNES Classic for a week now and I can already feel myself craving modern games. That said, I can’t quite bring myself to sell my SNES Classic, it’s like a grown-up comfort blanket, always there for whenever that urge to go hunting for bonus rooms on Donkey Kong kicks in.