Review – SNES Classic Mini

The King of Couch Co-Op is Back!

Rating: ★★★★★

Cables are cool again.

A quarter of a century after Nintendo first showered gamers in golden 16-bit glory, the SNES has finally found its way back onto living room floors around the world. Faithful in almost every detail, this tiny rebooted console is, to all intents and purposes, the Super Nintendo we all know and love.

As soon as you take one of the controllers in your hands, feel the tactile punch of the action buttons, the gentle play of the d-pad and shoulder triggers, you’re instantly transported back to your childhood. The nostalgia is strong in this one.

Anyone who followed the launch of the NES Classic Mini last year will know that it sold out instantly. Nintendo manufactured two million units, but that still wasn’t enough to satisfy demand – the only way to get hold of one now is from eBay scalpers, currently charging double the retail value.

So I made sure this time around I was first in line to pre-order. As luck would have it, launch day was September 29th, which coincided with the release of perennial favourite Fifa 18, as well as Forza 7 on Xbox One. I checked with my local game store and it turned out that they were doing a midnight launch for those titles (yawn) but they would kindly allow me to pick up my console at the same time. Winner.

Collecting it at the store, the first thing I noticed about the box is just how tiny it is. It’s hard to believe that this contains a console and two full size controllers (although no AC adaptor – shame on you Nintendo).

Banana for Scale…

Setup couldn’t be simpler – power in; HDMI out; job done. I plonked it down on the carpet and sat on the floor in front of the TV – something I hadn’t done in well over 20 years. The cramp set into my knees almost instantly but I was too excited to care.

Flicking the power switch woke up the device and I was greeted with a really slick looking interface supplemented by the sights and sounds of a bygone era. Here I could browse the current catalogue of 20+1 games pre-loaded onto the consoles memory (the ‘+1’ being the ill-fated but much anticipated Starfox 2, which never actually made it to official release back in the mid 90s).

I’m sure it won’t be long until the firmware has been hacked (at the time of writing the ROM for StarFox2 has already been dumped online) but the for the time being the fare on offer represents hundreds of hours of quality entertainment at the very least.

Choose to go Pixel Perfect or add CRT Scanlines for added retro immersion

You can select how you want your games to displayed on your modern TV – you can force the aspect ratio or go pixel perfect. Even the emulated CRT scanlines look very authentic. And to compensate for the 4:3 scale, Nintendo have given you a choice of retro borders to place around the edges of your screen – although I find the stock option is best: a really smart Ambilight glow that matches the colour palette being displayed.

There’s some heavy hitters in amongst the pack too – JRPGs like Earthbound, Link to the Past and Secret of Mana, alongside classic platformers such as Super Mario World and Super Metroid, all vie for your attention as you scroll through the list.

The first game I booted up was F-Zero – purely because it was one of my wife’s favourites on her childhood console and I wanted to see if I stood any chance of beating her at it. I quickly realised that I didn’t. I was woeful.

Next, I fired up Super Ghouls’n Ghosts. Again. my overall performance was abysmal. That’s when reality hit home – sometimes nostalgia can be a lying bitch. We remember some of these titles with such fondness that we forget just how brutal they really were. Back then, there was no hand-holding, no tutorials, no quick-save points. You would study the manual and persevere. These days, games don’t come with manuals and, with the rise of micro transactions, we very rarely need to persevere.

But I wasn’t dissuaded by my first few failures. I jumped into Super Mario World and was surprised at just how much I remembered. My fingers started to move with a speed and dexterity beyond me, as the long slumbering muscle memories began to reawaken.

I dipped in and out of a few other titles just to try and rekindle some more nostalgia, not wanting to spend too much or too little time with each.

One very useful feature on the new console that hasn’t really been advertised is the quick save option. When you hit the reset button, the menu flashes back up and you have the ability to suspend your game state as you just left it – this means you don’t have to wait for in-game save points in RPGs or platformers – there’s even a rewind feature that works similar to a DVR, whereby you can manually roll-back your gameplay and pick it up from an earlier section. Missed that platform? KO’d by Dhalsim? Didn’t quite catch the apex on that last corner? Not a problem, just scrub back the last few seconds of game time and try again. Genius.

Create instant saves whenever you want!

It’s already been confirmed that the SNES has the exact same internals as it’s predecessor, which means you can in theory dump all of the NES Classic mini titles on this thing (and vice versa – although there may be some controller issues doing it that way). It’s also pretty much a given that the device itself will be hacked very soon to allow users to put any ROM they want into the working memory. I can think of a few classics off the top of my head that I’ll be loading up (Chrono Trigger, at the very least!) .

Live to fight another day with the Rewind feature

All told, the Classic Mini series has been a massive success for Nintendo (production issues aside) and is basically a licence to print money. They’ve announced that they will be producing more NES units for people that missed out last year and I’m sure their development team are already hard at work recreating the N64 Classic Mini in time for next Christmas.

If you are a fan of the 16-bit era – or if you missed it first time around – then you owe it to yourself to track down one of these machines and display it proudly in your living room. The joy it will give you and your family is worth the price of admission. Just don’t give in to those eBay scalpers.

JJ.

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